Bobby Schorle

Bobby Schorle pic

April 5, 1939 – March 9, 2018

Robert Francis “Bobby” Schorle was an icon in the Grand Rapids gay community.   Schorle was longtime co-owner of various bars, including the Carousel Lounge, Turn About, Carousel II, and the Cell.  He was also instrumental in creating the local Queen of Hearts pageant.  Born in Chicago, Schorle grew up on a fruit farm in Fennville and graduated from Fennville High School in 1957.

Chappell Funeral Home

Richard Shank

Richard Shank pic

January 28, 1952 – February 27, 1992

Detroit native Richard Steven Shank graduated from Novi High School in 1971 and worked as a waiter and bartender at Morey’s and the Escape.  Shank was also involved in local community theater and for a time performed female impersonation as Rickie Day.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 39.

Cruise, March 18, 1992

Win Wells

Win Wells pic

April 3, 1933 – December 6, 1983

Originally from Arkansas, Winfred Wells was raised in Detroit and in the 1950s became a noted local beatnik poet.  In the 1960s he performed female impersonation under his own name at the Diplomat Lounge.  Wells subsequently moved to England, where he wrote screenplays and lived with his longtime companion, director Silvio Narizzano.

London Times, December 8, 1983

Michael Sweazey

Michael Sweazey pic

November 16, 1953 – November 16, 2004

Michael Sweazey of Canton and formerly of Garden City began bartending at Gigi’s in Detroit in the mid-1970s and was one of six employees to inherit ownership of the bar after the death of Tony Garneau.  For many years he worked as Gigi’s show director and performed female impersonation under the name Vanessa LaSalle.  Sweazey was survived by his life partner of 28 years Steven McAfee.

Between The Lines, December 2, 2004

Vanessa LaSalle at Our Community Roots

Joseph Maldonado

Joseph Maldanado pic

March 22, 1949 – July 25, 1989

Born in Detroit, Joseph Daniel Maldonado grew up in Saginaw and moved back to Detroit following high school.  Through much of the 1970s he performed as Dani DiLetto at such clubs at Morey’s, the Iron Hinge, and Bookie’s Club 870.  DiLetto was awarded the title of Miss Gay America in 1976 when the original winner had the crown rescinded.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 40.

Saginaw News, July 27, 1989

This Week in Texas, August 11, 1989

Vicki Marlane

Vicki Marlane pic

September 5, 1934 – July 3, 2011

Minnesota native Vicki Marlane was among a troupe of female impersonators who performed at the Diplomat Lounge in Detroit in the early 1960s.  Born Donald Sterger, Marlane underwent gender affirmation surgery in San Francisco, where she continued to perform into her 70s.  She was subject of the 2009 documentary Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight.  She died from AIDS-related complications at age 76.

Bay Area Reporter, July 14, 2011

Vicki Marlane photographs and artifacts at the GLBT Historical Society

Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight on Vimeo