Mr. Pudgy Roberts

Girls Who Are And Can't:
An Interview with Pudgy Roberts

Female Mimics, Vol. 1, No. 12 (Spring 1968)
* Copyright 1968

By Gil Truman

    Every now and again a story on female impersonation hits print. Frequently the writer, with only sketchy knowledge of his subject, employs a leering, jeering approach which implies that impersonators, transvestites and swishy homosexuals are one and the same thing; fags in drag.
    “Not so!” declares Pudgy Roberts, female impersonator, whose act has been headlined in night spots, coast to coast.
    First and foremost, the female impersonators who appear in stage, burlesque or night club productions are authentic professional entertainers. Each must possess sufficient talent to sustain his act and create a convincing illusion.
    The transvestite is an amateur who loves to don women's attire, but only in privacy. Rarely, a transvestite with a trait of exhibitionism just might feel a desire to display his elaborate wardrobe on a stage or at a public gathering. But professionally speaking, a male who merely looks like a female does not constitute entertainment.
    Indeed, an obese, elderly transvestite would succeed only in making a ridiculous spectacle of himself. Generally, cross-dressing remains a solitary pastime, though occasionally small groups with similar inclinations may join at private parties to indulge their novel tastes in attire.
    True, in the mind of the public, transvestism may equate with homosexuality. The facts are that a majority of TV's marry, have children and tend to avoid homosexual persons and perverted activities. They won't frequent “gay” bars nor vacation resorts commonly favored by overt deviates. In that respect, they are confirmed squares.
    Homosexuals who affect effeminate mannerisms and mince about in foppish garments are homos first, last and all the way. Their obvious oddments are only incidentals designed to attract the attention of potential “trade”. It's
a means of proclaiming their passivity to the aggressive leather jacket types seeking a docile date.
    But aren't there professional impersonators who have a yen for members of their own sex?
    “Quite likely,” Pudgy admitted. “And why not? For aren't there also he-man actors, muscle-boy athletes and gruff, rugged truck drivers who prefer fellas to fillies? And how about dignified businessmen, pitiful old Aunties at heart, who flip at the sight of a young lad!”
    “I think there's a definite difference between professional mimics, lads who enjoy silk and lace as a harmless hobby, and frenetic fairies. It's plain stupid to assume that the three types have very much in common.”
    Female impersonation has been an accepted form of entertainment for over 2000 years. In Shakespeare's day, all female roles were played by beardless boys. In our own time, Julian Eltinge who starred in many Broadway shows had a theater named in his honor. More recently the movies gave us “Some Like It
Hot” in which Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis masqueraded as girls to hilarious results.
    “Few people outside the larger cities ever have an opportunity to see really talented impersonators work,” Pudgy commented. “That accounts for a lot of misconceptions about the art. Often an impersonator's act is satire; a spoof of feminine quirks and foibles.”
    “I have comedy routines which poke good-natured fun at exotic dancers. When I'm billed as ‘The World's Funniest Stripper’ it's pure clown pantomime, strictly for laughs. When I work straight — noncomedy, that is — my audiences know that I'm not actually a girl, but merely one who builds an illusion of femininity.”
    “Unlike some performers, I never remove my wig at the end of my act to reveal myself as a man. Some believe that a denouement of this kind has surprise value. They rely on it to make their acts. However, this stepping out of character at the finale has been so overdone that it's no longer a novelty.”
    “Why? Because ‘The charms men view with rapt delight are often kept in drawers at night’. I mean, many women pad their natural assets this way or that. False eyelashes, phony bosoms, contraptions that plump up scrawny hips and derrieres and whatnot. In her own way, every woman is an impersonator of her own sex.”
    “You might think women would resent men who impersonate them but they don't. Female entertainers enjoy my act. The audiences I work to are about 50/50, men and women. And the women are curious about my art. Many ask me for beauty hints or tricks I use in costuming.”
    “They're especially fascinated by the illusory 'breasts' I wear. Actually, I have several different kinds that I've made for myself. The materials and the process is my trade secret; a gimmick I'm not about to reveal to my competition.”
    I mentioned that many impersonators are said to have resorted to plastic surgery.
    “Quite true,” Pudgy informed me. “But not usually in the respect that's generally believed. Most often it's their noses! Bob jobs to shorten them or give them a tiny uptilt to disguise their mannish look. Those who have had plastic implants — breastplagery, I think it's called — usually find it necessary to have the implants replaced once a year or so. Or perhaps they must be removed entirely because infection sets in. That's a hazard.”
    “Some who have taken hormones find this adds to their appearance of femininity. But hormone treatments are costly and somewhat risky. They don't always work; don't always have a desirable effect on everyone. And note this: most who take hormones are not interested in professional impersonation. They want to be girls; live as real females to the utmost possible extent both in their public and private lives. (That many genuine women — burlesque queens, movie love goddesses and assorted sexpots — patronize 'meat cutters' and hormone specialists is beside the present point.)”
    “Some of these ‘boys’ want more than a simple bosom boost. It becomes a go-for-broke deal, a radical sex change. They go about it in secrecy to avoid the smirks and sneers of the public. Generally speaking, their lives are made more unhappy than before, Medications alone won't accomplish miracles and few operations are completely successful.”
    “Yes, I'm aware that some claim to have switched sexes by surgical means, whereas nothing of the sort had happened. These pretenders simply seek publicity. They hope to cash in on the notoriety, especially aspirants with no talent but desperate to break into show biz.”
    Pudgy cited several cases that have made news. There's Christine Jorgensen who was born and lived for 20-odd years as plain George. Extensive surgery performed in Europe was supposed to have transformed him into a natural girl. At one point, Christine announced her engagement to a Chicago businessman but this dubious romance was suddenly broken off by mutual consent. That's what the public was told.
    Some may recall April Ashley who became a fashion model after a transsexual operation. In a like way, Carl Hammons emerged as Hedy Jo Starr, exotic dancer. French entertainer Coccinelle made headlines when he-she became the spouse of Francois Bonnet following surgery. This off-beat union ended in divorce. Coccinelle declared that Mon. Bonnet called her a “dirty man”. He countered by contesting the marriage's validity, claiming that it was never truly consummated, nor could it ever be. Scores of other news reports confirm that inverts generally sing the same tune.
    “Nature made a cruel mistake,” they wail. “I'm a woman imprisoned in a man's body. Physically I'm male but emotionally I'm wholly female. What a tragic farce!”
    The question arises, do some men submit to sex altering surgery merely to justify, perhaps to legalize their homosexual leanings? Is the whole business only a pseudo-scientific fraud that makes a mockery of heterosexual love and marriage?
    Reputable doctors seem to agree that regardless of how much tinkering is done on the male plumbing — amputation followed by the construction of artificial female organs plus injections and medico-cosmetic procedures — the resulting “she” is not biologically a woman. Neither can she function sexually in a normally complete sense. “She” remains, in essence, an emasculated male, a piping eunuch. One may buy lovely dolls at a toy store which walk, talk and wet themselves, but they are girls only in a childish world of fantasy.
    What's on the flip side of the impersonation coin? Are there female performers who impersonate men?
    “Yes, there are such acts,” Pudgy told me. “I'd pick Miss Jo Vaugh and Miss Storme De Laviere as the top two to be seen in this country.”
    What's the future of female impersonation as an entertainment form?
    “Well, most cities that allow stripping by females have no objections to female impersonators. In fact, a male can perform in many places where a woman can't. How come? Because regulations read, ‘...if a woman performs....’ and so on. Technically, there's nothing in the local law that bars a man from entertaining with a similar act.”
    ‘By and large, a clean type of impersonator show will go over almost anywhere. If a show is flagrantly indecent, it will be closed by police orders the same as would any sort of lewd exhibition. The difficulty, if any, is with police officials or misinformed do-gooders who assume that impersonation shows attract flocks of undesirables.”
    “In practice, this is not so. Audiences are made up preponderantly of normal men and women such as might patronize any place of amusement. The truth is, my kind of show simply doesn't appeal to the hardcore homosexual crowd.”

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To see the Female Mimics cover click here.

To read the entire issue of Pudgy Roberts Presents: The Great Female Mimics, click here.

* So far as I can determine from Internet searches, Female Mimics no longer exists. Nothing came up for “Gil Truman”, which may be a pseudonym.

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