Walter W. Cole Sr., also known as Portland's legendary drag queen Darcelle XV has passed away at the age of 92. Cole served in the US Army, owned cafes and bars, and began performing in drag at age 37. Performing as Darcelle earned Cole a place of honor in parades and the Spirit of Portland award in 2016.
Oregon Live's story is well worth the read.
Cole often said that becoming Darcelle saved him.
"If I hadn't admitted who I was, I'd probably be dead now," he said in 2010. "I'd be sitting on a couch retiring from Fred Meyer management. Not for me."
In the 1970s, drug dealers moved into Old Town and Chinatown, and the nightclub came close to closing when revenue dropped off, though it rebounded when a neighborhood police station opened.
Cole's nightclub, which was renamed to Darcelle XV Showplace in 1974, was seen as taboo early on, and was sometimes picketed in the 1970s and '80s before the gay rights movement took off. But Cole insisted his club was for everyone.