Eddie Izzard - Dress to Kill     By Samantha (S6026) | Beaumont Society

Eddie Izzard is always dressed to kill and "Dress to Kill" is the name of the stand-up tour which Eddie Izzard took across the US during the most part of 1998. The phenomenal success of Dress To Kill was reflected in the US press reviews:" 

The Male Tomboy, Male lesbian and Action Transvestite, " Probably I'm the only TV comedian in the world at the moment, in the non Lily Savage sense of the word. There's the TS woman who won the Eurovision Song Contest, is that the same? She's better looking, She's gorgeous, so that's fine; If I were gorgeous, that would be different. Julian Clary's gorgeous. I'm this... bloke. People say,' Why don't you change your clothes at half-time ?' Why? Do footballers do this? I'm not a drag act. This is not about the clothes, it's about the comedy and I just do whatever I want now. When I first came out, a comic called John Gordillo did a video of my first gig in a dress, and in the video he's talking to comedian Jo Brand and he's saying,' what do you think the reaction's going to be to Eddie being in a dress?' She said,' The same reaction as to me wearing a dress.' 

I don't think there are many out transvestites in the public eye - transvestites in the sense of male tomboys. I've been looking to find them. There are a lot of gay and lesbian people who are out and there's drag per se, dressing up as women, and there's rock stars who'll put on eyeliner and could well be TV - but I don't think they are. I don't know where Mr. David Bowie stands at this time. I always thought it would be quite good fun to play a girl in one of the school plays, but I never did, and this was in my cute days when I could have passed for a girl more. I was 17 at college, when  they said: 

'Right, you're playing the girl,' in this revue we were doing. I said: ' Oh, wow!' and then psychosomatically I got ill the day before the show.

My brain couldn't deal with it. I got flu, or a cold or something. I was quite incapacitated. It was just not being able to deal with this situation. I remembered when I was 21 this one friend of mine saying - chit chat, chat chat - ' Have you ever worn women's clothes?' And I remember my mind going, that's one question that's right at the heart of the problem, and my voice going: 'Ahh...ggh...hyuh...uhh...no.no! No!' It's going all the way in and alarm bells are going off - AWOOP AWOOP! Dive, dive, dive'. I had to sit there. I was trying to think, why? Why do I feel there's this boy/girl fight going on inside? Why? 'Why' seemed to be very important. I still haven't got an answer. I just pulled the curtains and lay in a room and tried to go through it - real self analysis. I worked out that I'd better come out and I just did it. 

I've thought about changing sex, but I look too much like a bloke.'
Then there was the fight I had in the street at Cambridge. It was after the third gig of my tour - Cambridge Corn Exchange. Sold out, got a good review on The Late Review - they gave me a clean sweep of yeses, Germaine Greer and everyone, and I get the impression they tear the shit out of things, normally. I was sitting on my bed going, 'Hey, this is really good.' That was my second show. Then the next night I did the third show, went out afterwards and had a fight with these guys. I don't think I was enormously transvestite that night. I wasn't wearing the skirt and the fantastic Versace boots, I was just wearing the trousers and heels and make-up, and this black jacket I wore in New York - my lucky jacket, that. It's now got a hole in it. So this guy stopped and said to his mate,' Look it's a transvestite.' He went, 'Ooh Tracy, ooh Tracy, ooh Tracy.' So I did all my streetlore-type stuff: ' Look, you live on the street - have respect. You don't need to do all this. We're just two individuals on the street - have respect.' ' Ooh Tracy, ooh Tracy.' I've gone very big on the Tracy line. We've now got tour jackets with My Name Is Not Tracy written on them. It has to be said in a Michael Caine voice. 

So he was going, 'Ooh Tracy, ooh Tracy,' and I was going, look seriously, have respect. Why do you need to do this?' And he hit the 'Ooh Tracy' line a third time - magic three - and I said, 'You're a cunt who deserves to be cut with a knife'- which I repeated in court - and then he went for me. I was doing quite well, I was blocking away. And then four other guys were suddenly there. And I just thought it was me and him, but of course the way to win battles is superior numbers. So they were all beating away and my friends were trying to pull them of me. I was doing well with this bloke, I got about four hits in. And at the end I was still vertical. It was probably over in about 30 seconds. Then they sauntered off and went into this pub disco about 50 yards away. So we were all staring at each other and they were talking to their bouncer friend - who turned up later as a witness for them. He told the court,' Yeah, he attacked five men at once,' then he went and sat down and joked with them at the back of the court. The police turned up and said,' Was it squaddies? Was it squaddies?' Squaddies? Two Oxford dons, mate.' They kept saying,' Was it squaddies?' like it was,' Oh, we have tons of squaddie fights. They're constantly beating up transvestites round here.'  Anyway, two of my friends went into the disco to point them out, and there was a kind of hyperactive bouncer there. 

They couldn't find the troublemaker. I went in there and I couldn't see these guys and the bouncer asked me, ' is this him?' And this guy, who was one of them but who was the pacifist, appeared and he was saying,' Look we didn't want any trouble.' I thought, oh, if you're here, the other guy must be here. And I looked round and there he was, dancing in the crowd, Happy Mondays-Kind of dancing. So I picked them out. And in the police van on the way back, he apparently said,' Yeah, I did it,' and he admitted everything. The police never told me that. I felt more bashed up than I looked. We had to give the police all the details and for some reason I had to show them the physical evidence so they could note it down. The bruises. And then three months later, when I had forgotten everything about everything, I had to hire a car and go to court. and everybody was going, 'I've forgotten what everyone looks like. It was just some guy you saw for two minutes three months ago.' You can't remember what you said in your statement because it was three months ago. They said,' can you identify the man in court? Are you sure it was this man?' 

They put the witness and the defendants about 50 yards apart. It wasn't a great situation. Intimidation is common, especially in the toilets, which you share. It would be very logical to put the witnesses on one side and the defendants on the other so they don't meet. Think about what intimidation serious villains could do. Anyway. We couldn't remember what the bloke looked like, but he was stood there, going 'Ello darlin'! Argh!' being the chirpy lad he was, and we went oh it's him! That's the guy.' He'd identified himself when we couldn't remember him. He decided not to talk in court. And we'd all seen Crown Court on TV, so everyone was there ready to do their thing: 
Me It was him, m'lud.
Magistrate It's not m'lud.Me All right.
Magistrate And only answer when your spoken to.
Me All right.
Magistrate And don't point out anyone in court.
Me Oh, right. Can I say what he looked like?
Magistrate Yes.
Me Well he looked like him. It was very important to wear make-up for the court case or their imaginations would have run riot.' What did he look like?' 'Oh, he was up to here with the stockings and a wig on.' The image of transvestites is so negative. It's like American television; I have to do every interview with make-up to tell them,' This is what it's going to look like, guys. This is going to be the Marc Bolan end of transvestism.' I went to Downing Street in make-up. I was pleased New Labour had won. I've learnt that you've got to be really non-apologetic. 

Eddie talks about his childhood - the death of his mother being a low point, to his experiences on a TV/TS helpline. " People were phoning up like they were sexlines - and asking 'what are you wearing now?' I'm wearing a hat and a balaclava " He talks of his childhood religion (Jesus, his disciples and the art of running in flip-flops)'; Monty Python, sex, crime and space. " It's pop culture stand-up. All the stuff I talk about, history, whatever, it's all from the television." And his opinions on transvestism, " they've done studies and found that there is a gay gene thing. I think that means there's a lesbian gene and a TV gene, it would be good to prove it,"...
I actually came out when I was 23 (1985) and then I sat in a cafe and told the Observer I was a transvestite halfway through 1991. I wasn't wearing make-up or anything. And then people started saying,' Well, I've never seen him in a dress,' so I thought I'd better go on to the next stage. I wasn't actually meaning that I should wear skirts on stage or whatever, but then I thought I should do that if I wanted to. I should have the freedom. When I first came out, I went to see a bank manager, a dentist and a doctor wearing a dress. I remember going to see a dentist wearing make-up. He was looking at me with all the make-up on and I was saying,' I've got a bad tooth.' I went to the doctor wearing make-up: 
' I've got a cough.'
' You've got what?'
' I've got a cough.'
' You're a transvestite?'
' No, I've got a cough. I am a transvestite, but I've got a cough.'
' Well, I'd better sort the transvestite thing out. Have to refer you for that.'
' No that's not a problem, Just the cough, thanks.

'I dared myself to go to all of these places because I thought if I did it, my confidence would grow. So I did. It was scary, but scary is interesting if it's positive. Once you've done it, you realise that it's not as scary as you thought it would be, therefore your scary receptors change. Fear is the mind killer': one of the great lines in Dune. I love Dune. I took a train back to Sheffield, where I was a student, and I had a friend there I thought might kill me for being TV but he just turned up at the station and picked me up on his motorbike. Lucky I wasn't wearing a skirt.

Never apologise for being TV. You've got to say, Hi, I'm here, can I have a cup of tea? And one of those biscuits?, If you say that it's fine. If you go in and say,' Excuse me, I'm a transvestite, I'll be in the corner, I won't be a problem, I'll face away,' everyone will go,' oh-oh, problem case in the corner.' So don't apologise. I picked this up from Madonna. If I had my life over again, I'd be TV again. Even though it'd obviously be much easier not to be. A lot of TV's don't come out because then you're a bloke who fancies women. But there's this whole female side in your head that's a big secret and such a burden and when you come out, it's 'ARGHHH! Got to tell everyone! But once you're out, when people say,' Are you a transvestite?' and you go, Yeah...' and then there's nothing else for them to say. I've thought about changing sex but I look too much like a bloke to change sex, and I actually appreciate the male side more by being able to express the female.

My website, www.izzard.com, has just won second best website from Yellow Pages. It's good. People log on and say what they want. It had 6000 hits in six weeks. I think it might be eight people just constantly logging in." (OK which one of you BS members is responsible?) He looks at some photographs and sighs." You can't look like a tomboy with a powder puff in your hand," he says. In 'The Avengers' I only had these little scenes with Sean Connery. It wasn't, 'You talking to me? I don't see anybody else here.' It was more like, 'You're obviously not talking to me as I  have no lines.' I didn't quite have enough to get my teeth into. They said, 'We'll put some more lines in,' and gave me three more lines and I said, 'No, no more lines, we'll take 'em out.' Because Steve Mc Queen used to take lines out. I think my character was expected to say a few lines - stuff like don't you do that, John Steed.' But it was more powerful if I wasn't saying
anything. So I thought, I'll just stare at people and be enigmatic in some way. Some sort of silent guy who stares at people, hits them, chews gum and controls killer bees... 

Stand-up comedy and film acting are very different. There's a certain purity about stand-up comedy. If you want to be original in stand-up you just talk about your own sad life and people go, 'Oh, that's interesting.' So you can be as sad as you want - ' You know, I can't tie my shoelaces and I still can't tie my shoelaces, because I was attacked by my shoelaces when I was a kid.' And people will love it. Whereas you wouldn't do that in a film. Unless you playing a weird shoelace guy. I was walking through Time Square in New York and this guy was looking at me and shouting, 'F***n' faggot!' And I was going, 'You're a f***n' faggot.' I shout whatever they shout at me. So some people were going,' I saw you on the telly,' and other people were going, 'F***g faggot,' and one person said, 'Are you funny? Say funny! Say funny now!' I was saying, 'I'm expensive, I'll only do it for $10,000.''Tell me funny now! ''Give me $10,000 and I'll be funny'. I thought, if he gets that money out , I'd better be funny... And I could feel the aggression coming off those  people. I'm no good at fighting but I just can't stick it if people shout shit. And it can happen anywhere. If I'm in Leicester Square at night, I'll get it. 

'If I decided I was going to wear a dress in a dream, I'd wake up just before I got the opportunity.'

When I was younger, I broke into Pinewood Studios, I broke into
Elstree  Studios, I broke into the TV room at school... and I stole make-up. Yeah. The things I needed to get, I would get. Allure magazine just gave me 55 lipsticks to try out. That's a great irony for me, I have stolen lipstick from Bexhill-on-Sea Boots The Chemist when I was fifteen. I got caught, but I was too young to go to prison. I didn't buy it because I thought someone might say,' Why are you, a boy, buying make-up? You must be a transvestite.' It could be embarrassing. So I thought, I'll steal it. Then no-one will know... except me and the judicial system.'..... 
Dress to Kill is very easy to read, and a very well put together  biography with a 90s style. It's the sort of book which not  only is funny, but explains the background to the most famous  TV of our times, (with the exception of Janet Scott! ) who has  helped the understanding of the subject by being so 'out' about it.
The biographical nature of the book is quite disjointed, and jumps about; but this quirky style makes you turn the page, and it works really well. With some great gritty 'urban street-life' images, it is certainly one for the shopping list! And as the saying goes,' If you want to know more, then you'll just going to have to read the book.'

With thanks to Eddie Izzard, Ella Communications and Mike Watson at  'Hall or Nothing'.


Eddie Izzard 

Comedians were the new cool. Then Ben Elton collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber while Paul Merton flogged mobile phones on television and the new breed suddenly looked about as funky as Jimmy Tarbuck playing pro-celebrity golf. And then there is Eddie Izzard. As other once-radical comedians joked all the way to the bank via the inanity of light entertainment and advertising, Izzard just grew hipper. For when away from the stand-up arena, he is not sitting on the chat-show sofa but quietly crafting a career as a serious actor. 
Indeed, for those who know him for his imaginative sartorial style — he is, m’lud, a transvestite — his ambition is to be a leading man. Oh, and an MEP — yep, I’m serious: he monitors the (mis) fortunes of the euro daily. No chance, then, of him ending up an Elton. “I was conscious of that,” he says. 

“I feel if I lose all that money by not doing that stuff — and adverts pay crazy money — then it forces me to work harder creatively. It’s taken me so long to get here, what is the point? I say ‘no’ a lot.” 

Instead, he has said yes to numerous stage and celluloid roles. “As an actor I am still struggling to make the C-list,” he insists, though even in America, where he lives for part of the year, he has bagged two Emmys. 

“I still have to prove myself in a dramatic role before I am offered many things.

” His forthcoming stage role is hardly a thigh-slapper: he plays the father of a mentally handicapped boy in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Comedy Theatre. 

Eddie Izzard in Joe Egg...

For such roles, being known as a comedian is not helpful. “Yes, which is why I am building my acting career slowly. When I first became known in stand-up, it was in a culty way.” He may be modest but he is also a man powered by ambition. Izzard still simmers about how at public school he was never cast in the play. “I have since tried to work out whether I was just crap,” he says with an intense smile. 

His manner is more masculine still. If you suspected he might make John Inman look butch there is no trace of campness. He has a girlfriend, which I guess qualifies him as straight — or, as he would have it, “straight lesbian”, since his fantasy is to be a woman making love to another woman.  “I’m in a blokey phase, but I still want to give myself room for manoeuvre. Directors have said to me: ‘Yes, your stuff’s great, but I’m not going to use you’. They think, ‘Oh, he’s a transvestite, what am I going to do with that?’” Ah, the T-word already. I feared raising this might be tricky; instead, it’s hard to get Izzard off the subject. Being the second transvestite to become famous (he says he was preceded by a well-known cross-dresser in New Zealand) lent him a unique laughter point when he started. Now it is a distraction. 

“It is going to stick around until more generations of transgender people come out,” he says. Being gay may have cachet in certain circles — theatre — but society still gets its knickers in a twist about cross-dressers. “There is a perception that certain uplifting things go with being gay, but transgender is still (in) a difficult phase. Yet it is way better being where I am now and not having to lie.” Aged four, Izzard suspected that he was not entirely like other boys, and at 15 was caught shoplifting lipstick. He dismisses armchair analysis that this could have been sparked by the early death of his mother and a brutal teacher who helped him through his grief with regular beatings. 

His urges drove him to despair. “I am really quite shy, and I had very low sexual self-esteem. I went through a greasy-haired, spotty phase.” He only gathered courage to come out in his early twenties, when he discovered a transvestite help desk virtually next door to where he lived. “I thought it must be karmic,” he says, “but it was probably just Islington. “I also thought: ‘That’s it, no woman will want me’, and I was celibate for three years.” 

This gloomy period suddenly lifted when Izzard confessed all to his father, a senior executive with BP in Yemen at the time. “His letter to me was lovely,” says Izzard, quietly. “His job may have been traditional but he has a sort of a hippie philosophy: do what makes you happy.” 

So is Izzard Jr happy? “Yes, since then I’ve been very content. I have a slightly compressed emotional state; I never get delirious because it might all end tomorrow, but I’ve never got really depressed since, either.” 

Having made peace with himself, he could devote himself to work, which he has done without a break for 14 years. If he is frustrated that “closed-minded studio heads” won’t cast him as a romantic lead, the intriguing thing is that women seem to find him highly attractive. Just as fame opens doors it lowers drawers (look at Chris Evans’s incredible romantic back catalogue). But Izzard’s vast female fan club is proof that women’s fantasies are more extensive than the square-jawed bozos offered them by Hollywood. 

He is inspired by the example of Sir Ian McKellen, who as an actor is very good and as a man is very gay, and openly so. “We need more to come out as transvestites and people would think, ‘Oh, that seems all right’. At the moment it is like it was for gay men in the 1950s: ‘So what is your career, having sex with men?’ ‘Er, no, I’m a banker, actually.’ “It is a little bit straitjackety, sometimes I feel in a girlie mood!"

Unlike most forms of sexuality, being a transvestite seems sadly solitary: it is not about looking sexy to others but becoming one’s own sexual fantasy figure. Isn’t that narcissistic? “It is not about ego but it is about fancying yourself.” But then he adds, a little later: “I certainly don’t fancy myself.” 

So doesn’t transvestitism lead to inevitable disappointment: the most handsome man will never look like the most beautiful woman, no matter how skilfully he applies the lippy. 

“Absolutely. But isn’t it in everyone’s lives? Don’t lots of men want to end up looking like Steve McQueen?” Perhaps, but their looks are hardly an obsession: they can barely be bothered to look in the mirror. Transvestites, I would hazard, don’t have that luxury of indifference. And with such difficulties, work must seem an attractive escape. 

Anyway, that’s enough complicated desires. I mention Europe and he burbles away with even greater animation. A rampant federalist, he is Bill Cash in reverse, though more engaging. Has he, a Labour donor, been disappointed at the party’s meandering journey towards the euro? “Well yes, I would like us to be in there taking part. What are we going to be doing in 50 years? Europe will have become a great superpower and there we will be on the sidelines: ‘No, we can’t be a part of it, we won the war.’ Er, did we?” His complaint about national currencies is delightfully idiosyncratic: “In Sweden I bought caviar and got confused about the money and ended up paying 10 times more than I thought. Or a Greek taxi driver tells you, ‘That will be 60m drachmas, please’, and you haven’t a clue if that’s right.” 

More loyal to Tony Blair on Afghanistan, he credits him with steering America away from “carpet-bombing the world”, and still, perhaps naively, thinks the prime minister will persuade President George W Bush not to walk away from the country once the terrorists have been smoked out of their caves. 

He was also inspired by Blair’s conference call to save the world before lights-out. “If we don’t do anything about Aids in Africa, in 150 years’ time they will look back on us like monsters. It will be like the potato famine all over again.” 

Yet Izzard’s views are essentially new Labour. Unlike the (old) Ben Elton, he celebrates the growth of the middle classes and the greater cohesion they have given society. “I am a great realist,” he says. 

Does he think about going into politics? “Yes, I do,” he replies instantly. “I would have to give up this first,” he says, meaning showbiz, but he has already shown himself to be highly versatile. 

“I would be more interested in representing Britain in Europe than in domestic politics.” He realises he would have to “work my way up”. As Glenda Jackson discovered, there is a tendency when faced with celebs-turned-politicos “to say, ‘Oi, you’ve won an Oscar, so shut up and sit over there’ ”. 

Despite his Europeanism and burgeoning success in America, Izzard remains deeply British. The sex stuff is merely a minor part of it. He is keeping alive a great tradition: the British iconoclast who does it very much his own way. And you can’t get cooler than that.