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Paperback Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton Book

ISBN: 0395957893

ISBN13: 9780395957899

Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton

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Book Overview

The jazz pianist Billy Tipton was born in Oklahoma City as Dorothy Tipton, but almost nobody knew the truth until the day he died, in Spokane in 1989. Over a fifty-year performing career, Billy Tipton fooled nearly everyone, including Duke Ellington and Norma Teagarden, five successive "wives" with whom Billy lived as a man, and three children who he "fathered." As Billy Tipton herself said, "Some people might think I'm a freak or a hermaphrodite...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

I Wish I Had Done Some Research Before I Bought the Book

I was really excited to read this because the number of biographies of trans people is relatively small. The very first sentence of the preface though sent up huge red flags: "This is the story of a woman named Billy Tipton, a jazz musician who lived as a man from the time she was nineteen until 'he' died at age 74 and was discovered to be female." I couldn't get past that first page because there were just more and more signs of transphobia - I was going to skip the preface and hoped the main part of the book would be at least bearable, but then I saw the author's note on use of pronouns, the choice being to misgender Billy by flipping between male and female pronouns. I hadn't known of Billy before this, so that's a positive a guess. I just know I will not be able to read this without a constant pit in my stomach.

A great biography

I am always on the lookout for interesting books. I got the recommendation from Bob Dylan's show "Theme Time Radio" and I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical about Tipton's dual role and the attempted coverup and whether this book would end up being a dull one. It was neither, the story was fascinating and apparently true and the writing was vibrant. I came in with few expectations and ended up with no regrets. Enjoy it.

Who Are You?

It's safe to say that there is another side to most of us. No matter who you are, or how big or little it is, or how serious. There is something there that we don't tell others. But the lies and deception in this book from the man/woman it comes from, top it all. The book details the life of respected jazz musician, Billy Lee Tipton. A bright, funny, good natured and handsome young man, who wanted nothing more than to play the music he loved and to have a career doing it. Sounds nice, right?. Billy was born Dorothy Tipton. A she. From the age of 19 up until his death at the age of 74 in 1989, Dorothy had lived as a man. Billy. The writer of this fine and incredible biography, Diane Wood Middlebrook, can't easily answer most of the questions that anyone who knows the story or reads the book will want to know. Why?. Mainly because there is no real way of knowing. Billy Tipton was an incredible mystery. A mystery that the man himself only had the answers too, and he kept them with him when he went to the grave. Only Billy knows why he did it, and he never let it out. Sure, there were some who kind of had an idea along the way, and some who did know, but nothing came of it. The questions his story raise can only be met with ideas and suggestions of the author, and our own viewpoint. The book goes into detail how this man lived and worked. The details of the gigs he would play around the country. The most interesting thing here is that he was able to have five wives!. And according to them, they never knew anything. I have always known the story and it would be appealing and interesting no matter what, but I have a strong connection to it since Billy spent the last 26 or 27 years of his life here in my hometown. Billy's sexuality is the most mysterious. He went for real women, so was she really a lesbian?. What were her thoughts and wants?. No one knows. And why did she do it?. Some say that because back when she was growing up, women were in the background. Men up front. Women had their parts, and the men went off and did the work. There were some women who may of been in groups and what not, but a lot of them were background singers. Some lucky few broke thru the barriers and had solo careers. So did Billy do it so he could actually get a break in the business he wanted in to play the music he loved?. Who knows. It's an odd and infuriating tale since Billy is still a gigantic question mark at the end just as much as he was in the beginning. Middlebrook writes with such a deep understanding and respect for Tipton, and she makes it such an absorbing and compelling read. You could read the whole thing in one day if you wanted too. It's that good. From his stormy upbringing, to his bizarre adult and senior life, Middlebrook creates a brilliant book about a most peculiar and sensational person. A must read.

I feel like I've gained & lost a friend - at the same time

I first heard the Billy Tipton saga on the program "Mysteries and Scandals." I was concerned that the book was going to be handled in the style of the National Enquirer. So I'd like to say, that if you're looking for "the dirt" on Billy Tipton, if you only need to know the sexual aspects in explicit details, then go buy a rag magazine at the checkout counter at Kmart. On the other hand, if you are of a "higher mentality" and can view this book as a chronological trip through Billy Tipton's life, you'll be extremely satisfied. At first,I just had a lot of sympathy for Billy Tipton. But as I read, I found that anyone who knew him, regarded him as a kind, loving and giving person. No one had a rotten thing to say about Billy Tipton. Most of them knew Billy as Dorothy and just accepted and respected that. We seldom see those kind of principles these days.I liked the fact that the author took the time to "paint a picture" of what times were like in places like Joplin, Missouri or Spokane Washington. She included some jazz/musical history, medical terminology regarding cross-gender - a LOT of research was done. The bottom line was that Billy Tipton had a true "passion" for jazz, found a way to fulfill this passion, faced many obstacles, but I doubt that he ever meant to hurt anyone - (And he didn't, really). That's one heck of an epitaph for anybody. Billy Tipton - made a choice, carried it through and did it his way. A person way ahead of their time. Enjoy the book.

This is a true story you don't want to miss reading.

The shear thought that a woman the public had access to passed as a male jazz musician in the mid 20th century is mind-boggling. Only until Billy Tipton's death was her secret revealed. I found myself racing through this book at every spare moment satisfying my curiousity for how she pulled off her "show". The collection of photographs and memoirs is great.

One of the strangest books I have ever read.

I remember being called by a friend when Billy Tipton died. "She GOT AWAY WITH IT", my friend crowed. I've been waiting for a biography of this amazing person ever since and was not disappointed with SUITS ME. But it's difficult to realize that the events in the latter half of this story took place within my lifetime--at times they seem to have occurred on another planet. The most surprising thing about the book is the tolerance of Tipton's behaviour shown by a great many friends and relatives in a traditionally conservative part of the country. But rural Oklahoma in the thirties seems to have been full of men with womanish-sounding names and mannishly-named women, and no one thought anything of the occasional cross-dresser (the most hilarious episode is when Tipton meets the radio announcer who also passed as a man). As one friend of Tipton's says in SUITS ME: "There weren't as many mean people around then." The unconditional love some people have for friend and family is the true message of this book.
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