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SF Drag Legend Heklina Found Dead in London

Updated: Apr 04, 2023 12:42
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A person.

Few performers meant more to San Francisco than Heklina. (KQED/Heklina)

San Francisco-based drag performer Heklina, co-founder of SoMa drag club Oasis and star of numerous shows including Trannyshack (later called Mother), was found dead in London. The San Francisco Standard reports co-star and friend Peaches Christ found Heklina on the morning of April 3 where the artist was staying while performing at the Soho Theatre. No cause of death has been reported. 

Born Stefan Grygelko, Heklina was always at the center of the city’s queer performing community, whether at their own well-reputed club or at the now-defunct Stud. Born to an Icelandic mother, Heklina lived in the country and adopted the stage name in honor of the volcano Hekla. In recent years, San Franciscans had the great fortune to see Heklina perform as Dorothy Zbornak in annual drag incarnations of The Golden Girls. The star moved to Palm Springs in 2019 but continued to show up throughout the scene at various shows including Daytime Realness, a monthly party at the Mission District’s El Rio.

A screenshot.

Heklina’s contributions cannot be overstated; for example, Trannyshack was the longest running drag show in San Francisco before the star moved to SoCal. According to Wikipedia, she was Community Grand Marshal of the 2004 San Francisco GLBTQ Pride Parade, won the 2009 Pride Creativity Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the LGBT Community, and was even sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. In a political moment where drag is hotly-contested throughout the country, Heklina’s words and acts mean more than ever. “I think that drag queens are still the eunuch clown that’s safe to laugh at,” Heklina told audiences at Feast of Fools in 2006. “It’s definitively not shocking anymore. So I don’t know if America’s really embraced it.”

Update from Sister Roma:

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Paolo Bicchieri

Paolo Bicchieri

Paolo Bicchieri (he/they) is a writer living on the coast. He's a reporter for Eater SF and the author of three books of fiction and one book of poetry.