Atlanta drag legend Diamond Lil dies at 80

Add this share

Atlanta drag legend Diamond Lil, who has been battling cancer and was recently moved into a hospice, died on Tuesday morning. 

The death the veteran entertainer and former antiques dealer was announced on her Facebook page Tuesday afternoon. 

Friends sounded the alarm about Diamond Lil's health in a Facebook post on July 3, revealing to fans that she's been battling cancer for more than a year. 

In late June, Diamond Lil was moved from Piedmont Hospital to a hospice in Marietta. On July 14, she was moved to Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Home, a facility in southwest Atlanta that cares for indigent cancer patients. Friend Robin Davidson updated fans through Diamond Lil's Caring Bridge page.

On July 30, friends posted to Diamond Lil's Facebook page that she was in critical condition.

Diamond is a fighter. Her health is in critical condition and we're slowly loosing her. She can no longer speak and most of her time is spent sleeping. She is not in pain. She continues to request no visitors. A few family members and friends are at Diamond's side at the hospice. All your cards and comments and messages have been read to Diamond and they brighten her spirits. 

Diamond Lil has done yoga with the gay grays, held court with Santa at Heretic and offered wedding advice to the gays who marry. In 2015, she was among a handful of LGBT trailblazers honored by Atlanta Pride in 2015. Ahead of the event, held with Touching Up Our Roots, organizers offered this biography of Diamond Lil:

Diamond Lil brings female impersonation to new heights, singing and song writing and recording in her own voice. First performing on Savannah radio in the 1940s as a little boy, in the 1950s Diamond entertained the sailors “who would throw me in the air” as she sang and danced on the ships docked in Savannah’s harbor.

Threatened with long term jail time for numerous harassment arrests, Diamond settled in Atlanta in the 1960s and became a major cultural influence, inspiring musicians like Ru Paul, Fred Schneider and the B-52s, and singer Jayne County (and perhaps ever Michael Stipe and REM).

Headlining many benefits for lgbt causes, Diamond especially helped the University of Georgia’s first lgbt student group, the Committee on Gay Education, survive in the 1970s, when she performed torch songs like “Stand By Your Man” to thunderous applause at benefits. Ultimately after long court fights, the UGA gave up on throwing the COGE off campus.

In 2014, readers of the Georgia Voice voted Diamond Lil as Icon in the media outlet's Best of Atlanta awards.

Diamond Lil was born Phillip Forrester in Savannah on Dec. 28, 1935. It wasn't long before the performances started in the coastal city and the times – and her drag – prompted a move to Atlanta in 1965, according to a must-read Creative Loafing profile. 

Funeral arrangements have not been announced. 

[h/t Georgia Voice]



Project Q Atlanta goes on hiatus after 14 years

On Sept. 1, 2008, Project Q Atlanta promised a hyper-local “queer media diet” for Atlanta. The site set out to bring LGBTQ news, in-depth...

Photos catch Purple Dress Run invading Midtown

After three years of pandemic-inflicted limitations, Atlanta’s gay rugby squad let loose on one of its most popular events. The Atlanta Bucks Purple Dress...

Ooo Bearracuda: Photos from Bear Pride’s Main Event

The seventh annual Atlanta Bear Pride hit the ground running on Friday with packed houses at Woofs, Heretic and Future. Turned out, they hadn’t...

Atlanta Bear Pride set to go hard and long all weekend

That low, growing growl you hear is a nation of gay bears headed for Atlanta Bear Pride this weekend. By the time they arrive,...

PHOTOS: Armorettes bring back Easter Drag Race magic

Gay Atlanta’s queens of do-good drag brought the sunshine to a cloudy afternoon on Saturday when Heretic hosted the triumphant return of Armorettes Easter...