Tributes and Remembrances
first met Charles Pierce in 1960 when he was performing at The Gilded
Cage in San Francisco. I (literally) rolled on the floor, helpless
with laughter. Many years later, in 1982, he came to Guerneville,
to perform at The Woods Resort and I interviewed him for Radio Station
KRJB-FM. He was as ageless as some of the women he impersonated
so successfully. My favorite was Bette Davis! It is always very
painful to lose those like Charles Pierce who in the early (dark)
days of Gay, Lesbian, Bi and TG Emancipation, with all the police
corruption and harrassment, helped us keep our sense of humor."
"It was with great sadness that I heard about Charles' passing. It's hard to believe that someone you thought would be around forever is gone. I have so many wonderful memories of Charles, going all the way back to Applause in, I think, 1972 or 1973. I played rehearsal and pit piano and therefore had a wonderful chance to watch Charles at work. The role of Margo was truly tailor-made for him; although the celluloid Margo belongs to Bette, I don't think anyone has ever, or will ever, do it better on stage than Charles Pierce. I was struck then not only by his absolutely impeccable timing, but also by his easy willingness to laugh at himself. These were the qualities that later made working with him in his act so much fun. I never knew from night to night exactly how things would run---I don't think any two shows were exactly the same---but he always dealt with a stubborn costume or a jumbled line with absolute aplomb. The only time I ever saw him close to frustration was the night some boob in the audience at the Plush Room, obviously a regular attendee, shouted out the punch lines of all Charles' jokes in advance. The Plush Room staff were curiously unhelpful and I think a lesser performer would have left the stage or turned nasty, but with Charles the show went on.
I also remember the unfortunate double-billing of Charles and BBB (then in it's infancy) at the short-lived Club Olympus on Columbus ("America's Bi-sex showplace"). There were people in the BBB audience who thought that Nancy Bleiweiss was Charles Pierce, and probably continue to think so. Charles closed fairly soon, mainly because of the problems of appearing in the same club with a non-union show, and I think there was originally a bit of frost there which of course melted in the ensuing years. It was a coup de grace on Steve Silver's part to have Charles appear in the 20th Anniversary show, but by then the two had been friends for years.
Our run at the Pasadena Playhouse was truly a magical time for me. Our working relationship was a dream and onstage, as I said before, I could count on every show being full of surprises. Besides those from Charles himself, there were even some from the audience. Like the night Charles introduced Debbie Reynolds, shortly after "Postcards From the Edge" had made it's debut. "It isn't true!" she shouted to her fellow audience members. Or the time, how well I remember, when Charles, as Bette, was in the middle of a scene from "The Star". Bette is driving aimlessly around Hollywood "with", as he always said, "a bomb in the the backseat for Barbara Lawrence" (also in the film, as you recall). On this particular night he said, very Charles-like: "I know what you're all asking yourselves: who the fuck is Barbara Lawrence?" Instantly, someone in the back yelled, "She's here! She's here!" and, lo and behold, she was there, sitting in the audience with everyone else. Charles, without missing a beat, had her come on stage and treated her with a genuine interest and warmth. She stayed around afterwards, a new fan."
"What a great site. I have wonderful memories of Charles Pierce - - saw him perform many times through the years, both in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I lived in SF in the 70's and was a performer (who wasn't?) in Beach Blanket Babylon for a couple years. I can easily say that nothing made me laugh harder than Charles' shows.
I must have seen one of his last performances at the Pasadena Playhouse. That particular night the house lights hadn't gone down yet, so I went to use the restroom. When I came out, the lights had dimmed so I stood at the door to the theater waiting for my eyes to adjust. As the music intro began, a low resonant voice, clearly Talulah, whispered in my ear from behind, 'Run along, Dahling, musn't be late for the theater'. The man was incomparable."
The following remembrance is from the "Tributes
and Links" section
the pleasure of meeting the late Charles Pierce at The Gilded Cage
in San Francisco where he was noted for impersonating Jeanette MacDonald
singing "San Francisco" on a floral swing. He was renowned
for his characterizations of such glamorous Hollywood legends as
Bette Davis, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson and Joan
Crawford. It was a thrill for me to see his act and I was fortunate
to win his talent contest thanks to my Judy Garland act. Charles
autographed his latest record: "For Pierced Ears" as the
when I was at Finocchio's he came to see the show with his entourage.
I introduced myself when he came back stage and he remembered me.
He was charming and wished me luck! He brought a lot of theatrical
culture to the San Francisco scene for many years."
was an extraordinary talent. I will remember him for the many times
he let me forget myself."
Pierce was not the first actor to walk upon the moon of muliebrity,
but he was the most distinguished. Who else could gender-bend a
coat hanger into a magic wand of laughter? Who else will ever apply
mustache or mascara with equal flair? His memory is forever sprayed
with admiration and powdered with affection."
"I had a letter from Charles dated May 14th.
His last words to me: 'Life's a bitch. See you in the farmyard!'
the old dear. "
The following remembrance is an excerpt from
the "Memory Lane" section
"My first experience
seeing Charles Pierce was with my friend Jim Reiter in 1977 at The City, a discotheque cum nightclub
in San Francisco, now long-gone. At 19, underage, I had to be sneaked
into the club by Charles' assistant, Kirk Frederick, which added
excitement to the evening! Charles was, of course, astonishing.
As Bette Davis. As "The Living Dolls." As Jeanette MacDonald,
for heaven's sake, sailing out over the audience on a swing adorned
with garlands of flowers. Amazing!
"Mr. Pierce's passing is truly a great loss to the world. I met him briefly about six years ago when I was working at Barney's downtown. I sold him some blush, having no idea who he was. He was extremely soft spoken and sweet, actually shy - and not at all what I would have expected from a performer of his genre.
The moment he left the store, several salespeople ran up to me saying, "Do you KNOW who that was?!!!!" They were more excited at seeing him than any supermodel or rock diva.
I have since gone on to reach some acclaim of my own as a makeup artist, having won a battle with cancer two years ago and overcoming other adversities. I only wish I'd had the chance to work more closely with such a wonderful and talented performer. I guess I'm writing to point out that he touched many lives. My exchange with him was so brief, yet he left such an impression - not as a performer, but as a person."
too was a friend of his before finally leaving Los Angeles after
30 years, and was so saddened to hear of his passing. I have copies
of his videos, thank God, and must have watched them each more than
100 times. What a performer. What a friend. We used to have dinner
and drinks under his Bette Davis portrait in -- oh, what was the
bar's name? -- on Ventura Blvd."
"Back in 1977, while rehearsing an audition scene in New York, my scene partner Shelley Werk casually mentioned her association with the great Charles Pierce. To my naive New England school teacher query -Who is Charles Pierce?, Shelley screamed - You've never seen Charles Pierce!!
When I worked my way to LA in 1978, I saw Charles for the first time at Studio One's Backlot. I went back the following night, and again the next night. I must have seen that Backlot engagement of Charles about 12 times. Through the years I never missed his performances in LA and at Freddy's Supper Club in New York. I marveled at his Katharine Hepburn and one Christmas Eve, while Shelley was visiting Charles, he phoned my answering machine to wish me a Merry X-mas from Katie Hepburn. I cherished that moment, and still have every autographed photo and card that Charles sent me through the years.
Charles so special was his brilliance as an actor onstage and his
humility off. He was unique. No one will ever replace him! Thank
God for his wonderful videos that he left for us to watch! Thank
you, Shel for introducing me to Charles, and thank you, Charles
for the unforgettable entertainment you have given us. "
"All the joy of his skill and craft and humor will always stay with us.
He did so
much to unite all of us, gay and straight alike. "
sense of humor is with me at all times, on the job, in my sleep,
all the time! I will miss him very much, and treasure his letters
and phone messages (which, of course, I saved). ."
was saddened to hear of Charles' passing. My friends and I had many
great times watching his videos. I feel as if I know Charles a bit
because he is a friend of my Godfather Donald Kobus.
I know this
must be a great loss for all of his friends & family. My thoughts
are with you all. "
"What a pivotal role Charles Pierce played in my life. Through his self-effacing humor he did more to advance tolerance in our culture than anyone or thing that I know of. I first was introduced to Charles backstage at his show in 1973 at Gold Street in San Francisco. I'll never forget the "buzz" and "hummm" of the audience before the opening downbeat of his show. And what a show it was. From the git go, it was obvious that everyone in the place was in for a treat. Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to be part of the cast of Applause, starring Charles at California Hall in 1974. It was a great time with 6 shows a week, a cast of 40, an incredible orchestra led by Michael Biagi (later to serve as Charles' music director for his act) and choreographed by the always effervescent, Jean Martin. The show received rave notices and was "THE" show to see.
It was during rehearsals for Applause that I faced my first moment of conscience concerning my own sexual orientation. I was cast to play a small part in the second act. The scene was Margot Channing's NY apartment during the filming of a coffee commercial. I played the TV director. When we first sat around and discussed the scene, I remember Charles commenting that he thought I should play the part of a "very gay TV director". I'll never forget saying to Charles, "Oh, I don't know about that, my parents are coming to see this!" Charles, realizing that at 23 years of age, I had obviously not yet come out to my folks. His reaction was to simply fold his hands in his lap, sit back in the large wicker chair, and say, "I see". He never again pressured me about the scene. The scene, however, turned into a "gay" moment in the show (one of many) and my parents loved the show (the shit hit the fan a few years later...).
the next 25 years, Charles has been a constant source of humor,
a mentor, and a dear friend. I never tired of his act, no matter
how many times I saw it, and I saw it A LOT!!! It was a sad day
when he "hung up his corsets" and turned in his high heels
for his "abdication" from Show Biz. Although many attempts
were made to persuade him to "make a return", he never
did. Luckily, he is preserved on film and tape, and, most importantly
for me, in my memories."
"I just learned yesterday of Charles's passing. My mother and I saw him in one of his farewell performances at the Fairmont in 1988 and it was a night I'll never forget. My mother and I never really connected except for those old movie classics and at that show, Mr. Pierce brought a mother and daughter together like they never had before. Before she died in 1990, we often spoke of our "date" and wished he'd reconsider his abdication. I'm happy to know there's a video--now my kids can be privy to greatness. "
"I just learned of the passing of Charles Pierce. There is so much I would like to say, and I am sure there are others who have said much and may say it better. I have enjoyed Charles's shows on video as well as the ones I have seen on television and on the big screen. One I have always enjoyed and was smart enough to save on video was his appearance on one of my favorite shows "Designing Women".
I have found him to be entertaining, professional and bursting with energy, all contained in a gentleman who can ply his trade with out getting in your face.
I never had the pleasure of seeing him preform in person. I did get to meet him briefly a few years ago when I was working at The Broadway Dept. store another institution that is now no longer with us. Charles was in need of the restroom which was locked as the store was closing. I have met other stars before but when you met someone who lights up your day by just his presence you go the extra mile. I of course jumped out of my skin after shaking his hand to bolt to the counter to get the key. It was a nice and memorable experience for me.
Now that Charles is not here with us the way we are for each other I will be a little sad. I'll be looking to save his memory and style. I'll be looking for tapes of his performances I haven't seen and enjoying again in the ones I have seen.
I really need a cigarette. (audience member hands Charles a cigarette,
Charles takes it and then tosses it back) Lit!" Charles Pierce
as Bette Davis "No one truly dies unless you forget them in
your heart. Keep their memory alive and they will live on with you".
Ladies and gentleman. . . Mr. Charles Pierce!"
"I just wanted to say that I was *very* deeply saddned by the news of the Death of Charles pierce. I had written/spoken with him since I was about 13. . . I just turned 36. I just got my last birthday card as it turns out on Feb. 11th. I always sent Charles cards, for easter, valentines day, x-mas, birthdays, he called me the "Joan Crawford of letters." I would answer a reply with a reply...and I always put glitter/sequin things in mine and at New Year this past he said 'pleaaaze my dust buster has broken now thanks to the years of picking up your glitter Michael--but I guess we all need to sparkle a little!'
He will be missed!"
"What a wonderful tribute to such a beautiful man. You are probably receiving thousands of these memories, but I do want to tell you mine. My partner & I have been together almost 30 years, one of our first dates was to see Charles in SF, I forget the club, but it was in North Beach I think. We fell in love with him.
Every time he was near, we caught the show. That first time though, I asked if we could see him backstage. He received us in his dressing room, was so kind & gracious. Gave us autographed pictures. I asked him how to do "it", I wanted to be like him. As I recall, his answer was something like "don't bother, it wasn't worth it". Well, I never did become a performer of any sort. But that doesn't matter. We've seen Charles in London, LA at the Chandler (the best) and I don't how many times here in SF. Because of Charles, I have built up a collection of old albums of Rae Bourbon, Dwight Fiske and a couple of others, but Charles is always the best.
I know he was retired, and hadn't been around for a while, but I always expected one last show. I will miss him."
"A friend of mine just told me about this web site this morning and I thought I'd check it out. I think we are all so fortunate to have had Charles in our lives.
I first met Charles through an old performing friend of mine, Shelley Werk, whom I worked with in San Francisco's Beach Blanket Babylon in the early '80's. Shelley did the best impression of Charles's impression of Betty Davis. Shelley was good, but you always knew where her Betty Davis Training came from. Charles was the BEST.
Has Charles' work ever been produced for video? One of the saddest things in the world is that the "younger" gay generation, those now entering into college, will never know what a talented, TALENTED performer he was, and what a HUGE impact he had with my circle of friends from San Francisco's old cabaret circuit.
I know that Charles is killing angels with laughter in heaven right now. E! True Hollywood Story of Charles needs to be shared. His life is worth sharing.
I had fun clicking through this site. Thank you."
"I loved Charles Pierce. I knew him back in the 80's in New York when he was the toast of the cabaret scene and I was a singer beginning my cabaret career. He was wonderfully warm and funny and a great person to be around. Did I say "funny?" Hysterically funny would be more accurate.
and I became somewhat closer than casual acquaintances when we met
at a sound check at the night club, Freddy's Supper Club, owned
by my husband, Frank Nolan, in New York. Charles needed one
of his gowns altered as the heavily gathered chiffon/sequined skirt
to his Bette Davis costume was too long and he was tripping on stage.
Loving to sew, I offered to do it for him pronto, then realized
the full skirt must have had 100 yards of hem!! "Yikes!,"
as Charles would say, but I was determined to figure it out, so
I decided that taking it in at the waist would be much easier (maybe
40" as opposed to 4,000!), and that's what I did. It
worked out perfectly and we were fast friends from that time on
whenever he was in New York to perform at Freddy's.
One other memorable note, although, I know there were many:
Charles would always bring up his camera and take pictures of the audience at the end of the show, as I'm sure you remember. I think it was a New Year's Eve show, Charles was the headliner, and I had opened for him with my trio. Since it was New Year's, Charles was on a roll, and if I remember correctly it got pretty raunchy. We were all hysterical, but then I happened to mention to Charles at the end of the evening (beginning of the morning) that it was a great show, but somewhat graphic for a 9-yr.-old boy to hear, as the drummer from my group had brought his son for dinner and Charles' show afterward. Charles seemed upset....."no, really?" He hadn't seen any children in the audience, and indeed the boy was tucked away in a banquette way over in audience right. Charles felt bad, but kept saying, no I don't think there could have been a child in the audience...not possible, really? As willing as he was to let it all hang out for adult audiences, he knew it wasn't appropriate for a young boy and felt bad about it to some degree, however, he still thought I was teasing him about the existence of a boy he had never seen...UNTIL.....he developed his film.....
next year at Christmas when I received Charles' wonderful seasonal
card, he exclaimed, "I saw the boy! I saw the boy!
Yikes!!!" Or something to that effect. It was always
a source of great laughter between us...I guess he trusted me from
that day on.
me just add again. I loved Charles Pierce. He looked
like an accountant, and performed like a genius. He was a
great actor, and I told him so. He said he wanted to be remembered
that way, and I believe anyone who ever saw him thought that about
him...a great, great actor! I was so saddened when I heard
that he had died! I will always remember Charles with fondness.
Best wishes and thanks for the website.
The following remembrance appeared in the June 11, 1999 issue of The Advocate and appears with the kind permission of the author and the publisher.
Remembers Charles Pierce
“Want to buy an illusion?” he sang at the conclusion of his act. When the seller was master illusionist Charles Pierce, few refused to buy. As a stage performer, he was internationally acclaimed for his campy, uncanny impressions of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Mae West, Carol Channing, Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Gloria Swanson, among other legendary ladies. Off stage, Charles Pierce was a kind, gentle, basically quiet man - a good listener, who inherently understood that what is riotously funny on stage, is not necessarily appropriate and attractive in one’s personal life.
Not yet 21, I used a fake ID the first time I saw Charles Pierce at San Francisco’s Gilded Cage in the 1960s. I had traveled almost two hundred miles from my Fresno home, with friend Greg Cotton to see the show. Back then, Pierce was performing with drag comic, Rio Dante. I remember two musical numbers from that long ago first show.
Charles and Rio, dressed as nuns, lip-synced “Climb Every Mountain.” At the conclusion, they lifted the hems of their habits, revealing roller skates, then they skated off stage to thunderous applause. The finale featured Charles as Jeanette Mac Donald, on a flower and twinkle light-festooned swing, lip-syncing “San Francisco.” After the show, Greg, a longtime Pierce devotee, introduced me to the self-described “male actress”. It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted for more than thirty years. I made the Fresno-San Francisco trip to see Charles Pierce at several more times . Then, in September of 1969, I moved to Hollywood. Shortly thereafter, The Charles Pierce Show opened at the legendary Ciro’s nightclub on the Sunset Strip. At Ciro’s, Pierce was assisted by Kirk and Peter, two pulchritudinous youths with whom he had starred in the San Francisco production of the controversial play Geese. At that time, I was attending classes at the Writers Guild , and writing an entertainment column, Reeling ‘Round, for The Advocate.
I frequently visited with Charles at parties and premieres, during these years, and he was a guest in my home. During the early 1970s, I saw his shows dozens of times. No one has ever made me laugh as much as Charles Pierce.
A favorite 1970s memory: Charles and I discussed my writing a routinefor his act , in which he would portray Bette Davis as Jesus Christ, Superstar. Charles, as Bette/J.C., would flounce on stage, twirling the inevitable cigarette, and shouting, “What’s all this shit I hear about a crucifixion?! Must be another ugly rumor started by the other J.C., that bitch, Joan Crawford! Well, fuck her, and the Pepsi truck on which she arrived!” Later in the ‘70s, Randy Shilts and I went to see Charles perform in West Hollywood. Shilts, then an Advocate staff writer, went on to author the national bestseller "And the Band Played On.” That night, impersonating Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson, Baby Jane Pierce placed a telephone order with Johnson’s Liquor: “I want six bottles of bourbon, six bottles of gin, and a six-pack of Gatorade. I get thirsty when I drink!” In truth, it was not Charles’s funniest line. But you had to be there. Randy and I almost wet our pants!
That same night, as Mae West, Charles invited the audience to “See me up and cum, sometime!,” then described the ideal man as “a guy who makes love to you till four in the morning, then turns into a pizza.” The 1970s was a heady time for both Gay Liberation and Charles Pierce’s career. He played, and packed, world-class venues, including the London Palladium, Carnegie Hall, and the Los Angeles Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, dubbed Dottie’s Place, by Pierce.
By 1980, Charles was showing up on national television. At Paramount Sudios to see my friend Charlene Tilton tape Laverne and Shirley, I was delighted and surprised to learn that the episode’s other guest star was Charles Pierce. In the late 80s, he did a hilarious star turn on Designing Women, and he played a female impersonator in the film version of Torch Song Trilogy.
Throughout the 1980s, Charles and I visited often in New York, where he was performing, and I was on assignment writing features for Family Circle, Us, Good Housekeeping, and Mc Call’s, among other publications. Claiming that Aids had devastated his audience and the clubs they attended, Charles Pierce retired in the early ‘90s. Gay Generation-X didn’t know and love Bette, Joan, Mae, Tallulah, and Charles’s other Legendary Ladies, and he had no interest in trading them in for the more contemporary Madonna, Demi Moore, and Sharon Stone.
In 1992, I moved to Dallas. Charles and I kept in touch through cards, notes, and phone calls. When, in 1994, I was briefly hospitalized, Pierce was a supportive friend, sending cards, letters, and videos tapes. When spouse David and I moved to Redondo Beach, California, in ’96, lunches and occasional dinner visits with Charles Pierce, became cherished components of our lives.
David and I lunched with Charles on his last birthday. By then, he had survived prostate surgery, and he anticipated a complete recovery – or so he told us. Through cards, notes, and phone conversations, we kept in touch through last January. Then the calls and the cards from Charles stopped. Ironically, it was Greg Cotten, who had first introduced me to Charles, who called to inform me that our friend had passed. For me, it was a poignant and sad “Circle of Life” Moment. The man who had brought Charles Pierce in to my life was, in effect, taking him out. And so, farewell, dear Charles: Your career was phenomenal. More important, your life was always a class act.
Christopher Stone is a former Advocate Entertainment Editor.
Mr. Ronnie Summers shares his remembrance of Charles in his letter of March 2002. His memories of Charles appear with his kind permission.
"I realize that
with all the people Charles knew and who loved him, especially the
famous ones, I would be towards the bottom of the list. However,
I would like to relate to you my recollections of Mr. Charles Pierce:
I had never heard of Charles Pierce until the
early 70's in Los Angeles. I had just returned from touring
in the Orient and was booked into a club called "Tony's on
Burbank" in Burbank. I had been seen in a few clubs around
town doing short stints. Charles and Glen Elliott came in one night
to see me. Charles came back to the dressing room and in his
inevitable way, complimented my show and invited me to come see
him between my shows at a club just down the road. It seemed
our show times were just opposite. So, the next night, in
a full feathered coat, I crammed it into my little Ford Pinto (gay
green, of course) and headed down the street. Charles's overture
had just started when I arrived. He had told the manager that I
would be rushing in and to take me immediately to a center table
down front. This they did. For the next 45 minutes,
I laughed my way through what would take another 30 minutes of makeup
to repair. This started our friendship. Oh yes, my name,
Mr. Ronnie Summers.
I think the most fun I had working with Charles was a two week stint we did at the Queen Mary in the valley. I even played the gay male counterpart to his "Lusty Month of May" number. I can remember sitting next to him at the makeup table...my mouth running incessantly...and Charles saying nothing. I would rag him about everything from his body to his makeup and hair....he would still say nothing. I can remember other entertainers leaving the dressing room thinking there would be a fight. Charles would just keep painting...then he would put on his wig, turn to face me, and in that "fasten your seat belt" tone he would utter..."and now Mr. Summers, the other woman is here......" Then he would tie into me incessantly while I finished my makeup. As you remember, he was the king of comebacks.....I tried nightly to get him, but to no avail...finally, one evening when he asked Buzzy Hall to bring out his stool....he continued the dialogue of moving it back and forth and then to the audience..."you know I never touch my own stool"......(much laughter).....he then asked Buzzy to bring out his prop box....instead of Buzzy, I walked out on stage in panty hose, tennis shoes, and a bra.....no wig, no gown......I should point out that I had an extremely hairy chest and was quickly going bald. Charles had been got!!! Finally, my success....my glory.....I had silenced the great Charles Pierce.....the audience was hysterical and Buzzy, who was watching Charles said that he even broke up and walked to the side of the stage to hide his laughter.......however.....La Pierce was never to be outdone....he walked back center stage and the audience got quiet......he stood and then announced....."that was one of Mr. Summer's better and more expensive outfits".....the place came apart......I never tried to outdo him again. He said we complemented each other because we both could do pantomime and we both were live......Where he did the impressions, I was known as a singer and jokester. We never tromped on each others territory. We used to go out on Monday nights to the Queen Mary and other clubs. We would always wear a suit and tie and request a front row seat. When the entertainment started, we would take out steno pads and take notes and whisper back and forth. He always laughed and said it was good training for a young entertainer to be able to handle something like that in the front row.
I got a call from Charles one afternoon and he told me he was opening at the Cabaret in Los Angeles. He said he wanted to actually sing an opening number and he wanted me to teach him how...and the fact that I had a lot of canned back up music. There was no accompanist at the club. All of his singing I had seen him do was impressions of someone else's voice. We worked on "Just One of Those Songs". I, of course, was not going to miss the opening and it was great (as if it could be anything else). After his opening number, he introduced me to the rest of the audience and told them I was his voice teacher so if they didn't like what he did to throw things at me instead.
I left LA in the late 70's to tour in the midwest and south. But I just wasn't happy because things were going downhill quickly for live entertainers. Clubs just didn't like to pay for what they got. It seemed as if you didn't have your own tits they didn't believe you could entertain. I finally, in 1980, only entertained at the Jewel Box in Kansas City, MO for John Trusello, and went back to college and got my degree in Music Education. I then hung up the dresses in 1984 and accepted a teaching position at a high school in a little midwest town. My first production was a takeoff on Zeigfield Follies.....oh....if those parents only knew their little girls were wearing my made over drag gowns......I had to chuckle to myself. After a couple of years, I called Charles one night and told him what I was doing. He was extremely supportive and then informed me about his greeting cards business. He sent me a complete set of cards and I cherish them to this day. I asked him for permission to use his "living dolls" idea for my kids to do a show I was calling "It's a Small World". He agreed immediately and asked me if I could videotape it for him, which I did. It was a huge success....and I actually did, for a change, give full credit for the idea to Charles. Of course, here in the midwest, no one knew who he was and I certainly was not about to explain since I do have a morals clause in my contract, but I am sure that Charles would understand.
I was contacted by a friend who had moved to Thailand to come there and do shows during the summer vacation months and I have been doing that for the past four years. I still use some of Charles' lines (as hundreds of entertainers do) and always give credit by saying a line and then waiting for the laughter to stop and looking up saying, "Thank you, Mr. Charles Pierce, you are still making people laugh." I once told him that I believed that one's success is measured by how long you are remembered after you are gone. As long as I take the stage, He Will Be Remembered! I guess at 57 I am quickly becoming the last of a dying breed of no surgery, no silicone, no permanent enhancement impersonators. I guess my time will be coming soon also, but the voice is still strong and I still can get a laugh...so, I shall continue to bring enjoyment to people's lives as Charles did and would still do if he were living.
Thank you for your web page to Charles. I know he is pleased and so are many, MANY others. I stumbled upon it while looking up some information about Kay Stevens and there was a reference to Charles who was in the picture with her. I went to your page, and was totally devastated, to say the least, to learn of his passing.
When instructing me to always go to the club in a suit and tie, and leave at the end of the evening in a suit and tie, I asked why. He said "Class, my dear, class. Some are born with class, some just show their ass. Look at how they dress and conduct themself and you will be able to tell which."
Good night, Charles...please keep an eye on me as I continue to entertain in our old fashion way...."
Mr. Ronnie Summers
"For some reason, I was thinking this morning, "whatever happened to Charles Pierce?" I went on the internet and did a search and found your Web site. I was so saddened to know that one of my favorite personalities had passed-away.
When I was in my twenties and living in Los Angeles, my best friend and I would escape to San Francisco for a weekend of freedom and play. It was the beginning of the golden days of being gay.
My friend and I would take a room at the Golden Gate YMCA. Ugh, it was miserably bleak. Iron beds, linoleum floors and plain paper window shades. But for all the drabness of the room, there were a few place to go at night that provided glamour to young gay men. One such place was the Gilded Cage.
On those nights when we gathered at the Cage, the world was ours. Charles was our magic star...heavens he was all the stars. I think my fondness memory of him was his Jeanette McDonald. The Gilded Cage wasn't really large but it was our Copacabana, Starlight Room, Stork Club - a glam spot hidden on some dark San Francisco street. On the nights Charles Pierce would be making an appearance, the room would be packed with so many guys, eagerly awaiting "our star."
Suddenly, the darkness would be broken by bright lights hitting the stage curtains. The sound system, not Boise, would flood the room with the intro to the city's famous namesake song. The curtains would part and from a swing high above our head - Charles, as Jeanette, sang out "San Francisco." The crowd would go wild. It gives me chills just to reflect on the wonder fun of such an imaginative personality as Charles Pierce."
"I've been friends with Charles Pierce for 26 years and I met him under the name of Kitty Litter while I was watching him do Bette Davis at Goldstreet. I screamed and he looked down at me with those Bette Davis eyes and said, 'And who are you?' I said, 'Kitty Litter' and he said, 'NO SHIT'. He sent someone to talk to me after the show and wanted to meet me because he thought I was a camp. We became friends ever since. I was in APPLAUSE with him and he made me part of his show at Goldstreet while he got me a job as a cocktail waitress then put me in his show double billing with BEACH BLANKET BABYLON which I later starred and co-wrote.
I sent Charles some pussywillows about a month ago and wrote that they were from Katharine Hepburn's movie, 'PUSSY IN SUMMER' . He wasn't talking to anyone at the time but he called me and said they were a camp."
"Though I never met Charles Pierce I feel that I've known him for a long time from the warmth that he radiates through the memory he left us documented on film and television. Every time I see a rerun that Mr. Pierce has appeared in I stop in my tracks to remember what he meant to people like me following in his steps. Charles Pierce thank you for opening the doors for so many entertainers like myself. It is your courage that is helping me to step forward to say that 'I am what I am.' Thanks for being such an important part of who I am."
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