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
September 16, 1955 – April 19, 1993
Dallas Skeet Williams Jr., from Detroit, moved to San Francisco to live a more openly gay life. He worked as a nurse and a massage therapist and became involved in modeling, bodybuilding, doing drag, photography, and performing in adult videos. As a revolutionary HIV+ union activist, he protested with ACT UP and fought police brutality. Williams lost his life to diabetes.
Bay Area Reporter, May 13 1993
June 6, 1949 – January 9, 1990
Michael Phelan grew up in St. Clair Shores and graduated from Lakeview High School. During the 1970s, he performed female impersonation as Whitney Blake at various Detroit bars and won titles for Miss Todd’s, Miss Bookie’s, and Miss Michigan before moving to California. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 40.
Cruise, January 24, 1990
March 8, 1961 – August 31, 1992
Dennis Wayne Duvall was born in Monroe, earned a B.S. in Arts Management from Eastern Michigan University, and worked as a manager for Frames Unlimited. In the persona of Lisa Carlisle, Duvall performed at the Rubaiyat and Nectarine Ballroom in Ann Arbor and at such bars as Backstreet, the Deck, Gigi’s, and the Pink Flamingo in Detroit. Duvall won the Miss Gay Ann Arbor title for 1985-86.
Cruise, September 9, 1992
Michigan Tribune, September 1992
July 25, 1967 – May 30, 2017
Timothy Richard Liupakka graduated in 1986 from Marquette Senior High School and attended Northern Michigan University before moving to Milwaukee to pursue a degree in interior design. Liupakka performed under the drag name Tabitha Stephens in Wisconsin and later in annual shows at NMU. In 2015, he moved to Florida where he worked in hotel housekeeping and married Peter Williamson.
Fassbender Swanson Hansen Funeral Home
January 21, 1929 – November 21, 1953
A native of Morristown, Tennessee, Lewis Shields Treece served for a time in the U.S. military and entertained as part of the Black Drag revue at Uncle Tom’s Plantation on Eight Mile Road in Detroit in the early 1950s. He was killed in an auto crash at age 24 following a performance at the night club.
Detroit Tribune, November 28, 1953
Michigan Chronicle, November 28, 1953
January 22, 1943 – June 23, 2005
Erroll Wayne Hert took his mother’s name Vaunda for his stage name, wowing audiences as the renowned Vaunda Lee at Menjo’s, the Gold Coast, Triple XXX, and other Detroit bars in the 1970s and 1980s. He won the Camp Prize from the Performer Awards of Detroit in 1982. Hert resided in his hometown of Bedford, Indiana at the time of his death.
Our Community Roots
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
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
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