By Jack Dunn, Volunteer Communications Associate
At the end of this year’s Trans March, last Friday, officials and community leaders unveiled a new street sign. Turk Street, between Jones and Taylor in the Tenderloin, has been renamed in honor of Vicki Marlane, a late transgender performer and community activist. Felicia Flames, Transgender Law Center SPARK! vanguard awardee in 2012 and a close friend of Marlane’s, was key in getting the change approved and planned the dedication ceremony. “I am very proud of our trans community… It is going to be a historic event,” Felicia said, adding that she was most proud that she has lived to see “a trans woman’s name on a San Francisco street.”
Marlane, who died in 2011 at the age of 76 due to AIDS complications, used to host a popular drag revue at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk. Born in Minnesota, Marlane started out as a travelling circus performer. When she left the circus, she traveled all over the country performing drag shows in New Orleans; Flint, Michigan; Portland, Oregon; and Chicago until she moved to San Francisco for the first time in 1966. There she worked at a variety of clubs, making her own costumes with beads, sequins and rhinestones, or wearing gowns by Sue Wong, her favorite designer.
In the 80s she temporarily retired from performing and moved to San Diego, until her show ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ brought her back to San Francisco, and Aunt Charlie’s, in the late 90s. The show then evolved into a popular weekly event called ‘The Hot Boxxx Girls’, where her passionate sexy style was always straight from the heart and created her huge following of dedicated fans.
Known as ‘the lady with the liquid spine’ for her performance moves, she was a community grand marshal in the 2003 San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade, held many benefit shows for charities, and gave command performances at Imperial and Ducal court coronations. In 2009, an independent film Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight was made by Michelle Lawler about Marlane’s life – and it went on to captivate audiences in film festivals across the USA, England and Australia. After her death in 2011, an exhibit retracing her life was opened in 2013 at the Corner Gallery of the GLBT History Museum in the Castro and ran for 9 months until the end of that year.
While three San Francisco streets are already named for LGB people – Alice B. Toklas Place, Jose Sarria Court, and Jack Kerouac Alley- this will be the first time the city has awarded such an honor to a member of the transgender community. Turk and Taylor is now memorialized as a historic corner – the gay mecca of ’60s San Francisco, the site of the 1966 Compton Cafeteria Riot, and now the first memorial for a trans woman in San Francisco. Vicki was a mentor to many performers and transgender youth coming up in the scene, and this historic action, initially proposed in 2012, finally recognizes and memorializes her amazing legacy in San Francisco.