The legendary Darcelle was performed by Walter Cole for more than 50 years (Photo: Facebook)
American drag star Darcelle, who was performed by Walter Cole and held the record as the world’s oldest known drag artist, has passed away.
The news of the legend’s death on 23 March was announced on the Facebook page of her Portland, Oregon nightclub, Darcelle XV Showplace, which she owned and ran. She was 92 years old.
“The family of Darcelle XV along with her cast and crew are heartbroken to announce that our beloved Darcelle (Walter W. Cole, Sr.) has died at age 92 from natural causes,” said the club.
“We ask for privacy and patience as everyone processes and grieves in their own way and at their own pace. All shows at Darcelle XV Showplace will go on as scheduled per Darcelle’s wishes.”
Cole performed Darcelle on stage for more than 50 years, starting at the age of 37, reported Oregon Live. His nightclub is said to be America’s longest consecutively running drag cabaret.
Cole first married a woman and had children with her before coming out as gay and starting a relationship with his long-time male life partner, fellow performer Roxy LeRoy Neuhardt.
Neuhardt, who is credited with coming up with Cole’s drag name and was described as the love of his life, passed away in 2017.
“If I hadn’t told my wife and family that I was gay, if I hadn’t met Roxy, my partner of almost 50 years, there wouldn’t be a Darcelle or I would be dead by now,” Cole said in a 2019 video.
Darcelle became well-known in the city not only for her bawdy performances but also for her support of several charities and causes.
She was recognised by the Guinness World Records in 2016, then at the age of 85, as the planet’s oldest drag queen, a record that she retained until her death.
“I’m going to keep working as long as I can. As long as I can still remember what I’m supposed to say [and] I can still get on stage and get off,” Cole said in the video. “I don’t regret a day of my life. No, I did it all.”
The Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler lauded Darcelle as an “icon who gave us more than great performances,” adding that “their legacy will live on through their philanthropy, legendary show venue, and the countless lives they’ve impacted for good.”
Cole is survived by his wife, Jeannette, whom he never divorced and maintained a good relationship with, and his son, daughter, two granddaughters, a great-granddaughter and a great-grandson.
Darcelle is a Portland icon who gave us more than great performances. Their legacy will live on through their philanthropy, legendary show venue, and the countless lives they’ve impacted for good. pic.twitter.com/fUcKtaWY0T