Ok, so this is supposed to be a “documentary about transsexuals. Directed by Doris Wishman, and starring Dr Leo Wollman, sex change doctor, who guides us though this mess. Anyway I had forgotten about this film. It was the summer of 1976, our Bi Centenial Celebration. It was also the great pot famine of “76 as security was so tight that there was no weed getting in.

Gee, what happened between then and today? 

This was cashing in on the Christine Jorgenson Story as he was the first to get national attention on the Mike Douglas Show. So I am hanging out with Big Al after smoking some hash. Yeah, for some reason there was a lot of hashish around then. We pass The Anco Theater, right on the corner of 42nd Street and 8th avenue. The Anco was the most dangerous grind house on the block. I was robbed there when I was a clean cut youngster, but in ‘76, I was anything but clean cut. 

Plus Big Al liked to fight, so no worries about being taken off. We looked at the poster. “What do ya think?” I was asked. “ I’m not sure what this is.” I said, the co feature was Glen or Glenda. Yeah, the old Ed Wood film. It was 99 cents to get in , so we decided to grab a pint of hooch and watch the movie. To say it was weird and creepy would be kind. 

It starts out with Leslie, a post op transsexual , telling her story. She is the more sincere of the group and comes off as real. Wollman, who supposedly is an actual doctor, comes off as creepy. He talks about hormone shots, gender reassignment, and how painful the surgeries . Then he has some people in transition get naked as he points at their shriveled up junk with a pointer. Ok, now we are laughing at the sight of genitals that look like dried fruit. 

There is a group session with some butt ugly people as they gripe about how hard it is to find work, stay in a relationship and other boring crap. Some of the post op people are real women with weird looking bodies. Wollman describes the sex change in graphic , visual detail. Some patrons left during this scene. There was another scene where someone tried a do it yourself sex change with a wood chisel. We see a wood chisel covered with blood.

Then Wollman gives us a dissertation on the use of dildos. The camera pans across a table of strap ons, butt plugs and other plastic toys that were probably purchased right up the block. Then we see a too eager post op transsexual get porked by future Deep Throat star, Harry Reems. Billed as Tim Long, Harry is minus his trademark mustache. After screwing the “woman” her vagina is gushing blood. Harry looks over his shoulder and says “ Thanks, lady” in a Jerry Lewis sounding voice.

This footage had to be shot in 1972. In 1971, Harry was Tim Long in the nasty Forced Entry in 1971. He was a rapist/killer in that one. He is equally creepy in both films. Then came Deep Throat and his ‘stache in 1972. He never lacked for work after that. Wollan explains how this woman spent weeks in the hospital getting her hoha fixed. Wollman has another post op stretch her hoha with a metal cone. Al calls bullshit on this one as this is just an obviously real woman with bad tits. 

Now we get more psychobabble as we hear from a woman into man situation. Leslie comes back for more, but we don’t laugh at her because she’s pretty sincere. She talks about her Puerto Rican upbringing and how religion screwed her up. Honey, religion screws everyone up. Then we meet Steve, another repressed guy who walks in on a friend screwing his wife ( Vanessa Del Rio) . Steve has feelings for the guy, but his guilt overtakes him and he hangs himself. 

That was pretty much the end and we didn’t stay for Glen or Glenda. We went to Club 44 to wash the taste of this film away. Let Me Die a Woman is a really strange piece of exploitation history. I don’t know what it’s target audience was, but it didn’t hang around too long. Cinema had it share of cross dressing killers from Psycho to Sleepaway Camp. The Angel series had a friendly cross dresser, Mae, played by Dick Shawn.

The transsexual phenomenon exploded in New York in the late 70’s. Ads for transsexual escorts started appearing in Screw Magazine. Eventually Screw devoted an entire section to these ads and called it The TV Guide. Nightclubs like Sally’s Hideaway and Edlewiess catered to transsexuals and their admirers. Transsexual streetwalkers prowled a section of 9th Avenue. Adult Video companies jumped on this as they released VHS tapes of transsexual porn with stars like Sulka and Margo. 

Today, the whole scene is above ground. There are companies that specialize in transsexual DVDs. I honestly feel for these ladies as they have been treated horribly and the few I have met at liquidators and other places are great people. Let Me Die a Woman is a strange footnote in exploitation cinema. Looking at it today, it’s dated and creepy. 

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