De Alba on Emerson 

By Entertainer David de Alba*


David de Alba 
 & Jimmy Emerson

  The first time I saw Jimmy Emerson perform was in 1998 where he was the Star and emcee of "The Unboylievable Follies" at the Riverside Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.   I was impressed not only with his risquť comedy patter, but with the fact that he sang live, and very well at that.   The next time I saw him was in June of 2000 in the "La Cage Revue" at the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas, where he revealed another facet of his comedic talent through the art of pantomime.   As one of the few legendary figures in the female impersonation field, it is a great privilege for me to introduce to you out there in Cyberspace, Mr. Jimmy Emerson!


Jimmy Emerson 
 in Costume

David:  Jimmy dear, can you remember when you did your first professional theatrical gig?

Jimmy:  If you mean my first "paid" performance then that would be at a gay club in Beaumont, Texas.   I was paid $25.00.   In those days I was known as "Roxie Starr" and did comedy routines and would usually M.C. the show and introduce the other performers.   However, I consider my first professional performance to have been in Breck Wallís famous comedy revue show "Bottomís Up".   I had seen the show in Houston, Texas and loved it!   In 1984 I auditioned for the show and Breck hired me instantly.   He was putting a touring company together and hired me as the LEAD!   This was not a drag show, but a comedy revue show, similar to "Saturday Night Live".   I was paid $750.00 a week.

David:  Do you find a difference in female impersonating when you first started in "The Biz" compared to now?

Jimmy:  There are some differences.   The emphasis on "look-a-likes" is greater now than it was in the past.   I contribute that to the success of "La Cage".   In my day, you just had to be a personality.   Almost everyone had a "drag name".

David:  Did anyone show you the ropes into the Drag Showbiz World or was there someone that inspired you to get into such a profession?

Jimmy:  I think almost everyone has a "Drag Mother"; mine was my best friend in school.   We became friends when I was only 13 years old.   He was the funniest person I had ever met and we were dear friends.   He was 6 years older than me, but we spent almost every day after school together.   Back then we didnít think in terms of "gay" but in terms of theatre.   We would write comedy routines, skits, and make up funny songs.   He eventually moved on and became the fabulous "Monica Kristie" of Beaumont fame.   He was the first person to put in makeup and hair, and the rest as they say, is history.

David:  If a newcomer wanted to become a good female impersonator (assuming the talent was there in the first place), are there any helpful hints you could offer him?

Jimmy:  Yes, DONíT DO IT!   I wish I was kidding, but if someone is dead set on becoming a professional female impersonator they should be prepared for a very hard road.   This is a competitive business - even more so than Broadway.   Good looks and talent are not always enough, you need connections, people skills, and a personality that sparkles!   Also you need a good hairdresser!   DO NOT go out in public in bad hair.

David:  Do you have a preferred lady character you do on stage that you would like to be identified with by your fans?

Jimmy Emerson 
 as Roseane

Jimmy:  As you know, I impersonate Roseane (Barr) and that is the only woman that I actually look like.   However, I wish that the brilliant Totie Fields had not passed away so early in her career.   I identify with her the best.

David:  Other than the live stage, have you appeared in any other medium in the theatrical arts?

Jimmy:  I was "man # 4" in the movie "Wise Guys".   My movie career just didnít take off.   I did a K-mart commercial in 1988 that ran for two seasons.   I did a Dr. Pepper commercial, but never saw it.

David:  Is there any place in the U.S. or abroad where you have performed in which you have fond memories?

Jimmy:  Actually, I have had the chance to travel many places and almost always something happens that stays with me.   (Once I worked at the "Club Foot" in Saskatoon, WI.)   Most recently, La Cage was booked in London, England.   We had the time of our lives!   Seeing the city and the countryside was wonderful, but the best part was the cast.   Most of us were friends already, but the chemistry was incredible!   I donít remember laughing and sharing so many memories.   Over the years, I have come to realize that no matter how good (or bad) the show is, the main thing is the people you are working with.   We all become family and truly care about each other.   I wouldnít trade my friendship with my fellow performers for anything!

David:  If you had the chance to live your life over, do you think you would choose to be a performer again?

Jimmy:  Absolutely.

David:  If you were to weigh the happy moments you have had in your life against the sad ones, which would tip the balance?

Jimmy:  By far, I am the luckiest person on the planet!   We all have bad times and sad times, but my good times and good fortunes FAR out weigh the bad.   I thank God everyday for blessing me with a loving family and extremely good friends.

David:  Is there anything about Jimmy Emerson most people donít know about that you would care to reveal?

Jimmy:  Yes.   Iím a top.

David:  Do you have any goals in your life or career that you have not achieved as of yet?

Jimmy:  I have always dreamed of doing a Broadway show.   I studied theater and acting and feel that you have not really "arrived" until you do something "legitimate".   Putting on dresses and performing has really only been an outlet for me to perform and make money.   Perhaps I have cheated myself by just taking the jobs that have come along to pay my bills.  Jimmy Emerson 
 as himself Life takes you in strange directions sometimes.   Because of my extensive female impersonation career, many opportunities have come to me.   For instance, I have started my own company, "Starr Pro Productions".   This has given me the chance to help other up-and-coming performers have a chance to work, and has allowed me to become a director and producer.

David:  Do you have any unusual hobbies or interest that you enjoy when youíre not performing on stage?

Jimmy:  Donít know how "unusual" they are, but I love to cook, socialize with friends, entertain in my home, swim, jet ski, and drink copious amounts of vodka!


David, thank you so much for this interview, I found the questions direct and honest.   You are a very dedicated performer and friend!    Jimmy Emerson.

You can contact Jimmy Emerson at  Starrpro@aol.com

Check out his Theatrical Web site at  www.liveatlacage.com

Editor's note:  Many years ago when I first conducted this interview on Jimmy Emerson he was part of Frank Marino's La Cage Revue.   Now in March of 2012 he is the Star of the new La Cage Revue at The Riviera Casino in Las Vegas.   Congratulations Jimmy!


* Cuban/American entertainer David de Alba (also known as "Heri, Hairstylist of the Stars") is known for his live singing impressions as a concert artist since 1965.   He has worked at the world famous Finocchio Club of San Francisco (USA) for many years.   Visit the award winning Web Site "David de Albaís Theatrical Arts & Tributes" at  http://david-de-alba.com and you can e-mail him c/o  paulryner@cox.net