Ricky Renee was—ahem, is—a cross-dressing cabaret performer. He was born in 1925 in Indiana and is still fabulous to this very day. (Here’s his website.) In 1967 Britsh Pathé did a short news item about him called “Quick Change Artist,” which is hilarious and a bit poignant in what they are and aren’t saying out loud. Basically Pathé‘s strategy with a cabaret artist as self-evidently awesome as Ricky Renee was to present him as essentially, a magician.
Ricky grew up in Florida but quickly made his way to NYC and then London and the European continent after that. Information about him isn’t the easiest to come by. It’s telling that there is an entry for him at wikipedia.de, the German Wikipedia, but none whatsoever at the English-language Wikipedia. Here’s his bio from wikipedia.de, translated into English:
At the age of 12 Ricky left Indiana and moved to Florida. At 14 he went to New York, where he worked as a dance teacher and an elevator operator and in cabarets. In addition, he studied acting with Katherine Dunham and for several years perfoemed at the “Jewel Box.” Finally, he put together his own show, for which he served as choreographer, designed and sewed all the costumes, and in which he conducted his orchestra. He then made his way to London, where his international show career began.
Ricky Renée performed with, among others, Ella Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and Jayne Mansfield, all of whom he imitated on the stage. He toured with his show in Paris, Vienna, Rome and along the French Riviera.
In her book Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show, Rachel Shteir has a passing reference to Ricky that reads as follows: “Like female strippers, each drag artist developed his own style. Ricky Renee began in a silver bra, which, after taking it off, he held to his chest to disguise the absence of breasts. He stripped down to a silver G-string with a question mark on the front.” Yeah!
He had a part in Goodbye Gemini (a.k.a. Twinsanity), a 1970 British thriller featuring Michael Redgrave, and he also appeared in Bob Fosse’s great 1972 movie Cabaret.
I’m a little obsessed with Ricky. If you know anything about him and his act, by all means write a comment!
via Deviates, Inc.