The Ten Best Drag Acts

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The Independent Culture

1 Hetty King

There was nothing political or threatening about Hetty King's act. She started out at the age of six in 1889, and by 22 was a music hall "male impersonator". By the time I saw her, in 1957, she was tiny and plump, smiling as she lit her pipe from a match struck on the seat of her pants, singing "All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor".

2 Danny La Rue

Danny La Rue was most appreciated by my generation when he was appearing at his alluring nightclub in Hanover Square, London, in the Sixties. It was always obvious to us that he was a gay man playing a straight man in a frock, and we all adored it at a time when most theatre folk were still closeted.

3 Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis

The Some Like it Hot team were acting boys dressed as girls but I found it a bit erotic 45 years back. Jack Lemmon was wonderful as Daphne - demure and coquettish - though I'd love to have seen Frank Sinatra in the role - he was director Billy Wilder's first choice.

4 Barry Humphries/Dame Edna Everage

Dame Edna is still in her glory days, although I've seen Barry leering out of her face once or twice recently - though perhaps that's only because I am always trying to puzzle out how their faces, and the people, fit together. I based my version of Widow Twankey on Dame Edna a bit.

5 Christopher Green/ Tina C

Tennessee gal Tina C is played by Christopher Green. It's worth looking at his very entertaining website - "Hi there, my digital darlin's!" reads the home page - on (or Dubya-Dubya-Dubya-dot-net). "A real superstar," says Time Out. I'm really looking forward to seeing her live.

6 Reg Bundy/ Regina Fong

The late and always lamented Reg Bundy was a dancer who found a unique comic persona in Regina Fong. Her Imperial Highness was at her best chastising the naughty lads standing in the front row at the Black Cap pub in Camden Town.

7 Betty Legs Diamond

Simon Green's Betty Legs Diamond must be in the list, for her legs and her dedication to perfection. Betty normally performs in Blackpool, so it's a treat for London audiences that she and her Funny Girls are coming down on their day off to dance their "Swine Ballet" in EuroPride: the Show.

8 Lily Savage

I think it's time that Lily had a word with Paul O'Grady - I can give her his number in the country - and suggested that he take her out live, like he did for The Lily Savage Show, which ran so triumphantly on Blackpool's North Pier 10 years ago. Surely he hasn't hung up the wig for good?

9 Mark Rylance

The actor and director Mark Rylance is a brilliant drag act - he can play any Shakespearean woman he wants. During his directorship of the Globe Theatre, he won an Olivier critics' award for his Olivia in Twelfth Night and also played Cleopatra, one of the greatest female roles in theatre.

10 Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough

Gossiping TV dames Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Sidebottom were as real as the crones in the Rover's Return. It is not female impersonation - there is no pretence. A "dame" is a man, never disguising his gender, yet inhabiting a credible female persona.