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Home / jose julio sarria

Late, legendary drag queen, queer activist receives star in Palm Springs

The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce honored the late, legendary drag queen and queer activist Jose Julio Sarria Monday with the 453rd Star on the city’s Walk of the Stars.

The new star was unveiled in the Downtown Palm Springs Park.

“As the `mother’ of the gay community, he gave birth to a political movement as well as an entire community, while teaching us how to live our authentic lives as equal members of our society,” the founder and chair of the Jose Sarria Foundation, Gene Brake, said in a statement.

Sarria was a political activist from San Francisco who in 1961 became the first openly gay political candidate in the nation. He was additionally dubbed as the Nightingale of Montgomery Street for his `operas’ in drag at the Black Cat Cafe in San Francisco from 1949-1961.

Sarria moved to Palm Springs in 1996 and lived there until he died in 2013 at age 90.

“As Jose neared the end of his life, he feared people wouldn’t remember his contributions and many of us committed to make sure that wouldn’t happen,” Brake said in a statement. “This helps make good on that commitment, and the star’s location near his favorite actress, Marilyn Monroe, is perfect.”

Prior to his death, the Jose Julio Sarria History Makers Award was created by the San Francisco Pride Board to honor LGBTQ+ members’ newsworthy accomplishments, chamber officials said.

After his death, he was honored on San Francisco’s Rainbow Honor Walk and was inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor as one of the inaugural 50 American “pioneers, trailblazers and heroes.”

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