Thursday, June 17, 2021

Gee, Our Old LaSalle Ran Great

This meme shared on the Rainbow Rose Society's Facebook page caught my eye yesterday, for a couple reasons. First, it's incredibly moving -- and a reminder of what a groundbreaking and brilliant arc this was on television's highest-rated show. But as much as I understand why the LGBT community wants so badly to be seen and heard in media -- this and "Soap" were my lifelines back then! -- it must be pointed out that it's not exactly accurate: Beverly LaSalle was a female impersonator. (Bev makes a point of removing the wig and telling Archie that she's a "he" -- not a transwoman.) The actor who played the character was also a(n openly gay) female impersonator, who was a regular at Finocchio's club in San Francisco. (He also wrote an entertainment column for the Bay Area Reporter.) So no need to rewrite history as its poignancy remains just the same. 

For what it's worth, I've also read that "trans icon" Marsha P. Johnson lived a dual male-female life -- and we know the organzation Johnson cofounded was called the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and this was well after Christine Jorgensen's well-publicized sex-reassignment surgery.

OBITUARY: Drag queen Don McLean dies (SF Chronicle)

Feb. 13, 1984: Don McLean, who gained national attention as Archie Bunker's female-impersonator friend on "All in the Family," died at Mission Emergency Hospital. He was 44. [Some sources say he was 45.] He was best known in the local entertainment scene under his drag name of Lori Shannon, long the star of Finocchio's. In "All in the Family," he played Beverly LaSalle, whose life was saved when an unsuspecting Bunker gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The episode marked the first time a television series had sympathetically portrayed a drag queen, as McLean proudly called himself. Beverly LaSalle made several more appearances on the show before the character was killed saving the life of Bunker's "Meathead" son-in-law. McLean, who stood 6-feet-5 in his heels and considered himself "a stand-up comic in a dress," relished startling tourists at Finocchio's with such one-liners as, "Welcome to Boys' Town -- I'm Father Flanagan."

1 comment:

Billy B said...

"Gee, our old LaSalle ran great"

I was today years' old when I finally realized THAT'S the line they were singing in "Those Were the Days". I don't know mondegreen I thought I heard, but it wasn't that. At all. Criminy.