By Stephanie Julianna
As a little boy who always wanted to dress like a girl, the fifties were an exciting time for the real girls to dress dreamy and be as feminine as they wanted to be. Where I grew up on Long Island there were four movie theaters within bicycle range of my house. My Mom was very happy with having three kids and then I was born. The upside is that I had freedoms that my older siblings never had and for 35 cents I could spend an entire Saturday at the movies. For 25 cents I could see a double feature with cartoons and trailers that filled an entire afternoon. The extra 10 cents was for a nickel candy bar for each movie. “Just be home for dinner at 6.” My Mom would call out as I jumped on my bike. I was only eight years old.
That’s when Hollywood introduced me to GG idols other than my sisters and a few classmates and neighbors. So I will introduce you to those actresses and singers who became my idols.
I have decided to introduce them in the order that I first fell in love with them. The first was a perky, cute singer with a childlike voice. But it was her dresses and hairdos that caught my attention. Her Name was Theresa Brewer and it was around 1955 when I would see her on TV singing. She stood center stage and it looked like her tea length dress filled the screen. Her skirts must have had a half a dozen bouffant petticoats beneath and they swayed and swished as she bounced to the beat of the music. I wanted to grow up just like her. It was not sexual. It was just a young kid’s dream.
But I was a kid and then another took over my heart’s desire. I saw “Tammy and the Bachelor”. It was 1957 and I was now 8 years old. I saw this girl on screen that was almost as much of a boy as me except she was definitely more pretty and shapely. And then, like magic, she blossomed before my eyes and went from overalls to wearing gorgeous dresses, and she could sing.
Well, if Debbie Reynolds could do all that maybe there was still hope for me. I actually gave my girl self the name Debbie and used that well into my public life until the late ’80’s.
It was now 1958 and that’s when I saw GiGi! Leslie Caron’s GiGi starts out where Tammy left off. She is all girl, always in skirts and is a bit rough around the edges. Not unlike the way I felt when I wore my sisters’ dresses when I was left alone. But where Debbie stays cute and feminine, Leslie ends up as a sophisticated lady in Grand Epoch Parisian gowns. AND she could sing as well. So now I was seeing the possible progression of how girls grew up. LOL
But I’m still a kid with the attention span of a gnat. it’s 1959 and that is when I saw Doris Day in Pillow Talk. OMG! She was gorgeous but in the girl next door kind of way. Actually, they all were the girls next door. AND COULD SHE SING and act! In my mind that was the woman I wished I could grow up to be. Double features sometimes paired an older movie with the current one and so I saw “Teachers Pet” as well. My fate was sealed and I knew just what I wanted to be when I grew up. Doris Day.
In every case, all these women were short, petite and beautiful in a cute sort of way. All could sing and the latter three could also dance and act. But it was their dresses and hair styles that I envied and wished I could someday wear. I don’t think there is a reader here who doesn’t have a similar list for a variety of reasons.
Epilogue. Puberty, 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Audrey Hepburn. A deadly combination for my crossdressing heart. Moon River has been my personal theme song ever since. LOL
When I think of these ladies I remember that I saw possibilities. And the world was my oyster and then Society stepped in. AAAARGH!
Hugs to all. I love your comments and look forward to hearing them. Hope this stirred some good memories for all of you no matter what decade your idols inhabited. Stephanie Julianna