The LGBTQIA+ community in Sydney were devastated to learn that last week legendary drag queen Shirley Valentine had passed away at the age of 65.

Shirley, according to her friends, had been battling lung cancer for the last three months and various other health problems.

Originally from Queensland, Shirley had moved to Sydney in 1980 looking for a fresh start.

“About 15 years ago, Shirley rocked up to Stonewall Hotel to do Polly’s Follies. When I saw her I thought what have we got here,” friend and drag performer Polly Petrie told Star Observer.

“Shirley rocked the stage with every performance as you never knew what she was going to do. Sometimes she would overshadow my special paid guests.”

Since then, Shirley became a regular performer at Stonewall Hotel as well as at other venues along Oxford Street. 

As well as her energetic stage presence, Shirley was also known for her op-shop couture and rough around the edge’s makeup.

“When the regular kids in the show got to know Shirley, they would help her with doing her wigs and her make-up as Shirley had a skin problem,”  said Polly.

Regularly Performed Till Five Years Ago

According to Shirley’s carer Darryl Lodge, her favourite song to perform was Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High.

“No matter what venue you were at, you would always get a bit of River Deep Mountain High,” Lodge said.

The two have known each other since Darryl was eight and Shirley was in her 20’s. Even though Lodge has been taking care of Shirley for the last 20 years, the drag queen still regularly performed up until five years ago.

“Shirley (known as Thomas Alvisio out of drag) has always been like an uncle to me,” Lodge said.

A date for the memorial service for the legendary queen is still to be decided, but Lodge confirmed it will be held at St James in King Street.

Former NSW Governor Maria Bashir and current Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore are expected to be in attendance.

A gofundme page has been started by Lodge to help raise funds for Shirley’s memorial service, funeral and also to have her body flown back to Queensland so she can be buried with her mum.

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