Write That Down: The Comedy
of Male Actress Charles Pierce
by Kirk Frederick
Havenhurst Books. 156 pages, $16.95
KIRK FREDERICK’S biography of “male actress” Charles Pierce (1926-1999) greets the eye with an iconic photograph of Pierce impersonating Bette Davis, his signature role. Other acting divas that he inhabited included Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Gloria Swanson, and Mae West. Born in 1926 in upstate New York, Pierce became an internationally acclaimed female impersonator in the 1950s. Frederick’s biography offers a candid look at a career that spanned over fifty years, from Pierce’s humble start at the Pasadena Playhouse to his sold-out shows in San Francisco. This book gives a much-needed corrective to the outdated and envy-driven book by “John Wallraff” (aka John Dececco), 2002’s From Drags to Riches: The Untold Story of Charles Pierce. Wallraff’s narrative reads like a page from the National Enquirer, full of boozy nights, catty remarks, salacious gossip, and pornographic descriptions of Pierce’s sexual encounters. Wallfraff even claims to have written some of Pierce’s best dialogues, a claim Frederick’s book plainly refutes.