Walter Cole, Who Dazzled as Darcelle, the World’s Oldest Drag Performer, Dies at 92

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We are saddened to share the news of the passing of Walter Cole, better known as Darcelle, the world’s oldest drag performer. The 92-year-old icon dazzled audiences for over five decades with his flamboyant costumes, witty humor, and magnetic persona. Cole died on May 29, 2021, at his home in Portland, Oregon, with his loved ones by his side.

Cole was born on November 2, 1928, in Louisiana, where he grew up in a conservative family. However, he always knew that he was different and wanted to express his femininity through fashion and performance. Cole moved to Portland in the late 1950s and began his drag career by performing in underground clubs and gay bars. In 1967, he opened his own nightclub, Darcelle XV, which quickly became a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Over the years, Cole’s fame and influence grew, and he became a beloved figure in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. He performed for everyone from local politicians to Hollywood celebrities, including Bette Midler, Raquel Welch, and Elizabeth Taylor. Cole was also a philanthropist, raising millions of dollars for various charities and organizations through his performances and fundraising events.

One of the things that made Cole’s act so unique was his commitment to authenticity. Unlike some drag performers who exaggerate their femininity or play up stereotypes for comedic effect, Cole embodied his character with nuance, grace, and dignity. He once stated that, “I don’t play a woman. I become a woman. Darcelle has become a part of me.”

Cole’s resilience and longevity were qualities that inspired many people, both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. He continued to perform well into his nineties, despite health issues that forced him to take occasional breaks from the stage. In 2016, he was honored with a Guinness World Record for being the oldest drag performer still in activity.

Cole’s legacy will live on not only through his trailblazing career but also through the countless lives he touched with his kindness, humor, and generosity. His death is a reminder of the importance of celebrating diversity, breaking down barriers, and embracing individuality. As Cole once said, “Be who you are and be happy with it. Life is too short to spend it being someone else.”

In conclusion, Walter Cole, a.k.a. Darcelle, was an American drag performer and LGBTQ+ icon who passed away at the age of 92. Cole’s legacy is one of resilience, authenticity, and empowerment, and his contributions to the entertainment industry and society at large will not be forgotten. We mourn his loss while celebrating the remarkable life he led and the impact he made. Rest in peace, Darcelle, and thank you for the memories.