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Queer Divas of the Pansy Craze: Gladys Bentley

Wednesday, September 17, 8:48 PM written by About Face Theatre

This year’s Black & Tan gala will transport attendees back in time to the historic Pansy Craze of the 1930’s. In the weeks leading up to the event (October 10th – mark your calendar!) we’ll be sharing tidbits from this amazing time in American history.

Bentley & Bryant Outside The Apollo

Gladys Bentley (1907 – 1960)

Gladys Bentley was a black, lesbian, cross-dressing performer who made a name for herself in New York City’s Harlem in the late 1920’s and had a successful career that spanned nearly two decades. One of the few truly out performers of the time, Bentley was known for using her powerful voice to belt out obscene parodies of blues standards and show tunes. Equally compelling to her followers was her thrilling personal life, full of rumors about glamorous girlfriends and even an Atlantic City marriage to a white woman.

In the later years of her career, the onset of the McCarthy era forced her and many of her fellow queer entertainers to present a more gender normative persona, however the influence of her artistic heyday is undeniable. For more about Gladys Bentley and other Queer Divas of the era, check out this great documentary!

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