So he put me behind the bar, and I was in full drag at this point: pants, vest, shirt, tie, short hair. I worked like that for a year. Then the liquor board came in and thought I looked too young. One reached across the bar, touched my face and said, “He isn’t even a shaver!” But Ernie had all the connections. He took the men in the back, paid them off, and from then on, he said, “I’ll have you tend bar from eight to twelve. After midnight a girl cannot be behind the bar.” Because now my cover was blown: I was a girl.

At Hazlitt, read Hugh Ryan on the oral history of drag king Malvina Schwartz, a.k.a. Buddy Kent, a.k.a. Bubbles Kent.

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