It is said that Tommy Tucker fell from a tree one fine afternoon in 1942 in the backyard of the Bullis’ house, in Washington, D.C., while he was still a blind and hairless baby. Zaidee Bullis, a childless mother and wife to a dental surgeon, adopted the tiny squirrel and made him a family pet. She fed him, bathed him, and put him to sleep on a tiny bed. But what Mrs. Bullis liked the most was dressing him up. Tommy Tucker had about thirty different costumes, and although Tommy was a boy, all his outfits were female for the simple reason that his tail would not fit in pants.
“Tommy has a coat and hat for going to market, a silk pleated dress for company, a Red Cross uniform for visiting the hospital,” wrote LIFE magazine when he appeared on print in 1944, complete with a gallery of photographs —the same ones on this page— taken by Nina Leen.
Tommy began accompanying Mrs. Bullis wherever she and her family went. He visited schools and was a frequent visitor to Children’s Hospital, where he charmed his young audience. He even appeared on the radio alongside President Franklin Roosevelt to promote the sale of war bonds. At the height of his fame, the Tommy Tucker Club had 30,000 members.
Tommy never complained his unnatural life, although sometimes he bit Mrs. Bullis.
After the war, Tommy’s celebrity life fizzled out, although he continued to make trips to different schools to entertain the kids. He also had a companion then, a wife named Buzzy.
When Tommy died on June 25, 1949, the Bullis family sent him to a taxidermy company in Denver to be stuffed so that he could be placed in a museum. Tommy’s mortal remains never made it to the museum, but somehow ended up in the possession of a Maryland resident. When she died in 2005, she offered Tommy, along with all his belongings that included his dresses, souvenir photographs, and letters from schoolchildren, to the Smithsonian Institute. But for some reason, the institute turned him down. The current whereabouts of Tommy is a mystery.
Related Reading: LOLCats From Yesteryears: Photographs by Harry Whittier Frees
Subscribe to our Newsletter and get articles like this delieverd straight to your inbox