From Drags to Riches: The Untold Story of Charles Pierce (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies)

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From Drags to Riches: The Untold Story of Charles Pierce (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies) [Paperback]

John Dececco Phd , R. Allen Ogi
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 25, 2002 Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies
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.

This informative, imaginative, and sexually provocative book contains:
  • stories of how famous Hollywood icons shaped Charles Pierce’s life and his act
  • Pierce’s history, from his humble beginnings at the Pasadena Playhouse to his sold-out shows in San Francisco and beyond
  • a look at Pierce’s private life
  • an examination of the price of fame--how successes and failures shape any performer

    Using the words of Charles Pierce himself, adding a dash of humor, mixing in fascinating insights, and sprinkling in juicy stories of love, lust, and sex, this book is a melting pot of information about a well-loved but sometimes misunderstood man.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Wallraff on female impersonator Pierce is fascinating and infuriating. An old friend of Pierce's--they met as acting students at the Pasadena Playhouse--Wallraff is very ambivalent about Pierce, and his mixed feelings erupt at odd times throughout the book. He clearly admires Pierce's wit, talent, and energy, but he knows too much about Pierce's foibles, narcissism, sex life, and tendency to slight collaborators. The best chapters recount Pierce's rise from struggling actor dabbling in drag to headliner at such clubs as Finocchio's in San Francisco. Time and again, Wallraff deflates Pierce with a catty observation or wicked recollection of bad behavior. He also settles a few old scores; for instance, he says he deserves writing credits for some of Pierce's most popular routines. Wallraff's inconsistent prose merely accentuates his ambivalence about Pierce; chapters as dry as encyclopedia entries alternate with others so personal that they resemble diary pages and still others--the ones about Pierce's sexual adventures--that read like overwritten gay porn. Jack Helbig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (July 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560233869
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560233862
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,634,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Witless and Tasteless December 31, 2003
By A Customer
Charles Pierce did the get last laugh on his "friend," author Wallraff. This book is clearly an attempt for Wallraff to make some quick bucks and cash in on his relationship with Pierce. Wallraff drags (pun intended) up ancient, petty and no-so-petty arguments out of the distant past to discredit Pierce as a human being. Pierce would not the first show biz figure who didn't measure up so well offstage. How unfortunate that this book wasn't done as an in-depth examination of the California gay world through the eyes of those who were there. The publisher should be ashamed of themselves for putting this out--the editing is almost nonexistent, with lots of repetitive phrases and terrible journalism (Pierce's involvement in a tragic suicide is glossed over--surely some police records or newspaper reports exist). I like a juicy scene as much as the next guy, but the sexual interludes here are downright pathetic because they have nothing to do with Pierce's career and are only an exercise in badly written pornography. I am glad that I have my memories of Pierce, which I will cling to as some of the best nights I ever spent in cabarets. As for this book, I will remember it as one of the worst pieces of trash I ever wasted my money on.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amateur Night at the Drag Show October 8, 2003
By A Customer
Written by a long-time friend and fellow performer who seems to have serious unresolved issues about laboring in Pierce's shadow, this amateurish look at the famous entertainer isn't so much a cohesive biography as it is a haphazard memoir cobbled together from press clippings, boozy reminsces of barroom nights, transcripts of Pierce's act and excerpts from an autobiography Pierce never completed. Adding to the "kitchen sink" effect are a number of "fly-on-the-wall" descriptions of totally extraneous sexual interludes, that border on porn. For die-hard Pierce fans, this book is better than nothing. But not much.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars charlie lives on ! November 1, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
one has to have seen Charles to fully appreciate him. this volume is a happy substitute although i wish it had been a better quality book, paper and photo wise.
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