September 2, 1954 – February 22, 2018
Wilbert Anthony “Billi” Gordon Jr. graduated from Union High School in Dowagiac, class of 1972. He left seminary to attend the University of Michigan, where he became involved in gay activism, including as spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Black Gay Caucus. Gordon went on to become a celebrated model, entertainer, writer, and neuroscientist. He was survived by his spouse of 30 years Robert Schallert.
Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2018
June 9, 1969 – November 15, 2020
An early member of the House of Chanel, Jennifer Holiday Chanel graduated with the class of 1987 from Flint Central High School and went on to attend Eastern Michigan University. She performed at the Nectarine in Ann Arbor, later worked at Gigi’s in Detroit, and won the Miss Gigi’s title in 1997. The Performers Awards of Detroit honored Chanel with its Bookie Stewart Hall of Fame Award in 2017.
Between The Lines [online only], November 19, 2020
October 1, 1983 – February 21, 2003
Southfield resident Nikki Nicholas, an entertainer in Detroit gay bars, was found slain at age 19 in what the Triangle Foundation identified as an anti-trans hate crime in an abandoned house in Green Oak Township. The Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project held a candlelight vigil in her memory and the National Association for the Advancement of Transgender People later marched in Lansing in her honor.
Between The Lines, March 6, 2003
The Final Assault on Nikki
October 27, 1961 – May 21, 2005
Known in Detroit’s gay community as Tommy K, Thomas Patrick Kyewski attended Hamtramck High School. At various local nightspots in the 1980s and ‘90s, he did go-go dancing and performed as Tina Wells, and held the distinction of winning both the Miss Gay Detroit and Mr. Gay Detroit competitions. Kyewski also won female impersonation titles at Gigi’s, the Gold Coast, Club Incognito, and Footlights.
Our Community Roots
February 15, 1958 – February 20, 2015
Antony Eugene “Tony” Brown of Madison Heights was born in England and graduated from Dondero High School in Royal Oak. He later studied voice at Michigan State University and in the early 1980s was a noted singer at Detroit gay bars. Brown served on the board of the Performers Awards of Detroit and received multiple PAD honors, including best go-go boy and Male Entertainer of the Year.
No known obituary
January 8, 1951 – May 1, 1991
Geoffrey Martin Fine grew up in Ann Arbor and moved to New York City following high school. He appeared in a number of Off-Broadway plays before moving back to Ann Arbor in 1975 to study choreography and dance at the University of Michigan. On returning on New York, Fine pursued stand-up and volunteered with Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 40.
Outweek, June 12, 1991
September 7, 1922 – May 30, 1997
Detroit native Augustus Herman Rissman was better known to members of the local gay community as Gorgeous Gussy. Noted for “a gravelly voice and gruff manner,” Rissman entertained audiences throughout the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s at such Detroit bars as the Golden Slipper, LaRosa’s, the Diplomat, and the Gold Dollar.
Cruise, June 18, 1997
January 11, 1953 – December 26, 1995
Cappisene Ford, known to most in the gay community as Ms. L.T.D. (for La Twiggy Darling), began to entertain in the 1970s at the Escape, My Fair Lady, and other Detroit bars. She later went on to perform in Paris and Hong Kong. From 1979 to 1980 she served as Records Officer for the Michigan Organization for Human Rights. She died from AIDS-related complications at age 42.
No known obituary
September 13, 1950 – December 19, 2011
Originally from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Al Brewer sang at such gay Detroit clubs as Bookie’s, My Fair Lady, and the Other Side in the 1970s. He received multiple nominations for best live male vocalist from the Performers Awards of Detroit. Toward the end of his life, Brewer served as Karaoke host at the Temple Bar.
No known obituary
January 25, 1921 – December 26, 1997
Actor and artist, Clifford Reynolds Jr. grew up in Highland Park and attended what was then called Wayne University in Detroit. He married in 1945, moved with his wife to California in 1952, and they divorced in 1968. A radio and television performer, Reynolds was survived by companion Lorne Gay.
Bay Area Reporter, January 1, 1998