Remembering Ray

Jack Ames

Jack Ames, manager of the Jewelbox, Kansas City, June, 2000 in an email to Randy A. Riddle

I was a good friend of Rae’s back in the 1960s … I was manager of the Jewel Box in Kansas City (owned by the Mafia & run by one John Trucillo, now dead)… Rae, a grand old trouper … stayed to himself more or less … the bitchiness of the other queens in the show was huge, especially since none of them had much talent … but Rae was not perturbed … he had been in the business long enough .. It was sad though to see Rae have to ask Trucillo for a $10 advance … I would make out a chit & Rae signed it … they paid him so little.

The best part of the show was at the end … all the others had left the stage & Rae, dressed as the cleaning lady in an old dress … & foul mouth … the departing audience, many of them, didn’t realise it was the same person who had been causing them so much merriment before … she threw the bucket down on the stage … started mopping … mumbling about having to clean up “after those bitches” … then stood there, mop in one hand, other hand on hip & delievered a 10-15 minute little post script… all ad lib & just so funny!

Rae was still working up routines. He carried with him in his car, a small tape recorder into which he practised his routines…

A couple of other things just to mind … you may choose not to use this one, but Rae, you know, had a penchant for young trade … he often scored a likely, lusty young hitch-hiker as he drove home from work along Troost Avenue in the early hours. It was said … & I don’t know where the story came from or whether there was truth in it … that Rae sometimes sent himself a telegram so that he could have a go at the delivery boy! Isn’t that as scream? It shows resourcefulness… we all have to mourn the passing of the telegram boys, eh?

Robert Wright

Robert Wright, composer and long-time friend of Ray Bourbon

“In or out of drag, Ray Bourbon was the Robin Williams of his era.”

Jim Gardner

Jim Gardner, UTC Records, in a 1971 interview in “Gay” magazine

“Probably no other homosexual, and certainly no other performer, has had the effect on America’s gay community that Bourbon did … Rae went all over the country, appearing everywhere, and people remember him because he was there once.”

“He could walk into a room, gauge the audience and figure out what they could stand.  Then he’d push it ten percent above what they could take.”



“Jim” in an email to Randy A. Riddle

“As a budding female impersonator, I was very much confused by drag v.s. female impersonation. “Camp” humour was something so hard to define, yet after hearing Ray, it finally, for me at least, seemed easier to distinguish one from another. When listening to “Cleopatra and Her Asp”, I could tell he was mirroring the truth of what straight folk wanted gays to believe was “happiness, norlmacy, etc..” but, by the same token, hopefully was expressing “This could have been you, if you had given in!” 

Mostly, his inflections, and his pauses were most memorable to me. He seemed to have an uncanny sense of timing between the “Main” character and the unheard cast. All in all, I can only attribute wanting to hear more of Ray fifteen years later! Knowing that there were pioneers out there…! They took the hard knocks, and we are only reaping what “They” sowed. It’s a shame what “drag” has become. It truly is a lost art.” 


anonymous young Radical Faerie after hearing a Ray Bourbon recording for the first time in 1998

“This is the man who gave queers a bad name.” 

Warren Allen Smith

Warren Allen Smith, author, scholar and humanist, former owner of studio that recorded Ray Bourbon

“A truly memorable showbiz character, one for whom Fernando cut master acetates, was the performer Ray Bourbon. Although his act was as good as anything seen at Jimmy Daniels’s Bon Soir boite (and one night I saw Senator Richard Nixon there and on another Marlon Brando–he was there to see his intimate friend Mr. Peepers), Bourbon had a rough time succeeding with his fey act. His bitchy repartee was considered as shocking as anything else during that period, and his garb was delightfully outlandish. When accused of murder and jailed, he got a letter from Fernando and me to the effect that prison can never jail a person’s imagination; we encouraged him to continue working on his act. He sent a thank-you but died soon afterwards.”