(June 30, 1908 - August 10, 1933) U.S.A.
Gene Malin, also known by his stage name Jean Malin, was born Victor Eugene James Malin in Brooklyn, to working class Polish/Lithuanian parents. He had 2 brothers and 2 sisters. As a child, Gene attended P.S. 50 in Brooklyn and then went on to Eastern District High School for a while. As a teenager, Gene was already winning prizes for his costumes at the elaborate Manhattan Drag Balls of the 1920's. By his late teens, Malin had worked as a chorus boy in several Broadway shows ("Princess Flavor", "Miami", "Sisters of the Chorus"). Around the same period, Malin worked at several Greenwhich Village clubs as a drag performer, most notably the "Rubaiyat".
Several columnists noted his talent and in 1930 (at age 22) Malin was booked at Louis Schwartzs' elegant "Club Abbey" at 46th and 8th Ave. It was at this point that Mailins' career and fate took a most interesting turn. Although Malin was at times assisted by "Helen Morgan JR.", a popular drag artist of the day, he did not appear in drag himself. The crux of his act was not to impersonate women, but to appear as an openly gay male.
Here he moved on stage and amongst the audience members as a Tuxedo clad, elegant, witty, wisecracking Emcee (the Master of Ceremonies). He still often resorted to a broad exaggerated swishing image and the many other such "Pansy acts" that followed--often had a tone of a straight Vaudeville man doing an exaggerated impersonation of an effeminate "Pansy".
Perhaps the joke had several levels - as the performer was often a gay man doing his impression of a straight man doing his impression of a gay man. In doing so, Malin and other such performers as "Karyl Norman" and "Ray Bourbon" ignited a "Pansy Craze" in New York's speakeasies and later in other cities as well.
Malin became the top earner of Broadway for a time. After headlining numerous New York Clubs, he took his act to Boston and ultimately to the West Coast. While in Hollywood, he appeared in several films (such as "Arizona to Broadway" and Joan Crawford's "Dancing Lady") usually as the stock character of a witty limpwristed clerk. He made at least one recording, a song titled: "I'd rather be Spanish than Mannish".
In the early hours of August 10, 1933, Gene Malin was killed in a freak accident. He had just performed a "farewell performance" at the "Ship Cafe" in Venice, California. He piled into his sedan with roommate Jimmy Forlenza and comedic actress Patsy Kelly. It seems that Malin confused the gears and the car lurched in reverse and went off a pier into the water. Malin was instantly killed (pinned under the steering wheel) the other two were seriously hurt, but miraculously survived. It is staggering to realize that Malin was only 24 years of age at the time of his death. Although many in his audience probably saw him as one more oddity, in a short span of time Malin had made history.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia