American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2010 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 34

Karyl Norman

1896 — 1947

The 1910 and 1920s were the heyday of male and female impersonators. Karyl Norman, younger than Julian Eltinge and other men who impersonated women in vaudeville, billed himself as the “Creole Fashion-plate” and was indeed a glamorous presence on the stage. He sometimes did a double act of sorts, playing female roles and singing in a womanly voice and switching quickly to a male role and singing baritone.

The collapse of vaudeville and the harshness of a growing Depression dispelled some of the frivolity of previous decades. Blue laws were introduced that made female impersonation against the law. The female impersonators like Eltinge and Norman retreated into the shadows of underground clubs. Little is known of Karyl Norman’s later years, but he seems to have entertained in the clubs of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Florida.