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    Rest in Peace, Robin Williams, You Were Truly a Gay Icon

    By Dennis McMillan

    new_robinEveryone on the planet is mourning the tragic demise of comic extraordinaire Robin Williams, but none more than the LGBTQ community. Williams was definitely a queer icon.

    In the movie The Birdcage, Williams portrayed the gay dad dealing with a hetero son, as well as the owner of a drag cabaret and same-sex lover of its star drag queen performer.

    He was the gay daddy in drag in Mrs. Doubtfire—as the kind, elderly Scottish nanny, calling himself Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire after seeing a newspaper headline with the words “doubt” and “fire.” In the hilarious film, straight Daniel Hillard enlists his gay brother Frank (played by openly gay Harvey Fierstein), a makeup artist, and Frank’s partner Jack to transform him into Mrs. Doubtfire.

    new_robin4My favorite personal moment with Williams was when I was dressed as Sister Dana Van Iquity in full-on nun drag and bumped into him walking down Castro Street. I joked to him, “Well, there goes the neighborhood,” and he laughed uproariously! At the time, I had no idea the effect that incident would have in the future.

    new_robin2Then, months later on a talk show, Williams recounted that story and incorrectly called me “Sister Mary Boom Boom,” because he apparently only knew one nun name of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence—and even that was inaccurate. Actually, it was Sister Boom Boom who brought me into The Order.

    Later, Williams did an interview in 1992, after being considered for a movie role as openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, and was asked whether he might be uncomfortable playing a gay character. “I grew up in San Francisco; I grew up around gay people,” he replied. “I remember walking down the streets one day and the Sisters of Indulgence, specifically Sister Mary Boom Boom, looked at me and said, ‘There goes the neighborhood.’ I thought that was wonderful.”

    And I thought Robin was wonderful. But at one of the many LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS fundraisers he graciously attended, I got the chance to interview him. I was in male reporter “drag” as Dennis, and reminded him of that story — politely correcting him concerning the proper nun name.

    new_robin3He laughed, said it was one of his favorite SF moments, hugged me warmly, and said, “Well, it’s good to meet both of you!”

    Dennis McMillan, aka Sister Dana, is a columnist for the “Bay Times.”