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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 2085

Burma Taylor scrapbooks and drawings

Overview

Scrapbooks and drawings by drag performer, Burma Taylor.

Dates

  • circa 1945-1990

Creator

Condition Description

Most of the loose drawings currently in mylar or other plastic sleeves will need appropriate protection when removed.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Extent

.25 linear feet (2 boxes)

Scrapbooks and related drawings documenting the life and career of drag performer Burma Taylor (1929-2004), also known as BeBe Taylor, also known by his birth name, Gene “Gary” Garra. Collection includes approximately 440 photographs: color and black and white of family, lovers, and friends, some photos altered or collaged. With hundreds of reproduced glamour photographs, erotic illustrations, newspaper clippings, handbills, diffusion transfer prints (Polaroids), and drag ephemera, pasted into two scrapbooks, together with 34 drawings of gay erotic art by Taylor, loose. The scrapbooks include original artwork of and inspired by Hollywood film icons of the 1940s; science fiction and horror films; and the erotic art of Tom of Finland, George Quaintance, and others.

Biographical / Historical

Taylor was born Gene Frank “Gary” Garra to Italian immigrant parents, Frank and Rosie, who had arrived in New York in 1906. He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. One scrapbook shows a 1952 advertisement for an Upper West Side (New York) hair salon where Taylor worked. Around the same time, he began to perform in drag and became known for his belly-dancing and celebrity impersonations. Taylor played the lead, using the name BeBe Taylor, in “Guys will be Girls,” a drag show performed in the Catskills (N.Y.). In the late 1950s or early 1960s, Taylor appears to have ceased using the “Gary” identity. (From dealer's description)

Genealogical records suggest Gene Garra died in New York in 2004 and was buried in Potter’s Field, a public cemetery.

Arrangement

Scrapbook contents are not arranged.

Custodial History

Ownership of these materials prior to the library's purchase is unknown.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2021MT-14. Purchased from Graph Books with the Maryette Charlton Harvard Theatre Collection Fund, 2021 January 27.

Processing Information

This collection was processed to a basic level with minimal rehousing, organization, and preservation. (Melanie Wisner, 2021 February)

Creator

Title
Taylor, Burma. Burma Taylor scrapbooks and drawings, circa 1945-1990 (MS Thr 2085): Guide
Status
completed
Author
Houghton Library, Harvard University
Date
2021 February 5
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Language of description
und
EAD ID
hou03365

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Contact:
Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440