Local legend and Aunt Charlie's fixture Vicki Marlane, who was a pioneering drag performer going back five decades in San Francisco before her 2011 death, will make history again as the city is moving to name the 100 block of Turk Street (where Aunt Charlie's lives) after her. Underneath "Turk Street" the sign will read "Vicki MarLane."
Following her death at the age of 76, due to an AIDS-related illness, there were calls to honor Marlane in some way, and last year the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club petitioned the Board of Supervisors about the street naming. The Supervisors are expected to give final approval to the proposal at their April 22 meeting, and the city plans to have the street signs in place in time for the Trans March on June 27, as the BAR reports.
Marlane will be the first transgender person to receive such an honor, and the honorary renaming of the block follows three other city blocks named for gay or bisexual people: Alice B. Toklas Place, Jose Sarria Court, and Jack Kerouac Alley (there's evidence he was bi and slept with Gore Vidal). As her friend Felicia Flames tells the B.A.R., "This will give the transgender community the respect, acknowledgement, and recognition the transgender community deserves."
Marlane was never an outspoken activist, however she shared stories of transphobia she experienced and held a unique position as someone who had lived as both a gay man who did drag, and later as a trans woman who also performed in drag. As she told the B.A.R. a decade ago, when she was asked to be a Grand Marshall in the Pride parade, "When I first came here we weren't even allowed in the gay bars if we were in drag. During the first gay Pride parade my friends and I rode in a convertible, and we got just as many 'boos' from gay people as we did from straights."
Known as the "lady with the liquid spine" for her slinky performance style, Marlane started performing in 1950, at the age of 16, in a Minnesota gay bar. She toured in sideshows in the 50s as a female impersonator, and ultimately settled in the Bay Area in 1966 and got gender reassignment surgery in the early 1980s. Her Friday and Saturday drag revue at Aunt Charlie's, the Hot Boxxx Girls (which is ongoing), began in 1998. A couple of years before her death, filmmaker Michelle Lawler managed to get Marlane's story on video. Forever's Gonna Start Tonight: The Vicki Marlane Story screened at the Castro Theatre following Marlane's death, and hopefully it will screen again at some point. Only brief clips like the one below are available online.