Author: Bolen High

Lena Horne: African American Icon

In honor of Black History Month we celebrate the ”What Becomes A Legend Most” icon, Lena Horne. When Lena Horne was asked to become the image for Blackglama’s 1969 ad campaign poster (see above), she follows in the heels of such female icons as Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford; she was the first African American celebrity to do so. For more information see:

African-American Memorabilia, Black Memorabilia, Hollywood Movie Memorabilia, Movie Star Photos For Sale, Original Vintage Lobby Cards

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Drag Before RuPaul

The term “Drag” is the shortened version of “Drag Queen” which, in many circles today, is a derogatory description of men who like to dress as women either as a life choice or as a female impersonator.

RuPaul changed “Drag Queen” to “Drag” in 2009, when he became an international celebrity, turning his success as RuPaul Female Impersonator, recording artist, spokesperson, actor, author and talk show host into a reality competition television series, RuPaul’s Drag Racewhich he produces, hosts and judges to this day.

The success of that show has spread around the world in a variety of formats. For RuPaul’s Drag Race, he has received eleven Primetime Emmy Awards, becoming the most-awarded person of color in the history of the Primetime Emmys. In 2017, he was included in the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. Outside of film and television, he continues to write and record music, releasing fourteen studio albums as of 2022. His success couples the entertainment value of Drag with the sensibilities of an enlightened audience.

A Brief History of Drag

Boys dressing as women was a requirement of actors in all of Shakespeare’s plays as it was illegal for women to appear on the stage. It wasn’t until the restoration of Charles II of England and bawdy “Restoration comedy” became a recognizable genre that theatre licenses granted by Charles required that female parts be played by “their natural performers”, rather than by boys.

Pantomime Dames

In the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, pantomime dames became a popular form of female impersonation in England and Europe. This was the first era of female impersonation to use comedy as part of the performance, contrasting with the serious Shakespearean tragedies and Italian operas. The dame became a stock character with a range of attitudes from “charwoman” to “grande dame and continues today in British “Pantos.” These “entertainments” can be found across England during the Christmas holiday season where well-known male actors have great fun impersonating ‘evil queens’ and ‘nasty sisters’.

American Drag Balls

The first person known to describe himself as “the queen of drag” was William Dorsey Swann, an African American, born enslaved in Hancock, Maryland, who in the 1880s started hosting drag balls in Washington, DC attended by other men who were formerly enslaved, and often raided by the police.

Minstrel Shows

Development of the drag queen in the United States was influenced by the development of the blackface minstrel show. Originally the white performers would only mock African American men, but as time went on, they found it amusing to mock African American femininity as well. They performed in comedic skits, dances, and “wench” songs.


The broad comedic stylings of the minstrel shows helped develop the vaudeville shows of the late 1800s to the early 1900s. With the United States shifting demographics, including the shift from farms to cities, Great Migration of African Americans, and an influx of immigrants, vaudeville’s broad comedy and music expanded the audience from minstrelsy.

With vaudeville becoming more popular, it allowed female impersonators to become popular as well. Many female impersonators started with low comedy in vaudeville and worked their way up to perform as the prima donna. They were known to perform song and dance routines with multiple outfit changes.

Female Impersonators

At this time being a female impersonator was seen as something for the straight white male, and any deviation was punished. Connection with sex work and homosexuality eventually led to the decline of vaudeville during the Progressive Era. Both the minstrelsy and vaudeville eras of female impersonation led to an association with music, dance, and comedy that still lasts today

JULIAN ELTINGE/The Widow’s Might (1918)

(Above – Vintage original 41 x 27” (104 x 69 cm.) one sheet poster, USA. Julian Eltinge, dir: William De Mille; Paramount. On linen, with some touchups in blank margins and along old fold lines, very good+. View Poster)

(May 14, 1881 – March 7, 1941), born William Julian Dalton, was an American stage and film actor and female impersonator. As his star began to rise, he appeared in vaudeville and toured Europe and the United States, even giving a command performance before King Edward VII. Eltinge appeared in a series of musical comedies written specifically for his talents starting in 1910 with The Fascinating Widow. 

The success of The Fascinating Widow led producer A. H. Woods to give Eltinge one of the entertainment industry’s highest honors, having a theatre named for him. A year to the day that The Fascinating Widow opened, Woods opened the Eltinge Theatre on New York’s 42nd Street. 

Hollywood beckoned Eltinge and in 1917 he appeared in his first feature film, The Countess Charming. This led to other films, including 1918’s The Isle of Love with Rudolph Valentino and Virginia Rappe. By the time Eltinge arrived in Hollywood, he was considered one of the highest paid actors on the American stage.

Night Clubs

In the early to mid-1900s, female impersonation had become tied to the LGBT community and thus criminality, so it had to change forms and locations. It moved from being popular mainstream entertainment to something done only at night in disreputable areas, such as San Francisco’s Tenderloin.

Here female impersonation started to evolve into what we today know as drag and drag queens. Drag queens first came to prominence in these clubs. People went to these nightclubs to play with the boundaries of gender and sexuality and it became a place for the LGBT community, especially gay men, to feel accepted.

As LGBT culture has slowly become more accepted in American society, drag has also become more acceptable in today’s society and now, with RuPaul and RuPaul’s Drag Race, it has become an international sensation. 


CRAIG RUSSELL / A Man and His Women (1977)

Craig Russel l A Man and His Women | Walter Reuben
Vintage original 22 x 14″ (56 x 36 cm.) theatre window card poster, USA.
This is a poster for an off-Broadway stage show which highlighted his talents.

Canadian Russell Craig Eadie, who preferred to go by his stage name of Craig Russell, made a career for himself impersonating a wide range of female artists. His diverse repertoire included Carol Channing, Bette Davis, Mae West, Shirley Bassey and even Anita Bryant.


Les Etoile | Record Store Poster
Paris: RCA, [ca. 1977]. Vintage original 23 x 15″ (59 x 38 cm.) record store poster, France. Near Fine.

Promotional poster for the Brazilian singing duo LES ETOILES, which consisted of Rolando Faria and Luiz Antonio, who made a splash in Europe performing in full drag.


Drag Queens From Outer Space | Walter Reuben
New York]: Theater for the Ever Expanding Universe, [ca. 1986].
Vintage original 34 x 22″ (86 x 56 cm.) theatre poster, USA. Unfolded, scattered stains and creases, Very Good.

Poster designed by Mel Byars for New York City stage production of DRAG QUEENS FROM OUTER SPACE by Sky Gilbert. Gilbert is a preeminent name in LGBTQ theater, and an enormous influence on Canadian theater. This play followed Gilbert’s equally successful DRAG QUEENS ON TRIAL (1985).


[New York]: Playwrights’ Workshop, [1968]. Vintage original 24 x 16″ (61 x 41 cm.) poster, unfolded, Fine.

Very scarce poster (the OCLC records no known copy) for a 1968 run of the first play written by and starring Andy Warhol superstar Jackie Curtis. This play had had its world premiere a year before, also at the Playwright’s Workshop, and an entirely different poster was created for this 1968 revival.

Jackie performed as both a man and a woman throughout her career. While performing in drag, Curtis would typically wear lipstick, glitter, bright red hair, ripped dresses, and stockings. Curtis pioneered this combination of trashy and glamour, a style that has prompted assertions that Curtis inspired the glitter rock or glam rock movement of the 1970s. 

Drag, drag artist, Drag Queens, famous American drag performer, female impersonator, RuPaul

Five Lesbian And Bisexual Women In The Performing Arts


New York: Booth Theatre, [1988]. Vintage original 36 x 24 1/2″ (92 x 62 cm.) poster, USA. Folded (as issued), JUST ABOUT FINE.  VIEW DETAILS

Poster for SANDRA BERNHARD: I’M STILL HERE… DAMN IT, a one-woman comedy show given in a limited engagement on Broadway, which ran from November 5, 1988 to January 2, 1989. In the late 1980s,

In the middle of the 1970s Sandra Bernhard became a staple at The Comedy Store. As her popularity as a comedian grew, in 1977 she was cast as a supporting player on The Richard Pryor Show. Her big break came in 1983 when she was cast by Martin Scorsese to star as stalker and kidnapper Masha in the film The King of Comedy for which she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. Bernhard was also a frequent guest on David Letterman’s NBC program Late Night with David Letterman, making 28 appearances starting in 1983. 

She began performing her first one-woman show called I’m Your Woman in 1985, and an album version was released. She launched an off-Broadway one-woman show called Without You, I’m Nothing, With You, I’m Not Much Better in 1988.

It was during the run of ‘Without You, I’m Nothing, With You, I’m Not Much Better’ that Bernhard appeared with her then-good friend (and rumored lover) Madonna on a 1988 episode of Late Night with David Letterman. The two alluded to their romantic relationship and staged a sexy confrontation; the appearance received much publicity.

In 1991, Bernhard began playing the role of Nancy Bartlett on the hit sitcom Roseanne. She appeared in 33 episodes between 1991 and 1997 and was one of the first actresses to portray an openly bisexual recurring character on American television.

Bernhard returned to Broadway in 1998 with the show I’m Still Here… Damn It!, recorded for a live comedy album. At that time of the show, Bernhard was pregnant. She gave birth to daughter Cicely Yasin Bernhard on July 4, 1998 whom she has raised with her longtime partner, Sara Switzer. Bernhard is bisexual and a strong supporter of gay rights.

For more information about her career, please visit Wikipedia from which this content was extracted.


Casselberry & Dupree Poster

UC BERKELEY The Gay People’s Union proudly presents: An Evening with CASSELBERRY & DUPREE plus special guest STEVEN GROSSMAN (May 30, 1980) Vintage original 17 x 11″ (43 x 27 cm.) musical performance poster. Slight marginal creasing, JUST ABOUT FINE.  VIEW DETAILS

Jaqu’e Dupree and J. Casselberry met in high school and have, for more than a decade, worked together in a duo called, quite naturally, Casselberry-Dupree. 

The duo has  performed with Harry Belafonte and Whoopi Goldberg and in the Academy Award-nominated documentaries “Art Is” and “The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.”

“We have different backgrounds,” says Dupree, explaining the diversity of their music. “I grew up listening to church music, and J. grew up listening to big band and classical.” “Our music comes from the many places we’ve been to as Blackwomen and Lesbians in America. We want to sing, we want to be heard, we want you to listen.”


Dame Judith Anderson as Hamlet

Vintage original 20 x 14″ (51 x 36 cm.) window card poster. Minimal bumping at edges, JUST ABOUT FINE.  VIEW DETAILS

“Employing a heavily cut text and minimalist setting, the production relied on the power of voice to illuminate Shakespeare’s poetry. Yet most viewers were unable to see past Anderson’s seventy-three-year-old female body to the spirit of her Hamlet, and her performance was widely criticized. Despite its disappointing reception at the time…, Anderson’s Hamlet was an extraordinary exercise in boundary crossing—rejecting conventions of Shakespearean performance alongside those of age and gender. Furthermore it refused to be aligned with either classical theatre or avant-garde performance, existing in a state of otherness and demanding to be assessed on its own terms.” (Gregory, “Crossing Genre,” JADT, vol. 26, No. 1.)

Dame Frances Margaret Anderson, AC, DBE (10 February 1897 – 3 January 1992), known professionally as Judith Anderson, was an Australian actress who had a successful career in stage, film and television. A preeminent stage actress in her era, she won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award and was also nominated for a Grammy Award and an Academy Award. She is considered one of the 20th century’s greatest classical stage actors.

Judith Anderson had an extraordinary career and was married twice, declaring that “neither experience was a jolly holiday.” 

To see the breadth and depth of her career please visit Wikipedia.


Dorothy Arzner Three Photographs

Three vintage original 8 x 10″ (20 x 25 cm.) photos, USA. One photo has diagonal creases near bottom and other signs of light handling, VERY GOOD-; the other two are linen-backed keybook photos, NEAR FINE. VIEW DETAILS

Dorothy Emma Arzner (January 3, 1897 – October 1, 1979) was an American film director whose career in Hollywood spanned from the silent era from 1927 until her retirement from feature directing in 1943. Arzner made a total of twenty films and launched the careers of a number of Hollywood actresses, including Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, and Lucille Ball. Additionally, Arzner was the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America and the first woman to direct a sound film. 

Arzner would maintain a forty-year relationship with Marion Morgan, a dancer and choreographer who was ten years older than Arzner. Even though she tried to keep her private life as private as possible, Arzner had been linked romantically with a number of actresses, including Alla Nazimova and Billie Burke. She never hid her sexual orientation, nor her identity; her clothing was unconventional for a woman of that time, she wore suits or straight dresses. In 1930, Arzner and Morgan moved to Mountain Oak Drive, where they lived until Morgan’s death in 1971.

Arzner’s Legacy
Arzner’s work, both as a female filmmaker and a lesbian filmmaker, has been an important area of film studies. Perhaps due to Arzner’s leaving Hollywood in the 1940s, her work had been all but forgotten until the 1970s when she was rediscovered by feminist film theorists. Since then Arzner’s films have been studied for their depictions of gender and female sexuality.

Alla Nazimova, Billie Burke, Emmy Award Winner, Film Critics Award, lesbian filmmaker, member Directors Guild of America (DGA), The Comedy Store, Tony Award winner

1950s Famous Faces

For Walter Film’s holiday blog we would like to take you on a nostalgic trip back to the 1950s and to a time that was not quite as challenging as it is today.  The personalities merchandised in doll form reflected the major movements and changes in all fields of entertainment during that decade. 

While we may view the 1950s as a simpler time, the world of entertainment was full of drama; whether it be famous Broadway shows, the birth of Rock n’ Roll, beloved characters and stories, television favorites or big screen movie spectacles.  Here are a few fabulous faces from the fifties that have endured. The article was written for the 2020 United Federation of Doll Clubs fall edition of Doll News. We hope you enjoy the trip.

Alice In Wonderland, Angela Cartwright, Cinderelia, Dick Clark, Elvis Presley, Gene Autry, Hedy Lamarr, Hopalong Cassidy, Howdy Doody, Kate Smith, Little Ricky, Lucille Ball, Mary Hartline, Mary Martin, Peter Pan, Shari Lewis, Shirley Temple, Sleeping Beauty

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Sidney Poitier – African American Landmark Actor & Director

In 1963 Sidney Poitier became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role creating the character of Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field.

His 40+ year career as an Oscar-winning star and film director broke down barriers for actors of color, becoming a Hollywood leading man at a time before black Americans were even granted full civil rights. He also opened doors for black directors after stepping behind the camera to direct  nine features. In addition, he served as the non-resident Bahamian Ambassador to Japan and UNESCO and was recipient of  the United States’ highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom . 

Academy Award Winning, African American Movie Posters, African-American Memorabilia, Oscar Winning, Presidential Medal Freedom

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