August 17, 1915 – December 27, 1977
Harold James “Buddy” Bigham grew up in Royal Oak and had a long career as a photographer in the research department of General Motors. A homeowner in Detroit’s Boston-Edison neighborhood, Bigham was a familiar patron for many years at the Diplomat, Bookie’s Club 870, and other local gay bars.
Detroit Free Press, December 28, 1977
September 7, 1922 – May 30, 1997
Detroit native Augustus Herman Rissman was better known to members of the local gay community as Gorgeous Gussy. Noted for “a gravelly voice and gruff manner,” Rissman entertained audiences throughout the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s at such Detroit bars as the Golden Slipper, LaRosa’s, the Diplomat, and the Gold Dollar.
Cruise, June 18, 1997
April 3, 1933 – December 6, 1983
Originally from Arkansas, Winfred Wells was raised in Detroit and in the 1950s became a noted local beatnik poet. In the 1960s he performed female impersonation under his own name at the Diplomat Lounge. Wells subsequently moved to England, where he wrote screenplays and lived with his longtime companion, director Silvio Narizzano.
London Times, December 8, 1983
September 5, 1934 – July 3, 2011
Minnesota native Vicki Marlane was among a troupe of female impersonators who performed at the Diplomat Lounge in Detroit in the early 1960s. Born Donald Sterger, Marlane underwent gender affirmation surgery in San Francisco, where she continued to perform into her 70s. She was subject of the 2009 documentary Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight. She died from AIDS-related complications at age 76.
Bay Area Reporter, July 14, 2011
Vicki Marlane photographs and artifacts at the GLBT Historical Society
Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight on Vimeo
October 15, 1909 – March 19, 1984
The son of a Russian junk peddler, Sam “Bookie” Stewart worked as manager of his brother-in-law’s bar the Silver Dollar in Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1959, Stewart opened the Diplomat, famed for his female impersonators, and from 1970 to 1984 operated Bookie’s Club 870 on West McNichol’s.
Metra, March 28, 1984
June 19, 1928 – October 20, 1995
Negaunee native Jack Genore performed as Fat Jack at the Diplomat, the Gold Dollar, and other Detroit drag venues during the 1960s and 1970s. He was particularly noted for his rendition of “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
Mining Journal, October 22, 1995
September 16, 1936 – May 31, 2014
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, James Pascoe rose to fame performing as Jerri Daye as a female impersonator at the Diplomat and Gold Dollar in Detroit and nationally from the late 1950s into the 1990s.
Between The Lines, June 5, 2014