June 16th, 2022 – June 29th, 2024

We are very proud to present the incredible life and career of Vander Clyde Broadway, better known as
“Barbette.” This gay trapeze and tightrope artist was raised in Round Rock, Texas. Fascinated with the circus as a little boy, he began his circus career as an aerialist after graduating from Round Rock Institute at the age of 14. He created a solo act for vaudeville and took on the name Barbette. He performed as a “female impersonator” and aerialist around the world, headlining on famous stages like the Moulin Rouge in the 1920s and 30s before becoming an aerial director for the premiere circus shows of the 40s , 50s , and 60s. He also consulted on major Hollywood productions such as “Some Like It Hot” and was a partial inspiration for Victor/Victoria.

Today, Barbette is an iconic figure within the Drag community and among historians of vaudeville and the circus , but has been largely forgotten in public memory. We are excited to shine the spotlight back on this local legend with a new exhibit, simply titled “Barbette.”

A 1926 poster by Charles Gesmar depicts a showgirl, wearing nothing but bracelets on her wrist and strings of pearls around her hips, posing coyly on a solid black background. She faces away from the viewer and looks back over her shoulder, her right foot tucked behind her left. She is slightly bowed, and her hands are up near her face, holding a giant fan sprouting a mass of stylized, swirling feathers that cascade behind and over her head of blonde curls down past the bottom of the poster. The girl and the top of the feathers are mostly white with pink edges, and the feathers fade to a deep pink as they cascade down. "Barbette" is written large in the bottom right corner, white outlined in yellow to match her blonde wig. The artist's signature, "C. Gesmar 26" is in white in the top left corner
A 1926 poster of Barbette by Charles Gesmar (1900-1928)