Sunday, March 09, 2014


Why pay $20 or $40 or even $100 for a mediocre album of jazz pop played by a very ordinary trio? Why, so a record collector faux-hipster can show it to his friends! Then, with an elbow to the ribs, he guffaws and says "See that guy at the piano? It's REALLY a WOMAN! Haw haw haw…"

The problem here is that most record collectors have no friends. That's the point of record collecting…to have a special room full of cool vinyl with maybe, some "action figures" on a whatnot shelf along with a real cool non-working Victrola on a pedestal. Or, hey, maybe a false-phallus…the kind of dildo and harness that Tipton, pianist-sans-penis, used on her women. Which, since a woman isn't around the average record collector, the record collector can use to go fuck himself.

Guess which album is a collector's item, and which doesn't? Right. The record with Billy and two bosomy babes is pricey, and the one with an ordinary, generic female cover girl, ain't.

So what was the deal on Billy Tipton? I actually did read the book about him/her, cleverly titled "Suits Me," all about how Dorothy Tipton used to find work as a pianist by dressing as a man…and because she also happened to be a lesbian, kept up the secret in private life. Tipton had a few obscure relatives who knew the secret, and since the musician was almost unknown outside of small clubs, and only recorded a few albums for budget labels, no reporters went prying into his pants. The biography about Tipton is fairly slim and hasn't much to say, since the pianist wasn't a swinger, didn't play lesbian clubs, wasn't crusading for transgender rights, didn't surgically change sex, and simply seemed to be nothing more than a somewhat androgynous-looking minor lounge act. And nobody was questioning major lounge acts like Wayne Newton, who in the 60's looked like a dyke.

A few of Tipton's wives talked to the author of the book…but what could they say? They claimed "Billy" never took a shower with them, undressed in the bathroom and made love in the dark. They said they had no idea about Billy's secret, but they might be lying, not wanting to be known as freaky old dykes. Whatever, Tipton had an uninteresting life playing boring clubs and playing fairly crappy familiar jazz tunes that were mostly middle-of-the-road with a dash of Dixieland. Even in retirement, and into the 80's (Tipton died January 21, 1989), "Billy" stayed in the closet. Let's remember that Hilary Swank's "Boys Don't Cry" didn't arrive for another decade. So who knows if Billy was afraid of embarrassment or getting beaten to death.

Only when Tipton died did the news come out that the local musician had led a secret life…and that the stiff in the morgue never had a stiff that couldn't be stored in a bedroom drawer.

Your download? A sample of Billy Tipton's music…which is professional, competent, and not very interesting. Sort of like Wayne Newton albums of nearly the same vintage. Say, Billy looks a bit like Wayne, doesn't he? Not that there's anything wrong with that…


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