Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Drag memorabilia: vintage Finocchio's postcard

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | October 27, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History
Tags: drag history, drag queens, drag show, female impersonator, San Francisco in the 60s

Sweet! Found it on eBay. Wonder how many of these ladies are still around.

60sdragshow.jpg

Back of the postcard after the jump.

60sdrag1.jpg


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Notice the "union bug" -- these ladies were members of the American Guild of Variety Artists (AFL-CIO) -- San Francisco was quite the union town!

I hope the people of "Pride At Work", the LGBT section of the current AFL-CIO, notice this card and maybe research the history of "unionized drag"...

That would be a fascinating post. I'm hoping Gloria Nieto or Jeremy Bishop read this one now!

So is your house just filled with boxes of pictures and ads and old mags, Gloria?

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | October 27, 2009 8:16 PM

For the youngins: The tall one [6'6"] on the left is none other than the late Lori Shannon who went from being a Finocchios's star to star in LGBT TV history [as in television and transvestite].

Besides being a huge hit generally, Norman Lear's "All in the Family" was one of the first shows to repeatedly mock homophobia. Lori played "Beverly LaSalle" whom equal opportunity bigot bragged about saving with “mouth-to-mouth restitution” until he finds out she is a he and wife Edith and son-in-law Mike reject his homophobic response.

But it’s the one hour episode two years later in which Shannon appeared in the series a third time that remains memorable, not the least of which is that Lear chose to broadcast it ON CHRISTMAS NIGHT when the airwaves were otherwise full of reruns of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

The episode plot opens on Christmas Eve and Beverly and Mike head to the liquor store to buy some champagne to celebrate LaSalle’s upcoming Madison Square Garden show and the fact that even Archie has agreed to attend along with Edith who has come to adore her. The two are attacked by fag bashers and Beverly is killed. The event throws the usually cheerful Edith into a “Crisis of Faith” [the episode’s title], and she goes into a deep depression, shocking and seriously worrying her family when she adamantly refuses to do what she has invariably done before…go to church on Christmas…because “How can there be a God who let’s someone like my friend get killed?”

Let me tell you, boys and girls, barely six months after self-appointed spokesperson and songster for God Anita Bryant had washed away Miami’s gay rights ordinance and given birth to today’s religio Antigay Industry, hearing a de facto gay drag queen mourned as “my friend” by one of the then most beloved characters on television was not what America’s living rooms expected to see that "holy night."

Mike finally brings her out of it by telling her it’s not what Beverly would want and that Edith’s unconditional love has always been to him what real Christianity is about.

Here’s to Shannon, and Lear, the writers, and Jean Stapleton’s immortal Edith.

Thank you so much for that. It made the post complete. Know any of the background on any of the rest?

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | October 27, 2009 11:28 PM

I only some of their names, courtesy of cast member David de Alba at http://members.cox.net/paulryner/david5a.htm

L-R top: Lori Shannon, Emcee Carroll Wallace,
Lavern Cummings, John Compton, David de Alba,
Seated-front: The Eve-ettes [apparently named after the wife of the straight male club owner].

de Alba identifies this postcard as being circa 1978, illustrates some others as well as some candids with other performers. After 63 years, four shows a night, six night a week, Finocchio's closed ten years ago next week.

Page after page of FAB-U-LOUS vintage photos and programs [it opened the year before Judy started filming "The Wizard of Oz"] at:

http://www.queermusicheritage.us/oct2002f.html

...including one of WWII WAVS in the audience [Lesby Annes?] with a couple of men behind them covering their faces:

http://www.queermusicheritage.us/FEMALE/fin-card2.jpg

Were they among the gay men looking for an assignation amid the more common straight tourists?

While I treasure the surreal experience of once sitting with Eartha Kitt as she watched a DC drag queen lip synch one of her songs, Finocchio's performers did their own singing.

Final note: another North Beach/Broadway institution is now gone, too, at least from her most famous venue. After 30 years and over 11,500 performances, the once-great singer at the center of San Francisco's beloved "Beach Blanket Babylon" and beneath its most legendary hats, Val Diamond, recently left the show. She joined the cast the same year I saw it for the first time and the year I moved to Sodom by the Sea. [BBB's original Mr. Peanut and choreographer, the late Bill Kendall, was also a Hoosier emigre]. I shall miss her once show stopping, wrist slashing solos the same way I miss those many friends who saw her with me but "left the show" long ago.