Who was/is Pat Valdelar (Patsy Valdalia) ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
Pat Valdelar (Patsy Valdalia)
Pat Valdelar, also known as Patsy Valdalia, was one of the most colorful entertainers in New Orleans for two decades. He was a wild, over-the-top gay man, who expressed that gayness as a cross-dressing female impersonator, primarily at the 'Dew Drop Inn.' Patsy was not a great singer, but he more than made up for it with his showmanship. He would start singing his theme song, Chubby Newsome's Hip Shakin' Mama, in the 'Dew Drop' kitchen and go out on stage to the song's suitably risque conclusion. Then he would tell jokes and introduce the acts for the evening.
According to Jeff Hannusch, who wrote the only full bio on Patsy in his book 'The Soul Of New Orleans' (based primarily on an interview with the singer by Jonathan Foose), he was born Irving Ale in 1921 in Vacherie, midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge – a sugarcane centered agricultural community where Fats Domino's family also came from. After his father died and his mother brought him to New Orleans, Irving grew up athletic and gay. When he saw his first female impersonators around the city, notably one named 'Caldonia,' he decided to follow that profession, naming himself after the sweet vidalia onion that was also slang for prostitutes.
After stints at the 'Gypsy Tea Room' in 1947 and at 'Club Desire' with a female impersonator group calling themselves the 'Valdalia Sisters,' Patsy took an offer from Frank Pania of the 'Dew Drop Inn' to join his club. There Patsy became a fixture for over a quarter of a century as the emcee, resident singer, waiter, bartender, and the host of the annual Halloween Gay Ball, featuring costume prizes for a host of estrogen-crazed, flaming female impersonators.
According to Earl King, when Patsy performed his piercing version of Big Bill Broonzy's Put Your Hand Over Your Heart, which he recorded for Mercury, he instructed the men in the 'Dew Drop's' audience to put their hand over their
crotch! Another gay performer, Atlanta's Billy Wright, who played the Dew Drop on occasion and had recorded Broonzy's song in 1950, no doubt inspired Patsy's version. Like Wright, Patsy also inspired a young Little Richard Penniman, who fondly remembered seeing him at the Dew Drop on many occasions. Rock Me is a hard-driving risque rocker with a couple of lines from Hip Shakin’ Mama. Unfortunately, the Mercury record bombed, but Patsy continued as the 'Toast of New Orleans' at the Dew Drop until the mid-1960s.
Thereafter Patsy took care of his mother, with his own health failing until his death in 1982. His last public appearance was at a Halloween Gay Ball at the Sportland club on Felicity Street in 1980, but his influence is still felt in New Orleans, where female impersonators (professional and otherwise) still abound, and where the 'Soul Queen Of New Orleans,' Irma Thomas rules. Irma, who was once a herself a nightclub waitress and also performed at the 'Dew Drop,'
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