The April 3 death of beloved San Francisco drag legend Heklina at age 55 sent shock waves through San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ communities. Although she had since relocated to Palm Springs, Heklina made regular appearances at El Rio’s monthly party Daytime Realness and other large-scale events, and her loss—at a time when the art of drag has become a political lightning rod—is widely felt.
A planned memorial at the 1,400-seat Castro Theatre—free of charge, but registration required—ran out of space within minutes. Now, the drag icon’s friends have announced a much grander remembrance on May 23—which will close Castro Street between Market and 18th streets to vehicular traffic for the better part of the day.
That effectively means shutting down the entire neighborhood.
Formally titled “Heklina: A Memorial (She Would Have Hated This),” the crowdfunded remembrance has essentially turned into an outdoor telecast, complete with a drag show. Hosted by local queens LOL McFiercen and Dulce de Leche, there will be a proper stage with two hours of performances starting at 6 p.m., with the indoor memorial livestreamed to what’s expected to be hundreds of mourners on the streets outside.
“In lieu of charging any admission and to cover the expenses of producing an event of this magnitude, we are humbly asking for donations,” the GoFundMe states. “Miss the chance to donate and risk being haunted by Heklina forever.”
Heklina’s brand of edgy, deadpan drag helped shepherd the art away from lip-syncing to Donna Summer and toward aggressive, in-your-face comic performance. From the 1990s on, she was a staple of San Francisco nightlife, particularly at The Stud, but also a treasured performer at live holiday reenactments of classic Golden Girls episodes at the Victoria Theatre.
On May 23, Castro Street will be closed from noon onward, as Heklina’s memorial is widely expected to draw a crowd unlike virtually any other one-off public event in the LGBTQ+ community in some time.
Heklina: A Memorial (She Would Have Hated This)
📍 Castro and Market streets (Castro Theatre memorial sold out)
🗓️ Tuesday, May 23 | 6-10 p.m.
🎟️ Free, with donation requested
Astrid Kane can be reached at [email protected]