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    Heklina: 1968–2023

    Cookie Dough and Heklina at Trannyshack at the Stud (2010)

    By Donna Sachet–

    In a world racked by daily assaults on our senses, we sometimes become hardened to the personal impact of bad news. The news of the death of Heklina in London, however, comes as a terrible shock, putting many in the LGBTQ+ and larger community into a painful paroxysm. Few personalities in the past 3 decades have risen to the level of recognition, accomplishment, and affection that Heklina securely possessed.

    Known by many from the early days of Trannyshack (later renamed Mother), Heklina hosted and emceed countless events, traveled with an entourage of talented friends, rubbed shoulders with many of the top names in entertainment, delighted hundreds as Dorothy in the annual Golden Girls Live, and moved on to be a partner in Oasis, the club that has become the center of so much in the LGBTQ+ Community, from entertainment of all kinds to celebrations, remembrances, and political actions. Throughout her career in drag, she was known for her shrewd business acumen, creative nature, fostering of new talent, and irascible sense of humor, exemplified so beautifully by that boisterous and deafening laugh.

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    When Heklina called some years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, about staging a roast of me at the Castro Theatre, I shared my concerns about filling so many seats. That laugh rang over the phone; she had no doubt it would be a success. Later, when she asked for a headshot for advance publicity, I sent her two or three images I liked. Within minutes, she called saying, “Gurl, you need some new headshots, something taken in the last decade!” The roast had officially begun.

    Undoubtedly, many personal stories will surface in the next few weeks (Facebook is already full of them), some from long-time friends who cherished her company, some from newer talents who give her credit for giving them an opportunity, and some from people who never knew her personally, but benefited from her courageous encouragement of talent, her bold breaking of the bonds of traditional drag, and her tireless support of San Francisco’s creative energy. 

    The City of San Francisco is unquestionably diminished by her death and our deepest sympathies go out to all her legion of acquaintances, her family and friends, and that handful of individuals who really came to know Heklina and the person behind the drag. I can hear her laughing right now.

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist, and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at

    In Memoriam
    Published on April 6, 2023