Legendary drag performer, MINETTE (nee Jacques Minette) was born (d: 2002); A musicologist, collector, gay historian and activist, as well as a drag performer, singer, pianist, lyricist and member of the equally legendary Ridiculous Theatre Company, Minette lived alone in Brooklyn with her cat, Velvet. Minette’s career spanned more than six decades of all forms of show business and she is credited with influencing a generation of gay playwrights and performers including Charles Ludlam, Jackie Curtis, and Ethyl Eichelberger as well as the drag troupes Hot Peaches and Bloolips.
“Minette was a great spirit,” says Obie-award winning actor, Lola Pashalinski, an original member of the Ridiculous Theatre Company. “He was omnipresent in the early days of the company, always coming to rehearsals and performances. I remember him sitting at the piano at Mario Montez’s loft in the 60’s smoking dozens of cigarettes and playing songs.” Minette’s friends would often refer to her in the masculine pronoun but she always used the feminine.
Raised in Boston, Minette was kicked out of school in the eighth grade “for nervousness” and began performing on the vaudeville stage with her mother. She started doing drag at age 14 and professionally when she was 16 at drag clubs in Boston. Her life then began a rhythm of appearing in drag clubs in “tank towns” outside big cities and “being ridden out of town on a rail” as she once described. “Lily Law found out we were entertaining men on the side.” She claimed to have escaped drag queen hangings at the hands of the KKK in the 1940s when she was performing in Kentucky and Tennessee. She moved to New York permanently in the 1950s.
“His drag persona was as a chanteuse, a very glamorous woman of the 40s rather than a movie star,“ says Pashalinski. “He was gorgeous and sang beautifully.” Minette was important because she reinforced Charles [Lundlam’s] aesthetic, He was a creative, energetic force who connected Charles and Ethyl with a great drag tradition from the days of vaudeville and burlesque to the present.
Minette contributed songs and lyrics to Ludlam’s 1970 Turds in Hell and appeared in the shows Caprice and Taboo Tableaux, the latter a compilation of scenes the company would perform for fundraising. Minette could also be heard but not seen, singing the humorous I Hate to See My Little Son Go Down in the 1960s drag documentary The Queen. In 1979, Minetteself-published her memoirs, “Recollections of a Part-Time Lady,” a slim, but copiously illustrated volume reproduced on a photocopy machine.
Minette died, apparently of natural causes, in December 2001, her body having been discovered by a friend in her Brooklyn apartment on December 11th.
AND HERE’S A SPECIAL AUDIO TREAT: Thanks to queermusicalheritage.com you can see pics of Minette, and even better, listen to some of her recorded renditions of some pretty campy work, e.g. “Come to Me at Tea Time” and “LBJ Don’t Take My Man Away” among many others. The recording quality isn’t the best, but it is a MUST hear…here: http://queermusicheritage.us/drag-minette.html