A Butch Speed Queen – in the 1920s!

Do you know who Joe Carstairs is? I didn’t until a few weeks ago. According to Wikipedia, “Carstairs lived a colourful life. She usually dressed as a man, had tattooed arms, and loved machines, adventure and speed. Openly lesbian, she had numerous affairs with women, including Dolly WildeOscar Wilde‘s niece and a fellow ambulance driver from Dublin with whom she had lived in Paris—and a string of actresses, most notably Greta Garbo, Tallulah Bankhead, and Marlene Dietrich.” What?!? How have I not heard of this remarkable woman? Oh, that’s right, Butches aren’t typically celebrated.

Happily, that is about to change.

Photo by Peter Yesley

Phoebe Legere has created a one-woman show about Carstairs called “Speed Queen.” Legere is a composer, artist, filmmaker, arranger, songwriter, singer and performer on piano, accordion, guitar, cello, Native American flute, and synthesizer. She works across genres and art forms.In her show, Legere portrays Carstairs, the 1926 World Speedboat record holder and seven of her girlfriends including: Tallulah Bankhead, Marlene Dietrich, Billie Holiday and Mabel Mercer, using wearable sculpture, dance, theater and nude lesbian films to tell a story of heartbreak, heroism, and love.

Speed Queen opens March 7th at Dixon Place in New York. You can get tickets and show information here. I wish I could go! If you go see it, be sure to comment here or send me an email to tell me about it.

It’s Butch to celebrate historical Butches with tattooed arms, who dressed as men, raced speedboats, and dated famous actresses. Be Butch.


4 thoughts on “A Butch Speed Queen – in the 1920s!

  1. I read the queen of whale cay in the 90’s……wonderful book…..​Please​bring the show to England……​We’ve loved Peggy Shaw in menopausal gentleman…..​

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