Walter Cole, aka: Darcelle

Darcelle at the Grand Opening of the Crystal Hotel (2011)

Darcelle at the Grand Opening of the Crystal Hotel (2011)

Portlandโ€™s beloved, original drag queen superstar Darcelle passed away last week at the age of 92. Darcelle paved the way for generations of LGBTQ+ performers and activists and created a strong community that changed mainstream culture. Darcelle opened doors for public acceptance, respect and celebration of LGBTQ+ people everywhere. Her nightclub, Darcelle XV, opened in 1967 and continues to be the oldest operating drag club in the West and is on the Oregon Register of Historic Places. Darcelle herself held the Guinness World Record for the worldโ€™s oldest performing drag queen.

Darcelle with Poison Waters and Friends at the Crystal Hotel Grand Opening

Darcelle with Poison Waters and Friends at the Grand Opening of the Crystal Hotel (2011)

McMenamins had the great honor of being joined by Darcelle at the opening festivities of Alโ€™s Den in the Crystal Hotel in 2011, and she spoke at a number of History Pubs over the years, including at the 2016 OPB film premiere of the documentary about her life, ๐ท๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘๐‘’๐‘™๐‘™๐‘’ ๐‘‹๐‘‰: ๐ด๐‘› ๐‘‚๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘”๐‘œ๐‘› ๐ธ๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘’๐‘›๐‘๐‘’.

Darcelle and Poison Waters

Darcelle and Poison Waters

In his interview with OPB, Darcelle Showplace co-host Poison Waters (aka: Kevin Cook) described the feeling audiences get from shows at Darcelle XV: โ€œPeople tend to leave a little sparklierโ€ฆthan they entered. Sometimes not literally, but in their hearts.โ€ And he remembers Walter Coleโ€™s big heart: โ€œHe was just so generous with his time and with his wisdom and with his energy. โ€ฆ He was very empathetic and not judgmentalโ€ฆโ€ Cook sums up his mentorโ€™s ethos simply with words that Cole repeated over the years, words of wisdom to all of us: โ€œbe kind.โ€


  1. Renee Herb on March 30, 2023 at 3:54 pm

    It warms my heart that McMenamins is such an amazing and diverse company. Thank you Brian, Mike, and your families!

  2. Jaci McKim on March 30, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    Darrelle would be a fabulous topic for a History Pub… which, let’s face it, would probably require multiple “performances” in order to accommodate all those who wished to attend!

  3. Jaci McKim on March 30, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    Darcelle. Darcelle. Thanks a lot, auto-correct (which had to be manually corrected both times I typed it here, after auto-correct auto-“corrected” it to Darrelle).

  4. Linda Jimenez on March 30, 2023 at 4:49 pm

    I had the priviledge of spending an evening at Darcelle’s. It was a thrilling experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I’m sure Darcelle knew how much joy her performance brought to us all. I hope to visit the club in the near future.

  5. Sam A on March 30, 2023 at 9:49 pm

    Always our families tradition for 21st birthdays. Darcelle you will be missed.

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