An Interview with Tangarra; 10-26-1991
This interview was conducted on 10-26-1991 with Tangarra (John Minzer) as part of an lgbtq oral history project.
John Minzer, 95 who was known to generations of Western New York audiences as Tangarra, died on April 17, 2007. Tangarra was the last and possibly one of the best vestiges of the time when drag performers were a beloved part of any vaudeville or night club experience. In a 1998 Outcome interview, Tangarra described her first public performance in 1928 at the Erie County Fair as "Little Egypt". A booking agent arranged for a sixteen year old John Minzer to perform on the Ismailia Shrine Temple stage as "Little Egypt". "They made me up and then they put me in a black wig! I've never had black hair in my life! They gave me a veil that went from here to here (Tangarra indicated that it covered the face from just below the eyes to below her chin.) I wore a heavy gold belt around my waist with long flowing fabric hanging off of the belt." "I was pretty popular," Tangarra told Outcome that she was driven around the fairgrounds while in costume, greeting and meeting fairgoers and received many presents and applause.
Tangarra retired from performing in 1974 but did perform at the 1998 grand opening of what was then known as Secrets on Allen Street. (In the bar that is now known as Adonia's) Performing in a stunning 1940's era strapless chiffon gown, Tangarra regaled the audience with standards as well as a few risqué bawdy numbers that would have been considered double entendres in when they were first introduced. Songs about hot nuts and the size of a gentleman's diamonds thrilled the audience that was stunned to actually hear a drag performer sing the songs with their own voice to a live piano accompaniment. Tangarra described the era before cassettes and compact disc, "In my day, of course you had to sing. You had to dance and you had to be able to do jokes and patter with the comedians." Tangarra performed at a number of Buffalo night clubs, gay and straight including The Chanteuse on Genesee Street, Mulligan's Brick Bar, The Jamestown Grill and The Puritan. The Federal Gardens is where Tangarra last performed a regularly scheduled show from 1969 -1974. –excerpt from Outcome Buffalo, Legendary Drag Performer Tangarra Passes, 05-18-2007, http://www.outcomebuffalo.com/tangarra-5-18-075004.htm
The Madeline Davis LGBTQ Archive of Western New York
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Archives & Special Collections Department, E. H. Butler Library
"An Interview with Tangarra; 10-26-1991." LGBTQ Interviews, The Dr. Madeline Davis LGBTQ Archive of Western New York. Archives & Special Collections Department, E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State.