Legendary trans performer the Lady Chablis, who rose to celebrity through the book and film Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil, has died at the age of 59 at a hospital in Savannah, Georgia. Cale Hall, a friend and co-owner of Club One, where Chablis performed since it opened in 1988, said she died of pneumonia. “Just as The Book shined the spotlight on Savannah, so too did Chablis shine the spotlight on the gay scene,” Club One posted on Facebook. “No one, however, could outshine the Grand Empress herself.”
Chablis first entered the mainstream consciousness through the popularity of John Berendt’s nonfiction account of Savannah, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, published in 1994. She then published her own autobiography, Hiding My Candy, in 1996, in which she details an abusive and difficult childhood in Quincy, Florida. In 1997, she would play herself in Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of Midnight starring Kevin Spacey. Berendt told the Washington Post, “She said, ‘If I’m not cast as myself in that movie, there won’t be a movie.’ So [Eastwood] cast Chablis as Chablis.”
Her act at Club One became a popular pit stop for tourists, and she performed there until her death. Her last performance was on August 6.