Fans and friends of legendary drag queen Lily White are rallying around her in the wake of a fire earlier this week that destroyed her North Georgia home — and years of drag costumes and accessories.
White (top photo), whose legal name is Kyle Dennis Souder, returned to the home outside Rome to discover the fire, which apparently was started by sparks from a neighbor burning leaves. White, 64, rushed inside to pull out her elderly mother and their dog before the fire destroyed their home. The fire took place on Sunday, according to neighbors.
“The only thing Lily got out was what she was wearing and what her mother was wearing,” says Charlie Brown, a longtime friend who performed with White for 14 years at Backstreet before the club closed in 2004.
“She is in shock. They don’t know which way to go,” Brown says of White. “All of her pictures, everything, her costumes, jewelry — her entire collection of her career is gone.”
Since the fire, White and her mother are staying with relatives. They had insurance to cover the home but not the contents inside, Brown says. White has been traveling to perform with the funds helping to care for her mother and pay for medical bills.
“Now she can’t travel. She doesn’t have anything to wear,” Brown says.
Since the fire, fans of White have flocked to her Facebook page to offer support and pledge to help. On Tuesday, Brown asked her fans to “please put her in your prayers.” The legendary performer is working with Jungle and David magazine to organize a March 22 drag show to benefit White.
Jungle has donated the space for the 9 p.m. show, Brown says, and gay retailer Brushstrokes is collecting donations – money, clothing and household goods – at its store in Ansley Square Shopping Center. LeBuzz in Marietta is also accepting donations. Performers from across the Southeast – including Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas — are already asking to take part. Proceeds from the cover charge and tips will be donated to White, Brown says. Supporters are also hoping to raise $2,000 through an online effort.
“I’ve got so many entertainers coming in. This is my sister,” Brown says trying to hold back tears.
Tom Schloeder, co-owner of Brushstrokes, says he’s pleased to see such an outpouring of support for White.
“It’s nice that the community helps people out like this,” Schloeder says. “It’s one of those things you would expect in a small town — someone is in need and people help out. That’s a nice thing to do.”
David Thompson, publisher of David magazine, says he’s been friends with White for years. She performed at a gay club he owned in Macon.
“We just decided that we wanted to pull together something and help her recoup,” Thompson says of the upcoming benefit show. “They lost everything. We love Lily and need to do something for her.”
Atlanta drag performer Phoenix also says she’ll raise funds for White through her show on Thursdays at Burkhart’s.
Good morning… Need everyones help! In case u havent heard, the legendary Lily White lost her home and ALL her belongings, like everything. I cant imagine!!! We will be collecting money through out and at the end of our “Twisted Thursday” show @ Burkharts each week through out the month. Also will b collecting clothes, etc. Lily is an amazing person, please help! Thank u
Brown says it’s time to step forward and help White, who has helped so many others in decades of performing.
“It is time to help her. She’s worked every benefit she can over the years to support so many groups. She has given and given and never asked for anything back. If you’re ever enjoyed her, send $10. Anything will help. She has brought joy to so many lives,” Brown says.