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La Michel: Drag Queen During the War, the Reconstruction and the Sexual Revoluti

by Vincent van der Kraan in General , 29 October 2004

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
length: 15 minuten

You reporter was fifteen years old when he was washing the car of his father together with a friend. Suddenly he was nudged and his friend said: “Look, that’s a fellow!” A comely lady walked by, in which your reporter as greenhorn, in no way recognised a man. So, a heavy “it is, it isn’t” conflict was held with the friend, though the seed was planted.

Every time this extravagant lady past the parental home on the Amstel in Amsterdam, she was followed by my eyes in a conspicuous way, which she was well aware of. One time she asked me if I wouldn’t like to come over for a cup of tea. As a starting homosexual this was of course extremely exciting for me, and breathless I listened to her story how she would have herself fucked by heterosexual man on a daily base; without them having any clue. Since that meeting I saw La Michel, as she called herself, regularly around Rembrandtsplein in an enormous sports Jaguar, sometimes in the company of her friend Thea, who had a same kind of Jaguar.

As a young boy I was very proud when La Michel tuned down the window and was extensively greeting me with a “Hi sweaty how are you? Kiss!” while man around me looked at me in an envious way. Forty years later I visited her again to look back on her turbulent live; the live of one of the most famous Dutch transvestites of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Her life has been so full of events, that we had to cut the interview in two parts. So, next month you can read more about the adventures of one of Holland's most talked-about drag queens.

Michel, where did your first escapades take place?

“I was born in Oudewater in 1933. I was seven when the war started. As a young boy I was already giving blowjobs to German soldiers. In 1943 a soldier was quartered in our home. He used to sleep with me in my bed. It was very exciting for me, riding him while he was asleep. I could feel his cock getting hard. In those days everybody was occupied with eroticism. It was never mentioned but it was practiced even more. We were hungry and the whole day you were occupied with getting some food. I stole bread, eggs, cigarettes. In those days everybody was stealing, it was common.

Because of the bombings you knew that every day could be your last day and you were looking for warmth among each other. How many German soldiers I have given blowjobs... They didn’t know about each other, but in the pig style, in the tilt-cart, the hay barn, I have been having a lot of sex.

As young as I was, it was always to get something in return; at that time already there was a bit of a whore in me. I always did it for something, cigarettes, cake, a plate of semolina, what I than used to take over to my mother to keep her alive. When she asked me in the name of God how I’d got it, I always said it was given to me. Some gossip women in the village, like Maartje Bacon, Fat Pie and Skinny Kee knew exactly what I was up to.

Every time I also had to give them something as well, otherwise they would tell my parents, so they threatened me. I was seven-years-old when the war started, so I don’t have any school at all. I was a kid that rubbed along and had very much difficulty to be in harness after the war. I had sex with all the boys in the neighborhood. When I was in the age from twelve to fifteen I was involved with every scandal in Oudewater.

A baker, who brought the bread to our place, was in love with me and messed around with me once in a while. My brother Jan found out about it and informed the police. That’s why he ended up in prison one time. In those days I considered it to be all exciting, although I was in love with the baker's boy. I used to follow him on my bicycle. If I would give him a mouth organ, he was willing to do it completely naked.

When I was thirteen-year-old I was fucked for the first time by a boy who was eighteen, Frans was his name, and it happened outside. The next day Frans said: 'I’ve made you pregnant.' I was completely in panic and thought: Oh God, now I'll have a baby! My belly strained because of my nerves, which was a sign to me that there was indeed something in my belly.

After a week I told my mother that I was pregnant after which she ran to the doctor immediately. This one tactfully showed my mother out of the surgery and gave me sexual education in a terrific way. He told my mother that I was a homosexual and prescribed me valerian drops for my nerves. My strict orthodox Calvinist mother didn’t know the meaning of the word homosexual and thought that there was something wrong with my nerves and that my homosexuality would be cured by the use of the valerian drops which she got me.

My mother was a sweetheart actually, my brother Jan and my two oldest sisters wanted me to be put away in an institute, but she always strongly resisted this. Even my father didn’t want that to happen. I never forgave my brother for his behavior, as a child I felt so deeply insulted, that he had reported me to the police and that he wanted to put me away in an institute.”

When was the first time you dressed up in women’s clothing?

“That was in 1944, when I was age twelve, for friends in the attic in dresses of my mum. I used to sing-along with songs of Zarah Leander while I turned her Bakelite records at an old gramophone player. In those days it was quite unusual for a twelve-year-old lad to know the lyrics of a German song by heart. “Kann den Liebe Sünde sein?” to the annoyance of my Calvinist father, and “Ich stehe im Regen und warte auf Dich.” With this last song I always used to point to a young boy, who didn’t understand the meaning of the words, but nevertheless I ended up with him in the pig style later.

In those days I had long hair and looked like a girl. In those days the young boys considered it to be normal that I was wearing women’s clothing. I had the title of artist and than it's quite normal.”

“My father, however, started to become more suspicious; and one day he found a small note which a young boy had written to me. There was written something like: 'Are we going to lay each other again tonight? Kees!' My father was furious and shouted that it was a sin to God. That night I was read out of the bible by my father from the chapter: Men which are fornicating men are an abomination in the eyes of God and deserve to die.

During the reading I was looked at in a strict way. That was quite impressing to me. But there was a war going on which had a demoralizing effect. Nothing was mentioned by its name, although sex took place everywhere. The baker was arrested for fornication with underage boys.

After the war fifteen boys had to show up at the police station and all fifteen declared they had had sex with me. They couldn’t press charges against me because I was only fourteen years old and therefore the article in the law 248bis, which read: 'The one who is of age and who is practicing fornication with an underage of the same sex can be punished with a detention for a maximum period of four years,' wasn’t coming in for me. Of age, you were when you were twenty-one years old in those days. I did become a reputation all over. When I was fifteen years old I already had been involved in so many scandals that they caused big problems with my parents and the local police.”

How did you respond to that situation?

“I ran away from home and ended up with a gypsy friend in the caravan camp. For his parents, which were as poor as church-mice, I stole bread and all kinds of things which would keep them alive. They adored me. At a certain moment the father got a position at Circus Strassburger and he asked me to become a stableman. Very soon I was also involved with the show. I was allowed to dress up in very beautiful satin clothing and I was rope-skipping on the back of a huge broad horse. At night I was selling photographs of the artists to the audience.

Two years later, during a show in Utrecht, I met this loaded man from The Hague who took me with him. He lived in a very chic neighborhood called Frankenslag. I was seventeen-years-old and everything had to be done very secretly because of the law which still didn’t allow homosexual contacts under the age of twenty-one. It took until 1971 before art. 248bis was erased. The only place where we could do our things undisturbed was in his bungalow at the lakes of Reewijk. We lived together for five years, then he died.”

“In those days I met this nightclub dancer called Anita. At her place I was allowed to put on her costumes; and at a sudden moment I thought: What you can do, I can do too. I was committed at nightclub 'The Old Dutch' at Herengracht; later also at 'Étoile.' Together with Anita I went to many luxurious private parties in The Hague. In those days these were still taking place, with many people from embassies and people of the diplomatic corps. I was starting to behave more and more extravagantly. One night I was wearing this enormous wide dress, so I didn’t fit into the cab anymore.

I had a friend in the house moving business, so we let a moving van run up into the driveway al the way to the flight of steps. At the side of the van was written something like: If you want to be careful with your bed, call the firm Brandt. This was hilarity enough for me already. When the platform opened there was a stepladder placed and to the laughter of all the guests’, I appeared as Marie Antoinette in a dress of two meters wide, and I climbed elegantly upon the flight of steps.

At the entrance I was announced by the countess of Limburg Stirum and she called out: 'Mesdames, messieurs: LÁ Michel!'

At that moment, without realizing it, she baptized me with the artists name I would use for the rest of my career. A kind of drunken affected mister asked me where my family weapon was. “'

Between my legs!' I answered coquettishly. To the English ambassador I had to whisper dirty talk into his ear, in the hallway by the toilet, from behind my ostrich fan; after three words I was already out of my dirty English vocabulary.

Those Fifties parties of the crème de la crème of The Hague were very frivolous.

At those parties the chic was mixed with the gay scene. Many famous queers from those days were present, like Mona and Willie of Leiden; they provided the necessary verve to these parties.”

“I performed every evening in 'The Old Dutch' and was also asked all over the country. At a sudden moment I signed a contract with 'Moulin Rouge', which was in those days the most famous nightclub at Thorbeckeplein in Amsterdam. Some time later the police forbade me to do this; they would shut down the place otherwise.

In those days a drag queen was seen as a person who with false pretenses was acting up as a person of the opposite sex, to deceive innocent heterosexual men, which was considered to be a crime. The police would never have found out, if it wasn’t for some jealous heterosexual colleagues, who had grassed on me with the law. I was throwing money around, bought expensive boas of ostrich feathers and yes, that does raise jealousy.”

“In the beginning of the sixties the first drag cabaret 'Madame Arthur' was opened in Korte Leidsedwarsstraat. Because I was no longer allowed to perform by the police, I had to look for another job and started to work as a prostitute. Every night I was working off about ten immigrant workers. They answered to my libido. For me they were the Song of Solomon, which I’ve always considered to be pure evangelic porn and I was even making money with it.”

How was your love life?

“In those days I got acquainted with Bob Angelo, which was an alias from the war, because actually his name was Niek Engelschman. He was founder and for years the chairman of the COC (The Dutch Organization for Promotion of Homosexual Interests) as continuation of the first and pre-war gay club of the Netherlands, called the Shakespeare Club, housed in a side street of Damrak. However, I was thrown out of the COC. When they would find out that you were a prostitute they would throw you out.

Later I would be performing at the same COC as La Michel! Just before they threw me out I got acquainted with a bisexual businessman who was living at the Apollolaan.

He gave me a Jaguar as a present. I drove it out of the garage without a drivers licence. A few years later I would end up in the water with that same Jaguar.

We had gone out in Antwerp with two other transvestites and on our way back we ended up in a ditch near Lexmond, in the fog. Well, you can imagine the situation.

There were three screaming drag queens with their wigs half upon their heads, in torn dresses at a small country road at six o'clock in the morning.

A farmer came by on his tractor and really believed he was dealing with three ladies. With a haystack our dresses were fished out of the water.”

“Afterwards I bought a Jaguar Sport. In those days I got acquainted with Thea. She also had a Jaguar Sport. With our two Jaguars we turned Rembrandtsplein upside down. For five years I was thrown together a lot with her. We had a platonic relationship and we used to hide in each others beds during thunderstorms. During high days I was performing at 'Madame Arthur,' the drag cabaret at Leidseplein. I, however, made more money with whoring: in one day I made as much as I made with one week of performing.”

How did you do it with heterosexual men, didn’t they notice anything?

“In the beginning I didn’t dare to explain men that I was a woman with a minor mistake, as I used to call it. During the intercourse I used to hold my hand in front of my dick. Because of the nerves I couldn’t get a hard-on anyway, and I fooled the men by telling them that I liked to masturbate myself during intercourse. They fucked me between my legs and never noticed anything.

Once a guy wanted to eat my pussy; he wasn’t aware that he was actually licking my balls. While doing it, by accident my dick ended up in his mouth for a moment. Afterwards he asked me: 'What was it in my mouth...?' 'Oh, that was my finger, darling!,' I answered. And he believed me.”

“One night I met a big tough construction worker. A beautiful fellow and I had doubts if I dared to. Would he force my hand away and than discover what I really was? I felt so excited about him, that I took the chance. I asked seventy-five guilders and we fixed the price at one hundred guilders, because he wanted also ‘extra’. I undressed myself completely and was able to walk as a real woman while hiding my dick backwards between my legs. He looked at me and said: 'Let’s forget it; damn, you also had an operation' 'How do you mean,' I asked. 'I’m looking for a dick,' he answered. 'Well honey, have a look here, I've got a surprise for you.' It became a delightful night.”

“At a sudden point sex seemed to be more and more like a match of Judo. That’s why I started telling that I was a woman with a minor mistake, and then I pointed out the size like a fisher does after his last big catch. It didn’t seem to matter; I still could have loads of men. There were even men who offered me two hundred guilders, which would be five hundred euro now, just to sit next to me in the Jaguar for driving only a circle around Rembrandtsplein. They were already waiting for me at Caransa’s on the corner. I was a chic woman. For instance, I didn’t talk about blowjobs, but about a ‘mouth massage’.”

What was the biggest thing you ever got a kick out of?

“It was the unbridled self gratifying and to chat-up heterosexual men. It feels like you take an examination: will I pass... will he go for it? I first used to take a good look at the customer to decide if I would tell him, which I already got a kick out of. Will he accept it and put up with the cock or is he going to be angry. I was a challenger, a gambler. I’m a narcissistic theatrical figure. I didn’t know the value of money; I was throwing it around as if it was water. I once gut strangled and just survived in the nick of time.

I never thought about the future and the need to save up a little. You’re so full of self-confidence. Every night you used to think: Well, tomorrow you will earn the same amount again. You have a war feeling, every time a new conquest. How many men did I have..., Germany could almost have won the war with those numbers...”



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