Vault: Backstage with CLE female impersonators

Posted at 8:07 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 20:07:26-05

Looking back can be an interesting way to see how our society changes. That’s the case with the video I’ve posted for this edition of the WEWS Video Vault.

It’s July 1982 and reporter Paul Orlousky profiles Cleveland’s female impersonators in his promotable TV 5 Eyewitness News Closer Look segment.

Paul goes backstage at the former Cavoli’s nightclub on Cleveland’s Clifton Boulevard to see the people who entertain crowds by performing as women. He interviews the performers and gets their insights. One shaves his legs, while another doesn’t; one lives as a woman outside of performing, another doesn’t.

We shot the 1982 story a week before it aired. In that week, word had gotten out about it. A flood of calls to the newsroom fell in one of two categories, “When is it going to air?” or “You didn’t show the audience members did you?” as people at the show didn’t want it known they were there.

Fast forward a few decades to today, a performer named RuPaul can be found on cable hour after hour—virtually around the clock—on her RuPaul’s Drag Race show on the Logo cable channel.


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