De Alba on Raymond 

By Entertainer David de Alba*

  It is indeed becoming rare to find an impressionist who works 'live' as in the old days when we were entertained by legendary performers like Charles Pierce, T. C. Jones, Lucian, and Craig Russell, to just name a few.   Versatile Ron Raymond breathes life in his characterization of such Hollywood Legends as Carol Channing, Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, Lily Tomlin, Bette Davis, and others, and he is the only one I know who actually does an impersonation of another impersonator, the hilarious Australian, Dame Edna Everage a.k.a. Barry Humphries.   It is a great pleasure for me to interview this talented man.   To my Cyberspace fans I bring to you from the Jewel Box Revue at The Royal Cabaña Casino on the lovely island of Aruba, the man with many faces, Mr. Ron Raymond!

Ron Raymond as 
 Dame Edna EverageRon Raymond, 1986

David:  Ron dear, where were you born and where have you lived most of your life?

Ron:  I was born in Omaha, Nebraska but raised in a small farming town in Iowa by my grandparents from l4 months to about 13.   From there I moved to a Boys and Girls Home in Sioux City, Iowa where I was placed from one foster home to another with little success until about l5 when I found the perfect home with Bob and Marilyn Brown and their two children.   After graduation I moved to Waterloo, Iowa and taught dance for a year, and then on to Des Moines, Iowa, then to Omaha, Nebraska, and then to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Sarasota, Florida and back to Minneapolis, and then to Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Hollywood, Las Vegas, back to Hollywood, and then back to Vegas, which is kind of my home base since I have been here in Aruba for almost 9 years.   Oh yes, there was the 3 months in Japan right before coming to Aruba.   Sounds like I just couldn't hold down a job, huh?   Well, this is all because of being an entertainer and as we all know, we have to go where the work is.   So it's a lot of sacrifice, but in many ways well worth it.

David:  Who got you interested in becoming a female impressionist? Were you influenced by some type of mentor or even an old fashioned "drag mother"?

Ron:  My first experience at seeing a female impersonator was in Omaha way back in l971.   I was so impressed with a troup from California doing a road show, but mainly by a man named Billy Carrol.   He performed Carol Channing 'live' and I just assumed that one had to be 'live' to be in the business.   I found out a few years later that I could use records but my first performance was 'live' in Minneapolis, in '72 at a club called The Sand Box.   They had a piano bar and this gentleman played all my favorite music, broadway, movie musicals, and such, that one night I started singing at my table with friends as Carol Channing.   Well, the room got quiet and the piano played on and it's been playing ever since.   Thank you Uncle Wally....

Yes, I could say I had a drag mother or mentor and that was a drag comic named Dee Thomas.   He worked in all the strip joints on Hennipen Ave, (girl strippers).   I admired his sense of timing and how he could control a rowdy crowd with comedy.   That's what I wanted to do.   Well, he just wouldn't give me the time of day when I tried to talk to him until he heard me singing in The Sand Box, which, surprise!, he owned and managed.   Fate was in my future.   We became the best of friends and he hired me to perform at his club on weekends.   Then we had to go six nights a week and I quit teaching to put all my energy in the club.   Eventually we had to open at a larger location called The Cabaret.   I shouldn't bore you with details but I haven't told anyone of my beginning in years, (and I do mean YEARS!!).

David:  Who were your lady movie heroins? Did you have one particular one that you idolize (as in my case with Judy Garland)?

Ron Raymond 
 as Judy Garland

Ron:  My favorite women in the business were Lucille Ball after I love Lucy, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing and believe it or not, Miss Kitty from Gun Smoke.   Loved her...   Carol kind of became my favorite but Judy is my love for my chance to be serious and show life's emotions while on stage.

David:  Were your family and friends supportive of your choice of a theatrical profession when you started?

Ron:  My family never knew anything of my performing for over l5 years.   I hid it from them for fear of rejection.   They just assumed I was teaching dance wherever I lived.   Finally after I started at La Cage in Vegas in '85 I told my foster mother and she wasn't the least bit fazed.   My father came to Vegas to visit after an absence of 30 years in my life and I just told him right away because I didn't feel I could lose anything.   No problem.   It seems like we set ourselves up for disappointments that just aren't there.   Great lesson for the youth of today;   "Be yourself and the world will love you for it".

David:  Before you joined The Jewel Box Revue in Aruba where did you play? Also did you work as a solo act or have you always been part of a revue?

Ron:  Before the Jewel Box Revue I performed for 9 years in La Cage in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas.   Before that I would perform in little clubs around the country between teaching dance.   Kind of on and off again business.   Also not being very confident in myself I was always afraid to commit to the business until I reached La Cage in Vegas.   There I knew I had reached the big time and I was going to stay with it.

David:  Since you travel internationally when you perform, what do you say to Customs at the airport when you are asked you to open your suitcases and they see all the female attire? Has it ever been a problem?

Ron:  I have never had a problem in going through Customs because when I open my suitcases I tell them right out as I am opening the suitcases what is in them and that I am there to perform in a show.   Also if you approach anything in life with confidence, you're never questioned.

David:  Who designs your wardrobe and styles your wigs for the many different characters that you do on stage?

Ron Raymond as Carol Channing

Ron:  My costumes come from all areas.   I love going to New York in the garment district for my gowns but for my character costumes I have them made.   My first real Carol costume was a remake of Jazz Baby by a famous costumer in Vegas.   My Judy outfits come from study of her TV performances, which is my favorite period in her life.   Also the concerts, but I love the television years.   My other characters are the same.   Since I spend a lot of money getting the right fabric and beads and feathers to complete the total look, I am known as a bitch when it comes to my costumes because I never, never lend them out to anyone.

My wigs are usually done by one of the kids in the show since there is always a hairdresser among us.   Let's face it, aren't we all little hairdressers by nature.   I just hate doing my own and would rather pay someone else to do them.   Sometimes I have to reshape them but my kids do great work.

David:  By the way, are any of your acts pantomime or are they all 'live', and do you write your own comedic material?

Ron Raymond as Carol Channing 
 with Carol Channing

Ron:  My acts are all 'live' except for Judy Garland.   However if you ask half the audience after the show they will swear I am singing her 'live'.   Great compliment.   I just don't have the voice for her.   I do Carol of course and Bette Davis, Kate Hepburn, Lily Tomlin, Ethel Merman, Tallulah Bankhead, and Joel Grey.   (Oh come on, I have to do a guy once in a while.)

I write a few jokes as I am in the audience but we all have to admit it's hard to come up with original material these days since everything has been said one way or another.   The trick is to make it your own style and present it every time like you've never said the line before in your life.   That's talent.   I love people that can do that.

David:  What is the most difficult part of performing as a drag artist and what is the most rewarding part?

Ron:  The most difficult part of being a female impersonator, and I might be derailed for this but I have to be honest, is finding a mate.   The prejudice within the gay community against impersonators is astronomical.   I've heard the line, "If I wanted a woman, I'd be straight."   What the hell does that mean?   I'm not a woman and don't want to be one unless I'm paid on stage.   Those who want to be a woman have my deepest respect and admiration for their courage but it's just not me.   I still have hope though and if anyone is interested, they must be working, older, and enjoy coming home EVERY NIGHT for a hot meal and quality time together.

David:  Is there something "very you" that most people don't know about that you can share with us?

Ron:  Those who claim to know me don't seem to realize my loneliness.   I urge for a relationship that involves traveling and sharing sights and sounds and much laughter for ever and ever, Amen.

David:  Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of Showbiz that occupy your leisure time?

Ron:  My hobbies range from cooking to scuba diving.   Dance clubs aren't my style since I do enjoy keeping a home and lighting candles around the house and making my partners life much more comfortable.   (Is anyone getting the message here?)

David:  Are you a good cook? What type of foods do you like? Did you find some new and unusual menu items when you moved to Aruba?

Ron:  Cooking is my favorite thing in the world to do.   As a matter of fact I have a weekly column here in Aruba with the Aruba News Weekend.   I present a recipe from my files and write a little story about how I discovered the recipe or how to present it to friends and family.   My foster mother is writing her third cookbook at this moment and we share a lot of culinary delights with each other on the Net or when I get home for the holidays.   Just get us in the kitchen together and there's nothing that can stop us!

David:  Are there any goals in your personal or theatrical life that you have yet to achieve?

Ron:  Goals seem to come when God is ready to let you have them, but first you have to prepare.   I don't think God gives anyone anything that he or she can't handle.   Sometimes we want things in life but God knows we're not quite prepared to handle them.   Trust in your instincts and your wishes will come true, maybe not when you want them but when God is ready to let you have them.   My goals are to have a television variety show using great make-up people and costumers to create my many characters for the general public.   I love an audience and the bigger the better.   Also to do a musical on Broadway; Mame, Dolly, Gypsy, any of them would be great.   I'd love to recreate CoCo staring Kate Hepburn.   In my personal life, it's simple.   A simple home with someone who adores me.   (Now do you get it?)

David:  Everyone in our Biz seems to be writing an autobiography or memoirs. Have you thought of collecting your unique experiences and thoughts into a book someday?

Ron:  I would like to write an autobiography but just don't have the writing skills.   I would have to have a ghost writer.   I'll tell the story and they can type.   Maybe someone who adores me could do that....

Ron Raymond 
 as himself

David:  If you could live your life over to this point, would you do anything differently?

Ron:  If I could live my life over I would not do anything different except maybe warn more people on the dangers of unsafe sex and choices made under false influences.   I've lost a lot of great friends and miss them every single day of my life.   If you have a friend who's heading in the wrong direction, rewrite the map for them.   Their lives depend on it!

My dear David, I have to thank you for your dedication for giving us a line to the world by your interviews and caring about so many people around you.   You must have a heart of gold.   God bless you...   Love ya, Ron Raymond

NOTE: Many thanks to Jerry Schwartz for providing the B/W male photo.

* 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 Alba’s Theatrical Arts & Tributes" at and you can e-mail him c/o