Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teddy Pendergrass and the transsexual

Back in the Seventies, the days of punk rock and "disco sucks," Teddy Pendergrass of Philadelphia was in a class of his own. His raw, passionate work with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes led to a solo career, international stardom and, with an image as the ultimate Ladies' Man, sold-out "women only" concerts. Then, on March 18, 1982 he crashed his Rolls Royce while driving home from a 76ers game. He injured his spinal cord. His passenger, who escaped with cuts and bruises, was a transsexual. Tenika Watson was a top drag performer on the East Coast who allegedly had a rap sheet that included thirty-seven arrests for prostitution.

Teddy claimed he didn’t know that Tenika was really a man. There were rumors that the wife of a former sports superstar was also a passenger in the car but left the scene of the accident to avoid scandal. Whether that was true, whether the story was planted to soften the blow to Teddy's image was never known. No one investigated whether Teddy was a pioneer not only in R&B but in that Eddie Murphy-Magic Johnson freakiness that would become so popular a decade later. It wasn't a topic of conversation in those days.

Besides, Teddy Pendergrass was paralyzed from the chest down, a quadriplegic. He'd be confined to a wheelchair for 28 years, until his death yesterday at 59. What a great singer.

UPDATE: Obituaries of Terry Pendergrass in the New York Times, written by Jon Pareles, and the Los Angeles Times, by Randy Lewis, omitted any mention of Ms. Watson's involvement in the crash or what the scandalous nature of the revelations did to Teddy's reputation as a ladies' man.

1 comment:

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The 70's! I just love everything about it. It's all about good music and this is just an example about it. I will find some links about Teddy Pendergrass because he was the best in his category.