Vicki Marlane, 1934-2011

Ms. Vicki Marlane at a Guardian photoshoot for the Winter 2008 edition of our nightlife guide, SCENE

San Francisco lost true drag royalty today when Ms Vicki Marlane, "the Girl with the Liquid Spine" who performed with the weekend Hot Boxxx Girls revue at Aunt Charlie's Lounge, passed away at 7:04 a.m. at San Francisco General Hospital. No official cause of death was immediately available, but her co-entertainer Gina la Divina said she "had been down for a while," presumable meaning she had been ill. (This information was passed on to me this morning by Matt Slusarenko of, and he's just posted his tribute.) From circus sideshow act in the 50s to drag road warrior in the swinging 70s -- she lived a life, honey. That life was documented in a fantastic film released last year, "Forever's Gonna Start Tonight."

Besides enjoying her performances countless times, I had the pleasure of interviewing her for the Winter 2008 edition of our nightlife guide SCENE.

Vicki Marlane, seated third from left next to Gina La Divina. Photo by Matthew Reamer.



Vicki Marlane, Pioneer, A Legend, An Icon, a Diva

Performer extraordinaire Vicki Marlane died at Saint Lukes Hospital Monday morning, July 5th of AIDS related illnesses. Vicki worked in the business entertaining crowds for over 50 years. "The lady with the liquid spine " was a beloved San Francisco treasure and will be missed by many. She is survived by her sisters Norma Sears, 74, and Judy Horner, 62, and many friends and admirers. In 1998 she started a drag review at Aunt Charlies Lounge in the San Francisco Tenderloin called "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". It evolved into the popular regular Friday & Saturday show, "The Hot Boxxx Girls", drawing large crowds from all over the bay area to the intimate lounge.

Vicki was born Donald Sterger in Crookston, Minnesota on September 5, 1934. After a difficult childhood she left the farm where she grew up in Minnesota and ran off to join a traveling circus, playing the 5th & 6th legs of the "Six legged Women". She also starred as the "Alligator Woman", covering her skin with crackling glue and using green food coloring to give her "alligator eyes".

When she left the circus, she traveled all over the country preforming in drag shows in New Orleans, Flint, Michigan, Portland, Oregon, and at the Club Chesterfield in Chicago, where she was known by the stage name "Mister Peel". She moved to San Francisco in 1966 and worked at the Top of the Town, the Frolic Room, the 181 Club, Jackie D's, and the Gilded Cage. She made many of her own costumes embellishing them with beads, sequins and rhinestones and later added to her collection many gowns from Sue Wong, her favorite designer.

In the 80's Vicki temporarily retired from performing after sex change surgery and later moved to San Diego to live near her close friend Judy Kane. After Judy's death, she returned to San Francisco and began performing again at the Peter Pan, then at Aunt Charlie's Lounge. Her passionate, sexy style was always delivered straight from the heart and created a huge following of dedicated fans. To quote her friend, Bus Station John: “that was what inspired me about her the most---her passion to perform was what truly mattered; the house could be packed to the rafters, or "dead," yet miss marlane never failed to deliver. She taught me that true show people "bring it" regardless of how many people show up, focusing not on who isn't there, but who is....In recent years it "bringing it" wasn't always easy for Vicki; during episodes of illness,she would summon forth all her energies to create magic at the corner of turk & taylor, then return home and crumple. Yet there she'd be, the next night or the next week, bewitching us all over again. This was her gift---a gift to us, to San Francisco, to the world.”

Vicki did many benefit shows for charities and gave command performances at Imperial and Ducal Coronations. She worked with and was a close friend of Pat Monclair of Marlana's in Hayes Valley. She was a Grand Marshall at the 2003 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.

An independent film about Vicki's life, "Forever's Gonna To Start Tonight" by Michelle Lawler, has captivated audiences at film festivals in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hot Springs Arkansas, Portland Oregon and in England, Australia and New Zealand. Recently a performance by Vicki was filmed for "Limehouse", a documentary by Marjorie Conrad about the Barbary coast. It won Best Narrative at the Excelsior Short Film Festival, the Audience Award at the juried SFSU Film Previews, and held the place of honor at the SFSU Film Finals screening.

Vicki was one of a kind and her friendship, enthusiasm, honesty and loyalty have earned her a place forever in our hearts.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2011 @ 10:55 am

A “Celebration of Life” will be held for Vicki this Sunday at Aunt Charlie's Lounge 133 Turk Street this Sunday, July 17th from noon to 7pm.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2011 @ 10:56 am

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