How did Darcelle XV die? Portland drag queen’s cause of death Explained

 How did Darcelle XV die? Portland drag queen's cause of death Explained

Walter Cole, formerly known as Portland’s illustrious drag queen Darcelle XV, has passed away. She was the oldest drag queen, a pillar of Portland.  Although she is no longer physically present, her cabaret will continue to carry on her legacy in Portland. Keep reading this post to know what happened to her and Darcelle XV cause of death.

What happened to Darcelle XV?

According to a Facebook post from his nightclub, Walter Cole, better known as Darcelle, was a well-known drag Queen in Portland. He was 92. 

Darcelle XV Showplace’s Facebook post reads the following statement,

The family of Darcelle XV along with her cast and crew are heartbroken to announce that our beloved Darcelle (Walter W. Cole, Sr.) has died at age 92 from natural causes. We ask for privacy and patience as everyone processes and grieves in their way and at their own pace. Details of a public memorial will be announced as soon as they are confirmed. All shows at Darcelle XV Showplace will go on as scheduled per Darcelle’s wishes. Please join us and celebrate her legacy and memory, thank you in advance for your continued support.

Darcelle XV

Darcelle XV cause of death

The renowned drag queen was a pioneering performer in Oregon and an advocate for LGBT rights. Darcelle, also known as Walter W. Cole Senior, was the longest-running female impersonator in the country.

She was also a longtime business owner in Old Town Portland whose support for gay rights began at a time when homosexual acts were prohibited and gays and lesbians were subject to legalized discrimination.

Darcelle became an “ambassador” to the straight community as the movement for LGBTQ rights gained momentum and was well-known for her charity endeavors for many years.

As per the official reports, it was confirmed that the queen passed away due to natural causes at the age of 92. “Details of a public memorial will be announced as soon as they are confirmed. All shows at Darcelle XV Showplace will go on as scheduled per Darcelle’s wishes.

To bring back the La Femme Magnifique pageant, which had been suspended for two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, she wore her edgy blonde wig and a glitter-covered gown last fall. She told OPB last year that up until the pandemic, Darcelle XV Showplace had never shut its doors.

”We had some tough times. … But you know what was so wonderful? My staff stayed with me, and when we reopened, they were all there. I love them.”

Over more than a year, “Oregon Experience” crews documented Darcelle at a variety of events, both public and private. They captured behind-the-scenes moments and gathered hundreds of images and film clips spanning decades. Watch the resulting insiders’ look at the legendary Portlander. 

Click here to watch the video:


Who was Darcelle XV?

Walter W. Cole, a drag queen, performer, and owner and operator of a cabaret in Portland, Oregon, used the stage name Darcelle XV from November 16, 1930, until March 23, 2023.

His 57-year career as an artist at the time of his death earned him the title of oldest drag queen performer from Guinness World Records in 2016. Cole was born in 1930 and grew up in Portland, Oregon’s Linnton district. He was called a “four-eyed sissy boy,” a bashful person.

After being released from the US military in the late 1950s following the Korean War, he lived a “normal” life in southeast Portland with his wife and two children. He characterized himself as having “a crew cut and horn-rimmed spectacles” and stated that he worked at a Fred Meyer store. Military funding assisted him in launching commercial endeavors.

Darcelle XV Showplace

Cole first bought a coffee shop called Caffé Espresso, which later moved and grew to incorporate a jazz club called Studio A in the basement. He bought a bar in northwest Portland in 1967, and it later changed its name to Darcelle XV Showplace.

At the age of 37, Cole donned her first female garment. He created the persona of Darcelle by 1969 and came out as gay. While working alongside Darcelle at the Showplace as a choreographer, show director, performer, bookkeeper, office manager, and payroll accountant, he separated from his wife and started dating Roxy Neuhardt. Together they remained up until Neuhardt’s passing in 2017.

Cole as a performer

Cole formed his alter ego Darcelle and came out as gay. Cole had a passion for performing and had previously worked at Portland Civic Theater. Denise Darcel, a French actress, and singer are honored with the appellation “Darcelle.”

Darcelle wore dazzling attire, jewelry, and fake eyelashes. Darcelle’s demeanor was described by Cole as having “sequins on the eyelids, lots of feathers, big hair, enormous diamonds, and lots of wisecracks.”

Actors at Darcelle XIV Showplace lip-synced to get around an Oregon regulation that forbade the use of more than one instrument during shows. After Neuhardt and another man performed a “ballet-like adagio,” the establishment was punished.

Social Events

Darcelle participated in social events throughout the city. He won the city’s Spirit of Portland Award in 2011 and served as grand marshal of the Starlight Parade at the Portland Rose Festival.

In 2011, Cole and Sharon Knorr released his autobiography, Just Call Me Darcelle. The book recalls Cole’s life, including his upbringing, time in the military, and his role as Darcelle.

A film titled Maisie was released in 2021. This featured Maisie Trollette, the stage name of English drag performer David Raven. He will age 85 in 2021 and is now the oldest drag performer in the UK. Raven had met Darcelle at the Brighton Hotel, and Maisie had met him at Legends in Brighton.

Tributes flooded Social Media for Darcelle XV 

Carol Weishaar posted,

In the 70s my friend acted like a drunken fool at the drag show, trying to steal a souvenir from the restroom/dressing room. and Darcelle herself caught us and kicked us out of the club.

She grabbed both of us by our collars and drug us to the curb screaming “NEVER COME BACK!” Fast forward 40 years or so when Walter was writing his book I contacted him and told him the story, telling him I was only trying to get the feather boa OUT of her pants, not IN it …and I sure wished he’d let me back into Darcelles since it was a huge misunderstanding on his part. He replied so graciously and told me of course I was welcome and said he might use my story in his book. Rest in Peace, Queen. You are missed already.

Rachelle Braithwaite said,

We will miss you! Been over 20yrs since I saw your show, but I remember every bit of it and have bragged about it being the best I’ve ever seen. RIP Darcelle. to all

Rhonda Rowbertson wrote,

Somehow, no matter how old they became, I thought that they would live forever, an absolute light in queer Portland. I am heartbroken. An amazing person has been lost, whether you knew them as Walter Cole or Darcelle. To the family and loved ones, thank you for sharing them with us and I grieve our loss.

Cassandra Smialek wrote,

I first saw you almost 20 years ago. I kept saying how I needed to get back soon. I’m so sorry I didn’t. I hope your passing was easy and beautiful, just like you. 


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