The weather didn't exactly cooperate Tuesday for the outdoor portion of the memorial celebration for Heklina — it was windblown and chilly in the Castro, as if Heklina's spirit was telling everyone to go home already, nothing to see here. But there was plenty to see, on both the outdoor and indoor stages at the Castro Theatre, and enough laughs and butt jokes that you could almost hear Heklina's signature cackle.
Dulce de Leche and LOL MacFiercen did their best not to get blown off the stage during the early portion of the evening, hosting a series of performances on a stage set up in front of the Castro Theatre. Fans gathered on a closed-down Castro Street watching performances by Grace Towers, Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, and more. Katya sang a live performance of "Blackbird," by the Beatles, and said the last time she saw Heklina — who she says "always hated that I sang live" as opposed to lip-synching — Heklina was singing live. When asked afterward how the performance was, Katya told Heklina, "You certainly were capable of producing sound."
Fans with tickets lined up around the corner and down 17th Street waiting for the Castro doors to open at 7 p.m., and the main memorial event, dubbed "Heklina: A Memorial (She Would Have Hated This)," was a doozy. The nearly three-and-a-half hour variety revue included memorial speeches, performances, and video addresses from out-of-town stars like Jinkx Monsoon, Lady Bunny, and Ana Matronic, commemorating the life, work, and onstage rimjobs of the groundbreaking drag queen and promoter named for an Icelandic volcano.
Many spoke about Heklina's role in launching a slew of drag careers at Trannyshack at the Stud every Tuesday night for 12 years (then eventually Mother and Daytime Realness), or on very bizarre, annual Easter weekend bus trips to Reno.
“Heklina left a gaping hole in our community,” quipped Drag Race alum BenDeLaCreme, before launching into a musical number that acknowledged Heklina’s well-known sexual proclivities by featuring a live rim job onstage.
The 8 p.m. show kicked off with The Muppet Show theme, as every Trannyshack traditionally started at The Stud, and launched into a 12-minute montage video showing Heklina and the club’s early stars like Squeaky Blonde, Metal Patricia, and Jason El Diablo.
“I would kiss the stage if it weren’t covered with blood and shit,” Heklina said in one vintage 90s segment. In another, she told someone celebrating their 21st birthday at Trannyshack, “I have wigs that are older than you are.”
A number of SF’s most recognized queens brought down the house with their eulogies. ”Heklina was one of the funniest people I have ever known,” said Sister Roma, who co-hosted events with Heklina for more than 15 years. “And somewhere in the distance, we’ll hear her laugh and her cackle.”
“We initially bonded over our love of alcohol,” said Pippi Lovestocking. “She was the best frenemy I ever had. I’m still thinking about suing her again.”
Performance highlights included a group number featuring all the former Miss Trannyshack winners, including Vinsantos, Suppositori Spelling, Fauxnique, Raya Light, and Hoku Mama Swamp. There was also a video memorial for other queens who’ve passed, like Cookie Dough, Phatima Rude, and Peggy L’Eggs.
Jackie Beat and Sherry Vine did a parody number of The Sound of Music’s “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria,” entitled “How Do You Roast An Icon like Heklina.” Jackie Beat yelled at the audience, “Don’t film this! I don’t want to be trans-celed!”
Numerous celebrities sent their remembrances via Zoom videos. Scissors Sisters vocalist Ana Matronic recalled meeting Heklina at her birthday in 1996 at an event dubbed "Pat Benatar Lip Synch Wars." "I knew right away as an AFAB queen, which we didn't even have that term back then, that I was welcome, and Heklina welcomed me," Ana Matronic recalled. "Her only rule was, 'If you were fierce, you were performing.'"
Kate Pierson of the B-52s added “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Heklina. And what he’s done for everybody.”
Newly minted SF Drag Laureate D'Arcy Drollinger, who opened the Oasis nightclub with Heklina eight years ago and was a costar with her in the annual "Golden Girls Live" Christmas shows, spoke about Heklina's legacy in the broader drag world.
"You can see her effort and her effect on drag around the country, on TV, even around the world," Drollinger said. "I want to reframe that," she added, gesturing at the assembled community. "WE changed the face of drag. But she gave us the opportunity."
Alaska Thunderfuck took the stage near the end of the event to sing Bette Midler's "The Rose" while an interpretive dancer accompanied her — and there was of course an anilingus joke built in there too!
Jinkx Monsoon, in her video address, said, "I’m sure Peaches Christ has already made countless poorly-timed jokes. I feel like that’s how Heklina would have wanted this. Everyone joking."
Peaches Christ actually made some great jokes and lovely observations in a stirring memorial speech. “Heklina without a doubt changed my life,” Peaches told the crowd. “So many of the people I met in 1996, ‘97, ‘98, they are still creative collaborators of mine to this day. And she did that. She created that space for us.”
“She was a tremendously successful businesswoman. She put business ahead of art. I did not. She has a house. I do not.”
“Naming the club Mother was so fitting,” Peaches observed. “While she could be an abusive mother and a cruel mother at times, she was still a mother. She nurtured a lot of us, and gave so many people a stage.”
Peaches also addressed the shocking circumstances of Heklina’s sudden death. “There was a lot written in the press about ‘Best friend Peaches Christ finding Heklina dead in London.’ And there was actually a kind of a glamor to that I think she would have appreciated,” she said. “It could have been a brunch in Fresno, you know? ‘Is it paid?’ That’s how it could have gone down."
But of Heklina’s final days, Peaches assured us that “This was someone who was excited by life, was making plans for the future, and was happy to be alive. This would have been a shock to her as much as it was to us.”
"I want that to be known, that her final days were happy days," she said.
Many fans and mourners made their way after the Castro event to Oasis for the official afterparty, which featured dozens more performances stretching into the wee hours of the morning.
Would Heklina have hated this? Maybe it doesn't matter. The evening certainly proved that her time on earth impacted many, and she will not soon be forgotten.
Jay Barmann also contributed to this report.