Sadly, we have learned that Stormé Delarverié, a long-time Chelsea Hotel resident and icon of the LGBT community passed away yesterday. Stormé had been living at the CABS Nursing Home in Brooklyn since October 2010. UPDATE - The funeral service for Storme will be held Thursday, May 29 at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home from 7 - 9 pm.
Despite health issues in recent years, Stormé continued to remain active in the gay and lesbian community. She could be seen proudly waving from the Stonewall Veteran Association’s Cadillac during the Gay Pride Parade held each June in Manhattan.
In 2006, Stormé participated as a speaker in "Kings and Queens of New York City: A Drag Summit".
On June 7, 2012, Brooklyn Pride, Inc. honored Stormé at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, citing her ground breaking work as a drag performer in the Jewel Box Revue an early racially integrated traveling gay drag show. And just last month she was honored, along with Edie Windsor, by the Brooklyn Pride Community.
Born on Christmas Eve, 1920, in New Orleans, Stormé worked professionally as a drag king and torch singer. Pictures of her in drag show her to be suave and handsome; uncompromisingly androgynous. In the forties through the sixties she was the emcee—or, better yet, the ringmaster--for the Jewel Box Revue, a traveling gay drag show, the first in America to be integrated. Playing to mixed race, as well as mixed gay and straight, audiences, the revue gained mainstream acceptance in larger cities around the country. In this context, Stormé was the subject of the 1987 film, Stormé: The Lady of the Jewel Box. Produced by DC filmmaker Michelle Parkerson, the movie emphasized Stormé’s appropriation of male symbols of power, such as suits and ties, in furtherance of the gay rights struggle. [And, as Stormé once told me, “I’ve got a story, I chopped off my hair, put on men’s clothes, and joined the Jewel Box Review!” ]
But Stormé’s real claim to fame is that she’s the person who threw the first punch at Stonewall, the rebellion (named for the bar) on Christopher Street that gave birth to the gay rights movement. Prior to Stonewall, gay people were subject to arrest, pretty much arbitrarily, for such offenses as kissing or holding hands in public, or for dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex. The police staged raids on gay bars at unpredictable times, arresting whoever they pleased. The night of June 27, 1969, was seemingly like any other, with one exception: earlier that evening the city had mourned the passing of gay icon Judy Garland in a funeral attended by twenty-two thousand people. Whether this had anything to do with what happened next is open to speculation, but this time, when the police raided the Stonewall Bar in the early hours of June 28th, they soon found that the gay people had had enough and were ready to fight back—in particular one formidable drag king.
I doubt that Stormé went there that night looking for trouble, but she wasn’t going to run from it either. When a plain-clothed policeman punched her outside the bar, she retaliated, slugging him in the jaw. When asked what the policeman did next, Stormé, in an interview for the gay TV news magazine, In The Life, replied, with characteristic terseness, “He was on the ground. Out.” -- (Excerpt From Legends of the Chelsea Hotel.)
In later years Stormé worked as a bouncer at the Henrietta Hudson bar. She also acted as an informal security guard at the Chelsea Hotel making sure the lobby was cleared of riff raff late at night. And, she enjoyed spending evenings with good friends at the nearby restaurant East of Eighth. When the hotel was taken over by developers in 2007, Stormé, though nearly 90 years of age, still understood exactly what was happening and never wavered from her opposition to the people who were trying to evict us from our beloved Chelsea Hotel. Stormé was a real original, a true Chelsea Hotel artist who was always willing to lend a helping hand to others. She was one of the sweetest people you’d ever meet, although you didn’t want to get on her bad side. There won’t be another like Stormé. She will be missed.