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Portland Will Name City Square for Legendary Drag Queen Darcelle XV

Portland Will Name City Square for Legendary Drag Queen Darcelle XV

Darcelle XV

The move to honor the late performer demonstrates the Oregon city's commitment to inclusion and the LGBTQ+ community, city leaders say.

Portland, Ore., is naming a public square for Darcelle XV, the legendary drag queen who died in March at age 92.

O’Bryant Square in downtown Portland will be renamed Darcelle XV Plaza this week, city officials announced Friday. A proclamation to that effect will be released at 2 p.m. Thursday in City Council chambers, local media outlets report.

Darcelle — offstage, Walter W. Cole Sr. — ran a Portland nightclub called Darcelle XV Showplace for more than 50 years, featuring performances by Darcelle and other drag artists. It’s the longest-running drag club west of the Mississippi. Cole’s son, Walter W. Cole Jr., is keeping it in business. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the home Cole Sr. shared with his life partner, fellow entertainer Roxy Le Roy Neuhardt. Neuhardt died in 2017.

Darcelle was embraced warmly by Portlanders, appearing at many events around the city and receiving numerous awards. The queen received a place in Guinness World Records in 2016 as the world’s oldest drag performer and was the first Oregonian to be named to the National LGBTQ+ Wall of Honor at New York City’s Stonewall Inn.

As Darcelle, Cole raised money for a variety of charities, including many LGBTQ+ and AIDS organizations. The Darcelle XV AIDS Memorial stands at a cemetery in Portland, and in recognition of his work, Cole received the Spirit of Portland Award in 2003. The club also hosted Christmas Eve dinners for people who had nowhere else to go.

The square is undergoing renovation. A park and garage there have been closed since 2018 due to structural damage, and they will be demolished and a new park laid out. The square is located on a street named for Harvey Milk.

Some city officials have endorsed renaming Northwest Davis Street, near Darcelle XV Showplace, for Darcelle, but that has yet to receive final approval, TV station KOIN reports.

City leaders said naming the square for Darcelle demonstrates Portland’s commitment to inclusion. “By renaming O’Bryant Square to Darcelle XV Plaza, we are embracing and celebrating the indelible contributions of Darcelle XV to our city’s LGBTQ+ community,” City Commissioner Dan Ryan said in a statement.

“Renaming O’Bryant Square to Darcelle XV Plaza signifies the progress we have made as a city in embracing diversity and embracing LGBTQ+ history. May this plaza serve as a reminder of our shared journey towards inclusivity and acceptance,” Mayor Ted Wheeler added.

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