Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Vintage Trans Performer: Rex Jameson and his life as Mrs. Shufflewick

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | December 21, 2010 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Bisexual History, Famous Female Impersonators, gay history, Mrs. Shufflewick, queer history, Rex Jameson, Trans History, vintage drag

On one of my grand research surfing adventures, I came across this awful album cover and added it to my archive of bad LP art.

74337_110617022340055_100001752724081_93793_2839358_nhufflewick

But when I later googled around for info on the performer, Rex Jameson, I was touched to read some details of his tragic and troubled life, and to discover that there is a biography about him which sounds utterly fascinating. Here is one excerpt from a description of his biography on Amazon UK.

Weak willed and easily lead, Mrs Shufflewick was a red-nosed, drunken old cockney who liked nothing better than to prop up the bar of her local while sipping large gin and tonics, Guinness, port and lemon or anything else that came to hand. She would tell outrageous stories about her private life to anyone who cared to listen and invariably, at the end of a disastrously alcoholic evening, would end up stark naked - all but her hairnet - on top of a 29 bus.

In real life, Mrs Shufflewick was the glorious creation of Rex Jameson, a music hall great and one of radio and TV's most original and brilliant comics. Shy, difficult, bisexual and alcoholic, his private and public life often reached spectacular highs and appalling lows.

Check out The Amazing Mrs Shufflewick on Amazon.

Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, you can also download or listen live to the Mrs. Shufflewick LP.


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Gloria, you find some of the most interesting tidbits of history. The cover is certainly, uh... eye-catching.

But I wonder does the label "Trans" cover female impersonation and drag? I admit to not knowing anything about this British entertainer. However, a couple websites indicate that, off-stage, Rex lived as a guy and if I understand this book review Jameson "came out" as gay in the early 1970s. However, I could be wrong.

Here is a video clip from two sources. First is an excerpt from a 1976 documentary, narrated by Liberace, in which Mrs. Shufflewick is on stage and a small part of her performance caught. This is followed by an excerpt from an episode of Candid Camera in which Rex Jameson is the first "victim." He seems resigned to his treatment.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvptlwzDHTk

And for completeness sake, I have to mention the excellent website, Queer Music Heritage, which has a short biography and several photographs of Mrs. Shufflewick. There is also an audio clip from a 1964 album, but sadly the material seems quite similar to the audio mentioned in Gloria's article.
http://www.queermusicheritage.us/drag-shufflewick.html

As someone who saw Shuff perform live many times in the mid 1970s at the Black Cap in Camden Town, I agree that "trans" does not apply in his case. He is best understood as a late survivor of music hall in the British drag tradition. Another Black Cap regular of the same era was the incomparable Marc Fleming, of whom (sadly) no performance or recording appears to survive. Rex Jameson very occasionally would sing in his street clothes from the Black Cap's tiny stage. I recommend Patrick Newley's biography of Shuff.