In the late 1990’s Key West, like Las Vegas, was a vacation destination for the type of tourist who indulged in a state of temporary debauchery by affirming “What happens in Key West, stays in Key West.” Here, the rules of society were suspended in favor of fantasy making it a female impersonator’s paradise.
Sandy Bottoms was the captivating creation of Larry Finegold. Larry, having been raised in the Midwest where the rules were well defined and always in play, made his first trip to Key West after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Fine Arts degree and, not counting a quick trip back home to collect his belongings, never left again.
Naturally gravitating to the stage, Larry began rehearsing a routine for a female persona he became deeply attached to. She was a brassy blonde he named Sandy Bottoms. He honed his lip syncing skills and dance steps to sultry perfection, and having a solid falsetto, he actually sang some of the vocals himself. When Sandy was ready for her debut, Larry soon discovered the business was highly competitive and the old queens who’d been sashaying up and down Duvall Street for decades wanted no part of giving a leg up to the younger competition. But envy aside, they could already see Sandy Bottoms was on her way, she was going to cement her place in drag queen history one way or another — with or without their help.
Larry Finegold worked hard on his act and in the process became obsessed with making Sandy Bottoms as real to the world as she had become to him. Naturally, he wanted authentic breasts so he began estrogen injections. As the weeks passed, Larry would stand at the full length mirror in his tiny bedroom turning this way and that marveling at the mysterious shadow of cleavage deepening between his nipples as his flat chest began to plump up inside the bra’s shallow cups.
Larry spent obscene amounts of money on a battery of brassieres for his shows. His closet and drawers were crammed with the strapless, the lacy, the sequined, the whimsical and the downright raunchy ones with nipple cutouts he’d purchased from Fredrick’s of Hollywood.
A gender-bender, essentially a stretchy sling shot which looks a bit like a hammock, is meant to pull a female impersonator’s genitals behind him in a way that makes them less obvious. If worn correctly, this device effectively allows an audience to convince themselves the impersonator is indeed a woman. Needless to say, this is probably the most important piece of wardrobe attire a female impersonator should own, but Larry skimped on it, preferring to buy bras instead. Finally, he did acquire the cheapest one he could find, treating it like an afterthought, as though he’d totally forgotten he still had a penis.
Unfortunately, Larry discounted what could happen if that forgotten penis involuntarily escaped confinement at the wrong time and place, and how it would be of disastrous consequence for Sandy Bottoms and Larry Finegold, if it did.
It was a raucous Saturday night at Club La Bella Boi. It was Spring Break 1995. The show was going well. The headliner, Sandy Bottoms, had packed the place full of oblivious, horny, drunk college boys (and girls) willing to eat right out of the palm of her slender hand. This was a dangerous time of year for a good female impersonator, because the crowds were largely comprised of little more than inebriated kids roaming from bar to bar without registering the sort of entertainment they would be exposed to.
Howling and whistling, they pushed toward the stage like a pack of hungry pups clamoring to tuck dollar bills into her bra or the waistband of her bikini bottoms. Both locales were moving targets as the pounding beat of electronic dance music created a writhing tribal tableau in the strobing stage lights. Sandy danced and flirted with pure bravado, winking, pouting, then blowing kisses toward one young man in particular who swayed in glassy-eyed adoration as he enjoyed a moment of Sandy’s singular attention.
Aroused and giddy with adrenaline, Sandy gyrated closer to the corner of the stage where the young man beckoned, waving a ten dollar bill in the air. She thrust her pelvis toward him seductively to receive the tip and that’s when reality collided with fantasy.
The long neglected gender-bender gave way and her bikini bottoms immediately bulked up with the undeniable evidence of Larry’s reality.
The young man first recoiled while jerking back the extended bill, then he regained a vicious composure in front of his buddies who had begun laughing and pointing. Blindly, he threw a punch that connected with Sandy Bottom’s knee cap. The pain and shock of it alerted Larry to the very dangerous situation he’d found himself and he moved to get Sandy safely off the stage.
Disoriented, Sandy looked down at the offending groin as if it belonged to someone else. On six inch platform heels, she tottered backward from the edge of the stage and disappeared behind the curtain amid a jeering mob while Donna Summer finished “The Last Dance” without her.
The club manager discretely followed Larry to his dressing room, punched his head through the extra thick curtain hung for privacy and said, “You know the rules. Never let ’em see you’re junk. You’re fired, kid. Get your things and clear out.”
It was that simple. Sandy Bottoms was finished.
Still wearing the sequined bra and bikini, Larry pulled on sweat pants and a t-shirt and gathered his make-up, wigs, and several bras from his wardrobe closet. He shoved everything into a duffle bag and slipped out the back door into the alley where the previously enamored, and now, quite belligerent young man waited.
The newspaper report was shamefully brief. The headline read, “Female Impersonator Found Dead”. The Chamber of Commerce hoped the story would quickly fade. No suspect was ever charged in the murder of Larry Finegold. When Larry Finegold’s parents came from Minnesota to collect his body, they swore Larry had only been doing standup comedy; however, they found nothing funny about Sandy Bottoms, whom they believed had actually been the one to murder their son. They sold Larry’s entire estate, which included and extensive show wardrobe with a total of one hundred and fifty fancy bras and a dozen wigs, in their spring yard sale the following year.
©Sandy Knight, 2019, All Rights Reserved
Originally published by The Weekly Knob