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Popular Topics in The Arts
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In Memoriam
 
In Memoriam: Storme DeLarverie (1920-2014)
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 06/01/14
Last updated on: 06/01/14
 
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Stonewall veteran and male impersonator Storme DeLarverie died on May 28, 2014 in Brooklyn of a heart attack. Sometimes identified as having thrown the first punch at the Stonewall Inn on the night of June 27, 1969, DeLarverie regularly attended the annual pride parade in New York that commemorates the Stonewall uprising. But she was also known for her earlier career as a singer and drag king, as well as her later work as a bouncer for Manhattan lesbian clubs.

As William Yardley reports in the New York Times, DeLarverie was born in New Orleans in 1920. Her mother, who was black, was a servant in the home of her father, who was white. At some point her father married her mother, and the family moved to California.

DeLarverie began performing as a singer in her late teens, first as a woman and later dressed as a man. For a while she sang in a jazz group and performed in Europe. From the mid-1950s through the 1960s she was the Master of Ceremonies of the Jewel Box Revue, an interracial drag troupe that billed itself as "Twenty-five Men and a Girl." It differed from earlier drag acts in that it offered a unified production, not merely a succession of solo acts. Moreover, the show featured dance routines, original music, and comic sketches, but not lipsynching.

DeLarverie may or may not have thrown the first punch during the Stonewall Riots, but as Yardley notes, she "was indisputably one of the first and most assertive members of the modern gay rights movement."

For many years DeLarverie was a self-appointed guardian of lesbians in the Village. Tall, androgynous, and armed, she roamed lower Seventh and Eighth Avenues and points between, patrolling the sidewalks and checking in at lesbian bars, including the Cubby Hole and Henrietta Hudson, where she worked as a bouncer into her 80s.

For decades, DeLarverie lived at the Chelsea Hotel, but several years ago moved into a Brooklyn nursing home.

She was preceded in death by her partner of 25 years, a dancer named Diana, who died in the 1970s. No immediate family members survive.

The video below pays tribute to the Jewel Box Revue.

 
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