Legendary transgender perfomrer and singer Bambi Lake tragically passed away after being diagnosed with cancer, the Bay Area Reporter reports. Lake was 70.
Lake was a beloved performer in the Bay Area, and a mainstay in San Francisco’s queer underground scene. She was a sex worker, a porn actor, a cabaret artist, a songwriter, and a member of the legendary San Francisco theater group The Cockettes.
Lake’s friend, Birdie Bob Watt, called Lake a trailblazer. “She’s been inspirational to a lot of people as far as her ability to navigate her own path,” Watt said. “...In telling her story she gave a lot of other people power, as well as giving power to herself.”
In the 1990s, Lake co-authored a memoir titled The Unsinkable Bambi Lake with Alvin Orloff, the manager of Dog Eared Books Castro. Shealso released a solo album, Broadway Hostess, in 2005. Her show The Golden Age of Bambi Lake was a sold out hit at the popular nightclub Oasis.
In 2015, trans filmmaker Silas Howard made a short documentary about her, Sticks and Stones: Bambi Lake in 2014. Howard remembers her as being an unforgettable and unmatched figure in queer culture.
"An elusive and unstoppable force, Bambi lived for the stage, as it was one of the few places she was not only seen but revered for her talent and vulnerability,” Howard told Out. “She survived the AIDs pandemic, battles with houselessness and addiction, and lived to the age of 70s as a trans woman. A pioneer, an icon, a paradox, an overwhelming presence, a miracle to behold. She was fearlessly out as a trans woman when that term was not even in the popular lexicon.”
Howard also remembered her one-of-a-kind style. “She did it with a style which mixed DIY punk aesthetics with 1940s Hollywood glamour, a touch of Haute Couture and blatant sexuality,” he said. “She did it with a brash, confidence. In telling her story she gave a lot of other people power, as well as giving power to herself."
Lake will be sorely missed, not just in San Francisco, but across the global LGBTQ+ community.