Today in Texas History – August 5

From the Annals of Cross-Dressing –  In 1973, Vander Clyde, known to the world as Barbette, died in his home town of Round Rock.  Clyde was famous for his high-wire and trapeze act in which he dressed as a woman, performed incredible stunts and then removed his wig and flexed muscles at the end to show that he was actually a man.  Clyde was apparently enamored of the circus from his first visit to one in Austin.  He immediately began training to walk the tight rope on his mother’s closeline.  After graduating from high school at 14, he joined a circus act called the Alfaretta Sisters on the condition that he dress as a girl. After a few years of circus work, Barbette went solo and adopted the stage name Barbette. Although popular in the U.S., Barbette gained his greatest fame in Europe and particularly in Paris where he was championed by Jean Cocteau. He was forced to retire from performong after a bout of pneumonia left him unable to perform, but continued to work training circus acts for many years.

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