As the proud, public face of the LGBTQ community, drag queens are mourned and remembered in a special way. In past decades, too many scintillating performers — and good hearts — have been lost. For this year’s Kind of a Drag issue of qnotes, we’d like to pay homage to some of the local queens who are so missed. Although we cannot include everyone, memories last much longer than words. We honor all the lost queens who have graced the local LGBTQ community with their talent and leadership.
A traveling talent who delighted audiences all over the state, Arabia Knight-Addams died in 2012 after more than a decade of performance and accolades. Winning dozens of titles over the years, this gorgeous goddess of the stage is memorialized in stunning photos with the towering crown she deserves.
A memorable performer who aimed for laughter as much as love, Aretha Scott, aka Franklin Freeman, was murdered in 2002, five days before she was set to testify against a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer. Her case remains officially unsolved, although friends and followers have not stopped asking questions.
“She was always willing to help people,” friend Terry Burris reminisced. “She was always just a lot of fun and a good person. I think that’s how she’d want to be remembered.”
Bam Bam LaTour
Curtis Johnson, 27, died in a car accident in 2004. He was a former administrative assistant at qnotes. He began drag under the tutelage of Ricky Carter, aka Boom Boom LaTour, who was shocked by the sudden tragedy.
“Curtis was one of my best friends — it was like losing a child that you had raised and nurtured,” Carter told qnotes then. “He was supposed to stay around and help me, but at least I know he’ll be up there giving me some guidance.”
Boom Boom LaTour
Carter followed his protégé out of this life in July 2016 at 63 years old. Boom Boom had a long career in drag, providing a safe haven for the LGBTQ community at her performances throughout the 1970’s and beyond. A comedic performer who would have your sides split halfway through her annual rendition of “the Twelve Drunken Days of Christmas,” Boom Boom was known as “a grandmother to everyone in the drag community,” according to qnotes columnist Buff Faye.
As fierce and proud as Danny Leonard as he was performing as Brandy Alexander, this drag diva and gay activist died of cancer in May 2016 at 70 years old. Leonard moved mountains for the LGBTQ community, raising record-setting funds to support victims of the early AIDS crisis, and standing strong through outright hatred, violence and persecution, including multiple unjust arrests and an arson attack against her business, Friends Lounge in Jacksonville, N.C.
“I want you to remember one thing about Brandy,” said friend Greg Brafford at the memorial. “That girl had balls. She wasn’t scared of a redneck in Lexington, North Carolina, when she was growing up. She wasn’t scared of the police in Florida when they locked her up. She wasn’t scared of a six-foot-five Marine with a baseball bat in Jacksonville. She wasn’t scared of a fire when they burned her house down. She wasn’t scared of a bomb when they blew her bar up and she sure as fuckin’ hell wasn’t scared of cancer.”
A former business partner to qnotes publisher Jim Yarbrough, John Green, aka Divinity, became a transgender advocate when she was most needed. Founder of the Carolina Trans-Sensual Alliance and chair of the 1994 Southern Comfort Conference, Divinity published the newsletter All the Beautiful People before dying in 2004 of Hepatitis B complications.
“She was insistent that we all — especially queer people — treat each other with love,” said longtime friend Holly Boswell.
O’Neil, legally named Tim Irby, was owner of now-defunct drag queen store Everything on East, later renamed Everything East of the Sun. Irby performed in drag in popular venues such as Oleen’s and the Scorpio, and was a former Miss Gay Charlotte America in 1983.
An unforgettable stage presence was lost to complications of HIV/AIDS during the epidemic’s peak. A towering, titillating diva, Grand Prix was mourned by friends and fans alike.
Falling victim to homicide in April 2009, Jimmy Ali McCollough, 34, performed colorful drag with a classic dramatic flair. McCollough was found stabbed near Club Emeges in Fayetteville, N.C. and his death was investigated as a hate crime. The warmth of Imaje’s full-lipped, scarlet smile remains.
Upon discovering her declining health due to HIV/AIDS, Toni Lenoir committed suicide to the shock of all who loved her. A well-known local drag queen with many admirers, Lenoir has since been remembered for her signature performance style and unforgettable personality.
One of the names synonymous with the Charlotte drag scene, Tracy Morgan, aka Clay Lambert, died of heart disease backstage after performing at the Scorpio in 2007. She left behind scores of fans gathered throughout her 20-year career performing drag.
“She was so glamorous,” said former qnotes writer Miss Della. “She was an amazing entertainer. I always loved to see her dance. She was sexually provocative and she was primal and intense. There’s a reason she was known as “The Sex Kitten of the South.”