De Alba on White  

By Entertainer David de Alba*

David & Holly, Hawaii, 2004

  The first time I saw Holly White on stage was in the early 1970's at Finocchio's in San Francisco.   I was mesmerized by the image of this beautiful female impressionist.   Even the women in the audience gasped and the men looked at him nervously, because it was too much illusion for them to comprehend.   Holly appeared surrounded by soft feathers and very little else, a la Sally Rand, as he sang and danced to numbers like "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbing Along".   I noticed that while most of us FIs had to wear heavy make-up to create the female illusion on stage, here was Holly nearly bare faced.   His wig was done in a flip style of the 1960's but with no teasing.   The typical FI wig would be saturated with spray and teased to death so the hairdo would last from show to show.   At that time I was the hairstylist of many of the performers there and I met Holly backstage.   He was incredably sweet and sincere.   I still recall the image of him putting two fingers below his eyes when he would laugh to keep the skin from stretching and creating wrinkles.   After his engagement at Finocchio's ended I heard that he disappeared from the Showbiz scene and unlike most FIs, became a sex change.   Because he was so beautiful on stage as a male in drag, after his operation and hormone treatments you could not tell that he had ever been a man.

In the 70's I went with Holly and my partner Paul to see a premiere of the new release of King Kong in a theatre near The Embarcadero.   At another time my Mom Tila and I went with Holly to a spiritual session conducted at some lady's home on Market Street.   As time passed we lost touch as we went our separate ways.   Now in the Year 2001, thanks to my FI friend Robin Price, I contacted Holly by phone at her home in Hawaii.   After chatting for a while I told Holly about my on-line interview series and asked if she would like to participate.   She was happy to hear from me and accepted my offer.   When Holly worked at Finocchio's she was still a guy and one of the best and most beautiful female impressionists that ever graced a stage in America or abroad.   So Ladies and Gentlemen of Cyberspace, I take great pride in presenting to you, the always younger than Springtime, Miss Holly White!

Francis Rambough 
 as a young boyHalle Loki
 Hawaiian stage name, JBR, 1960'sDavid:  Holly dear, where were you born and where did you spend most of your youth?   Also, what was your name before you took the the stage name of Holly White?

Holly:  I was born Francis Rambough in Honolulu and I spent all my early life there 'till I was 21.   I have to add that Hawaii was then, and still is, a paradise, or at least as close as I have seen, and I have been a lot of places.

David:  Did you have anyone who influenced you or helped you get into Showbiz, and female impersonation in particular?

Baby MartellHolly:  I met a wonderful FI named Baby Martell [aka Freddy Figueroa] in a stage show here in Honolulu.   He took me under his wing and invited me to New York City and got me into The Jewel Box Revue.

David:  Did you have any professional training in the Performing Arts before you took your act on the road?   Which do you consider your primary act, singing or dancing?

Holly:  I trained in New York with The Jewel Box Revue, a great training ground then.   I also studied voice with a Colin D'Arcy, a jazz musician and took ballet classes.   I considered myself an illusionist.   I sang and danced Broadway numbers.   I was more interested in giving a Hollywood illusion to my public in the audience.   [Editor's note: Holly's stage name at the JBR was Halle Loki]

David:  Can you tell us a little about your run at The Jewel Box Revue, and was it a positive experience for you or not?

Holly:  I was just in New York City a few days before I was hired by Danny and Doc, the owners of the show.   Before I could think, I was rehearsing on Broadway at their dance studio.   I was on the road in two weeks starting with Up-State New York, Niagara Falls and Montreal, Canada.   In those days we had real orchestras.   I felt I was in the "big time".   All the artists were full of life and humour.   Once when we were in Louisville, Kentucky, a Cuban dance act were always fighting over who was drinking their booze while they were on stage.   One of the "girls" peed in their liquour bottle and we all watched as they came back and took a drink.   We screamed as they spit out the evil concoction.

I don't remember any fights or feuds.   We were all young and eager to have a Showbiz career and were on our best behaviour.   It was a time of real professionals that does not exist anymore in the FI biz . . . unfortunately!   I am so glad to have been a part of that history in our culture.

Holly at 
 make-up mirrorHolly White 
 1960'sDavid:  I normally don't ask questions of a sexual nature in my interviews, but this may help some men who work in drag who may be considering a sex change.   Did you suffer a sexual identity problem as a child or in your case did you decide to alter your sex later on in life as you worked in drag and began to feel more comfortable as a woman?

Holly:  As far as my sexual ID, I wanted to face the world as a female.   I was never interested in a male life.   I lived on until I could reassign myself to a more female persona.   I also worked in Europe after my change.   If I was known as a transgendered person, it was OK, if not, OK also.   I was, and am, an individual.   I don't try to hide my past or my history.   I am comfortable in my skin.

David:  Where did you work in the United States and what influenced you to move to Europe and to perform there?

Holly White at Chez Nous 
 with owner & Dolly Van Doll 
 Berlin, 1968Holly White 
 Female Impersonators, 
 Summer 1965Holly:  I had always dreamed of travel to Europe and beyond.   After a year in New York and Canada I got lucky.   I landed a contract and plane ticket to Berlin, Germany, via Iceland.   What a culture shock!   For the next 12 years I worked all over Europe, North Africa, Israel, Turkey and Morocco.   I was in my dream world.

David:  I understand that you performed in Germany for many years, and as you say, all over Europe and Africa.   How would you compare performing abroad to your career here in The United States?

Holly:  I speak German and French, can get by in Italian and Spanish, if not too complicated.   I have always been interested in foreign cultures.   I always did my act in English, as that was my special gimmick, when eveyone else was using their native tongue, be it French or German.   I was the "Vedette Americán", (American Star).   I always preferred Europe to the US for performing because of the more liberal attitude to artists, especially transsexuals or female impersonators.

Holly, Berlin, 1969Coccinelle 
 Carrousel de ParisDavid:  What do you consider the highlight of your career?   On the flip side, were there any bad times you would prefer to forget?   (Sorry for asking.) ;o}

Holly:  My career highlights? . . . So many!   I suppose my two years in Paris and The French Riviera working at the most wonderful "Carrousel de Paris" with Coccinelle and Bambi, very famous French transsexuals.   Paris was always my dream city.    [Webmaster's update:  Bambi called Holly in 2006 to say that Coccinelle passed away in Marseilles on the 9th of October.]

Bad times? . . . Yes!   Losing my best friend Sonny Teal, an American FI who I worked with and was my protector on arriving in Europe.   Sonny was killed in a plane crash on Mt. Fujiyama.   I just missed going on that tour and went to Israel instead.   How strange life is.

[Editor's note: On right: Holly's Lolita striptease number in Berlin, 1969, ending in a red sequined bra and g-string.]

David: Can you tell us something about the big time shows you played that used live orchestras?

Holly: I was with The Jewel Box Revue in Montreal, Canada.   We had a huge ballroom with tables for a show and dinner.   The 14 piece orchestra was behind a chiffon curtain and played dance music.   We sang when the show started and danced to a well rehearsed orchestra that we had worked with 2 days before.   It was real "Showbiz".   We had great orchestras in Louisville, Kentucky too.

In Istanbul we worked a great room at The Istanbul Hilton Hotel . . . a 14 piece orchestra also . . . very talented musicians.   I worked in the last years of that "Golden Era" of FI traveling shows.   I just talked to Bambi in Paris, and she knows of no shows anywhere for FIs that can come even close to those experiences.

David:  How did you get to work at the world famous Finocchio Club in San Francisco, and how long were you there?

Holly:  I worked at Finocchio's twice, each time for six months.   They had seen my photos and sent for me.

Holly White at 
 Finocchio's, 1970Holly White at 
 Finocchio's, 1971, 
 singing/striptease actHolly White at 
 Finocchio's, 1971David:  Can you share with us some memorable experiences (good or bad) with the cast while working at Finocchio's?

Holly:  I loved all the artists at Finocchio's.   They treated me with great warmth and respect.   We had many a laugh together.   Meeting Lucille Ball and having her compliment me was a highlight.   Not "mixing" with the audience was not very exciting.

David:  Have you considered writing an autobiography?   I know a lot of folks out there could benefit from reading about your personal experiences as a guy and then as a gal.

Holly:  I am in the process of writing an autobiography of my early years on the road.

Holly White at 
 Backstage Finocchio's 
 San Francisco, 1971David:  Do you have any hobbies or pastimes you enjoy when you are not performing?

Holly:  I am a movie addict, also love opera, running and swimming.   I collect antique glass.

David:  Do you still perform on stage once in a while?

Holly:  I am not performing at this time.   I would be interested in doing lectures or guest appearances.   I've done a few here and there; some benefits for AIDS and for medical students who were interested in gender identity.

Holly White 
 Hawaii, 1999David:  Do you have another trade to fall back on for your livelihood other than Showbiz?

Holly White 
 San Francisco, CA, 2003Holly:  I have been a hairdresser for years on and off.   I'm now doing hair part-time here between having fun.

David:  Since you have travelled a lot, do you have any favourite foods from any particular country?   Also are you a good cook, or would you rather eat out?

Holly:  Food! . . . Yes, I cook quite well and love all kinds of food.   I am a vegetarian, so I love Indian food as it does great veggies.

David:  Since you have lived in many countries of the world, have you found a Shangri-la where you would like to spend the rest of your life?

Holly:  I love Hawaii, so I am at this moment in Shangri-La.

David:  If your Guardian Angel were to grant you some wishes for 2002, what would they be?

Holly White 
 last European tour, 1980Holly:  I wish all the people I have met along the way and have helped me in my unusual journey would know how much they mean to me!

Bambi and Holly White 
 Paris, Sept. 2005Your article [Interview Intro] on my career is great.   Thanks for your kindness.   You remember more than I do!   Many thanks dear David for your attention to my career and me.   Fun to know people still remember me.   Love as always and aloha,    Holly

Webmaster's Update:   After many long years of absence from being in Europe, Holly went back in September 2005.   This time she went to relax and to visit places she never had the time to see due to her performing schedule.   Also on this trip, Holly wanted to see some of her Showbiz friends that are still alive.   To the left is a picture of Holly in Paris next to her dear friend Bambi whom she remarks is "Still flawless!"

NOTE:   Thanks to Lavern Cummings for providing three pictures for this interview.   For more on Holly click on this link   Oahu04.htm  for my latest encounter with her in Hawaii, 2004.   If you want to send a message to Holly White please e-mail me at  and I will forward it to her.

* 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 at