I have to give credit to Kliph Nesteroff in his 2012 post on Ray Bourbon, “Murder in Mink“, at the WFMU blog, for this odd little highlight.
Imagine that you’re a housewife in Bakersfield, California in 1931 and, in your local paper, find a full page ad for the unveiling of the latest spring fashions at Weill’s Department Store.
A Fashion Revue DeLux
Friday, March 13, 2 to 4 PM
During the Fashion Tea to Be Held at the Stockdale Country Club
Featuring Newest Spring Creations in Formal, Afternoon and Sports Apparel
Popular young club matrons will assist Mr. Rae Bourbon in modeling the new dresses, ensembles and coats.
Mr. Rae Bourbon will model dresses in our windows Friday evening, 8 to 10 o’clock, and all day Saturday
Ray is featured in a photo in the ad and described as the “popular actor and female impersonator who will model the garments, assisted by popular club matrons”.
A fashion show like this might turn heads today in Bakersfield, but, in 1931, when Ray and other drag performers were making headlines in Los Angeles and San Francisco with their sold-out nightclub appearances during the so-called Pansy Craze, it would have been the latest “in” thing for the smart set.
Weill’s Department Store was founded by Alphonse Weill, a Jewish immigrant to America, in the 1870s. Weill died in 1946, but the store was still open for business until 1963. Today, a historical marker marks the spot where the store once stood.
You have to wonder if Weill or someone else at the store heard about the Pansy shows and saw a publicity opportunity or might have even checked out one of Ray’s shows before tapping him to model fashions at the store. We’ll probably never know how this whole thing came about, but can only wonder about the good time that was probably had by all in spring 1931 at Weill’s Department Store.