February 1970. A mysterious old man is convicted of murder in the small rural Texas town of Brownwood, Texas.
His name is Ray Bourbon.
He claims to have known and worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and entertainment – Mae West, Bob Hope, Errol Flynn, Jean Harlow, Josephine Baker, and even Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin. He says he rode with Pancho Villa, made command performances for King Edward, and appeared on Broadway and in a one-man show at Carnegie Hall.
Obscured by the tumultuous events of the sixties – Vietnam, the Hippies, Stonewall – Ray’s trial, conviction, and death in prison a few months later were hardly noticed outside of some wire stories, buried in the back pages of the newspapers.
But what Ray said about himself was true. Or mostly true.
“Don’t Call Me Madam!” is a proposed feature film about an entertainment pioneer who had a career that extended from 1920 to the late sixties, from the desert scrubland of Texas to the bright lights of New York, Hollywood, London, Paris, and beyond. Ray’s was a life of adventure that included shady deals with the mob and Al Capone, Cold War spies, a murder he didn’t commit, and an actual murder he did commit.
Ray was also the most well-known and widely seen gay performer of the pre-Stonewall era. As a female impersonator doing gay-themed songs and elaborate routines, he lampooned “straight” society and faced constant arrest and harassment for his work and bending of gender norms. Some who knew him and saw him perform called him the Robin Williams of his day. To even his best friends, Ray was something of an enigma.
“Don’t Call Me Madam” is based on thirty years of research, collecting, and interviews by Randy A. Riddle for his book-length biography of Ray Bourbon, along with Bourbon’s own incomplete autobiography written in 1970 in a Texas prison.
“Don’t Call Me Madam!” looks at Ray’s remarkable life, lived to the fullest, despite all odds, and how it all came crashing to a terrible end.
Available for a potential feature film or mini-series production is a WGA registered development kit that includes:
- the first ten pages of a proposed script,
- a detailed 35 page scene outline of the complete script,
- a ten page pitch, concept, marketing, and style document that looks at the central themes of the scene outline, ideas for casting; visualizing, and producing the script; and possible marketing angles and potential audiences,
- and a reference playlist of original Ray Bourbon recordings used in the proposed script scene outline.
This development kit can be used as the basis for development of a feature film. Or it can be expanded, with a similar overall structure and story arc, for producing a cable or streaming miniseries.
If your production company options the concept and script outline for development, you’ll also receive, for reference by your screenwriter, director, actors, and behind the scenes creative and marketing staff, access to:
- over four hundred articles, ads, and original documents, such as Ray’s FBI file and trial transcripts, related to Ray’s life and work,
- a collection of over ten hours of original recordings by Ray Bourbon produced between 1935 and 1965, recently redigitized and remastered from original elements,
- copies of Ray’s appearances in film,
- copies of Ray’s original incomplete autobiographical manuscript written when he was imprisoned for murder in Texas,
- copies of original candid and publicity photographs of Ray, both in and out of drag,
- copies of text transcripts and some audio of interviews conducted with people who knew Ray including his long-time friends Bob Wright and Chet Forrest and the lawyer who defended him against the murder charge, William Bell,
- a complete 80 page chronological guide to Ray’s life and work with references to source material,
- background material on gay and lesbian pre-Stonewall “Pansy Craze” performers that were contemporaries of Ray,
- my services as a consultant, guide to the reference materials, and historian in development of the script and during production.
To inquire about availability, send me an email. Serious queries only, please.