The drag community has reacted with devastation to the news that Heklina, real name Stefan Grygelko, died in London on Monday. She was 55.
Heklina was best known for founding the long-running drag show Trannyshack and as Dorothy Zbornak in live reenactments of The Golden Girls. She also co-founded Oasis nightclub with business partner D’Arcy Drollinger.
What Happened to Heklina?
Stefan Grygelko, better known as drag icon Heklina, died in London this week. The news came via fellow drag performer Peaches Christ who shared a picture of her friend’s body at the theater where Heklina was performing in Mommie Queerest.
Heklina was a familiar face in San Francisco’s nightlife scene. She co-owned the popular club Oasis and was a founding member of the long-running punk-drag show Trannyshack, now called Mother, which ran from 1996 to 2014.
The show featured male performers dressed as women and offered a queer riff on political, social, racial and gender issues at the time. Heklina also starred in the acclaimed show Golden Girls Live!
Tributes have been pouring in from local politicians and drag queens. Heklina’s club Oasis posted on social media that the late performer was “forever a pillar of our community.” The Castro Theatre is honoring her with a marquee display. Other tributes have been popping up at venues like Manny’s in the Mission District.
Heklina’s Cause of Death
Heklina was a beloved icon in San Francisco’s queer community, and her untimely death is devastating to many of her friends. She was known for her edgy, performance-art style that helped revolutionize drag shows.
She was a co-founder of the Trannyshack drag show, appeared as Dorothy Zbornak in numerous San Francisco Golden Girls productions, and hosted and emceed many of the city’s pride events and fairs. She also starred in the independent drag film Baby Jane? and was part of the team that relaunched nightclub and theater Oasis in San Francisco’s SoMa District in 2015.
Heklina was born Stefan Grygelko and took on her drag persona Heklina, named after the volcano Hekla in her mother’s native Iceland. She was in London preparing for a stage performance of the musical parody Mama Queerest with friend and fellow drag queen Peaches Christ (drag performer Joshua Grannell). She was found dead on April 3 and the cause of her death is unknown.
Heklina’s Final Resting Place
Heklina was beloved by her friends and the San Francisco community. Her death shook the local LGBTQ scene. Hundreds of people attended a makeshift memorial Tuesday night at the Castro Theater. They gathered inside and outside the venue to remember Heklina, whose real name was Stefan Grygelko. Peaches Christ, who starred in Heklina’s show “Mommie Queerest,” spoke about the impact she had on her community.
The drag queen was born in Minneapolis and took her stage name from the Icelandic volcano Hekla. After settling in San Francisco, she founded the popular weekly drag show known as “Mother,” which featured artists like Lady Gaga and Charro. She also acted in local theatre productions and was a familiar face at city nightlife hotspots, per the San Francisco Chronicle. In recent years, Heklina lived in Cathedral City and was active in the Palm Springs drag scene. She was also a co-founder of Oasis nightclub in San Francisco with D’Arcy Drollinger, who now runs the venue.
Heklina, real name Stefan Grygelko, was a beloved icon of the San Francisco drag community. She was known for her outrageous and over-the-top performances. She was also an accomplished producer and host. She has produced several popular events, including the annual Trannyshack pageant. She also acted in local theater productions and hosted various gay events.
The news of Heklina’s death shook the drag community and left many fans mourning her loss. However, her memory will live on forever. Dozens of people gathered at the Castro Theatre for a memorial in her honor. Many wore t-shirts with her face on them. Her co-stars paid their respects to her by putting on an incredible performance that will be remembered for generations to come.