I ran into Joe Givens out on the road last season.
He was working a popper.

Joe had been a half & half / bearded lady back in the heyday of sideshows.


He stopped by our shows one day and introduced himself.


We talked a little while and he told me this story about Hedy Jo Starr.

Hedy Jo Starr was America's first sex change.
Christene Jorgenson got all the press as the first but it was really Hedy Jo Starr.

Hedy Jo used to work in drag before her operation.  After, she became famous writing a column for the National Enquirer called "Both Sides of Love".  She also did quite well ($) designing and sewing costumes for famous strippers, herself included.

So, at the height of her success she decided to take a first class girl show out on the road and play all the best fairs.


That's how she wound up booking into a spot with L.I. Thomas.

L.I. Thomas liked to book gir lshows on his midway.


Apparently he had an eye for the ladies in general and for strippers in particular.

So there was Hedy Jo one morning, supervising her crew as they were laying out the girl show tent, when L.I. Thomas walked up.


He was there to check out the goods.

L.I. Thomas- "Good morning, where are the girls?"

Hedy Jo- "Over there ,lacing up the top."

L.I. Thomas- "Those are all men, they're not women!"

Hedy Jo- "Don't worry, honey. They will be by tonight!"

PK
 


** Added Nov. 27th 2007

 

I'm her nephew, and I'm writing her life story. I have all of her pictures, medical records for her sex change and much more.

 

You have a page on her that gives the wrong name for her birth name; it was Carl Rollins Hammond's. She died in 1999. In 1962 she had the first successful sex changes in America.

 

I have all of her medical records.

 

I'm trying to get the book published.

 

Thank you,

 

R.E. Richmond
 

 

Pete:  Great story on Hedy Jo Star, who was born**

in Oklahoma I think it might have been 1924. As a teenager he became a drag queen and ended up with a small carnival in OKLA. (note: In the 1930s and forties there were a lot of female impersonates in both carnival and circus.

 

I believe they were more comfortable there, because show people have always been non biased of
people who acted with different behaviors.)

In my inaccurate research, I believe there were 104 ten in one sideshows touring in north America in 1948 and 49.


Of these I expect 90% of them had a female impersonator working as a half man, half woman (hermaphrodite) as the blowoff (annex attraction) working on a pc of the annex ticket sales, Therefor most (if they were good) made good money.

 

By about 1942 Hedy Jo Star was operating a store show ( a sideshow presented in a rented empty store building in the main business district in a town) in the winter in Oklahoma City. Hedy got drafted and had to report for pre induction examination. Hedy had her own hair which reached  her mid back. She refused to allow them to cut her hair. The next morning the "Daily Oklahoman" had a front page photo of Hedy Jo behind bars, with the headline "I'll see you in Hell before you cut my hair". I don't know if they cut her hair, but I later saw a snapshot of him in an army uniform. During World war two there was no "Don't ask don't tell." Of course the authorities found some excuse to close her show and put the people out of work. I believe for the time he was in the army he worked in army shows. Quite a few military shows ,including the Irving Berlin, Broadway musical "This Is The Army" , used female impersonators in the female parts.

 

I first met Hedy Jo the early spring of 1947. I was in Dailey Bros. Circus winter quarters at Gonzales, Texas.


The Zachinni Bros Shows (carnival, owned by Tio and Bruno Zachhinni,  advertising their cannon act as a nightly free act, was a strong grift show.

 

I went with Fred Brad over to a nearby town to the carnival to work as outside man on his "Nut Mob", (three shell game), I was 16 and when the local sheriff looked the game over, he decided I was to young to be participating in the "Gambling game". So I had to back away and wander the midway.  Hedy Jo had two small shows: a half and half Single-O show which she worked herself.  She did the bally doing the talking and then inside did the act, She also had a small girl show with 3 or 4 performers. My partner then, Harry Leonard , knew Hedy and we visited with her.

 

Over the years we would see her on midways we  visited. 


The only time we were on the same midway was in 1954 on "Gem City Shows" where Harry and I had the sideshow, and Hedy had one large girl show plus a small one. She had a very big house trailer with a big sewing room in it. She made all the costumes for the people on her shows. She was a great designer and costumer. The people on her shows always had very beautiful wardrobe. She always lived as a female and possibly by 1954 she had already had the surgery.


Sometime later she legally married a Doctor in Boston.

 

The last time I saw her she was making some special wardrobe for Circus Vargas and frequently visited with Dale Longmire who was clowning on Circus Vargas at that time.  Hedy Jo made her home then in Las Vegas where she operated a costuming business, specializing in feather work.

 

I am not sure when she died.

 

What a great book her biography would be.

 

Cordially, Ward Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Starke

 

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