marvellousness….. ah marvellous!

Strange Flowers

This airborne vision of loveliness, floating serenely above the stage in a Paris nightclub defying, no, mocking gravity, twirling gracefully, swooping majestically…this, ladies and gentlemen, is Barbette.

Despite the name Barbette was neither French nor female, having been born Vander Clyde in Round Rock, Texas on this day in 1899. Hooked by his first encounter with the circus as a child, Clyde joined the Alfaretta Sisters, “World Famous Aerial Queens”, soon after leaving high school. Standing in for an out-of-sorts Alfaretta was his first experience of drag, but it soon became the core of his career. “I’d always read a lot of Shakespeare, “ he reasoned, “and thinking that those marvellous heroines of his were played by men and boys made me feel that I could turn my specialty into something unique.” Equally at home on the highwire or the trapeze, another of his early acts saw…

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