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Darcelle XV, an icon of the defense of the LGBTQ+ community, dies at the age of 92


Walter Cole, his real name, was crowned the world's oldest drag performer in 2016 by the Guinness Book of Records.


The Associated Press

Walter Cole, the iconic drag queen who performed for decades under the name Darcelle XV and was a fearless advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, died of natural causes in Portland, Oregon at the age of 92, according to official sources.

Darcelle, who died Thursday, was crowned the world's oldest drag performer in 2016 by the Guinness Book of Records, drawing audiences right up to her latest performances.

Darcelle XV, whose off-stage name was Walter Cole, is considered an icon for the defense of the rights of the LGTBQ+ community in Portland, Oregon. Photo taken from Darcelle XV's Instagram.

As a performer, Darcelle XV was known for hosting the longest running drag show on the West Coast.

Offstage, Cole, an Army veteran, spearheaded advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and charities in Portland.

The nightclub that the artist opened more than 50 years ago in downtown Portland, the Darcelle XV Showplace, posted a note on Facebook in which she expressed her grief over the death of the interpreter, and asked for privacy and patience.

If I hadn't accepted who I was, I would probably be dead by now."

Walter Cole, who gave life to Darcelle XV

The club, which had become a cultural institution in Portland in the 1970s, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020, making it the first place in Oregon to be specifically nominated for its significance in history. LGBTQ+.

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was considered a taboo establishment against which groups protested, The Oregonian reported.

In an interview with said newspaper in 2010, Cole commented that the place was a great support for many members of the LGBTQ + community, including him.

He identified with the feminine pronouns when he was performing, but preferred the masculine ones when he was not on stage.

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"If I hadn't accepted who I was, I would probably be dead by now," he told the newspaper.

"I would be sitting on a now retired sofa. That's not me," she claimed.

"She touched the lives of so many, not only through her performances but through her courageous community advocacy and charitable work

," said Todd Addams, acting executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.

"She was an icon," he said of Darcelle.

Writer Susan Stanley described the club as a place of "candor and affection", where performers were "glittering with sequins and satin and glittering feathers", in what is considered the first piece written about Darcelle XV, published in Willamette Week, in 1975. After decades of championing civil rights and liberties by LGBTQ+ activists, Stanley stated that it saddens him to see how the drag world has become polarized in the current political climate.

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"It's a very, very big misunderstanding," he said.

"Politicians want to go back decades in attitudes (...) I find it bewildering and horrifying at the same time."

Cole was born in 1930 and raised in Linnton, a Portland neighborhood.

He was in the Armed Forces and was demobilized in the late 1950s, according to the club's website, where it is claimed that he used the money the Army gave him to start his first business.

After trying his hand at a coffee shop and a jazz club, he bought the premises that would become the Darcelle XV Showcase in 1967.

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Two years later, he had developed his alter ego named Darcelle and came out as gay, according to the venue's website.

He left his wife and began a relationship with his artistic director.

During the 1970s, the club became a popular destination for cabaret and drag performances.

In 1999, Darcelle became the oldest drag performer on the West Coast, after the closure of the local drag Finocchio's Club in San Francisco, California.

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His fans, including the mayor of Portland, mourned his death on social media Friday.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said in a social media post that "Darcelle wrote an unforgettable chapter in Portland history."

Darcelle XV Showplace said details of a public memorial will be announced and all shows will go on as scheduled, as per Darcelle's wishes.

"Please join us in celebrating his legacy and memory, thank you in advance for your continued support," the club statement said.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2023-03-25

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