following is an outline of the chapters in the book I prepared using
Ray's original manuscript. During the editing of the book, Ray's original
chapters were re-arranged into rough chronological order. Some chapters
were combined or split into two chapters, depending on the arc of
story that Ray is telling.
Ray's autobiography survives only in fragmented form, since he was unable
to complete it before his death. In addition, he admitted that he was
not a writer and wanted it to be edited for publication. Throughout the
editing, Ray's original intent was preserved as closely as possible,
corrections for grammar, spelling, and readability.
The end result of the book is a piece that brings together many of the
loose ends and fragments that Ray left behind -- his routines, his incomplete
autobiography, stories he told to friends, and documents that fill in
other missing information. The intention is not to provide a definative
biography of Ray that attempts to verify or dispute the many stories he
told about himself (or that others repeated about him), but to leave the
reader with a starting point for making up their own mind about who Ray
Bourbon really was.
In the introduction to the book, I provide an introduction to Ray's work
and life in the broader context of the historical period and outline the
facts of Ray's life and some of the stories that remain unverified.
1 - Early Life
In this section Ray describes his family and upbringing on a ranch in
Texas. The material includes a rather touching story about the ranch foreman
that had a sexual relationship with Ray and the foreman's subsequent murder.
Ray was sent to school in England because of the scandal. The chapter
ends with Ray's first meeting with Pancho Villa who helped Ray's mother
with the situation created by the murder.
2 - School in London
Ray attends a boarding school in London, describing the culture clash
between himself and the students at the school. He meets a sympathetic
older male instructor who takes him to see a show -- Ray is hired to play
a part in the show, beginning his long show business career.
3 - La Senora Diablo
This chapter of the book is reproduced from Carlton Stowers original article,
based on an interview with Ray when he was in prison. Ray returns home
after working in show business and winds up running guns (in drag) for
Pancho Villa, becoming the mysterious "La Senora Diablo" or
4 - Paramount Studios
Ray describes his work in silent movies in the 1920s. The chapter is a
fascinating look at how silent films were made during the period. Ray
was friends with then-unknown William Boyd (who would later play Hopalong
Cassidy) and worked on films with Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, and
Cecil B. DeMille.
5 - Vaudeville
Ray didn't feel his career was going anywhere in films, so he returned
to the stage. Here, Ray gives a fascinating look at the day-to-day life
of a vaudeville performer, as he travels in large and small towns all
over the country. While in vaudeville, Ray would meet and encourage a
very young Robert Taylor early in his career.
6 - Shanghai
After vaudeville begins to die out, Ray looks to Shanghai for work. While
there, he meets and befriends a member of the royal family of China who
was living in exile with his entourage in Shanghai at the time.
7 - Chicago and Al Capone
Ray works in a nightclub owned by Al Capone. He has a relationship with
a female associate of Capone's and both have near misses in the dangerous
world of Chicago's gang wars. Ray goes into great detail about Capone's
work for underpriveledged people in Chicago and the many unusual characters
in Capone's organization.
8 - London and the Crazy Gang
Ray describes working with "The Crazy Gang", a well-known music
hall group of the period and doing a command performance for King Edward
with the group. He first meets a long-time accompanist, George Duke, whom
he befriends and takes under his wing.
9 - Josephine Baker
Ray works with the Follies in Paris with headliner Josephine Baker.
10 - Franco
Ray and Baker perform a dangerous command performance for Franco and Ray
tries to smuggle an aspiring French actor into the US for Louis B. Meyer.
11 - Cuba
After his tour of Europe, Ray travels to Cuba with the French actor. An
interesting look at the nightclubs of pre-communist Havana.
12 - The Hollywood Screen Test
The French actor comes to Hollywood and finally gets a screentest, which
scandalizes the studio.
13 - Jean Harlow
Ray discusses Hollywood scandals over the years and looks at his friendship
with Jean Harlow. He goes into detail about the circumstances surrounding
the death of Harlow's husband and his own involvement with the aftermath.
14 - Finochio's
Ray discusses his work at the famous San Francisco drag nightclub and
his friendship with its eccentric owner, Marge Finochio.
15 - Miami
Ray works at a nightclub in Miami to audiences of Jewish tourists that
only speak Yiddish and parties with some of Miami's well-heeled residents
in his spare time.
16 - Mae West and "Catherine Was Great"
In the late 40's, Ray worked with West in her show "Catherine Was
Great". He looks at his friendship with West in detail.
17 - Lupe Velez
Ray discusses the eccentric Lupe Velez, an associate of Mae West.
18 - "Diamond Lil", Colorado Incident
During the Colorado run of "Diamond Lil", Ray has an experience
in what appears to be a haunted house.
19 - Egypt
Ray works in a small nightclub in Egypt and is given a pet camel by the
club's owner. He meets George Duke for the final time, bringing a close
to their long (and by now, strained) friendship.
20 - Pueblo, Colorado
A fitting end, in a sense, to Ray's own look at his career. He performs
in a small club in Pueblo and has an encounter with a wild cowboy and
his even wilder wife.
The appendix of the book contains information to fill out details on the
rest of Ray's life -- excerpts and a discussion of his FBI file and the
spy case he was touched by in the early 60's, his trial for murder, and
an interview with Ray's lawyer in the case. The book also includes a discography,
filmography, and other materials of interest to those who wish to investigate
Ray's life further.