Fanny Brice obituary

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Fanny Brice

Personal Color: Royal Purple

Fanny Brice, for many years, one of the leaders of Washington, DC’s community of female impersonators, known for producing the popular annual Showstoppers shows of the 1970s, died of a heart attack January 24, 2007 in Boynton Beach, FL. Brice and his partner of 26 years, Fred Yawatz (also known by his female impersonator name, Lana Turner) had moved to Florida after their retirement.

Alex Carlino, born March 7, 1939, and raised in the Washington DC area, became by his late twenties, one of Washington DC’s leading female impersonators, not just by virtue of his performance skills but also because of his skill at organizing and producing shows. By the dawn of the 70s, Alex Carlino was well known around DC and in the community of female impersonators as Fanny Brice. As Fanny Brice, Carlino became drag mother to several generations of performers.

During the ‘social wars’ of the late 60s when the organized drag community split into several camps, Fanny Brice joined with Jerri Buskirk and Mame Dennis in leading the Awards Club, an alternative to Liz Taylor’s Oscars group.

Alex was introduced to drag by one of DC’s early drag leaders, Lady Charlotte who took Alex to his first drag event, the Queen of Hearts Ball. The first lesson learned was the importance of good shoes! [Fanny talks about first going in drag: www.rainbowhistory.org/firstdrag.wma.] By 1969, Fanny had her own crowd of drag associates and formed her own drag house, Henry Street. With her interest in theatrical entertainment, Fanny envisioned her house as “a family of theatrical troupers” who aimed to “create a gateway to a wonderful world of make-believe, of glitter and fun, of music and song, and to further the belief that it is great to be with good people who love and respect each other.”

By the mid-70s, Fanny had moved to the Gelmarc building at 1930 Columbia Rd, where Alex eventually became the building manager and ran a drag-friendly apartment building. The Gelmarc became the meeting center for the Henry Street troupers.

In 1973, local club owner and entrepreneur Bill Oates arranged a merger of Liz Taylor’s group with Henry Street and Beekman Place to create the Academy Awards of Washington, a group which took leadership of the private world of female impersonators in Washington, DC. In the new organization, Fanny became Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer. Mame Dennis of Beekman Place became President and Liz Taylor became Chairman of the Board.

Two years earlier, on September 18, 1971, Henry Street premiered its first public show at Trinity Theater in Georgetown with a gala review, Showstoppers. The show grew out of the annual Henry Street picnic in Rock Creek Park.

Fanny Brice produced the review and all subsequent Showstoppers throughout the 1970s. Casting for shows was not limited to members of Henry Street; it was open city-wide to anyone who cared to try out. The first Showstopper was so popular that a condensed version was performed at the new Lost and Found club in Southeast in the late autumn of 1971. In 1972, Henry Street presented a special show, the Rhinestone Review, in support of “a city-wide celebration of Gay Pride Week” which brought together all of the different groups in the city.

With the opening of the Waaay Off Broadway cabaret (55 K St SE), Henry Street had a new venue for its productions. In 1973, Fanny Brice starred as her namesake in a popular production of Funny Girl.

One of Fanny’s other contributions to DC’s drag productions was the naming of the performance space on the 3rd floor of the popular club Louis’ at 9th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The Academy had needed a performance and meeting space and Louis Sagalous, owner of the club, offered the space. Fanny’s suggestion “Oscar’s Eye” won the naming contest.

In 1976, the Academy created a special Oscar in honor of Fanny Brice: the Fanny Brice Theatrical Achievement Award.

As the Academy and Henry Street grew, Fanny Brice continued in a leading role until her retirement and move to Florida.

In 2003, Henry Street finally disbanded and was replaced in the Academy by a new house, Addison Road.

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https://s3.amazonaws.com/omeka-net/1514/archive/files/11f17cc2aecb6e1512345e0e7044b5bc.pdf

Citation

“Fanny Brice obituary,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed June 21, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/91.

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