Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nanny and the Drag Queen


 My Godmother had a wonderful way with people. She believed that personality and actions are what makes a person, not what is on the outside. Nanny went out of her way to be kind to everyone she met, and once she met someone she treated them as a friend, unless they proved otherwise. 

In the early 1950’s Nanny got a job at F.W. Woolworth on Canal Street in New Orleans. Back then most of the merchandise was behind counters and customers had to be helped by a sales person if they wanted to try on shoes, bra’s, slips or dresses. There was a real hierarchy among the workers and many thought they were too good to wait on black customers or “crackers” (poor white people). 

One day a male “Drag Queen” who worked at a nightclub in the French Quarter came in and asked to try on ladies shoes. The other sales clerks turned up their noses and refused to help him.  Nanny was the only one who would wait on him. She helped him pick out shoes, and then walked him to the other ladies departments for makeup, undergarments and several complete outfits.

The Drag Queen left ecstatic and soon spread the word to his fellow performers about his favorite sales clerk. One thing about cross dressers, they spend lots of money on their wardrobes. Nanny soon had a steady stream of customers and was the highest performing sales clerk. 

Eventually Nanny and was promoted to floor supervisor and was able to help my mother “Beanie” get an internship at Woolworth in 1963. I think of Nan often and try to follow her example whenever I meet someone who is “different”. . .

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