“Gay Icon” Waitresses at the Queen Victoria

The waitresses at the Queen Victoria are in drag as popular gay icons. Joan Crawford serves Emily, they walk past Marilyn Monroe on their way to the table, and Mae West takes Lorelai’s order.

Joan Crawford, born Lucille LeSueur (1904-1977), and previously mentioned. Beginning her career as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway, Crawford signed her first film contract in 1925. She usually played hard-working young women who found romance and success, making her films popular fodder in the Depression era, so that she became one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. Her career foundered, but she made a comeback in 1945 in Mildred Pierce, for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award. She continued acting through the 1940s and ’50s, gaining huge box-office success with the 1962 horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Crawford has been described as the “ultimate gay icon” for her sex appeal, bitchiness, and complex personal life.

Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortensen (1926-1962), and previously mentioned. Famous for playing comedic “blonde bombshells”, she was one of the biggest sex symbols of the 1950s. After beginning as a pin-up model, she had small parts in films before signing with Fox in 1951. By 1953 she was one of the most marketable Hollywood stars, with leading roles in Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire in this year alone. One of her biggest successes of her career was The Seven Year Itch, a 1955 comedy where she wears the iconic white dress that the waitress models. Critically acclaimed in Bus Stop (1956), she gained both critical and commercial success with Some Like It Hot, a 1959 comedy involving cross-dressing. That was a big boost to her as a gay icon, as well as her sex appeal, vulnerability, and tragic demise.

Mary “Mae” West (1893-1980) [pictured] was an an actress and sex symbol whose career in entertainment spanned seven decades. Starting out in vaudeville and the theatres of New York, she moved to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress, and writer, with appearances in film, television, and radio. She is considered one of the greatest female stars of classic American cinema. She was often controversial, having problems with efforts to censor her – she usually found a way for this to bring her greater publicity, such as a brief stint in gaol for writing a play named Sex, which made her a media darling as a “bad girl”. The characters she played in films tended to be sexually secure and liberated women, and by 1935 she was the highest paid woman in Hollywood. West reportedly got her image, style, and famous walk by copying female impersonators, and she could be seen as a “female drag queen”. Brassy, busty, and ballsy, ultra-womanly yet somehow androgynous, with risque wisecracks and impeccable comic timing, Mae West was a lifelong supporter of gay rights, and a natural fit as a gay icon.

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