John Herbert, shown here around 1950
John Herbert, 1966
John Herbert, 1983
John Herbert, 1970
John Herbert, 1967
400 Jarvis St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2G6, Canada
Herbert studied at the National Ballet School.
15 Trehorne Dr, Etobicoke, ON M9P 1N8, Canada
From 1939 to 1944, Herbert attended York Memorial Collegiate Institute in Toronto.
1929 Davenport Road, Toronto, ON M6N 1C3, Canada
Herbert attended Ontario College of Art from 1948 to 1950.
Herbert attended York Memorial Collegiate Institute in Toronto from 1939 to 1944, Ontario College of Art from 1948 to 1950, and National Ballet School from 1954 to 1957. He also studied at Boris Volkoff Ballet School from 1953 to 1957, and at New Play Society Theatre School from 1956 to 1959.
John Herbert began his career in the advertising department of Eaton's and during that time began competing in drag pageants. In 1947 John was mugged while he was dressed as a woman, and his attackers accused him to the police as trying to hustle them. Herbert was charged, convicted and sent to Guelph Reformatory for six months. There he was beaten and raped, but he was also able to wear drag and curl his hair. On release, he continued in drag. However, a few years later he was recognized by one of the cops who had arrested him before. This time he was sent to the Mimico Reformatory.
In 1953 John toured across Canada as a female impersonator with Allan Maloney in Paris After Midnight. He then attended both ballet and theater school. He decided on the theater. He used his middle name as one of his sisters was also in theater. In the 1960s John Herbert was artistic director of three Toronto companies in succession and founded the Garret Theater with his sister Nana Brundage.
In 1964, Canada's centennial year, Herbert wrote Fortune and Men's Eyes, based on his two terms in Stratford Festival, but then forbidden by the Board of Directors for public performance, although it was performed privately for the Stratford actors. Herbert produced and directed Jean Genet’s The Maids. This was the first Genet play in Toronto. Critic Nathan Cohen of the Toronto Star attended, and later sent Fortune and Men's Eyes to David Rothenberg in New York.
Fortune and Men's Eyes opened Off-Broadway and ran for a year. This was two years before homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada, and two years before Stonewall. The play was performed to great acclaim, but also controversy, in Los Angeles, London and Paris. It was filmed by MGM in 1970 in a former Quebec City prison with US actors. Also that year, John was at the televised opening of Toronto's new St Lawrence Center, in drag of course. The film version of Fortune and Men's Eyes came out in great success in 1971. In 1998, Herbert wrote Marlene Richdiet, a comic monologue in one act about a drag artist coming to terms with middle-age and food.
By 18 Brundage was an accomplished drag queen. He was able to pass as a female model at a fashion show. However, his male persona was obviously gay, and was subjected to taunts and jeers. Brundage spent several months in a reformatory while he was a teenager. He said several men beat and robbed him; the men said he solicited sex.