Giuliani's Cross-Dressing Antics Debated
Saturday, April 14, 2007; 2:45 AM
NEW YORK -- It is difficult to shock New Yorkers, yet Rudy Giuliani teetered close to the line when he sauntered onto a stage wearing a platinum-blond wig, a face full of makeup, dainty white gloves and a frilly pink gown filled out in all the right places.
His appearance at an annual political roast was exactly 10 years ago, and at the time, the idea of the tough-talking mayor in a busty ball gown raised eyebrows but was mostly accepted as a good joke _ adhering to an unwritten rule for the shenanigans that take place at the roast, known as the Inner Circle dinner.
Shortly after winning re-election that year, Giuliani took his feminine side to a national audience. While hosting "Saturday Night Live," he appeared in one skit as a bosomy, gray-haired Italian grandmother in lipstick and a flowered housedress, with stockings pulled halfway up his calves.
Now that Giuliani is running for the Republican presidential nomination, experts and political observers are wondering whether those well-photographed and widely documented performances _ and others _ could damage his campaign. Some say conservatives won't get the joke and will be turned off by what they see as yet another peek at Giuliani's exotic, big-city liberal side.
Political observers say many voters associate a macho demeanor with Giuliani's post-Sept. 11 image as a strong national leader in a time of crisis _ an image that could lose its power if dressed in stockings and dancing the cancan.
Yes, there was another year when he wore fishnets and did high kicks with the Rockettes.
"People think of him as a leader and a tough guy, and he has this image as somebody who tamed the city of New York and made the trains run on time, and seeing him dressed up like a girl would run contrary to all of those things," said political science professor Neal Thigpen of Francis Marion University in South Carolina.
South Carolina has one of the nation's earliest presidential primaries next year, and as the first Southern contest, it could set the stage for the region.
With conservative voters largely dominating presidential primaries, some experts say the footage of Giuliani cavorting about in women's wear could significantly damage his chances there and throughout the South. The images are already showing up on the Internet, including a mock campaign commercial on the popular video-trading site YouTube.
"You get out in more sophisticated places of the country, where they know Giuliani and they like him and they know about some of his antics, it's not going to be any surprise, but down here where they've never seen that kind of thing, it could do him some damage," Thigpen said.
But others say the gender-bending gags won't matter.
In Nevada, another state with an early caucus, Republicans would be unfazed by the image of Giuliani in women's clothing, said Heidi Smith, chairwoman of the Republican Party in Washoe County.