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LGBTQ+ History: Legend In Her Own Time

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In the 1960s, a legend was on the rise in Los Angeles. An exotic dancer, singer, comedian, drag performer, and Black trans woman by the name of Sir Lady Java was a star of the L.A.

nightclub scene, performing with people like Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Pryor, and Don Rickles.But she was also a revolutionary who challenged the city’s Rule Number 9, which banned “impersonation” of the “opposite sex.” The law was eventually struck down as unconstitutional.For their new book, Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age, authors Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus traveled across America photographing and interviewing living legends of the drag community.For the most part, Hanson and Antheus sought to spotlight local legends rather than the most famous and recognizable queens, but in Lady Java, they found someone who is both.“Certainly, she represents the blueprint, I think, for showgirls who traveled the country and in her case, all of North America,” Hanson says. “And she really did have mainstream appeal in a way.

We tend to associate that as sort of a recent phenomenon, but Java’s really the original ‘It Girl.’”At first, Hanson and Antheus thought that landing Java for their book was a shot in the dark.

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