Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding aid of the Charles Pierce Photographs, Papers, Costumes, and Memorabilia
Coll2008-019  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (154.36 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Overview
 
Table of contents What's This?
Description
Photographs, clippings, programs, correspondence, lyrics, music, costumes with accessories, audio and video recordings, and souvenirs from the life and performances of Charles Pierce (1926-1999), impressionist and comedian, one of the foremost American female impersonators of the second half of the 20th century. The bulk of materials date from 1970-1990.
Background
Charles Pierce, impressionist and comedian, was one of the foremost American female impersonators in the second half of the 20th century. Born in Watertown, New York, on July 14, 1926, he started his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse in the early 1950s. During this period, he was inspired by several nightclub acts in Los Angeles to develop his own act. His first professional performance was at Café La Vie in Altadena, California, in 1954. Because of laws against cross-dressing, Pierce performed in a tuxedo with accessories such as a boa, hats, and pocketbooks. It was not until ten years after he began his career that Pierce donned full female costumes, reflecting changes in legislation that had made such acts legal. Pierce had lengthy and celebrated engagements at various venues including the Plush Room in San Francisco's York Hotel in the early 1980s, and engagements at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel's Venetian Room and New York's Top of the Gate and The Ballroom. His portrayals included Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Gloria Swanson, and Mae West. He appeared on numerous television shows (not always in drag), including Fame, Laverne and Shirley, Designing Women, Starsky & Hutch, and Love, American Style. His films include Rabbit Test (1978), Torch Song Trilogy (1988), and Nerds of a Feather (1990). He also issued several recordings, including Live at Bimbo's (circa 1972) on the Blue Thumb label, and a video, Charles Pierce at The Ballroom (1988). He died in North Hollywood, California, on May 31, 1999, at the age of 72.
Extent
7 records boxes + 9 archive cartons + 2 archive half-cartons + 8 oversize boxes + 8 shelves + 2 map case drawers. 54 linear feet.
Restrictions
Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives as the physical owner. Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in the materials. Note that ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).
Availability
The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.