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.
From Drags to Riches: The Untold Story of Charles Pierce (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies) by John wallraff
Series: Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Routledge (July 25, 2002)
Amazon: From Drags to Riches: The Untold Story of Charles Pierce
Learn how Charles Pierce achieved stardom and became one of the most famous female impersonators of all time!
Charles Pierce (1926--1999) was an internationally known and highly successful female impersonator, known for his vivid portrayals of Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, and Mae West. This book offers a candid look at a career that spanned over fifty years--from his humble start at the Pasadena Playhouse, to his sold-out shows in San Francisco.
From Drags to Riches provides a rich and colorful history of Charles Pierce. In this insightful and moving volume, Pierce’s friend John Wallraff offers valuable insights about the little-known man behind the makeup and captures the essence of what drag stardom is really like.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics
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