The Way We Were: Paris Circa 1960 Coccinelle and Bambi

I first heard about Coccinelle and Bambi in the late 1950s.  About 1960 when John F. Kennedy was running for President.

It was only a photograph here a paragraph there.

Contrary to what my parents thought when they first caught me dressing up I didn’t get the idea from these tiny shards of information.

I knew, deep in my heart I knew long before I first dressed up.  I had been saying empty words in prayers that would never be answered.  Asking the imaginary sky fairy to let me wake up a girl or to at least stop the kids from abusing me.

No what I got at the dawn of the 1960s was a glimpse of sisters who not only managed to change their sex but who also became hot and sexy  women.

You see I was afraid that I would look like Milton Bearle, some strange hairy literal “man in a dress”.  Or like the half man/half woman who was in the side show of the carnival that visited my home town when I was 8 or 9.

Now Paris was a long way from up-state New York but just knowing that those sisters who performed at Le Carousel Ballroom were there changed everything for me and made the next few years until I was old enough to leave home bearable…

Coccinelle

Bambi

That is Amanda Lear singing in background to the photo montage of Bambi.

After SRS, Bambi dropped from view and went on to become an educator.

I know how sexualized the images are but it was 1960 and roles for women, particularly women born transsexual were limited to say the least.

One Response to “The Way We Were: Paris Circa 1960 Coccinelle and Bambi”

  1. Anna Says:

    Great finds, those videos.

    News of Coccinelle’s 1960 wedding was on the international news wires, and I read the story too, in the UK press. There was a picture in, I guess the Daily Mail, but it was far too poor to tell if she looked hot, or a nightmare. Maybe yours was better. It sounded, then, a bit of a media circus, perhaps a freak show.

    But she wasn’t much younger than Roberta Cowell had been when she was front page of the hugely best-selling Picture Post in 1953, so I knew early-middle-aged women could look passable in posed pictures, with lots of makeup and 1950s foundation garments.

    For me it was April Ashley, in the serialised life story after her gutter-press exposure, a couple of years later, that made the huge difference you describe. There were photographs of her as a late teen, in a bikini, and bare breasted, that was total reassurance that one could become female, with no artifice. I was almost 15 and really needed to know that.

    That summer I got my family to visit Paris for a week, and I created an afternoon free during which I tried to find Le Carrousel, but it had closed. Information, and help, was so lacking in the UK that April’s mention that the club had arranged her hormones was to only usable lead i had; and it was a dead end.

    The club was, incidentally, a music hall, not a ballroom, as the video shows. Read April’s biography, ‘Odyssey’ for lots of behind the scenes information on these performers.

    Fifteen years later my partner took me to Paris, and we tried to visit the successor cabaret club to Le Carrousel on the Left Bank, on a cold autumnal evening, but they wouldn’t let a lesbian couple in. Their attitude changed dramatically when I complained, in carefully translated French, at a “lesbian who had been born a boy” not being allowed to see their show. But by then (shows started at 23.00 so it was well after midnight) my partner, who was the linguist, was too tired and just wanted to get me back to our lovely double bed in the hotel over the river at L’Étolle.


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