Troy had long hosted drag shows at its entertainment venues; below is an example of a show in Troy in 1868, two different shows in June 1872, and one from 1927.
Whether they enjoyed the same popularity in Lansingburgh is unclear, but one act booked in 1934 (a few decades after the annexation of Lansingburgh by the City of Troy) did perhaps get more press than any other ever had – arrests followed by drawn-out court appearances. It wouldn’t seem to have been good publicity for the Echo Tavern in Lansingburgh – it tried to put on the same touring drag show in 1935 with arrests and court appearances again resulting, followed by the Echo Tavern losing its liquor license and its owner bowing out of the business.
The Echo Tavern reopened as the New Echo Tavern in 1936. The venue at 125th Street and 5th Avenue then became the White Horse Tavern in 1938, and the Sunset Inn in 1939.
KELLY & LEON’S MINSTRELS, from 720 Broadway, are announced to give the first of two entertainments at the Opera House this evening. The great burlesque of the “Grand Dutch S,” by Leon, is among the attractions on the programme. The troupe is said to be very strong in vocal and comic talent Leon is one of the best female impersonators in the business. We expect to see the Opera House crowded this evening.
Troy Daily Whig. July 27, 1868: 5 col 1.
ACKER’S ARCADE GARDEN,
OPPOSITE GRISWOLD OPERA HOUSE.
Grand Variety Entertainment every Evening. Great success of
MR. GUS MILLS,
The greatest Female Impersonator of the age, who stands without rival in his line.
MR. A. DONNALD,
MR. HERBERT BARRI,
The Great Burlesque Dancer,
MR. JAMES MITCHELL,
Champion Clog and Jig Dancer.
Messrs. HENSHAW AND LAWTON.
Late of Theatre Comique, New York, Double Song and Dance [?]
NEW STARS EVERY WEEK.
A host of new novelties in active preparation.
MONDAY, June 17, first appearance of
GEORGE AND THOMAS JEROME.
Don’t Fail to see the Triple Clog.
100 River Street.
The undersigned respectfully announces to the public and his friends that he has arranged the celebrated E. BYRON’S NEW YORK VARIETY and COMBINATION TROUPE. Look at the array of talent.
Mrs. Therese Springer, the beautiful Vocalist.
First appearance of Art Holston, the celebrated Female Impersonator and Lightning Changes
Mr. Alfred Springer, the great German Comedian.
Mr. Ernest Byron, the great Character Vocalist and Tenor [?], &c.
Every evening Vocal and Instrumental Concert, at 8 o’clock, until further notice, commencing the 11th of May. I would further state that the Garden has been put in better shape and covered. Admission Free. Respectfully,
Troy Daily Whig. June 19, 1872: 2 col 6.
An exceptionally fine bill is offered the patrons of Proctor’s Fourth Street Theatre for the first three days of this week. Lestra LaMontre, the female impersonator with his bevy of beautiful girls presenting “Paper Creations” views with the screen presentation “Ten Modern Commandments” starring Esther Ralston, for premier honors. Each of the other four acts was well received and all help to make one of the best balanced bills that has been presented at the threatre in some time. Besides presenting their revue in costumes made of paper, the cast of “Paper Creations” model some of the new things in furs now being shown at Muhlfelder’s Third Street store. The acrobatic dancing of Miss Isabel Brown in this act is unusual and extremely difficult, while Lestra LaMonte’s female impersonations are well presented. […]
“Amusements.” Troy Times. August 2, 1927: 10 col 3.
Eleven Alleged Female Impersonators Arraigned Before Crowded Courtroom This Morning—City Will Test Its Power to Halt Entertainment Lacking Police Approval.
Moving deliberately and with determination, Troy police and the city’s legal advisers last night accepted the gage of battle thrown down by the management of a Lansingburgh night club, and a court fight to a finish loomed today on the question as to whether the city can legally ban the presentation of an all-male “girl show” in the up-town establishment.
Eleven young men who vaunted their femininity during an hour and a half stay at the Fourth Precinct early today, faced Judge Byron in Police Court this morning on charges of violating a section of the penal code which prohibits the assemblage of persons disguised by painting or coloring their faces or wearing costumes or disguises without the permission of police authorities.
Arraigned with them was Thomas J. Dunn, proprietor of the Echo Tavern at 125th Street and Fifty Avenue, where the female impersonation revue had been the featured floor show attraction, for the last three weeks. He is charged with a corresponding section of the penal code which deals with the proprietor of establishments where the above offenses are permitted.
On behalf of all 12 defendants Attorney Daniel H. Prior of Albany entered please of not guilty in court this morning, requested a jury trial for all defendants and secured an adjournment until December 19, with the understanding that he might seek certification of the case to the Grand Jury.
The arraignment today was the latest development in a four-day controversy between the night club management and police over the male floor show, a controversy which was culminated by a raid early this morning by police of the Fourth Precinct. Other developments are expected. The tavern management would not say whether they would attempt to present the show again before the court case is settled, but it was indicated that they object to further delay of the issue and some legal action is anticipated before the adjourned date.
Police say that if the show goes on again before the present case is settled they will repeat their raid of this morning.
The Echo Tavern was notified late Friday that it would have to discontinue the floor show. Failing in negotiations over the weekend, the management announced its intention of presenting the show last night in the face of a police threat that arrests would follow. Promptly at 12 o’clock last night, with five officers of the Fourth Precinct waiting outside, the revue went on. Faintly through the windows girlish voices could be heard singing the opening chorus, “Here We Are.” A few moments later, the entertainers in flowing gowns, rhinestones, and elaborate coiffures, were being escorted out of the place.
Captain Shulze and Patrolmen Rafter, Smith, Vallee and O’Grady, all in plain clothes, participated in the raid. Sergeant Flynn in uniform was stationed a block south of the establishment in case any attempt was made to escape.
The tavern management was prepared for the interruption, and Attorney Prior was seated at a table in the establishment when the show was stopped. He accompanied the group to the Fourth Precinct as did Miss Margaret Dunn, sister of the proprietor, who put up the $3,000 worth of bail required to release the prisoners.
On hand for the arraignment to-day were Assistant Corporation Counsel Purcell, on hand to prosecute the case, and Chief of Police Conroy, who issued the order to Captain Schulze to close down the floor show.
The section upon which the performers was arrested reads as follows: “An assemblage in public houses or other places of three or more persons disguised by having their faces painted, discolored or colored is unlawful and every individual so disguised present thereat is guilty of a misdemeanor; but nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting any peaceful assemblage for a masquerade or fancy dress ball or entertainment or any assemblage thereof of persons masked or as prohibiting the wearing of masks, fancy dress or other disguises by persons on their way to or returning from such ball or entertainment is held in any of the cities of the state, permission is first obtained from the police authorities in such cities for the holding or giving thereof, under such regulations as may be prescribed by such police authorities.”
The section under which Mr. Dunn was arrested states: “A person being a proprietor, manager or keeper of a theatre, circus, public gardens or other place of public meeting, resort or amusement for admission to which any price or payment is demanded, who permits therein any assemblage of persons masked as prohibited in the above article, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a state’s prison not exceeding two years or in a county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine not exceeding $5,000 or not less than $1,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.”
The above section is cited as one of the few misdemeanors which may be punished by a term in state’s prison.
The arraignment of the entertainers drew the biggest crowd that has sought to obtain entrance to Police Court in recent years. Long before the arrival of Judge Byron every seat and every inch of available floor space was crowded and the doors were closed. The defendants remained in an automobile outside the Central Station until the Judge arrived.
It was necessary to clear most of the second row of spectators’ benches and move the occupants out of the courtroom to provide room for the entertainers. All were attired in men’s clothes. Three of them, whose hair grew long and was partly bobbed like a woman’s attracted particular notice. Two of the defendants, even in men’s clothing, resembled women more closely than men, their long platinum blond hair being especially distinctive.
Judge Prior, after entertaining please of not guilty on behalf of all the defendants, offered an objection to the jurisdiction of Police Court in the matter. The objection was promptly overruled.
Finally, an adjournment to December 19 was agreed upon to allow defense counsel to make any motions he desired in the case and with the understanding that he would notify the Court before December 5 whether he would continue to insist on a jury trial. An earlier date will be set for the trial, it is expected.
Judge Prior indicated that he would ask separate jury trials for each of the 12 defendants. He refused to state whether he had advised the tavern management to continue the floor show or would seek other means to have it go on. He also refused to comment on a report that he would demand an opportunity to present parts of the floor show before the Police court jury to establish the fact that the defendants were competent female impersonators and entertainers.
At the Fourth Precinct last night the entertainers gave the following names: Lyle Page, 24; Robert (“Bobbie”) Phillips, 21; William (“Bille”) West,23; John (“Johnnie”) Kaye, 25; George Lawson, 23; Manuel DeMonte, 28, native of Porto Rico; John Howard, 21; James Costa, 22; John Mangum, 24; James Lyons, 22, and Gerald Francis, 22. Mangum said that he was married and had two children.
The performers exhibited no embarrassment at their arrest last night and posed for pictures without hesitation. They flaunted their feminine accomplishments before the police at the Fourth Precinct. One complained that “the nasty policeman broke my slipper,” and another boasted of the fact that she was allowed “to change from my Viva la France dress to my going-out dress.”
Mr. Dunn said the entertainers were under a 10-week contract at his place of business and stated that the halting of the floor show meant a loss of approximately $300 a night.
When one remarked: “This is something new to me,” a companion replied in a lofty soprano, “Oh, I don’t mind this a bit. This is my third experience.” Another complained of the fact that they were brought to the station house in automobiles provided by the club management, remarking “Don’t they even have a police patrol in this town.”
Leaving the station house, one of the entertainers stopped to chat with a policeman, then turned suddenly and screamed, “Oh, just think, girls, this is the first time this has ever happened in this whole community.”
Troy Times. November 24, 1934: 5 cols 2-3.
Police Launch Another Attack on Female Impersonators; Cases Adjourned.
Times Record. July 23, 1935: 7 col 5.
125th & 5th Ave., North Troy, N. Y. Beautiful dining room. Large bar room. Both completely equipped. Will sell or lease reasonably to reliable party. Apply
THOS. J. DUNN, TROY 4531.
Times Record. October 19, 1935
Proprietor of “Playboy” Resort Files Formal Notice He Is No Longer Connected With Place.
Notice has been filed in the Rensselaer County Clerk’s office by Thomas Dunn, 2910 Sixth Avenue, that he is no longer conducting the Echo Tavern at 873 Fifth Avenue.
And thus comes to an end a place that figured in the public news of the day for an extended period. […]
Times Record. December 13, 1935: 13 col 8.