Tommy, Rumsty, Bobby Folson and Master Freddie Manners were all pseudonyms for Effie Marion Fellows. She led an extraordinary life and adventurous career as a male impersonator.
Born in Subiaco in 1893, Effie Marion Fellows was the daughter of a well-known local painter and decorator, Richard Fellows. From a young age, Effie was a tomboy and went by the nicknames of Tommy and Rumsty. By age 16, Effie had decided that skirts were a nuisance and had to have "either freedom of speech or action".
Having little regard for conventional dress, Effie masterfully adopted men's attire and disguised herself as a boy, which often landed her in trouble. After being discovered at a male-only boxing match, the Perth Court reprimanded her. At the time, she was employed as a "lift boy"" at the Palace Hotel in St George's Terrace and, after two days of work, was promoted to the dining room. However, one day, she was recognised by a friend and knew it was time to "clear out". Then, she went on to work at a girls' college as a page boy, doing odd jobs, but was sacked when she became an object of too many girls' affection.
Effie went on to have many adventures. Going by the name Freddie Manners, she took a steamboat to Melbourne, sharing a male cabin with two men who later were reportedly astounded by the hoax. Effie acquired a job driving a horse and cart for a Toorak newsagent. It was here that Effie saw male impersonators for the first time and went on to create a show of her own.
Later, she travelled to Sydney, where she got a lucky break and was discovered by Sir Benjamin Fuller, a theatrical entrepreneur, who contracted her as a male impersonator at Fullers Theatre.
Billed as Freddie Manners, "Australia's Perfect Boy", Effie's successful career as a variety performer was launched. The novelty of her speciality and the cleverness of her characterisation made her a hit in Australia and overseas. She toured the world, performed at the London Palladium and was described by a New York newspaper of the time as "one of the greatest boy impersonators in her line".
Effie regularly returned home to Perth during the 1920s, where she headlined theatres such as the Majestic, Regent and the Luxor.
Effie married twice, once to a London Acrobatic Clown whose stage name was Piquo and then to boxing promoter Sammy Chapman. As vaudeville waned in popularity during the 1930s, Effie returned to Subiaco, where she continued to perform in nursing homes and community centres until her passing in 1977.
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