As Sasha Velour is crowned the future of drag, is there room to appreciate possibly the oldest female impersonator living in New York City?
At 93, Tish (born Joseph Touchette) may very well be “The Last Queen of Greenwich Village.” Tish came of age just after WWII in the gay bars of Providence, Rhode Island. It wasn’t until he married Norman Kerouac (first cousin of author Jack Kerouac), that he donned his first wig. The wedding did not last, however, his love for female impersonation did.
After years of dancing and singing lessons in Providence, Tish rose through the ranks as a female impersonator until she landed at the Moroccan Village in NYC ready to rock the drag world. Don’t call her a “drag queen” though, as she will tell you that, “A drag queen is an amateur–a female impersonator is a professional.” While this may not sit well with today’s band of Drag Race devotees, Tish built his craft in an era that embraced a very different standard for drag.
Today, Tish still lives in the small NYC apartment where he first laid her wigs down back in 1956. The rent is ridiculously cheap ($256/month) and is filled with artifacts of his legendary days as an entertainer who passed as a woman so credibly that he was arrested and then immediately released by a cop after a bar raid because he assumed Tish was a woman.
Tish is very proud of his female impersonator legacy, proclaiming that, “I made a living as a girl–except horizontally.” As more drag queens break new ground and make a decent living at their craft, it is nice to look back on one legendary lady who ‘passed’ the torch.