Cherished New York Drag Legend Sweetie Loses Brave Battle with Cancer
The bright lights of New York City lost some sparkle this week when drag icon Sweetie passed away after battling cancer. She was 51-years-old.
Tributes poured in from all over, including her best friend and event producer Daniel Nardicio.
So, it’s been really lovely to read the explosion on Facebook today about Sweetie passing. I haven’t written anything because I wanted the family to have time to tell everyone, but now what can I say?
Once downstairs from my office at Hollywood Diner, Sweetie and I were talking about plans for “the end” and I looked down and realized, after her living with this disease for two years by that point, what that meant. I started crying, and said to her: “I don’t really know how I’m gonna go on without my best friend.” She just replied: “Don’t. I know I have the easy job. I just have to die.”
Thats when I decided to throw her birthday party which many of you came to, a lot performed at and it made her so happy.
I’m obviously bereft, but I feel lucky that we made it much longer than we had originally thought, and so thankful she found love in her life the last two years, and managed to bury the hatchet and make peace with people she needed to.
Last night, Sweetie texted me at 10:47 pm:
“How’s my sweet D Boy? Everything cool?”
I answered I had started dating a fella, and she responded: “So happy you have a new date mate. I’m broke but I’m really happy.”
It made me happy to hear she was happy.
Writer Michael Musto also spoke about Sweetie’s legacy.
Musto told Paper Magazine, “Sweetie was an old-school drag legend whose dedication and craft helped pave the way for the current drag boom. She gave everything onstage, and lit up a room with her pride, focus and delivery.”
Born Daniel Booth, Sweetie grew up in Detroit and moved to New York City when she was 19-years-old. After performing on the road in musical theater for a few years, she returned to New York City and began a career in drag. Booth opened up to Musto about how Sweetie was born in an interview she gave for Paper Magazine last year.
I came back to New York after being on the road for a year and a half. I lived at 52nd and Second, right around the corner from Rounds hustler bar for about four months. I was living in this incredible apartment with somebody I really didn’t know. I came home one night and he said we had three days to leave or the marshals were going to lock us out. He said, “I was diagnosed with full blown AIDS three months ago. I’ve been spending all the rent money on coke.” I had to get out in three days, literally. I retreated back to mom and dad’s house in Michigan for three months. That whole thing about how you can never go home again. Even though it was nice, New York had become my home. I had met [drag performer] Faux Pas at South Dakota, a bar in Gramercy. We had become peripheral friends and stayed in contact on the phone. She had a roommate situation open up on the Lower East Side and invited me to move in with her. I jumped at the opportunity. I moved in the beginning of October 1990 and we had started plotting that we were going to do drag together. We went out for Halloween to a Susanne Bartsch party. My original drag name was Cousin Gert Munson, Lesbian Authoress. My look was a cross between Fran Lebowitz and Oscar Wilde — this ridiculous look. And we got bit by it. Pas had been going to [the East Village hangout] Pyramid and she found Channel 69 [Linda Simpson’s weekly drag party]. She said, “You’ve got to come see this.” I had always considered myself a serious actor in a lot of ways, and drag was kind of lowbrow to me. I loved watching it, but never thought I’d do it seriously, until I found out they were making money doing it, you know what I mean? So Pas and I cleared all the furniture out of my bedroom one night and came up with a routine and started haranguing Linda to use us in Channel 69. She put us in a show. We were supposed to do five minutes, but ended up doing a 17 minute thing with fireworks. I was this fat girl who used to do cartwheels in heels, and that always made people happy. When I finally became Sweetie, I’d gone through a ton of names. Tootsie McTavish… These retarded, awful names, just to make people say them. When I got in a cab and the driver would try to come on to me and say, “What’s your name?”, I’d always give him the most horrific names, like Shirley, and make him call me that. They don’t know these are out-of-date American names. I got Sweetie from that Jane Campion movie Sweetie. I’d fallen in love with that character. Of course five years later AbFab came out with “Sweetie, darling…:
Sweetie’s legacy will be honored at a memorial at Pangea restaurant in New York City on Sunday, April 2 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Nardicio writes “We can invoke her spirit, raise a glass, and tell tales—or just hug.”