The Lady Chablis, a Savannah, Georgia–based performer best known for her appearance as herself in the 1997 Clint Eastwood film adaptation of John Berendt’s best-selling nonfiction novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, died on Thursday. During her long career, she was perhaps second only to RuPaul in the national consciousness for her work in drag and nightlife entertainment, which she practiced primarily in the South. Though she personally abjured labels related to gender identity and sexual orientation (preferring to be known simply as Chablis or “the doll”), she should be counted as a pioneer for the queer community, particularly in her insistence on expressing gender as she saw fit.
Berendt recalled Chablis’ toughness in a statement: “Chablis could be playful and ironic, but she had a tough inner core. ‘Don’t be fooled by this dress I’m wearing,’ she’d say with a hint of danger in her voice.”
Chablis’ hilarious memoir, Hiding My Candy, detailed her path from a childhood in Florida to the stage, as well as a few of her favorite recipes for soul food (would that all memoirists were so thoughtful). In addition to her work in entertainment, Chablis was heavily involved in charity work, especially for diabetes and LGBTQ causes. While a cause of death has not yet been reported, recent profiles indicated her health had been in decline. Read more via Slate