Autographed Photo of Lynne CarterLynne Carter was a prominent drag artist who started his career by impersonating famed-cabaret singer Hildegarde at a masquerade ball and won $100 and a bottle of champagne. His impression was so well received, he was quickly contracted by a Chicago burlesque club and offered $125 per week to perform as Hildegard nightly in the 1940s.  

It was on stage in Chicago that Carter began to add more personalities to his repertoire, including famed vaudevillian Pearl Bailey, who was so won over by his impression of her that she sent him copies of her musical arrangements, provided him with some of her wardrobe, and even kept a written correspondence with him to continue supporting his career. 

In the 1950s, Carter was booked for an extended engagement at the El Cortez in Las Vegas. This performance would set the scene for decades of female impersonation on Vegas stages, from artists like Kenny Kerr, Frank Marino, and ”RuPaul’s Drag Race.”  

He performed to both gay and straight audiences, believing that his “universal” style of comedy played to everybody in the room. As a gay man, Carter believed his honesty and humor would disarm and unite audiences. He was well known for his impressions of Pearl Bailey, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West, perfectly blending comedy and artistry. Bailey went as far as saying that when she heard Lynne sing, it was like, “listening to a play back of her own voice.” 

Carter was also a singer and recorded an album entitled, ‘She's a He’ in 1957 on Fiesta Records and also appeared on the Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas TV Shows in the 1960s. Then, later in 1971, he became the first female impersonator to perform at Carnegie Hall. 

His final performances were in the revue "Hooray for Hollywood" at the St. Regis-Sheraton Hotel in 1984. He sadly passed away in 1985 due to AIDS-related complications but is still remembered today as a pillar to mainstreaming drag culture into the future and history. 

Lynne Carter and a Woman







Photos courtsey of JD Doyles Archives

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