I knew of The Steve Lady years before he became known as The Steve Lady, if you call cowering with wide eyes and curiosity as he elegantly sauntered past you with a pair of his closest friends at the End-up to their familiar spot at the bar like they had just burst out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. No, I wouldn’t say I really knew him as much as I was intrigued and intimidated by this aura of glamour he and his friends exuded when they walked in a room. I assumed all sorts of things about the trio, like they were descendents of some old world aristocracy, blue bloods educated in European boarding schools who had parents like Dianne Von Furstenberg or Aristotle Onassis and visited the French Riviera annually. They seemed to be the type who had definitely flown on the Concorde many times, so high, so fast, so first class. Steven was quite tall, and the slender lines of his physique just screamed for high couture to be draped upon him: broad shoulders, small waist, those super-model hips jutting forward from his body, sharp enough to cut, and his chin and cheekbones and the intensity of his large eyes, burning like lasers with a hundred yard stare, and that subtle sneer, somewhere between a smile and disdain. He didn’t just walk into a room so much as slice his way through. He frightened me so I never really met or spoke to him for years. One Halloween he dressed up as Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmatians and that was the first foreshadow of the magic yet to come. He was shockingly complete—a dead on likeness of the animated uber villain.
Over the years of consistent nightclubbing through the eighties and early nineties when everyone knew without a doubt where they would be spending their Saturdays and Sunday nights out (Product and Uranus and Klubstitute and Dragstrip to name a few), every time I saw The Steve Lady he looked devastating. His sense of style never adhered to anything over-wrought or campy or from the drag bins. He recognized the power of simplicity and would always choose a look that landed well off the beaten path of drag kitsch and more from the pages of Vogue magazine, fashion period history, specific works by celebrated photographers like Helmut Newton, or imagery from film makers like David Lynch or even Abstract Expressionist German theater and modern Performance Artists. His looks were always high concept, using his vast knowledge of art and enduring images of beauty like a palette of paints to create his unique and elegant forays. He appeared as a force of visual perfection that would humble great beauties throughout history and take your breath away time and time again. He had vision and plans unyielding to any limitations or doubts until as always perfection prevailed.
Looking back at those times now and the many crazy nights of non-stop clubbing when I would run into him, it seems that it was not so much what he was wearing but more about an active physical transformation that he could engage effortlessly; he simply turned on with an almost athletic precision the physical manifestation of what we call a super-model. Not really like today’s most famous super-model, Kate Moss, though she’s amazing, The Steve Lady brought to mind earlier sensations like Linda Evangelista, and of course Verushka. His smooth movements and regal postures, grace and fluidity and that semi robotic stop/start and freeze for the camera pose was so easy and utterly perfect for him and so it gave me chills. I’m so glad there were a handful of very talented photographers forever taking pictures out in the clubs, and of course many of them spotted the magic in Steven right away and opted for more committed individual sessions, as did a few artists working in other medias. I’m assuming a grand collection of images and artworks will be taking shape to be shared with his friends and fans and loved ones. No one who captured this fire would ever let it be forgotten.
I eventually got over my fear of his fierceness and learned what an engaging conversationalist he was, and what fun it could be to share a few
laughs and cocktails with him. I also learned that he wasn’t from the glamorous Jet-set background I had always imagined, but rather came from Bakersfield, California after a childhood in South America. This information made him even more mysterious than before. How did this boy from Bakersfield become so emblematic of high fashion, opulence, and extreme glamour? He was downright otherworldly, perhaps an old soul with epic pasts of power royalty and fame. Steven was actually a very nice person, wickedly funny, quick-witted and quite informed in the areas of art and culture and music as he would demonstrate when making song requests when I was DJ-ing at the Hole in The Wall and The Eagle. His choices were always thematically appropriate but with a flair for the dramatic or moody, like early Sonic Youth or Heroes-era Bowie or even music from film soundtracks like David Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me, or the high-art extreme vocal techniques of Diamanda Galas, but he enjoyed all kinds of odd pop music and could squeeze the irony or humor out of any song he performed to, changing it forever in the minds of his audience. I know that I’ll never hear Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” again without thinking about his unforgettable performance and winning turn at the very first Miss Trannyshack pageant, which was also the first time I recall him performing as The Steve Lady, perhaps the best drag name ever.
In hindsight I honestly cannot remember a single performance that took place that night besides The Steve Lady’s and I bet few others can either because what he did on stage that night at the Stud Bar transcended any and all performances I’ve seen that fall under the category of drag or tranny. It was really quite simple, an entourage of four handsome guys wearing all black and berets equipped with large electric fans and a large piece of black fabric flanked the stage and stretched the fabric like a curtain across it. On cue with the chorus of the song they dropped the fabric and turned on the fans and the Steve Lady simply appeared and gracefully but with an icy resolve modeled her fucking brains out. She channeled every exquisite notion of high glamour so precisely it caused complete pandemonium in the crowd. The roar was deafening, people were jumping up and down and screaming, all over a breathtaking display of high-octane turbo-charged world-class beauty. The curtain went up and came down three different times, exposing a different look each time, executed in seconds and utterly flawless, each one surpassing the other. It was overwhelmingly clear who would be crowned the first Miss Trannyshack. The voting process was a blur or maybe it just lasted about 10 seconds and there was no element of suspense or surprise. Everyone knew who nailed the title and the cheering had not subsided since the end of the performance. As the black leather studded sash was placed over The Steve Lady’s shoulder and she was handed a bouquet of flowers Heklina asked, “How does it feel being crowned the first Miss Trannyshack,” to which The Steve Lady succinctly responded, “I feel like chicken.” It was unforgettable.
The subsequent performances I’ve witnessed over the years were all unique and unparalleled. Once at a co-hosting stint at trannyshack she wore a tan pencil skirt and brown silk blouse—like she might have worked retail downtown—with a totally real-looking, parted-in-the-middle-afro-puffs wig, curved fake fingernails about four inches long, and painted brown and varying shades of brown base make-up eye-shadow and lipstick. She performed the song “Double-Dutch Bus,” a male vocal. Her multi-media step-down number for the second Miss Trannyshack pageant included a remake of the Duran Duran Video “Rio” in which she visited exact locations as the original work and projected the film behind her. The commitment was mind-blowing. On a Bowie tribute night she was the only one who would dare come as his wife Iman, wearing a controversial coating of (gasp) shade appropriate base make-up to match the African super-model, and another night I recall her and Robbie D doing a particularly awesome number as pop-and-lock robotic bitches. There are far too many amazing performances to mention and I haven’t even delved into his efforts in legitimate theatrical projects as writer director and actor when he relocated to L.A. H He described to me on a visit to San Francisco one more interesting and groundbreaking look he sported after moving south. He would go out in a smart gentleman’s suit, blazer, slacks, dress shirt and a fedora hat with his entire face and hands completely painted black, beyond a natural skin pigmentation. Just the whites of his eyes and his teeth would show. As always he was forging ahead in his artistic expression, challenging concepts of beauty as much as defining and owning them in the most accomplished way I’ve ever witnessed.
In writing this article after the passing of this exceptional, visionary talent and object of much love respect and joy to so many I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by sadness. Steven Price brought so much brilliance to this world and inspired so many different lives in numerous ways that it feels like a white hot light has been turned off, our world is darkened, even grim. But in all of our memories and in rolls of film and scores of digital photography and artwork I’ve started to see that nothing will ever extinguish the beauty and energy and achievement of this life sadly ended. It’s up to us to pull all that remains of our dear friends’ legacy together in a place where he’ll exist forever, our memories. The best way to do so is to help others who try to do the same. Share your memories and know he wouldn’t want our hearts to be heavy, he’d want us to remember and smile and laugh and feel rich, forever. Rest in peace Steven.