Renowned San Francisco drag performer Heklina was found dead Monday in London, England, where she was performing in a touring show. CBS Bay Area informed.
The death of Heklina, also known as actor Stefan Grygelko, was first reported in social media posts by drag performer and fellow performer Peaches Christ (also known as Joshua Grannell), with whom Heklina was touring in “Mommie Queerest”, a musical parody of the 1981 Joan Crawford biopic “Mommie Dearest”.
“I’m living a real life nightmare so please forgive me if I don’t have all the answers right now,” said the message Grannell posted on both Peaches Christ’s Facebook page and her name page. “This morning in London, England, I went looking for my dear friend Heklina, who co-stars with me in a Mommie Queerest show here, and found her dead. I still don’t know the cause of death. I know this is shocking news. and I’m beyond stunned, but I wanted people to know what happened.”
London’s Soho Theatre, where the production of “Mommie Queerest” was playing, told CBS News it was “shocked and incredibly saddened by the news of Heklina’s passing. Our thoughts are with Peaches and the Mommie Queerest company, Heklina’s family, friends and her community at large at this time.”
Authorities did not immediately release details about the cause of death.
San Francisco lawmaker Matt Haney also tweeted about Heklina’s death, calling her “a drag legend, a brilliant performer, and a trailblazing community icon.”
“My condolences and love go out to all of Heklina’s friends, family and loved ones, and to all of the LGBTQ and drag communities,” he added.
State Senator Scott Wiener released a statement after the news broke, saying he was “absolutely devastated.”
“Heklina was an icon in the truest sense: funny, caring, outrageous, and brave. I first saw Heklina perform as a young gay man in the 1990s, new to San Francisco. Over the years, I’ve come to to meet her and helped her find a space for Oasis. I have rarely worked with someone so fierce, creative and dedicated,” said Wiener. “Heklina created community spaces and events that wove glitter, giant wigs, and raucous jokes into a sense of home. She was fiercely outspoken and always stood up for her friends and the community. She was the lifeblood of San Francisco, and it’s hard to imagine the city without her “.
“Heklina was also a strong supporter of drag, which is under extreme attack right now, and created opportunities for young drag queens to find their space,” she added. “While we suffer, we must honor her memory by remembering the joy she brought us and the importance of the art form to which she dedicated her life.”
In addition to performing with Peaches Christ in a variety of stage productions, as well as appearing as Dorothy Zbornak in the San Francisco drag production of “The Golden Girls”—which regularly held sold-out runs at its annual holiday extravaganza—Heklina He was best known as one of the co-founders of the long-running drag show “Trannyshack” which began at the San Francisco Stud club in the mid-1990s.
Most recently, Heklina was part of the ownership group that relaunched the Oasis nightclub and theater in San Francisco’s SoMa district, which had its grand reopening in 2014. She also regularly appeared as a host and emcee for a variety of community events. .