I didn't know Minette well, or at least I don't remember her straight away, but a bit of me mourns another loss from those times when the Ridiculous Theatrical Company was coming into being. Many are gone now: Bill Vehr, John Brockmeyer and of course Charles come to mind.
Ocassionally I come accross Black Eyed Susan or Lola Pashalinsky. This effectively affirms a part of my past and my heart beats happy. Mario is on the West Coast. I often remember her loft on Canal Street where we rehearsed and of the many insane roles Miss Montez played.
That time was the beginnings of my life in Manhattan, a runaway from the suburbs, like most of us. My association with the company and more to the point, Charles, that maniacal, funny, genius in particular taught me how to live comfortably in this world being a freak and in fact to celebrate it. My brief stint as the Turtle Woman in "Turds in Hell" showed me how to validate the outrageous and helped form my sensibilities which would stay with me through all of my subsequent experiences!
So I shed a tear for Minette, I don't even have to have to remember her to know how great she was.
Memorial for legendary drag queen Minette
The death late last year of legendary drag performer Minette, 73, marks the passing of a colorful, epic chapter of pre-Stonewall gay history. A musicologist, collector, gay historian and activist, as well as drag performer, singer, pianist, lyricist, and member of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, Minette lived alone in Brooklyn with her cat, Velvet. She died of natural causes, according to her friend, Adrian Milton, who discovered the body in Minette's Brooklyn apartment on Dec. 11. A memorial service is scheduled for Feb. 16.
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 transvestite performers, including the late Charles Ludlam, Jackie Curtis, and Ethyl Eichelberger, as well as the drag theater troupes Hot Peaches and the Bloolips.
"Minette was a great spirit," says Obie-winning actor Lola Pashalinski, an original Ridiculous member. "He was omnipresent in the early days of the company, always coming to rehearsals and performances. I remember him sitting at the piano in Mario Montez's loft in the ?60s, smoking dozens of cigarettes and playing songs."
Many of Minette's friends referred to her using the masculine pronoun, but Minette, who wore drag or semi-drag continually, always used the feminine.
Born on Aug. 25, 1928, in the Bowery, Minette was given the first name Jacques (a name she never used as an adult). Her parents, both French nationals, were visiting the United States at the time.
"Her father, Jacques Joseph Minette, was a scene painter and her mother, Marguerite Monet, was a performer," says Milton. Raised in Boston, Minette was kicked out of school in the eighth grade, Milton says, for "nervousness," and began performing on the vaudeville stage with her mother. "She started doing drag at age 14, and then professionally when she was 16, at these drag clubs in Boston," says Milton.
Minette's life then began a rhythm of appearing in gay clubs in "tank towns" outside the big cities, and then "being ridden out of town on a rail," as she once described it,, when "Lily Law found out we were entertaining gentlemen on the side." She claimed to have escaped drag queen lynchings by the Klan in the 1940s when she was performing in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Minette moved permanently to New York City in the early 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 fabulously."
Minette was important, she continues, because "she reinforced Charles [Ludlam's] aesthetic. She was a creative, productive force who connected Charles and Ethyl to a great tradition of drag performing" from the days of vaudeville and burlesque to the present.
David Kaufman, a frequent writer on theater for the New York Times and author of the upcoming Ludlam biography, "Ridiculous" in which Minette figures prominently, describes Minette as "the [Ridiculous] Company mascot. He was a prince of the earth, a genuinely sweet, sincere man, and a great, great, mentor, especially to the younger drag queens and transvestites who came after him. He loved sharing history with people and bringing people together."
Minette contributed songs and lyrics to Ludlam's 1970 play "Turds in Hell," and appeared in the shows "Caprice" and "Taboo Tableaux," the latter a compilation of scenes that the company periodically performed as a fund-raiser.
Minette can 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, Minette self-published her memoirs, "Recollections of a Part Time Lady," a slim, copiously illustrated volume reproduced on a photocopy machine.
Crystal Field, artistic director of Theater for the New City, says that Minette "was a man who loved history, music and the theater. He was truly one of us gypsies."
A memorial for Minette will be held Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. at the Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. Films that include Minette will be shown.
NY Blade, Feb. 15
by STEPHEN HOLT
[This message was edited by Rose Royalle on 02-19-02 at 01:15 AM.]