Hillary Carlip,
Queen of the Oddballs:
& Other True Stories from
a Life Unaccording to Plan

(Harper, 2006)

Hillary Carlip is the first female drag queen, and I call her that in the most flattering and admiring way possible. She's witty, a terrific storyteller, and she's led a fascinating life.

Always uncomfortable in her own skin, Carlip was a born actress/impersonator who worried about showing her true colors as a childhood TV guest on Art Linkletter's House Party. She has enjoyed careers as a singing telegram performer who could adapt to any situation or moment, an over-the-top nightclub opening juggling act, a Gong Show contestant, an actor, a musician and probably as dozens of other incarnations/personalities that wouldn't fit in her must-read memoir.

Carlip's life story is told via a series of essays, each of which is introduced by a quick series of facts about "this time in history," and concludes with black-and-white photos of Carlip and her cohorts during that time period. The essays cover the years from Hillary as an 8-year-old in 1965 to her 2004 work on the John Kerry campaign. There's no way to sum up the years in between, during which a teeanged Carlip befriends both Carly Simon and Carole King, she acts in a movie with Olivia Newton-John, plus lots, lots more, including some gripping relationship drama.

This memoir comes recommended by Laurie Notaro of Idiot Girl fame, and that's darn high praise. It is any reviewer's nightmare, because what can we write to compete with the brilliance of the author's prose? I advise you to stop reading my praise for this memoir and go pick it up already. The opening chapter will suck you in.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
26 August 2006

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