overview

Jack Doroshow, better known as the iconic drag queen Flawless Sabrina, lived in an apartment in this Upper East Side townhouse from 1967 to 2017.

During this time period, Doroshow/Flawless starred in the landmark documentary The Queen (1968) and served as a mentor to hundreds of gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2020.

History

In 1959, Jack Doroshow (1939-2017) and two friends organized a drag pageant in their hometown of Philadelphia, which was inspired by seeing their first drag show on a recent trip to New York City. Doroshow then hired Ty Bennett, a leading drag queen performer at Club 82 in Manhattan, to host a second show before ultimately taking over himself. Diana Tourjée, a trans woman who worked closely with Doroshow in his later years, recalled in 2017, “What he always told me was that although he did well during the first pageant, the queens didn’t really like him because he was an outsider; he was a man in a suit who was just coming in and profiting off them …. He figured, ‘I need to become some figure that can bring these pageants forward.’” This figure became the now legendary drag queen, Flawless Sabrina. “The whole point of Flawless Sabrina,” Tourée noted, was that “she was supposed to be a noncompetitive mother.”

Doroshow established the National Academy, for which Flawless hosted nationwide drag shows with a diverse array of participants throughout the 1960s, an era when cross-dressing was illegal (Doroshow estimated that he had been arrested over 100 times). One of the last such events was the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant held at the Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan, famously recorded in The Queen (1968). The groundbreaking documentary was selected for the Cannes International Film Festival that same year. (Crystal LaBeija, the pageant runner-up featured in the film, would later go on to found the influential House of LaBeija and appear in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, which was partially filmed at the Imperial Lodge of Elks, in Harlem.)

Jack Doroshow … organized drag shows around the United States and presided over them as the drag queen Flawless Sabrina years before such performers found a measure of mainstream success.

Neil Genzlinger , The New York Times, obituary, 2017

In The Queen’s opening scenes, Doroshow, as he puts on make-up to become Flawless, mentions his Upper East Side apartment at 5 East 73rd Street. This would be his city residence for the next 50 years, until his death in 2017.

In 1985, he met his life partner Curtis Carman. During the period he lived on 73rd Street, Doroshow consulted on films such as Midnight Cowboy (1969), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; he was hired to make sure that co-stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford did not come across as gay because they were not competing over a female love interest), and Dog Day Afternoon (1975). He also designed costumes for theme parties at Manhattan gay hotspots Mother and Crisco Disco. Flawless made a brief cameo in the John Waters movie, Pink Flamingos (1972).

Doroshow did not have a pronoun preference; friends said people used the pronoun/name they most associated with Doroshow/Flawless. The 73rd Street residence became an important salon where Doroshow/Flawless served as a mentor — as well as a mother and grandmother figure — to many gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Zachary Drucker, a trans artist and producer of Transparent (2014-2019), said that “Flawless was the single most influential person in my development as a human being and artist.” Both Tourjée and Drucker co-founded the Flawless Sabrina Archive. At the 50th anniversary screening of The Queen, held at the Town Hall in May 2018, Drucker, Taylor MacJustin Vivian Bond, the House of LaBeija, and other artists performed in tribute to Flawless as their mentor and mother.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Buchman & Fox
  • Year Built: 1901-02

Sources

  1. Diana Tourjée, “At home with queer icon Flawless Sabrina,” Dazed, July 29, 2014, bit.ly/31TbJrK.

  2. Diana Tourjée, “V99: The Fascinating Life of Flawless Sabrina,” V, February 3, 2016, bit.ly/324HsWV.

  3. Hugh Ryan, “Queen Sabrina, Flawless Mother,” Vice, March 7, 2015, bit.ly/2O1dvPz.

  4. Jude Dry, “’The Queen’ Put Drag Onscreen Long Before ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and Even ‘Paris Is Burning,’” IndieWire, June 28, 2019, bit.ly/3gwaYJ6.

  5. Neil Genzlinger, “Jack Doroshow, 78, Drag Pageant Impresario, Dies,” The New York Times, November 30, 2017, nyti.ms/2BLbRPi. [source of pull quote, Tourjée, and Drucker quotes]

  6. The Queen, Frank Simon, 1968.

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

Central Park
Emma Stebbins & “Angel of the Waters”
Public Spaces
7 East 96th Street
Ogden Codman, Jr. Residence
Residences
315 East 68th Street
Mercedes de Acosta Residence
Residences