Black Pearl

Meet Black Pearl! She’s a character from Blackmail, My Love who works at Finocchio’s circa 1951. You won’t be surprised to learn that she packs a small revolver inlaid with mother of pearl flowers… The first image is the print in progress, drawn on the linocut, but not yet carved, while the second is of the finished print.

Finocchio’s was an actual nightclub that opened in 1929 as a small bohemian cafe and speakeasy. Its owner’s real last name is Italian slang for “pouf” or “pansy,” and the “female illusionists” who performed there made it a world-renowned nightspot for decades. Hollywood stars like Tallulah Bankhead and Bette Davis flew in to see themselves impersonated. Finocchio’s and other “female impersonation” venues frequently included multi-racial casts at a time when the stages of other entertainment venues were racially segregated. A full history of Finocchio’s has yet to be written, but J.D. Doyle’s website, queermusicheritage.com, provides history, images, and memorabilia from Finocchio’s remarkable history. Unfortunately, Pearl would not have been able to leave work dressed as she was in my print; to minimize police harassment of the nightclub and to prove that they were “run[ning] the place straight,” the owners of Finocchio’s required that performers arrive for and leave from work in male attire. But in my imagination, she’s always this fabulously dressed…

Black Pearl 1

Black Pearl 2