August 1994, Vol. 28, No. 11
A penny for your togsPenny Elaine Hoar has had what she calls "a hyperactive life doing bizarre shit." This included a stint designing costumes for a nude theatre company. "If there was a grant," she says, "there were costumes."
A globe-trotter and painter, she ran twice for the federal Rhinoceros Party, most recently as a write-in candidate in Spadina-trinity, a rogue Rhino on the safe sex platform. "I'm a condom activist; I want to equate safe sex with humour. Sure, it's life and death we're dealing with, but lighten up a little."
An ex-model and actress, Penny speaks fluent French, Spanish and jive. She was also a performance-art stripper in Montreal in the seventies, appearing as Mountie Diddley Doright and Tammy the Tap Dancing Tampax.
During one dark period, she checked into the Parkside Clinic in Chicago, a victim of bulimia, drugs and alcohol. At that time, pop icon Elton John was also in attendance -- though, contrary to his sparkly persona, she found him "gentle and humble, stripped of grandiosity."
These days, she owns a business, Silk n' Secrets, in which she helps dress transexual men who yen to look like women. "Truck drivers are my main clientele, though I have RCMP, doctors and dentists," says the self-described transformation artist. "Lawyers always want to be abused, so I make them dress in a French maid's uniform and clean my house. Not bad, eh, getting $500 from a lawyer for the privilege of cleaning up my mess." Her usual fee is $100 an hour.
Penny's favourite client was a former white supremacist who discovered that he'd been adopted and was Jewish; he responded by becoming a cross-dresser.
Clients are drawn to her tiny, dishevelled house in Toronto's west end by her ads in local tabloids. A typical transformation begins when a customer describes a look he desires. Some want to be secretaries, while others crave the "Holt Renfrew look -- classic, with matching handbag and shoes." Penny begins first with lingerie, then "state-of-the-art, $800 tits."
Fortunately, her expertise extends to makeup. She uses orange-red lipstick "to hide the five o'clock shadow," pancake stick, eyeliner, false eyelashes. Then, the all-important corset -- "a Victorian lace-up that brings them in four inches" -- a garter belt and stockings, high heels, one of 200 outfits she owns and, finally, accessories. "They're awed. They go ga-ga over how great their legs look." Some want to go to a bar or a mall, while others, she says, "I leave alone with somebody they love and trust -- their feminine self."
Aside from her work with cross-dressers, Penny is vice-chair of the Prostitutes' Safe Sex Project, known as Maggie's. Founded by June Callwood, among others, the organization helps streetwalkers become "loud, proud and empowered." On October 2, Maggie's will sponsor a revue titled Whoreculture at the Zoo Bar. The show will feature a seventy-year-old stripper dancing veils.
Penny plans to use her position as event MC to launch a new career in "lie-down comedy." ("My main prop is a vibrating tongue because my humour is so tongue-in-cheeks.") She has also nearly completed training to become a certified fitness instructor, and will teach a program she developed specifically for "the female member" called, aptly enough, Sexercises.
Given Penny Hoar's unusual orientation, could her name possibly have been invented? "Absolutely not," she insists. "You think maybe it had an impact on my life?"
-- Beth Kaplan
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Last modified: June 25, 1999
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