Monday, 24 March 2014

?Lind? - a world artist and female impersonator

Ship ohoj, New York
Sometimes you discover interesting people just by stumbling onto them. John Lindström is such a guy. It happened when I was looking into the history of Karlskrona and my mother said she had seen a TV program about a world famous female impersonator active in the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century. He was born in 1877 and came to Karlskrona as a young boy and returned there for his retirement.

Already as a young man he showed talent for the theatre, dancing and singing. By pure luck, of which he seemed to have had a lot, he got a contract with a theatre in Stockholm and that was the beginning of his world tour.  At this stage he was performing as a man and as a woman. However, with reviews saying that he was the most beautiful of the ballerinas he was advised to stick to the female performance. With another dancer, Fanny Holmgren, he went to Helsinki in Finland were they performed together and took lessons. His extraordinary talent included ballet dancing, yes dancing on the toes, which is very difficult for a man. He could also perform singing both in his natural baritone and in a female soprano.

It was not easy for him to dress up as a woman. He used a corset to reduce his waste from natural 95
cm to 55 cm (I come to think of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind!), the whigs were very heavy, far to small shoes, and he had to keep his skin in an impeccable state. Bathing in donkey milk!?

The poster announcing
his performances
He went on to conquer spectators in most of the big metropoles in Europe. He also made a tour to South Africa, Brazil, Cuba and then on to America where he had huge successes. He met a Russian from Odessa who became his wife as well as manager. They toured the world until 1923 when they returned to Karlskrona, bought a house and for the first time in their lives settled down.

The couple met some of the great artists of their time like Enrico Caruso, Sarah Bernardt, Anna Pavlova, Charlie Chaplin and many others.

John Lind died in 1940 in relative obscurity. He is probably more known internationally than he is in Sweden. Modern days impersonators like Danny La Rue looked at Lind as an inspiration and he is part of the history of female impersonators and drag queens. His wife Stephanie, outlived him until 1973. Look at the pictures! I would have like to see him perform.

1 comment:

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