Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Drag Memorabilia: Club 82

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | November 01, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Club 82, female impersonator, vintage drag

Bilerico readers are the best!

I posted a vintage shot of Finocchio's recently and was delighted by all the background history you provided. I do exhaustive image searches for everything and anything related to sexual history but don't have the time to research everything I find. So please keep feel free to fill me in because sometimes I have no idea about the real histories behind what I discover.

For example: A 1950s postcard from Club 82 in New York City. Any ideas about who these lovely people are or background on this venue? Postcard front and back after the jump.

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Angela Brightfeather | November 1, 2009 4:47 PM

Gloria, you continue to jog my memory every time I read one of your posts. this one has particular meaning to me.

When I was in a young man and made forays to NYC from Syracuse, NY at the age of 16, telling my parents that I was going on a camping trip, I instead would sneek down to the city. I played the bongo drums and I would call and make reservations at a hotel under a false name, then fly down on Mohawk Airlines on student standby, round trip for about $22.50.

I would land at Newark Airport and take a bus for .50 cents to the Port Authority, where I would rent a locker and put a gym bag in it with a change of clothes, then get my room at the hotel carrying an old back tyhat i bought from the Salvation Army filled with newspapers. Then, with my bongos, I would go to the Village and hit the coffee houses and make some money there playing the drum while people did their poetry thing.

I always headed for Club 82 to see the show some time during the weekend and got to know some of the entertainers there.

Pudgy Roberts was a regular there and wrote a book called "The Female Impersonators Handbook".
I am sure that you can obtain that book on Amazon Books. I know that you will find some of the people on the post card in the pages of that book.
I have an autographed copy.

By talking with the "girls" at Club 82 it gave me a lot of confidence to go back home and go out to the one gay bar there as Angela, at a time in my life when I really needed the confidence and support from others. It was pretty scary back then to be Trans and out on any streets and they gave me the push that I needed.

As they say, the rest is herstory.

The History of Gay Bars in New York site has four listings for Club 82. The link has other postcards/photos plus news clippings involving the establishment.

One of the other posts show the site now (it's become a porn theater/glory hole) and another about the bar's ties to the Genovese crime family. Pretty interesting stuff.

Robin Tyler | November 2, 2009 1:44 PM

Gloria:
Although I am a woman, I worked at Club 82 in
1962 and 1963 as a female impersonator. (I did Judy Garland). In those days, there was no 'lip'
singing, so all performers had to be able to impersonate the actual voices. I was the only 'girl' (as they called it) in the show.
I know many of the people in the
post card in your article. I also have many pictures from the Club 82 that you might be interested in. If so, ask Bill for my email address and email me. I would be happy to share
anything I have.
Robin Tyler

Thanks for this site. Brings back alotta memories. I never was into drag except as a audience member, strickly regular theatre.

I first met many of these very talented entertainers in my early teens (I was an usher at a downtown Pgh., PA movie house, and my three pals and I would stand on tippytoes and gawk into the beautiful nightclub (The Carnival Lounge) big windows and watch the female impersonators. The mob owned all the bars almost everywhere, so the big doorman invited us in and said "We know you from working across the street at the movie house. You are nice kids and can come in and sit in the mezz and we'll give you free soda and bar food and you can comfortably watch the show instead of freezing outside." Which we did many times thereafter, and met and talked with the entertainers after the show. They were all totally professional, kind and total gentlemen, treated us as tho we were grown up. Out of drag, they dressed in sports jackets and looked like (very handsome, naturally) straight men.

Many of these men went on to work for Mrs. Vito Genovese (a very dear woman), owner of Club 82 - and whose deceased husband had been the Godfather of all Godfathers (and who was referred to in THE GODFATHER films as Vito Corlioni.

Sonny Teal was one of the stars - also the magnificently beautiful Kim August (who later in life acted in NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY mystery film) - Richie Rene, ballet dancer - Titanic (who was billed as The Most Beautiful Boy in the World) and who'd joke about that title - a fine man was he also. Bobby Blake was another who worked all the Mafia clubs all over America and worked at Club 82 off and on also, as most did.

In the late 60s I worked in a legit play in S.F. with Charles Pierce, called WILD GEESE. It was an excellent musical and ran almost a year to full houses. Charles was brought in a few months before the show's closing and played the mother, and was a really good actor, and only people who knew his work in gay clubs knew he'd been a drag performer. Excellent book, music and actors.
All the best - and many thanks for your site.

Hello Robin...I am looking for people who may have known my parents; both of them worked at Club 82... My mother's name was Viviane (I believe she used LaMarr as her stage name) and her partner's name was Larry McKay... I also have photos that I could share.

Thank you,

Laura