The Next Chapter

Brian Bradley's book Outrageous Misfits explores the life and legacy of Craig Russell and Lori Russell Eadie

The Toronto writer and biographer spoke with The Next Chapter about writing a book about the famous Canadian entertainer and actor.
Brian Bradley is the author of Outrageous Misfits. (Gord Johnson, Dundurn Press)

It's been more than 30 years since the groundbreaking drag performer Craig Russell died. The Canadian celebrity and actor, internationally renowned for his impersonations of famous female stars, was only in his 40s when he passed. 

Brian Bradley is a Toronto journalist and author of the book, Outrageous Misfits. The biography explores the life of Russell and his wife, Lori Russell Eadie.

Russell identified as gay. So it was a surprise when he married Lori Eadie, one of his ardent fans. The couple had a unique and loving relationship — but it was one that also involved issues of mental health, drug addiction, sexual assault and abuse.

Bradley spoke with The Next Chapter about writing Outrageous Misfits.

Craig Russell and Lori Russell Eadie at New Yorker Theatre in 1978. (David Street)

A fascinating relationship

"The relationship between Craig and Lori was fascinating. They certainly approached their relationships very, very differently. Craig constantly sought to have boundaries, because Lori was so overwhelming in her admiration of him.

"For Lori, Craig was absolutely a safe place. He was the person and place that she wanted to be because it was where she felt good.

"Like Craig, Lori had a lot of trauma in her life and she found safety in the world of make-believe.

"Because of her trauma, she forgot about needing love and she got used to not being treated well.

Craig constantly sought to have boundaries because Lori was so overwhelming in her admiration of him.

"So no matter what Craig did, or no matter some of the crazy things that happened between them, she never, ever let go."

"As different as they were at times, they needed the same things — they needed understanding, a place to belong and they needed love."

From the Vaults: Craig Russell (clip)

CBC Arts

2 years ago
Craig Russell performs on the CBC in this clip from episode two of From the Vaults 1:54

Finding out what makes a person tick

"I learned of Craig when I was a doe-eyed, naive 13-year-old little boy in northern Ontario. Russell was someone who was effeminate. He was obviously in touch with his femininity as much as his masculinity. He wore makeup. He put on dresses. He lived with this aging movie star. And it was like nobody I'd ever known. 

"I knew nothing about sexual identity, gender identity, drag theatre or different types of art or impressionism — I knew none of it.  And he just stayed in my mind for a really long time until I grew up and I learned about the world. 

Russell was someone who was effeminate. He was obviously in touch with his femininity as much as his masculinity.

"Russell had the ability to look at a subject and peel away the layers and find what made a person tick. Sometimes he played on that, quite frankly, to sometimes funny, sometimes insensitive degrees."

Brian Bradley's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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