Souvenir Program vintage 1960 from the historic Parisian transgender nightclub Le Carrousel that opened in 1926 under the name ‘Chez Josephine’ in honor of Josephine Baker.
Autographed by Les Lee, “Sincerely all the Best of Everything love Les Lee Paris 1960” and by performer Bambi. Program includes famed performers Coccinelle, Kiki Moustic, Tony April, Claude Andre and 25 others.. 7.5 x 9.75 inches. 30 pages and cover. Seam of cover has separated otherwise in very fine condition as per photos.
Le Carrousel is a landmark in transgender history that rates in importance with Compton’s Cafeteria and the Stonewall Inn. The club opened as a cabaret in 1926 under the name “Chez Josephine,” an homage to Josephine Baker by her partner, Guiseppe Pepito Abatino. From 1936 onward the club became known for its female impersonators, which actually included a growing percentage of transgender women along with the stage performers. The club became most famous for its transgender cabaret in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and was the stage and home to many notable transgender persons from history, such as Les Lee, April Ashley, Coccinelle, Sone Teal, Capuchine, Bambi, Kiki Moustic, and scores of others, including some transgender men. As the attraction to transgender cabaret died down in the 1970’s, Le Carrousel became a typical champagne bar. The club still exists in the Pigalle district of Paris, returning to its roots and bringing back the cabaret aspect.
Les Lee, John Falk Tomkinson, was born in Canada in 1929 and raised in Montreal and on a farm in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. At 18, he moved to New York City, where he began his career as a female impersonator at the 181 Club. In 1955, Les-Lee moved to Paris and started performing at Le Carrousel where he work alongside British trans icon April Ashley, who wrote about Les-Lee in her autobiography. Les-Lee made an appearance in the French film Dragées au Poivre and appeared in Paul Raymond’s “Birds of a Feather” revue at the Royalty Theatre in London and at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.
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