Who remembers enjoying a wild night on the town at The Jewel Box in Kansas City? My grandparents told me that they went there often in the 1960s. They even took out of town company for the hilarity of the performances.

Who remembers enjoying a wild night on the town at The Jewel Box in Kansas City? My grandparents told me that they went there often in the 1960s. They even took out of town company for the hilarity of the performances.

Grandpa said once they were sitting at table fairly close to the front and one of the “femme-mimics” was really poking fun at his brother-in-law. Grandpa leaned over and asked Uncle George if he wanted to go, and George said, “Heck now. I’m having a blast.” I can only assume Truman Capote did too; he hung out at the Jewel Box when he was in Kansas researching for his book “In Cold Blood.”

The Jewel Box featured cross-dressing “femme-mimics,” or female impersonators who sang songs live, performed originally created comedy and improv routines, and some who were “exotic dancers.” Many of the entertainers toured, performing at night clubs across the country. Others came to town from afar from places like the Jewel Box Revue in New York.
Originally at the 3200 block of Troost Avenue were three clubs collectively advertised as “Mid-America’s Greatest Fun-Complex.” They included: 1) The Yum Yum Room, 2) Cat Balleu and 3) The Jewel Box Lounge (once called McKissick’s Jewel Box Lounge, was advertised at 3223 Troost. It was later listed at 3219 Troost, the owner, John N. Tuccillo.)

Later, The Jewel Box moved to 3110 Main where live performances of female impersonators were replaced by lip-synching “drag queens.”

Grandpa told me a story about of one of the most renown Jewel Box performers, Rae (Ray) Bourbon, who had at least 18 vinyl records to his credit, including one recorded live at the Jewel Box. Bourbon’s, “A Trick Ain’t Always a Treat,” is a hoot! In an odd twist of events, Bourbon was convicted of the murder of a Texas kennel owner; Bourbon died in a Texas prison at the age of 78 in 1971.

Here is some of the talent advertised at The Jewel Box:
G.G. Allen
Skip Arnold
Tommy Baker
Mr. Beebe
Rosalie Bell
Bobbie Benet’
Joey Block
Rae (Ray) Bourbon
Scottie Carlyle
Billy Carrol
George Cauden
(aka Tommy Temple)
Buddy Chris
Peggy Clark
Carey (Carrie) Davis
Jamie Eden
Butch Ellis
Gene Evol
Freddie Gibson
Jamie Greeney
Mr. Harvey
Rickie Jade
Terry Kaye
Roby Landers
Candy Lee
Terry Lee
Eddie Lynn
Gary Lynn
Fred Murio
Criss Noel
Mickey Ray
Mr. Salome
Nikki St. Cyr
Timmy Saxton
Just Tempest
Tommy Temple
(see George Cauden)
Sammy Tucker
Ellen White
Don Winters
Wouldn’t it be swell if any of these fellows may still be around, and have stories and/or materials to donate for posterity that would help to document this colorful chapter of more recent days-gone-by?

Anyone with documents or artifacts who may wish to donate Jackson County-related materials is invited to contact the Jackson County Historical Society, which has partnered with the Kansas City Museum and UMKC Libraries to create the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America.

A patron in Gladstone recently donated to the Jackson County Historical Society a Jewel Box postcard that bolsters a small but growing collection of Jewel Box memorabilia.