|When Joe Finocchio presented
female impersonators on Broadway in North Beach in 1936, the police were
not amused. They raided the place. Joe was undeterred and the landmark
venue became a draw for tourists and celebrity visitors from all over the
world. On Nov. 27, 1999 Finocchio's world famous revue closed its
doors after 63 years and countless wigs, fans, feathers and false eye lashes.
Veteran performers are quick to point out that they were not drag queens,
rather they were illusionists, female impersonators hired for their singing
and dancing talent. There was no lip-synching at Finocchio's. Mostly gays
playing for a straight audience, these performers were on the forefront
of gender politics in the U.S. The Finocchio family ruled the cast with
an iron hand. Morals clauses were written into every contract, though drug
use and moonlighting with Stage Door Johnnys was not uncommon.
One salacious story from
Finocchio's vet Ray de Young details his post-performance tableside visit
with Victor Rothschild and his wife Vera-Ellen who danced onscreen with
Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It was the mid-1950s. With
For most the of the venue's run, transsexuals were not hired. The Finocchio's wanted performers to enter the theatre as men and leave the theatre as men in order to further the venue's mystique as a house of illusion. Later, these policies were relaxed and eventually, biological women were hired to perform here.
Detail I: Finocchio's reunion
Copyright 2001 Hank Donat