Soho sky to light up in Queen Ruby tribute
Friends plan fireworks farewell at fete for legendary drag queen
21 June, 2019 — By Samantha Booth
Legendary drag queen Ruby Venezuela
THE ashes of a legendary drag queen will fly high above Soho next week in a three-minute firework display.
Friends say they will carry out the last wishes of the cabaret star Ruby Venezuela, real name Brian Pearce, in St Anne’s Gardens, at the Soho Village Fete on June 30.
A specialist firework company is producing the show with gunpowder and the ashes of Ruby, who was a regular at the annual summer festival.
Her name is expected to light-up the sky while the famous song New York, New York is played.
Amelia Pearson, a close friend who lives in Covent Garden, said: “He did so much work for St Anne’s Church and Soho Society so I thought – his last wish was to be fired off into a rocket like Hunter S Thompson [author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas].”
She added: “I think he would be really pleased, he loved a fuss being made. He was a big star of the drag scene and he had done so much for charity, he was a lovely friend, a kind person and a fantastic performer.”
Over the past few months, some of the glamorous outfits belonging to the artistic director of Madame Jojo’s have been auctioned off at St Anne’s to raise money for the display and charity.
Another stall at the fete next week, and a fashion show later this summer, will raise money to be split between the church and Soho Society.
Ruby, who died last August, ran her own club, Ruby’s, for more than a decade in Chinatown where she was joined on stage by the likes of Lily Savage, Adrella, Regina Fong and the club’s famous “Barbettes”. A regular performer and fundraiser at the fete, Ruby boasted glitzy friends including Peter Stringfellow and Joan Rivers.
Born in Plymouth, Ruby became a hit on the drag circuit, performing at Madame Jojo’s and Club Fantastic. Interviewed in the Extra nine years ago, the then 63-year-old said: “I may not be young, but as soon as the music starts I can’t help but jump around.
There’s not many of us left. Now drag artists are basically transvestites who mime and can’t sing. But people will always love over-the-top glamour, and it fits in nicely with the burlesque revival.”
A funeral was held last October and the ashes have sat at Amelia’s house, where she decorated the urn in sequins and feathers to turn it into a “mini-Ruby”.
“I had people around for dinner and we do a toast for Ruby,” said Amelia, a trained textile artist. A handful of close friends and family are permitted to stand within the grounds of the church during the display, at 10pm, while spectators are welcome to watch the sky from the pavements of Soho.