Biographical / Historical
This history is quoted from a history provided by the donor, T. Frank Taylor.
"The Academy dates itself to 1961, when founder Alan Kress, aka Elizabeth Taylor, held the first Oscar awards for drag performance. At the outset, the Oscars was a female impersonation social and performance group. In a period, where [sic] drag was illegal in some jurisdictions and unwelcome at most bars, theaters, and hotels, Kress's creation offered regular private events, mentoring in the arts and skills of impersonation and of performance. The group offered annual awards, modeled on the Oscar statuettes, to those who were most active, supportive, and talented.
Members of the Oscars adopted the names of well-known American actresses or roles, e.g. Alan Kress became Elizabeth Taylor, Carl Rizzi became Mame Dennis, Alex Carlino became Fanny Brice, etc. In the mid-60s, Elizabeth Taylor's sometimes autocratic behavior led to formation of a rival organization, the Awards Club led by former Oscars member Jerry Buskirk aka Beulah Buskirk. Carl Rizzi, aka Mame Dennis, and Alex Carlino, aka Fanny Brice, both joined the Awards Club. Rizzi and Carlino both created their own drag houses, Beekman Place and Henry Street respectively in 1970. Drag organizations began to form in Baltimore, Hagerstown, Norfolk, and Richmond and these groups all established relationships with the Oscars. Buskirk's Awards Club also established organizations in other cities.
During the 1960s and the early 1970s, the major events that became part of the Academy's roster were established: the Oscars, Miss Gay Universe, Miss Gay America, the Black and White Ball, the Winter Cotillion, and more. In 1970, Carlino's Henry Street drag house created the Showstoppers Review, which lasted through the decade and presented very popular annual shows each autumn.
As the 60s ended, and drag houses were being established (Maryland House was added in 1971 in Baltimore), a local DC business owner and bisexual entrepreneur, Bill Oates Sr., brokered a truce in the 1960s "drag wars," as Rizzi called them. Oates was friendly with all of the major players and saw to the creation of the Academy Awards of Washington in the summer of 1973 bringing together Elizabeth Taylor (as head of Butterfield 8 drag house), Carl Rizzi (of Beekman Place), and Alex Carlino (of Henry Street) in a single operation. Taylor became chairman of the group, Rizzi became president, and Carlino became vice-president. Oates also arranged for the Academy to use third floor space at Louis Sigalis's 9th Street NW club, Louie's, for Academy events. The Academy's theater space became known as Oscar's Eye.
The 70s and 80s were years of growth and strength for the Academy. To the original three houses of Butterfield 8, Beekman Place, and Henry Street were added Maryland House in Baltimore, Camelot in Norfolk, Blake Manor in Richmond, Dragonwyck in Hagerstown, Liberty House in DC, Twelve Oaks in Richmond, and Phoenix House in the Maryland suburbs. Addison Road and 42nd Street have been recent house additions.
The Academy celebrated its first 15 years (dating from 1961) during the bicentennial in 1976 with a gala revue at the Lost and Found club and wrote its first history of the organization. In 1986 the Academy celebrated its 25th anniversary and in 2011 its 50th, both with gala productions.
The Academy has never had its own meeting and performance space. In fact, much of the planning of events took place at Carl Rizzi's Arlington home on 11th Street South. When Louie's closed on 9th Street, the Academy followed its successor club, the Rogue, to K St. and 5th. Eventually the Academy found a home at Club 55 at 55 L St. SE where it held weekly events until well into the 90s. With the demise of Club 55, the Academy began a peripatetic journey that included Ziegfeld's, Club Apex on 22nd St NW, the Almas Temple at 14th and K St NW, and La Cabana at 3614 14th NW.
The Academy and its houses have a long history of philanthropic fundraising for LGBTQ organizations in the city. During the worst years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s Academy fundraising provided strong support to the AIDS Education Task Force at Whitman-Walker Clinic and to other programs of the clinic. Other groups supported by the Academy include Brother Help Thyself, the gay rodeo, Rainbow History, Pets DC, and more. In the early 1990s, the Academy created the HOOP (Helping Our Own People) fund for supporting members whose ill health or death created a financial crisis.
Beekman Place has long been the largest of the Academy Houses with nearly 1,000 members over the years. Membership records indicate that the Academy of Washington has had nearly 2,000 members in its 54 years.
As membership dwindled and participation lagged, particularly following the death of Carl Rizzi in February 2015, the board of the Academy saw difficulty in perservering, the Academy closed down on October 23, 2015 ending 54 years of support and performances."
This history of Beekman Place was written in 1976 by an unknown author. (Quoting in part.) "Mame Dennis formed the Beekman Place Family on May 1, 1970. The majority of the original family members had been together since their association with the Mintwood drag group of the mid-1960s. Beekman Place became an Academy Family in May 1973.
The monarchy of Beekman Place is comprised of Mame's nephews, sons, and daughters, many of whom now have chidren and grandchildren of their own in this large family tree. A six month waiting period as a Kissin Cousin is required before a member can be accepted into the family (in May and December). The unique unity of BP'ers is based upon their many house traditions and solemn family vows which bind the members together as friends and as a group.
Family dues are $1.50 a month. Finances are handled by family Treasurer, Patrick Dennis. Each family meeting celebrates birthdays of the month with dinner, family gift and individual cards.
The Beekman Place House Color is Blue.
The Beekman Place motto is, "Live my dears live, life is a banquet and some poor sons 'a bitches are starving to death."
Since its formation, the Beekman Place Family has celebrated Thanksgiving with a progressive dinner. Two annual affairs that are free to dues-paying members are the Christmas Party in December and the Family Anniversary Party in May.
The Beekman Place Family Awards were established in May 1973 to recognize individual family member's talent, personality and dedication."