Friday, June 30, 2023

Casa Susanna Reviewed

I watched Casa Susanna on PBS Tuesday night. Caveat emptor: I have read no reviews about the documentary, so my review, which follows, has not been influenced by anyone else's review.

I hated the soundtrack. Most of the music sounded like it came from a funeral home. The music gave the whole documentary a dark feeling. I did not recognize most of the tunes – they might have been classics as far as I know, but I wish they had used some music that was more uplifting. 

The stories told by the two trans women were interesting, but not that unusual if you have been reading trans bios like I have been reading for the past 60 years. 

I wish they had interviewed a crossdresser, who had not undergone a sex change; her perspective would probably be different than the post-ops.

I found the stories told by the civilians much more interesting. You don't often get the perspective of a civilian who is related to a trans person and I could listen to their stories all day long.

From one of the civilians, author Darryl Radnor’s daughter, I learned that Radnor was a regular guest at Casa Susanna. Radnor’s book, A Year Among the Girls, had given me the erroneous impression that she was not that involved – more of an observer, rather than an active participant. By the way, wouldn’t this be an excellent time to republish Radnor’s book, which is impossible to find anywhere. I know I would purchase a copy (lost my copy in the Great Purge of 1983).

I already knew most of the facts concerning Casa Susanna, as well as its predecessor, the Chevalier D'Eon resort, so nothing new there. But the documentary was a little misleading because most of the filming was done at the D'Eon resort site, not Casa Susanna, and that fact was not mentioned until late in the documentary. (I knew something was amiss because I was familiar with what Casa looked like and I did not recognize it when they concentrated on the resort site during much of the documentary.)

Overall, the documentary was very good especially for anyone who does not know much about Casa Susanna. And it would be a good educational tool for civilians who do not have a clue about crossdressing, something that you might suggest that your family watch in order to get to know you a little better.

Source: New York & Company
Wearing New York & Company

Femulate reader Laura
I welcome all Femulate readers to submit Before and After photos for publication on the blog.
Just send your photos to stana-stana at-sign


  1. I will check out the PBS show - I know very little about Casa Susanna other than the play Casa Valentina.
    I have been VERY hesitant to share a Before/After photo since I am not out to many in my community, but this seems to be a safe place to do this, yet I've been burned before with a "safe" post that leaked out, which all means I'm still considering it.

    1. AnonymousJune 30, 2023

      Aunty here. Thanks for your review, dear.

      Casa Valentina, the play by Harvey Feierstein of Hairspray and Kinky Boots fame, was based on Casa Susanna but was a very fictionalized account. The tension in the play between a character based on Virginia Prince and another cd staying at the house over whether gay guys should be allowed in the new sorority Virginia Prince ws forming never arose in reality. Casa Valentina premiered on Broadway in 2014 and has had numerous international productions, as well as being produced in South Florida and at other regional playhouses in the U.S.. The play has quite a few challenging cd roles for actors who have to be completely comfortable in 1960's vintage bras, stockings and dresses for the first time.

  2. AnonymousJune 30, 2023

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Marissa in OhioJune 30, 2023

    Hi Stana, Thank you for posting this review of 'Casa Susanna' on PBS. I had a similar response to the documentary: it was dreary rather than joyous or celebratory. I too wish that contemporary, of today, crossdressers, had been interviewed because one of the main events at Casa Susanna was dressing up! This documentary was potentially a strong opportunity for the lovely world of crossdressers to be made public but it fell short. Oh well. Best to you, Marissa in Ohio.

  4. I watched Casa last night and came away with several reactions. First of which I was not happy with the age warning "12+" I saw before it began and I was surprised also they only interviewed two trans women. I did however think it represented the repressive time in our culture we were going through. It should serve as a warning we could be going back if the current wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation continues Good review!.

  5. I set my YouTube TV to record this, but my local PBS provider (Alabama Public Television) first moved it from 9pm to 4am, and then replaced "Casa Susanna" with a documentary on the integration of NASA in the 60s 😔 ~ this broadcast of "Casa Susanna" was publicized in their monthly mailing and so needless to say, they got a complaining email this morning after I turned on the recording ~ however, I am glad to hear this was an isolated, red state, cancellation, and not an overall cancelation because of national pressure on PBS.

    1. follow-up: got a reply from Alabama Public Television that said National PBS canceled the broadcast after the monthly flyer was printed and distributed - which is b/s, given that so many of you watched it last night on other PBS systems ~ I'm not overly surprised it was cancelled, given that their HQ is in the state capital - but I AM very disappointed that they lied about it

    2. FWIW, the Alabama Public Television website indicates they will be showing Casa Susanna tonight and over the weekend.
      Here is the link to that schedule:

    3. Thank you Stana for the follow-up; recorder is set😁. Unsurprisingly, APT did not include that additional information in their reply to my email.

    4. Yet another reason to get the hell out of Alabama!

  6. I did not notice the music as I was laser focused on the dialog. The coverage of Chevalier D' Eon resort was a discovery for me having been unaware of it. I agree it would have been nice to hear from crossdressers who attended there but my guess is most are gone and those who are still around aren't talking.

    Stana, you and I are about 6 months apart in age, so we know what it was like when we came of age in those days. Those before us that risked so much to express themselves likely taking it or have taken their story to the grave with them.

    There is a house on the side of a hill where the 405 and 5 freeways meet in Sylmar California that I drove by for many years growing up. Next to it is what is called the spillway where water comes out of the mountain supplying Los Angeles with water. For years I fantasized about Casa Micki in that house where crossdressers could come and play. It would have been perfect, but I never had the money to do it.

    I did meet Virginia Prince once in 1972 who published Transvetia and other publications and she was a fascinating person.


    Micki Finn

  7. AnonymousJune 30, 2023

    If the before picture wasn't there I would have thought Laura was just another cisgender woman.

  8. I think it would be extremely difficult to find a crossdresser from that time who would be willing to talk on camera, so much easier to find two people who transitioned and don’t mind facing the public.

  9. AnonymousJuly 01, 2023

    A good femulation is one where you can't tell they are femulating with reading the caption

  10. I'm not as harsh about the Casa Susana American Experience episode. as you, Stana. Anything that illuminates this very interesting time and place in CD/TG history is good for everyone, not just our community. This history of both The Chevalier D'Eon and Casa Susana always makes me wonder how many other discrete hideaways there were for our historic community around the country. One thing that I learned from the documentary (among many other things) was how open and popular the shows at the D'Eon were! And that just supports my memories and knowledge about female impersonation being universally popular for many. many years, all the way up to the 1960s-70s. Of course, back in the 1950s the evil Sen. McCarthy (with his very evil sidekick Roy Cohn) and his Senate hearings had a negative effect on those shows, but the good ones survived for another decade or so. I give evidence of this with my attendance by having gone to shows at The 82 Club and The Jewel Box Revue!

    Mentioning Roy Cohn just now makes me think about how Darryl Radnor and his (her) book seriously downplayed what the doc revealed from his daughter, that the happiest time of her father's life were when she could be her true self. It's a well-known fact that Roy Cohn was a flaming homosexual who threw famous gay parties at his home in NYC. But he vehemently denied being gay and mounted many anti-gay rants and attacks at homosexuals as a "cover", notably during the Senate hearings. Those hearings had quite a lot to do with the rampant firing of gays from the Federal Government and it's contractors.

    Angela makes the excellent point that given the time and then-attitudes towards gays, the crossdressers attending weekends at Casa Susana were VERY closeted back then. The doc makes note of that fact. Given the combination of attrition and the closeting issue, I'm not surprised there were no CD people in the doc. I'm a dedicated viewer of American Experience, and know they work very hard to find every iota of information about their episodes. If there had been a CD member of the Casa Susanna community available, they would have found her.

    I appreciated so very much the stories of the grandson of Mary and Tito (Susana). I loved the story about Mary "outing" Tito in her wig shop. Tito, like many of us, operate on the edge of being "out", but we just can't find a way to utter those words. So we do femme things publicly in order to have people do the "outing" for us. Then we "spill the beans". Here in Baltimore I never directly told any of my neighbors about being a cd, but I've certainly let them see some of those parts of me so they could figure it out for themselves.

    I love the story about how Tito became Susanna and Mary married "them". And then Mary invested in a guest cottage business in The Catskills and turned it into a safe place for Susanna and her fellow CDs, even turning it into a weekend drag club. When Mary sold D'Eon, she "downsized" and kept Susanna's safe haven for her CD sisters, naming it Casa Susanna. This spot became famous in CD and TG circles and the two women featured in the documentary came from Indiana and Australia! Yikes! When time sort-of ran out on Casa Susanna, we find out that Susanna transitioned from Tito and lived and worked in NYC as her true self. I knew noting about her aside from Casa Susanna, and I loved finding out about her later life.

    Could the documentary have been better? of course, but this current update abut our historic community filled in some empty spots. Perhaps some older crossdressers who spent happy times up there in The Catskills will watch this doc and come forward to fill in more empty spots. I sure hope so. And I love that I can find out more about this historic treasure of our community on PBS -- and not hidden in the back shelves of some newsstand or bookstore. Can an attack on Florida Public Broadcasting by DeSantis be far behind???

  11. AnonymousJuly 01, 2023

    Wonderful commentary MIkkiB. Another significant positive step forward that continues to push the door open for us to walk proudly through.

  12. AnonymousJuly 02, 2023

    Wow! Laura, you look great! Your skin is amazing!