1926 - 1999

“I have no ambition to be the Liberace of the drag world. Why do I have to be described as 'Charles Pierce, female impersonator? Why not just 'Charles Pierce, actor?”

 – Charles Pierce

He was born on Bastille Day in 1926 in Watertown, New York. Charles Pierce, a man who truly loved making people laugh, knew early on that he wanted to be an entertainer, but was unsure about what he should do. Though he began as an actor and radio announcer, it was as a Female Impersonator that he eventually found his greatest success – a future foreshadowed by a telling photograph of an 18 year old Pierce, seated at an organ with the sheet music to ‘Their Either Too Young or Too Old’ (which Bette Davis sang in ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’) spread before him. His act was known for constantly pushing boundaries. In Florida, for example, a male entertainer could not wear a dress. Pierce bents the rules by wearing a feather boa, gloves, hats, and pocketbooks—everything but a dress. His considerable talent allowed for great crossover appeal. Audiences of all stripes embraced his campy humor, yet he always managed to keep his core gay audience. While many drag entertainers were playing small bars, Pierce found success in venues from London to Chicago and New York to San Francisco. He even played The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Hollywood and recorded a concert video ‘Charles Pierce at The Ballroom’ (1988). Billed as 'The Master and Mistress of Surprise and Disguise,’ his hilarious imitations of Hollywood’s leading ladies such as Bette Davis, Mae West, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Carol Channing, Tallulah Bankhead and even Mrs. Olsen (from the Folgers commercials) kept nightclub audiences in stitches for decades. Pierce’s death from cancer (which had been complicated by a stroke) on May 31, 1999 marked the end of an era. He was 72.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell