A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 26, 2022
Gay Boy (Gayboy)

The word “gay” gradually morphed into the LGBT usage in the 1930s.

“Will Rogers goes gay!” was printed in the Selma (AL) Times-Journal on August 30, 1931. “Will Rogers goes Gay in TOP HAT and SPATS” was printed in the Leicester (UK) Evening Mail on December 7, 1931. This referred to flamboyant dressing and attitude.

“FIVE GAY BOYS” (a vaudeville act) was printed in the Buffalo (NY) Evening News on September 8, 1933. “Five Gay Boys, cutting college capers” was printed in the Indianapolis (IN) News on October 6, 1933. “The Five Gay Boys, collegiate athletes, do their contortions and acrobatics with an ease of manner that makes hard work seem easy” was printed in the Brooklyn (NY) Times Union on February 18, 1934. This did not involve the sexual meaning of the word “gay.”

“Gay Boys” (or “gayboys") popularized the term “gay” among female impersonators and their 1930s audiences. “Fay Norman’s Original GAY BOY REVUE” was printed in The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, MI) on July 8, 1934. “PLAYBOY-GAYBOY REVUE” was printed in the Harrisburg (PA) Telegraph on October 20, 1934. “The Gay Girl Impersonators’ Revue” was printed in The Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH) on November 15, 1934. “TORCH CLUB (...) ‘THE HOLLYWOOD PLAYBOY REVUE’ The Torch Goes Gay” was printed in the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal on February 26, 1936. “Gay ‘Boy-Girl’ (A photo.—ed.) ‘MICKEY’ NELSON Member of the ‘Gay Boy Review’” was printed in The State Journal (Lansing, MI) on July 18, 1936. “‘Hollywood Playboys’ Female Impersonators GAY—SWISHY—DUCKY” was printed in The Evening Independent (Massillon, OH) on November 27, 1936.

Many 1938 advertisements in the Hartford (CT) Daily Courant for female impersonator shows at the Riverside Grille used the word “gay.” “SONNI SINCLAIR Gayest of Gay Boys and His Glamorous Female Impersonators“ was printed on May 13, 1938. “SONNI SINCLAIR Gay Boy Star and his Gay Female Impersonators” was printed on May 20, 1938. ”Gay Artists of Deception COME AND BE GAY” was printed on June 3, 1938. “Come and be Gay with the Gayest of Gayboy Revues” was printed on June 24, 1938. “This smart Gayboy Revue is now being held over for the 7th month” was printed on August 19, 1938.

“Gay set” is a related term. “Fire Island’s gay boy set’s moving to Nantucket; too many normal people at Fire Island” was printed in the syndicated column “It Happened Last Night” by Earl Wilson in the Courier-Post (Camden, NJ) on February 15, 1951.


Newspapers.com
30 August 1931, Selma (AL) Times-Journal, pg. 12, col. 6 ad:
Will Rogers goes gay!
(Will Rogers in the movie Young as You Feel.—ed.)

Newspapers.com
7 December 1931, Leicester (UK) Evening Mail, pg. 3, col. 5:
Will Rogers goes
Gay in TOP HAT
and SPATS
In “Young as You Feel,” that great American humorist, Will Rogers, discards the personal habits of a lifetime, and appears for the first time in either stage or screen as a well-groomed Bond-street dandy. Rogers was funny enough in his baggy, uncreased trousers, but when he blossoms out in to a topper, spats, and a boiled shirt, he is priceless.

Newspapers.com
8 September 1933, Buffalo (NY) Evening News, pg. 8, col. 3 ad:
FIVE GAY BOYS
(Vaudeville bill.—ed.)

Newspapers.com
6 October 1933, Indianapolis (IN) News, “New Presentations in Downtown Theaters,” pg. 14, col. 3:
... the Five Gay Boys, cutting college capers; ...

Newspapers.com
8 December 1933, Daily News (New York, NY), pg. 67, col. 1 ad:
5 GAY BOYS
(Vaudeville bill.—ed.)

Newspapers.com
18 February 1934, Brooklyn (NY) Times Union, pg. 13, col. 2:
The Five Gay Boys, collegiate athletes, do their contortions and acrobatics with an ease of manner that makes hard work seem easy.

Newspapers.com
8 July 1934, The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, MI), pg. 2, col. 3 ad:
Ellinee Village Inn
Night Club—Paw Paw Lake
NOW PRESENTS
Fay Norman’s Original
GAY BOY REVUE

Newspapers.com
29 July 1934, The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, MI), pg. 2, col. 4 ad:
AT THE DWAN
FAY NORMAN’S
GAY BOY REVUE
Syncopated Songs and Dances
BY 12 INTERNATIONAL STARS

Newspapers.com
20 October 1934, Harrisburg (PA) Telegraph, pg. 7, col. 7:
NEW FLOOR SHOW!
DIFFERENT—DAZZLING
PLAYBOY-GAYBOY REVUE
DIRECT FROM NEW YORK
(...)
HOTEL DAUPHIN

Newspapers.com
15 November 1934, The Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), “Amusements,” sec. 3, pg. 3, cols. 5-6:
Lookout House—The World’s Fair Nudists end their engagement at the New Lookout House tomorrow night. Saturday Night, the Gay Girl Impersonators’ Revue, headed by Billy Richards, who will begin a week’s stay.

Newspapers.com
22 November 1934, Binghamton (NY) Press, pg. 35, col. 3 ad:
DIXIE INN
Presents the First Complete
REVUE of FEMALE IMPERSONATORS
Ever Shown in This Section—Direct From Greenwich Village
Fay Norman’s Revue—“The Boy in Gold”
Pep Murray impersonating Mae Murray
Jacquette La Marr—Crooner Ray Gilbert—Ballad Singer
Mickey Nelson—Personality Boy

Newspapers.com
23 November 1934, Binghamton (NY) Press, pg. 35, col. 1 ad:
at DIXIE INN
MISS FAY NORMAN Presents
SOMETHING NEW
in Floor Shows—The Gay Boy Revue

Newspapers.com
25 November 1934, The Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), sec. 3, pg. 2, col. 1 ad:
These Boys Will be Girls—But
J. Cagney Was a Chorus Man!
Matt Berger Presents The Gay
Girl Impersonators
Revue, Second and Last Big Week
(...)
New Lookout House

major-smolinski.com
("Items are from stories in the Syracuse Journal and its Sunday edition, the Journal-American.”—ed.)
They were gay before there were gays
One of the year’s most eye-catching headlines — because this was 1935, after all — resulted from arrests made March 17 at La Villa, a roadhouse in Cold Springs, just north of Onondaga Lake. The headline: 8 ‘Gay Boys’ Arraigned After Raid.

At the time the word “gay” meant “merry” or “lively,” though it’s possible the eight members of a dancing chorus of men who performed in the “Gay Boy Revue” were homosexuals. But that wasn’t the point. Actually, it’s difficult to figure out what the point was when the young men faced charges of indecent exposure.

The eight protested the arrest, saying there was nothing indecent about their show, in which they impersonated girls, wearing women’s costumes and appearing in makeup.

Arraigned with the chorus boys was Miss Fay Norman, manager of “The Gay Boys.” According to the Syracuse Journal, the woman could have played Mama Rose in “Gypsy.”

During the arraignment one of the boys spoke out of turn, prompting Miss Norman to bark, “Keep your trap shut, you numskull. I’ve got a mouthpiece of speak for us. What do you think I’m paying him for? Get in that chair and shut up.”

In the end it was much ado about you-know-what, and the entertainers were released.

Newspapers.com
12 June 1935, Warren (PA) Times-Mirror, pg. 2, col. 7 ad:
LOOK! ALL THIS WEEK!
Fay Norman’s
GAY BOY REVUE
Something New! Something Different! Direct From 42 Weeks’
Run in New York City—presenting
Pep Murry, Jackie Lane, Jerry Nelson, Bobby Norman,
Du=ick Ray, Jack LaMarr, Larry Turner, Micky Nelson,
Jean LaMonte and others
(...)
THE BROADWAY
George Conti, Mgr.
67 Taylor St., Jamestown, N. Y.

Newspapers.com
26 February 1936, Akron (OH) Beacon Journal, pg. 22, col. 3 ad:
TORCH CLUB
(...)
“THE HOLLYWOOD
PLAYBOY REVUE”
The Torch Goes Gay

Newspapers.com
24 May 1936, Lima (OH) Sunday News, pg. 12, col. 2 ad:
3RD BIG WEEK
“GAY BOY REVUE”
(...)
MARTIN’S NITE CLUB

Newspapers.com
13 July 1936, The State Journal (Lansing, MI), pg. 8, col. 7 ad:
Fay NORMAN
Presents
“The Gay Boy”
R-E-V-U-E
(A cast list is given.—ed.)

Newspapers.com
13 July 1936, The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, MI), pg. 4, col. 2:
Berrien Democrats’ Mardi
Gras Carnival Is Tuesday

The Gay-Boy Revue and dancing to Al Clark’s orchestra will feature the Mardi Gras carnival to be held at the Recreation Gardens on Territorial Road Tuesday night by Berrien Democrats.

Newspapers.com
18 July 1936, The State Journal (Lansing, MI), pg. 7, col. 3:
Gay ‘Boy-Girl’
(A photo.—ed.)
“MICKEY” NELSON
Member of the “Gay Boy Review”
This week, an unusual entertainment attraction is being presented at the Palais Royal night club, East Michigan avenue. Fay Norman is presenting the “Gay Boy Review,” a company composed of 14 female impersonators.

Newspapers.com
27 November 1936, The Evening Independent (Massillon, OH), pg. 17, col. 1 ad:
TORCH CLUB
LAST 3 DAYS TO SEE
The Kenn King Production
“Hollywood
Playboys”
Female Impersonators
GAY—SWISHY—DUCKY

Newspapers.com
22 February 1938, The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), pg. 5, col. 6 ad:
HOLLYWOOD SUPPER CLUB
4520 9th St.  Rock Island, Ill.
(...)
IT’S GAY!
FEMALE
IMPERSONATORS

Newspapers.com
13 May 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 13, col. 3 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Starring
SONNI SINCLAIR
Gayest of Gay Boys and His
Glamorous Female Impersonators

Newspapers.com
20 May 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 25, col. 3 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Starring
SONNI SINCLAIR
Gay Boy Star and his Gay
Female Impersonators

Newspapers.com
26 May 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 7, col. 3 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Starring
SONNI SINCLAIR Male Gypsy Rose Lee
BOBBY GAYE Exotic Temptress
JACKIE LEE Song Delineator
GAY FEMALE IMPERSONATOR SHOW

Newspapers.com
3 June 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 8, col. 2 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
15th Sensational Week
Starring
SONNI SINCLAIR
Jackie Lee—Bobby Gaye
Gay Artists of Deception
COME AND BE GAY

Newspapers.com
24 June 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 8, col. 2 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Starring
SONNI SINCLAIR
JACKIE LEE
BOBBY GAYE
Come and be Gay with the Gayest
of Gayboy Revues

Newspapers.com
30 June 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 7, col. 7 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
On Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Starring
Sonni Sinclair—Comic Emsee
Jackie Lee—Swing Senation
Bobby Gaye—Gayboy Dancing Star
A GAY NEW HOLIDAY SHOW
The Liveliest Gayest Show of its Kind, Now Held Over
for the 19th Week

Newspapers.com
15 July 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 8, col. 8 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Starring
THE SOCIETY GAYBOYS
SONNI SINCLAIR
JACKIE LEE
BOBBY GAYE

Newspapers.com
22 July 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 6, col. 5 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Starring
Those Glamorous Gayboys

SONNI SINCLAIR
JACKIE LEE
BOBBY GAYE

Newspapers.com
19 August 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 10, col. 1 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
Presents
VEST-POCKET REVUE
Starring
SONNI SINCLAIR
BOBBY GAYE
JACKIE LEE
This smart Gayboy Revue is now
being held over for the 7th month.

Newspapers.com
9 September 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 22, col. 8 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
GAY BOY REVELS of 1939
Add the Comedy of
SONNI SINCLAIR
to the Thrilling Voice of
JACKIE LEE
and the Exotic Dancing of
BOBBY GAYE

Newspapers.com
21 October 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, pg. 28, col. 5 ad:
RIVERSIDE GRILLE
on Middletown and Hartford Highway
North of New Middletown Bridge
FRIDAY and SATURDAY
GAY BOY REVELS of 1939
starring
HOLLYWOOD’S SONG STYLIST
AND FASHION PLATE
JACKIE LEE
and Broadway’s Leading Gay Boy
SONNI SINCLAIR

Newspapers.com
18 April 1949, Vancouver (BC) Daily Province, pg. 8, col. 7 ad:
IT’S GAY! IT’S DIFFERENT! IT’S QUEER!
Direct from the World-Famous Finnochio’s. S.F.
America’s Most Beautiful and Foremost
FEMALE IMPERSONATORS
‘Boys Will Be Girls’
STATE

Newspapers.com
24 March 1950, The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL), pg. 23, col. 3 ad:
THE GAYEST SHOW
IN TOWN!!!
AMERICA’S FOREMOST
FEMALE IMPERSONATORS
AT THE FAMOUS
MELODY CLUB

Newspapers.com
28 March 1950, The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL), pg. 9, col. 1 ad:
7th
SMASH
WEEK
FEATURING
AMERICA’S FOREMOST
FEMALE
IMPERSONATORS
“A GAY SHOW”
AT THE
MELODY
CLUB
318 FIRST ST.

Newspapers.com
15 February 1951, Courier-Post (Camden, NJ), “It Happened Last Night” by Earl Wilson, pg. 8, col. 6:
Fire Island’s gay boy set’s moving to Nantucket; too many normal people at Fire Island.

Newspapers.com
1 June 1951, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, “Baghdad-by-the-Bay” by Herb Caen, pg. 23, col. 1:
The Gray Line sightseeing buses now make a regular stop at the Beige Room, which features “female impersonators”; the Gay Line?

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • Sunday, June 26, 2022 • Permalink