A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 23, 2022
Queen (Drag Queen)

Harlem’s female impersonators were called “queens” in the 1930s. “In New York” with Paul Harrison was syndicated in many newspapers. Harrison’s column describing “Where ‘Queens’ Rule” in Harlem was printed in the Shamokin (PA) News-Dispatch on March 22, 1934:

“Visiting celebrities supply most of the entertainment (at Dick Moore’s Theatrical Grill—ed.), supplemented by a four-piece band and a tall, coal-black negro who is one of those erotic phenomena called “queens”—female impersonators. This one has assumed the name of a famous white movie star, wears a wig and an evening gown, and sings alto. (...) There’s International House, with a long-haired ‘queen’ named Natacha...”

The film Paris Is Burning (1990) showed New York City’s drag balls in the 1980s—fifty years later.


Wikipedia: Drag queen
A drag queen is a person, usually male, who uses drag clothing and makeup to imitate and often exaggerate female gender signifiers and gender roles for entertainment purposes. In modern times, drag queens are associated with gay men and gay culture, but people of other genders and sexual identities also perform as drag queens.
(...)
Terminology, scope and etymology
Drag queen

The origin of the term drag is uncertain; the first recorded use of drag in reference to actors dressed in women’s clothing is from 1870. It may have been based on the term “grand rag” which was historically used for a masquerade ball.

In 1971, an article in Lee Brewster’s Drag Queens magazine describes a drag queen as a “homosexual tranvestite” who is hyperfeminine, flamboyant, and militant.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
drag queen, n.
slang in early use (originally and chiefly among gay men).
Originally: a male entertainer who performs dressed as a woman; a female impersonator. Now usually: a performer (most typically a man) who adopts a flamboyant, exaggerated, or parodic feminine persona, with glamorous or outrageous costumes and make-up.
Also sometimes applied (outside the context of performance and entertainment) to a man who cross-dresses, or to a transgender woman, but these uses are now usually regarded as offensive.
1941 G. Legman in G. W. Henry Sex Variants II. App. vii. 1164 Drag-queen, a professional female impersonator; the term being transferentially used of a male homosexual who frequently..wears women’s clothing…While many innate male homosexuals wear women’s underwear..they are not for that reason called drag-queens

queen, n.
slang. A homosexual man, typically one regarded as ostentatiously effeminate. Cf. quean n. 3.
1893 Alienist & Neurologist 14 732 Standing or seated on a pedestal, but accessible to all the rest, is the naked queen (a male) whose phallic member..is subject to the gaze and osculations in turn, of all the members of this lecherous gang of sexual perverts.]
1919 in L. R. Murphy Perverts by Official Order (1988) iii. 57 Zipf described the ‘feminine’ attire found in Gianelli’s room, reported his description of other ‘queens’, and passed on ‘Salome’s’ description of having had sex with other men.
1929 M. Lief Hangover vi. 100 ‘What’s those?’ ‘You know—all those queens.’
1930 E. Waugh Vile Bodies 61 ‘Now what may you want, my Italian queen?’ said Lottie as the waiter came in with a tray.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang (2010) by Jonathon Green
drag queen n. (also queen drag) [drag n.1 (8a) + -queen sfx (2)]
1 an effeminate homosexual who prefers to dress as a woman; sometimes as a professional female impersonator.
1949 ‘Swasarnt Nerf’ et al. Gay Girl’s Guide 8: drag-queen: One who makes a living doing female impersonations in a drag-show, or otherwise appears frequently in drag.
1959 W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 24: A fat queen drag walking his Afghan hound.
2 a female impersonator.
1964 Lavender Lex. n.p.: drag queen: – […] This term is also used to describe female impersonators.

Newspapers.com
Newspapers.com (Same article in another newspaper, but with an illustration)
22 March 1934, Shamokin (PA) News-Dispatch, “In New York” with Paul Harrison, pg. 4, col. 4:
NEW YORK—There’s plenty of hi-jinks and hi-de-do underneath the Harlem moon.
(...)
Where “Queens” Rule
Three o’clock is a little early to go to Dick Moore’s Theatrical Grill, but later every table is occupied in the stuffy little bedlam. The black belt knows Dicky as its best-dressed man. One night he’ll appear in formal tails; the next night in heavy sports tweeds from one of Fifth avenue’s smartest importers. He’ll show you the label to prove it.

Visiting celebrities supply most of the entertainment, supplemented by a four-piece band and a tall, coal-black negro who is one of those erotic phenomena called “queens”—female impersonators. This one has assumed the name of a famous white movie star, wears a wig and an evening gown, and sings alto.

Strangely there is less public lewdness, and much less nudity, in all the negro nightclubs than in the white hotspots around the Manhattan theatre district. Or at the Harlem night clubs patronized by whites. In explanation an entertainer told me: “Our people ain’t got much self-restraint, once they gets gay, so we got to be careful.”
(...)
There’s International House, with a long-haired “queen” named Natacha—the international aspect of the establishment being accounted for by the presence of a Chinese chef.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • Thursday, June 23, 2022 • Permalink