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- This article is about Charles Pierce, not to be confused with the mathematician and philosopher Charles Peirce. For the American writer, see Charlie Pierce.
Born in Watertown, New York. He began his show business career playing the organ and acting in radio dramas at station WWNY. He branched out into a comedy routine, attired in tuxedo, yet managing to evoke eerily convincing imitations of popular movie actresses. Eschewing the term drag queen, which he hated, he billed himself as a male actress.
Initially playing in small gay clubs, his fame spread. He took up residence in San Francisco, California, where his act became well-known to Hollywood stars. As he toured, his costuming became more elaborate, initially adding small props, later full costume and makeup changes. His imitations were imitated by other female impersonators, and his roles included Bette Davis, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford, which became the drag queen canon. His act was centered on wit rather than accurate mimicry.
Pierce also appeared on an early episode of the hit 80's TV sitcom, "Designing Women" as a guide on a cruise ship. During the episode, he imitated Joan Collins (as the ship's waitress) and Bette Davis (as the ships lounge entertainment). As Davis he quips: "WAS that Joan Collins I saw earlier? ONE bitch on this boat is enough!"
In Bea Arthur's Tony Award-nominated one-woman show, Just Between Friends, which she played on Broadway and in London's West End, Arthur performs Pierce's favorite joke, A Mother's Ingenuity. It can be heard in the CD soundtrack.
- A Charles Pierce tribute site
- The Charles Pierce Papers at the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts
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