The David Hummel Story
When I was in high school I had a girl friend that was doing pantomime to the likes of Johnny Standley's "It's in the Book" and both Spike Jones and Jimmy Durante, among others. This looked like fun and I started doing several routines by Beatrice Kay although I had never done drag before. We joined an amateur show called the Amastars which toured around Michigan. This was my first taste of drag. After that I found out about an impersonator, Ralph Capitan, who was playing a club in Flint, Michigan. I was too young to get into a bar but I would go with friends and we would peek in the back window in the alley and watch the show.
I later moved to Detroit and happened upon a gay bar (The Diplomat) that had just started the very first drag show in Detroit. There may have been touring shows like the Jewel Box Revue but this was the first club to house a drag show. I had just lost my job so I decided to work on an act. Being six foot two I was way too tall to pass as a real female so I concentrated on comedy routines. I had another friend, Joe Price, who also wanted to break in an act so we teamed up and called ourselves The Fono Fools. After playing a few gigs we went to The Diplomat and became part of their show. This was in the late 1950s and by 1960 we wanted to try to branch out on our own.
We opened in a supper club, The Van Dyke Club, and had a very successful run. Joe had been doing a lot of Rusty Warren material and we had met her several times in the Detroit clubs. One night she brought her agent to see our show and he became our agent. We were booked into The Interlude in Scottsdale, AZ, followed by The Saddle & Sirloin in Bakersfield, CA. We went back to Detroit and were barely unpacked when The Interlude wanted us back. We drove back with all our equipment and costumes only to find the club locked up. We never did find out for sure what happened but it was back to Michigan.
We played some local clubs before going to Florida to play a couple of clubs down there. At Davy Jones Locker, Joe Price was doing a comedy strip routine he had done hundreds of times. He used two kitchen strainers for a bra and each contained a 100 watt bulb. Because he was sweating when he threw the switch the resulting electric shock caused a heart attack and he died on stage.
After returning to Detroit I found some of the performers at The Diplomat wanted to start a new show at a club called The Gold Dollar. I joined about half of the Diplomat cast and we opened at The Gold Dollar in 1962. Prior to this it had been a stripper bar (originally opening in the 1940's). We used to do what might be considered off-Broadway revues. Each show had a big opening and finale, the body of the show had solos for each entertainer and many skits, duets and trio numbers. The emphasis was on comedy and we did material from Broadway musicals and night club revues.
I recorded and edited all of the material onto reel to reel tapes which kept the sound pristine. Although entertainers came and went I was at the Gold Dollar from the beginning of that run in 1962 until the managers opened The Red Top Bar in 1967. A group of us moved from The Gold Dollar to The Red Top and we were there during the Detroit riots. I left the show in 1968 and went to work as a recording engineer at a local studio, United Sound Systems.
I continued to make tapes for drag shows in Detroit, Las Vegas and all around the country. I moved to Traverse City, Michigan in 1973 and made tapes for entertainers well into the 1980s.