Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Last night's supermarket joys were tinged with sadness, dear reader. On our return from a half-empty shop, choc-full of rude employees, Phyllis and I heard, all thanks to Radio 4, of the death of the most fabulous Betty Hutton.

Click here to have a look at the news story and here to read her obituary.

As I lifted our foodstuffs from the bags (re-used, of course) and put everything away, I let my mind wander and play in the fantastical life of a shoulda woulda coulda kind of girl.

Her short career was launched on the back of Judy Garland's misfortune: illness. Or was it drugs? Or booze? Who knows... But Betty got her big break in Annie Get Your Gun when
Judy couldn't go on. It wasn't to last. Betty began to earn a reputation, like Garland, for being difficult. She made outrageous demands that weren't met and walked out on her studio and contract. A short-lived television series followed and sporadic work in night clubs, but basically, Betty's showbiz career was over.

And with four husbands under her belt, I'm sure she was out to give Liz Taylor a run for her money. Her last marriage ended in divorce in 1967. She lived as a single woman for forty years.

Pure tragedy.

Or was it comedy? With the right lines and the right gags, Betty's own life could have been made into a hilarious biopic, ninety minutes of celluloid madness. But the tragedy couldn't really be avoided. So I suppose Betty's life would be nothing short of a comic tragedy. Greek or otherwise.

She should have been more accomodating and less star-struck. She would have been Hollywood's most sparkling diamond. Like Ronnie, she could have ended up as America's head of state. Now, wouldn't that have been fabulous?

It wasn't all bad, though, and I'm sure, reading between the lines of her heartbreaking life, she found some sense of happiness, some kind of joy. She died undefeated.

All the gays love a triumph over adversity story and Betty's was true to the genre. An icon becomes a gay icon when they're parodied or when drag queens adopt their names and/or bastardise them. Betty Hutton is a gay icon. The proof? Another Betty Hutton lives on in Glasgow.

Allow me to let you into a little secret, dear reader, first divulged to me by my delicious friend Peter some years ago...

Betty was up in court for giving a straight man a vicious beating after being the victim of some homophobic verbal abuse. The weapon? A stiletto.

In court, Betty was asked to provide his name.

"Betty Hutton," replied Betty.
"Your proper name!" bellowed the Judge.
"Elizabeth Hutton."

Sadly, I'm unable to find much on the internet about drag Betty other than a few mentions amidst piles of text. I would like to share with you though, my little maid, some Glaswegian drag queens in a list provided by Wikipedia. They include:

Rudolf Hess
William Wallace
Paul McCartney
Gary Numan

The world is an extraordinary place, my lamb.


Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Betty Hutton and Judy Garland, there is an exciting and popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. This week we are featuring an ultra rare audio track of Hutton's live performance of There's No Business Like Show Business that was recorded in 1975. The group also features hours of ultra rare and unreleased downloadable audio files by Judy, great photo’s, lively discussion, and more! The membership is the most ecletic gathering of Garland fans anywhere and includes Judy’s family members, friends, people who worked with her and saw her perform, directors and producers of Garland related projects, authors of Judy biographies, historians, and more! The only thing missing is you. Please stop by our little Judyville, and check it out, you may never want to leave!

Old Cheeser said...

Betty sounds like a force to be reckoned with. Personally I preferred Bette Davis! (Another iron lady but one whose career endured somewhat longer!)

Erm - very peculiar names for drag queens!!

Minge said...

All the Bets, Bettes and Bettys are fabulous. It must be something to do with the name.