Dina’s Diner — October 23, 2017

| Oct 23, 2017

THE COAST IS CLEAR

The Admiral & his wife Fran.

When President Trump made his cryptic comment about “the calm before the storm” he was being photographed with a large group of military brass and their spouses. The date was October 5, 2017. Despite the President’s sour note, the military couples seemed to be enjoying their audience with the commander-in-chief.

As is often the case in a group photo, one person always seems to stand out in the crowd. In this case (for me, at least) that singular person was a tall woman in a blue evening gown to Trump’s left in the photo. A little internet sleuthing (the attendees weren’t identified in the photo), and I discovered that the tall, attractive and photogenic woman was Fran DeNinno, the wife of U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft.

Admiral Zukunft, I also found out, was one of the military commanders who defended transgender members of their service after Trump sent an August tweet about restricting transgender service members. Admiral Zukunft told The New York Times shortly after Trump’s tweet, “that he would continue to support transgender troops under his command, despite Twitter posts by the President [and] his office had reached out to the 13 Coast Guard members who self-identify as transgender after seeing the president’s tweets. “That is the commitment to our people right now,” Admiral Zukunft said. “Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work today.”

Fran DeNinno, who still uses her maiden name, provided some brief biographical information to a Coast Guard publication. “I came from a family that didn’t have any money really to speak of,” she said. “We worked hard. They worked hard to raise us. So, I didn’t get raised with all the money and social things. I had to learn everything the hard way. It’s good because it makes me explore more. It makes me always wanting to learn. It makes me realize that we’re all the same. Whether we have a rank or whether we don’t have a rank. Whether we are a spouse, a child, whatever it is. That we’re all the same.” Here we have a husband and wife both talking separately of equality and simple human respect for all people.

Somehow, you know just by looking at some people that they have a good heart to match a winning smile and a statuesque figure. I didn’t know anything about Admiral Zukunft or his lovely wife before that photo showed up. But I wish both of them all the best in their lives and careers.

THE KEDS ARE ALRIGHT

Love your sneakers.

I was in a college building recently and they had part of the hall decorated with group photos of fraternity and sorority members from decades past. A couple of the sorority house photos were from 1993. Not that long ago, really, but it showed a glaring difference in the sisters of yore and their present residents.

In the 1993 photos, almost all of the girls were wearing normal sneakers. There were a few boat shoes and one girl in normal leather sandals but no girls in flip flops. No wonder some people think of the Clinton years as good times.

I don’t know when the flip flop and its variants came to dominance but it must have been sometime later in the 1990s or even 2000s. I’m not a fan. It’s disheartening enough to see pretty girls constantly in flip flops and shower slippers (those Nike athletic sandals are stone ugly) but it’s particularly nauseating to see even middle aged and senior men flipping and flopping their size 11s and 12s in public view.

Ah, 1993, with all those pretty college girls keeping their tootsies safe and sound (and clean) in normal canvas sneakers. Here’s looking at you, Ked.

THE VENERABLE ARTISTES

The New York Times Arts section had a joint interview with veteran drag performers Charles Busch and John Epperson in the October 17, 2017 edition. The piece was headlined, “First Frenemies, Then Friends.” Charles Busch is perhaps better known of the two because he has starred in his own stage plays and films in female roles. Mr. Epperson is better known as Lypsinka in which guise he has performed in cabaret acts and staged productions since the early 1980s.

Lypsinka (L) and Charles Busch.

The Times interview explored how two drag artistes (neither appreciates the term “drag queen”) who emerged in New York City at about the same time over thirty years ago became friends, then rivals, and now friends again. Charles is now appearing in the mainstream cabaret venue Feinstein’s in Manhattan and John is hosting the Museum of Modern Art’s cinema series (with Russ Meyer’s campy Beyond the Valley of the Dolls leading off).

Both of them came at drag as a theatrical tool rather than simply a means to a paycheck. Charles is an actor and a playwright who puts his female characters in the middle of those overwrought soap-opera-ish plots that were popular in the 1950s (like his Die, Mommy, Die and Hollywood Confidential). Epperson as Lypsinka also meticulously produced performances like the crazily titled As I Lay Lip-Synching rather than just doing a simple nightclub routine. As Charles Busch told The Times, when he saw Epperson perform for the first time, “It was like I had seen the face of God. I got everything he was doing — this whole kind of showbiz lady 1959.”

I remember talking to a friend a long time ago when RuPaul was first becoming popular. I thought it was interesting that RuPaul (and I could have added Charles Busch and Lypsinka had I thought of it) took a unique approach to their use of drag to transcend and circumvent the usual dead end of just being a drag queen or gay icon. It takes a committed artist with a singular and single-minded vision to break out of the routine career path of most drag performers.

Charles and John talked about the early 1980s in New York when they were starting out and the AIDS crisis was in full terror. They said that the gay community seemed to gravitate to entertainment like drag shows as a substitute or an escape from the freely sexual lifestyle many had adopted. “Instead of going to an orgy, they’d go to a drag show” Charles told The Times. He also said, “It really did feel like we were performing in a U.S.O. show — to entertain this desperately frightened community.”

Both men addressed the idea of getting older. It seemed fitting to them that they rekindled their friendship at this time in their lives. Charles referenced his play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and said they were like the two vampires who finally outlived everyone else. I hope they still have plenty of life and artistry to give us.

DO THESE SHORTS MAKE MY ASS LOOK FAT?

First: the answer. Yes. After all, that was the point of the video I saw circulating on the internet recently wherein a young woman with a very voluptuous backside was squeezed into a very small pair of gym shorts. In the YouTube video, the young lady walked around a London park in an innocent fashion while half of her derriere was exposed by the too-tiny shorts. The video captures the reactions of other people to the cheeky display.

I did a quick Google search for “tiny shorts” and found a bunch of photos of women wearing scandalously small shorts. I guess it’s a thing. I’ve written before about seeing a resurgence of short-shorts on young women in the past couple summers. And I like it. A lot.

The tiny shorts video reminded me of a pictorial feature in one of the second-line men’s magazines — I think it was Gent — in the 1980s or ’90s. They would photograph busty models wearing brassieres that were just too darn small for them. The result was a voluminous spill of glorious breast tissue above and around the over-stressed brassiere material. I don’t know who came up with that idea but they should get a Nobel prize or something because that was pure genius.

Crossdressers are usually trying to find feminine items that are big and roomy enough to accommodate our larger frames. It doesn’t seem fair that genetic women can also look fabulous when they are squeezed into items that are purposely too small for them. But if it was that easy to look good en femme would it be as much fun?

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Category: Fun & Entertainment, Opinion

About Dina Amberle: I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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