1968 Walter Cole met a dance choreographer named Roxy Neuhardt.
Neither one knew it at the time, but the resulting vision of the
bar owner and the choreographer would be a 50-plus year personal
relationship, and the birth of one of the most Trans supportive
personalities in the United States, Darcelle.
also known as Darcelle XV or Rose Empress XV the Divine Darcelle,
was created initially as an attempt to draw customers into a
"Vegas-style revue" at Demas' Tavern. At that time
in Portland, Oregon it was not legal for a woman to dress as
a man, or a man to dress as a woman, except for theatrical performances.
The answer- give them a performance that is theatrical, and
from the heart.
of Hearts" a 2008 video documentary about Darcelle, the
producers tell a story about a woman who called Darcelle in
the 1980s to report that she had just found women's clothing
in her husband's car. After confronting her husband about his
supposed mistress the husband admitted it was his clothing.
The wife called Darcelle to ask why a man would do "this"
and shared that she planned to divorce her husband. After listening
Darcelle assured the wife that if she would just give him a
chance, she would find the most loving and caring man in the
world was the man she had already married. Ten years later the
woman called back to say that they had stayed married, had two
wonderful children, and announced that her husband was the best
husband in the world. This is the world that Darcelle creates
for members of the Trans-community- one of acceptance, love
and strength. As one local transgendered leader says, "Darcelle
is a role model who teaches us in all she does that being who
you are is the most powerful thing that you can ever do. She
is a performer, but more than that she is a mentor, a role model
and a counselor." All of that praise for a man who says
"I have never even owned a bra, but I know how to push
practical side, Darcelle has supported the transgendered community
by giving them a place to meet and party, by helping to finance
the newsletter and events and connecting the people who went
on to found the Northwest Gender Alliance in 1980. Darcelle
was honored by the Northwest Gender Alliance in 2007 with their
highest award, the Ellen Summers Award for Lifetime Achievement.
She and her partner have been recognized with numerous award,
from Grand Marshall of the Portland Pride Parade to keys to
the City of Linnton (her drag fundraiser in this small struggling
ex-mill town saved their community center) and was honored by
Mayor Vera Katz of Portland with a special "Spirit of Portland"
award for nearly 40 years of service to the City of Roses. A
teary-eyed Darcelle took the microphone in her acceptance speech
and said "I can't imagine another place in the country
where a Mayor would present such a prestigious award to a drag
queen. I am honored to accept this award on behalf of myself
and the entire gay community". After this heartfelt sentiment,
Darcelle easily slipped into a comical monologue that saw the
entire City Council Chambers filled with riotous laughter.
continues today as the longest continuously running drag show
in the United States, and a safe haven for anyone who wants
to learn a little more about themselves, and smile at the world
we live in.
has graced the cover of countless publications, been a regular
on several local radio shows, been featured in local theatrical
productions, acted as spokesmodel for dozens of businesses and
is one of the "Famous Seats in Oregon" at the Portland
Center for the Performing Arts.
Minister, Darcelle has even administered several weddings!!
It seems there is nothing she can't do!! At the age of 76, still
performing 6 shows a week, with special engagements in between,
Darcelle shows no signs of slowing down.
Since the cabaret's earliest days as Demas' Tavern, charity
has been a big part of the picture. In those days, charity fundraisers
were held for the Boys and Girls Club, Shriner's Hospital for
Children, the Oregon Humane Society and the Oregon Symphony.
the 80s and 90s, the focus turned to the AIDS pandemic and charities
such as the Cascade AIDS Project, Esther's Pantry, Friends of
People with AIDS Foundation, The HIV Day Center and Our House
benefited from Darcelle's talents and generosity. Today one
of Darcelle's favorite charities is Camp Starlight which provides
a week-long camping experience for children who are infected
or affected by HIV/AIDS.
As an advocate
for higher education, Darcelle continues to hosts numerous dinners,
auctions and cabaret shows raising thousands of dollars annually
to support post-secondary education through The Pride of the
Rose Scholarship Fund, the Bill & Ann Shepherd Scholarship
Fund, the Audria M. Edwards Scholarship Fund and the American
Business Women's Association Scholarship Fund. The Susan G.
Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Bradley Angle House,
and the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) have also
found their spotlight at the Darcelle XV Showplace.
years, Darcelle has hosted countless political fundraisers for
notables such as Barbara Roberts, Gretchen Kafoury, Vera Katz,
and Bud Clark not to mention the dozens of ballot measure initiatives
she has championed to gain and protect our civil liberties.
ago, Darcelle XV began hosting a Christmas Eve feast complete
with all the trimmings for the Foster Hotel above the cabaret.
Today all are welcome and the local homeless come out to celebrate
the seasons with a hot meal and warm hugs from Darcelle and
her merry band of volunteers.
the name of charity Darcelle has donated her cabaret, time and
talents to the young and the old, the rich and the poor. She
has entertained on stages, bars and table-tops, in hotels, hospices,
parks, homes, barns and on the street. She has competed in walk-a-thons,
dance-a-thons, bowl-a-thons and tricycle races. She has Jell-O-wrestled,
taken pies in the face and been dunked in tanks of water all
for charity sake. No legitimate request for a charity gift certificate
has ever been turned down and the Darcelle XV Showplace is available
for charity fundraisers for the price of a sound & light
technician. Stop by and visit the biggest heart in the heart
of Old Town, Darcelle XV, 208 NW Third Street, Portland, Oregon.