Douglas Byng

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Douglas Byng in drag | Brighton Our Story | 14284

Douglas Coy Byng was born on 17 March 1893 in Nottingham and died on 24 August 1987 in Arundel Terrace, Brighton: he was an openly gay and camp drag artiste and pantomime dame, and music hall star. He made a number of recordings which survive and have been transferred to CD. A Brighton bus has been named after him.

He began appearing in public in 1914 and by 1925 was working with Noel Coward. He was famous for his (for the time) risqué double-entendres, such as his “Mexican Minnie”:

Come where the heat from the sun’s burning rays
Gets you so gaga you tear off your stays!
I’m Mexican Minnie, all jolly and ginny
I loll in the mountains all day.
Though I’m well off the map, I’m just covered in slap,
Luring brigands to come and play ha’penny nap.
But they get very reckless, and will stay to breakfast
Then go off refusing to pay.
I say, “Well you can go,
“I’m sick of the gang, so
“You shan’t see my tango today!

His famous numbers included: “Sex Appeal Sarah”, “Milly the Messy Old Mermaid” and “The Lass who Leaned against the Tower of Pisa”. His “Doris, the Goddess of Wind” was revived in Alan Bennett’s 2010 play The Habit of Art. He also appeared on television in the early 1960s, notably in Alan Melville’s series Before the Fringe.

He composed his own epitaph:

So here you are, old Douglas, a derelict at last.
Before your eyes what visions rise of your vermillion past.
Mad revelry beneath the stars, hot clasping by the lake.
You need not sigh, you can’t deny, you’ve had your bit of cake.


SP

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3 thoughts on “Douglas Byng

  1. To have overcome such horrendous adversity (by which I mean being born in Nottingham) and yet to have risen to be such a locus of fun and joie de not giving a damn. Splendid. Drag horrified me when I was less grown-up but I’m a tad more secure in my own individuality now.

    Like

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