I first learned about Elizabeth Carmichael thanks to a 2018 episode of One From the Vaults, writer and artist Morgan M. Page’s long-running podcast “that brings you all the dirt, gossip, and glamor from trans history.” In case you’re unfamiliar, Carmichael burst on the scene seemingly out of nowhere in the middle of the 1970s energy crisis with plans to revive the flagging American auto industry and perhaps even save the economy itself with her incredible, fuel-efficient, three-wheeled car: The Dale.
The only problem? The car wasn’t real—even the prototype was a sham, with its doors held on with regular door hinges and its much-hyped third wheel propped up by a couple of two-by-fours. Carmichael ended up serving prison time for the scam, but after her release in the 1980s she disappeared—though some say she’s still alive today, per One From the Vaults, carefully editing her Wikipedia page to paint herself in the best light.
“Not all trans people are heroes,” as Page notes in the episode. “Liz Carmichael is no hero of trans history, but she sure did leave us a gonzo story.” That’s precisely what I love about her as an historical figure. Not all of our trans forebears were saints, despite whatever mandates towards positive representation and respectability narratives might have us believe. Cis people have their Davids Hampton and Annas Delvey, and I honestly love that for them. But what about us? Why let them have all the fun?
Anyway, back to Liz. Apparently, HBO is airing a four-part docuseries all about the legendary scamstress, directed by Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker (queen) and executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass. The first two episodes premiere Jan. 31. Check out the trailer below.