Saturday, March 23, 2013

Charles Pierce as Bette Davis (Part One)

An enthusiastic audience stamped their feet and clapped the moment they saw the wisps of cigarette smoke coming from off-stage at the 3,190-seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Many of them already knew most of the lines to Charles Pierces irreverent impression of Bette Davis. He had already regaled the mostly gay audience with Mae West (Warden, show me a hardened criminal.), Katharine Hepburn (You old poop) and the rhinestone-throwing Carol Channing (Im so cutesy-pie I could puke!). Pierce always saved the irreverent Davis impression for last. His devoted audiences would not let him off stage until he smoked at least one cigarette in the nervous and distinctive style of the temperamental star of All About Eve and Now, Voyager. There had to be at least three or four cutthroat remarks made about legendary rival Joan Crawford. Then there was the moment when he asked the audience to recite along with one of the campiest lines in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. The musical director is Michael Biagi. Pierces life story, From Drags to Riches: The Untold Story of Charles Pierce was written by a former collaborator and friend, John Walraff. Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies published it in 2002. Before his death, Pierce donated his papers to the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center. For more tributes, go to

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