In between The City and The Venetian Room, my memories are of

    Charles on film -- do you remember him as the Queen of England in Joan Rivers' "Rabbit Test?";

    Charles at Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus -- imagine the reaction when "Bette Davis" was told that, because of the fire code, she couldn't smoke on-stage!;

    Charles singing (to the tune of "Brazil") -- "Brassieres. They're on the second floor at Sears."

    Charles at Freddy's Supper Club in New York City -- served a drink that was, apparently, unsatisfactory, Charles sipped it, cried out in disgust and threw the nearly full glass across the room. He then said to all of us, in his low, sultry voice, "Don't you wish you could do that at your job?"

    Charles as Katharine Hepburn -- singing "Always Mademoiselle" and moving well beyond impersonation into the realm of great play acting.

He was, to me, more than funny, more than outrageous -- he was the epitome of the class act.

At the end of many of Charles' shows, I remember him asking the musical question, "Want to buy an illusion?" It took me years to understand he wasn't singing "to buy" meaning "to purchase" but, rather, "to believe in." Watching him then, a smile would come to my lips and a tear to my eye.

As the song ended, Charles would sing,

So it was.

Frank Fontana
New York City
October, 1999

I discovered, only after Charles died, that Kevin Bochynski has created a Charles Pierce Web site that is really wonderful. You can find it here:

And Peter Mintun has written a lovely tribute that can be found at the Web site of The Museum of The City of San Francisco:

I extend my thanks to Joan Edgar, Kirk Frederick and Jim Reiter, and to Fritz Jude Jeanniton, Graphic Designer at The Fairway Market, for their gracious assistance in preparation of this piece. (Fairway employee Steven Jenkins selected all the quotes for the window display.)

To contact the author by e-mail, click here.

Copyright © 1999 Frank Fontana & Manhattan Live Performance