The world’s oldest drag performer Walter W. Cole, better known as “Darcelle XV”, has died at the age of 92, Guinness World Records is saddened to learn.
The sad news that Darcelle had died of natural causes in Portland, Oregon, USA, was shared over the weekend.
Walter was named as the oldest drag queen in 2016, then aged 85 years 273 days and was the proud owner and operator of club Darcelle XV Showplace, home to what he said was the world’s longest-running drag show.
The club was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020.
It was the first site in Oregon to be handed the honour and was nominated for its significance in LGBTQ+ history.
The club’s Facebook page paid tribute to Darcelle XV as they announced to followers that the iconic performer had passed away.
The post read: “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.
“We ask for privacy and patience as everyone processes and grieves in their own way and at their own pace. Details of a public memorial will be announced as soon as they are confirmed. All shows at Darcelle XV Showplace will go on as scheduled per Darcelle’s wishes. Please join us and celebrate her legacy and memory, thank you in advance for your continued support.”
Walter, an Army veteran, worked hard throughout his life to champion the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and to raise funds for charities in Portland.
Walter first became Darcelle after finding a love for theatre and performing in local productions.
Forming a partnership with fellow drag performer Roxy, the duo bought the bar back in 1967, and Darcelle was even awarded a Spirit of Portland Award by the Mayor for her work and campaigning after becoming a local legend.
Dressed to the nines as Darcelle, the performer invited Guinness World Records inside the famous club back in 2017 for a special Facebook live broadcast.
Presenter Asha Leo was greeted by Darcelle outside the club before heading inside to sit down for a chat.
Looking fabulous in a sequin dress and big blonde wig, Darcelle sat on stage with Asha to chat about her life and career, while people watched from around the world.
She told the amazing story of how the club has changed over the years with laws originally meaning people couldn’t sing or dance on stage – with lip-syncing providing a brilliant loophole.
Darcelle was even once given a fine when she was discovered dancing in the bar, but thankfully the law had changed by the time it was processed.
When asked why she loved to perform, Darcelle said: “What I love about performing is the audience, and you never know, I still get butterflies when I’m waiting to go through that curtain.”
Rest in peace, Darcelle.