We have been hoping it was just a sick joke, that someone had been hacked and reported this cruel ‘fake’ news but it seems to be true…the legendary San Francisco drag star HEKLINA has apparently died in London while touring with good friend, fellow San Francisco drag star, Peaches Christ.
PeachesChrist, aka Joshuan Grannell, was the one to break the news at about 1pm PDT (which would have been about 9pm London time) via social media:
“I am shocked and horrified to bring this news to you. I am living in a real-life nightmare so forgive me if I don’t have all the answers just now. This morning, in London, England I went to collect my dear friend Heklina, who is costarring with me in a Mommie Queerest show here, and found her dead. I do not know the cause of death yet. I know this is shocking news and I am beyond stunned, but I wanted to let folks know what has happened. Heklina is not just my best friend, but a beloved icon of our community. I am a mess. Given this crisis, please do not try to contact me as I am utterly heartbroken, stunned, and focusing on what needs to get done next. I shall be in touch.”
There have been no other postings from Peaches and no official confirmation from official circles in the UK. We reached out to the local theater in London and to Heklina’s home club in San Francisco, the Oasis for any kind of confirmation. No reply yet from the Soho Theatre but Oasis did respond that they had no other information at that time. Since then, both Soho and Oasis have issued social media announcements about the death with San Francisco media then following with reports of the passing of Heklina.
Heklina was a force of nature…with a name to back up that claim. Iceland born Stefan Grygelko named his drag persona after a famed Icelandic volcano Hekla…which the Norse people of Iceland called “the Gateway to Hell” for its frequent and violent eruptions. Young Stefan emigrated to the United States with his mother and eventually served in the United States Navy. Like many young gay men of the 1990s, he moved to San Francisco and reinvented himself as the larger than life Heklina, not only performing in drag shows but quickly moving to creating and producing their own showcases including the hugely popular Trannyshack show, a cutting edge weekly drag talent show that encouraged bold, artistic, and political drag, a sensibility that fit San Francisco’s gutsy, rule breaking persona.
In the 2000s, Heklina toured extensively up and down the Pacific Coast bringing road show versions of Trannyshack to Seattle where Heklina partnered with our local divas like Sylvia O’Stayformore, Jackie Hell, Ursula Android and Dina Martina where San Francisco queens got to mix it up with local rising superstars like a very young Jinkx Monsoon who got one of her big drag breaks performing at a Trannyshack show at Chop Suey circa…2010? 2011?
One of Heklina’s dreams came true in the mid 2010s when she opened up her very own drag club Oasis in San Francisco’s Folsom Street gay district with business partners including her co-star D’Arcy Drollinger who she appeared with in their popular Golden Girls parody shows performed every year during the Xmas holidays (and on tours that included Seattle). She later sold her share in the club and subsequently made her primary home in Palm Springs, California but frequently returned to the Bay Area for shows including many productions with Peaches Christ doing parody shows of movies beloved by gay audiences like Mommie Dearest, the ridiculously over the top movie about Joan Crawford and her problematic relationship with her daughter Christina.
Peaches and Heklina have toured many times with their version of the film, “Mommie Queerest” including a stop last April at Seattle’s Broadway Performance Hall. (We also did an insane interview with the two of them to promote that show…check it out here: https://seattlegayscene.com/2022/03/talking-to-heklina-peaches-about-mommie-queerest-and-other-stuff-like-drag-race-warhol-more-gossip/ Peaches and Heklina were in the UK touring with Mommie Queerest with performances scheduled to open Wednesday, April 5th at London’s Soho Theatre.
We’ll update once we have more news about Heklina’s passing. We will tell you that there are plans to have a memorial/wake for Heklina at some point in the next few days.
Finally, a big, big toast to the one and only, the legend known as the “Gateway To Hell” (but really, a very nice and kind gateway) the fantastically wonderful HEKLINA.