Being Darcelle: ‘That’s No Lady’


Stage show, costume exhibit, book, more honor Portland female impersonator, all organized by friend of 30 years, Donald Horn

The legendary Darcelle is the Portland female impersonator also known as Walter Cole, and a big musical by Triangle Productions tells their story. (Kit MacAvoy/Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — To say Donald Horn has been busy documenting the life and times of Walter Cole, aka Darcelle, the longtime Portland female impersonator, would be an understatement.

Horn’s Triangle Productions will stage “That’s No Lady,” the story of Darcelle, next month at Lincoln Performance Hall.

About the same time, Horn’s 725-page book by the same name comes out via Amazon/KDP Publishing.

On Aug. 30, Horn’s curated exhibit of Darcelle’s costumes, “The Many Shades of Being Darcelle,” opens at the Oregon Historical Society.

And, not only has paperwork been submitted to list Cole’s Northeast Portland home on the National Register of Historic Places, an effort led by Horn, but he’ll try to earn the same designation for Darcelle XV Showplace at 208 N.W. Third Ave., site of the famous act for more than 50 years.

No wonder Horn handed off director duties for “That’s No Lady” to Brandon Woolley, who has presided over rehearsals that started last week.

“I felt like I took on a lot,” said Horn, a friend of Cole’s for more than 30 years.

But it’s been worth it to fete the 88-year-old Portland legend.

“I’m doing this because I love him,” said Horn, who’s written the book and lyrics for the musical, and serves as producer. “He truly has done so much for the city of Portland. Why don’t we do something for him?”

The musical will be held at Lincoln Performance Hall, site of the old Lincoln High School, from which Cole graduated in 1950. There’ll be 10 shows, starting Sept. 19. As an element of surprise, a different Portland drag performer makes an appearance in each show.

Kevin Loomis, a national-level actor originally from Corvallis and now living in Portland, will be playing Cole/Darcelle. He has worked at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and on Broadway, and been on TV shows “Frasier,” “The Practice” and more.

Horn said bringing in Woolley allows for “fresh eyes” on the project.

Cole was hospitalized in March, at which time doctors inserted a defibrillator in him. There are compelling twists from the hospital stay inserted into the musical, including the opening, which now shows Cole contemplating his entire career as Darcelle after his medical scare.

Cole has been doing well, Horn said, and he quickly assumed his spot on stage at Darcelle XV after the procedure.

Horn’s book also will be out Sept. 19. “No chapters, just one story all the way through,” Horn said.

Meanwhile, paperwork for Cole’s home was submitted to the National Register of Historic Places last week.

As far as the Darcelle XV Showplace designation, “it would be the first LGBT business on the National Register in Oregon; it would be the fifth in America,” Horn added.

Horn also has arranged for a calendar, coloring book and greeting cards to be released in conjunction with the musical.

And he has another book planned as a spin-off of the Oregon Historical Society costume exhibit.

“He told me, ‘Donny, I’d really love somebody talking about my costumes,'” Horn said.

Get tickets to “That’s No Lady” here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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