This is an article profiling a patient that I had the opportunity to treat as part of his care team in managing his extremities condition. He is a person of great fortitude and humor and has incredible support from his family as well as his community of fellow performers and fans.
Read more below or click on this link.
S.F. drag performer seeking help after life-changing medical crisis
Tony Bravo July 21, 2023
é Alberto Guzmán Colón
A catastrophic health crisis has taken much from drag performer Pippi Lovestocking, but she is determined not to lose the sense of humor San Francisco audiences have loved since the 1990s.
Now, following the amputation of both hands and feet, she needs those audiences’ help.
“You can never have too much money,” the 55-year-old performer told me on the phone from her hospital bed at California Pacific Medical Center Davies Campus. “Prosthetics aren’t cheap, and I need a lot!”
She is expected to remain in the rehab center for at least six months.
To help pay for Pippi Lovestocking’s medical expenses, friend and fellow drag performer Jordan L’Moore launched a GoFundMe campaign that has so far raised more than $35,000. Pennies for Pippi, a benefit party by DJ Bus Station John at Emperor Norton’s Boozeland in the Tenderloin is also scheduled for Saturday, July 22.
Jordan L’Moore is part of a core group of drag family including Timmy Spence, Peaches Christ, José Alberto Guzmán Colón, Fudgie Frottage, Deena Davenport and others who have coordinated care for the performer since she was admitted to the hospital in May. Pippi Lovestocking’s sisters have also flown in from North Carolina and New Mexico. When I spoke to Pippi Lovestocking on the phone, it was just five days after having both hands amputated, and nearly 10 since the loss of her feet. The surgeries were required due to the necrosis that set in to her extremities during a medically induced coma following an aortic aneurysm. Pippi Lovestocking, who also works as an actor out of drag under her birth name Scott Coker Free, has a history of cardiac problems, including a surgery to repair a heart valve in 1997.
She joked about her situation, her affectionate fights with her late friend and fellow drag legend Heklina, and her new professional ambitions. I asked if it was OK to laugh with her.
“Of course, it’s OK,” she said in her North Carolinian twang. “If laughter is the best medicine, I better do a whole lot of laughing.”
With Heklina, Pippi Lovestocking co-founded the famed drag event Trannyshack in 1996 at the former Stud bar. The Shack (Heklina dropped the first part of the name in 2014, then renamed it Mother) is now viewed in queer culture as a seminal scene in the history of American drag for its post-punk philosophy and alternative art aesthetic. Although Pippi Lovestocking was not involved in the management and booking of the Shack, she was a beloved presence onstage with her deeply strange but sweet style of drag.
“She was always the loudest and the funniest, and she was so awkward and weird,” said Guzmán Colón, a well-known drag photographer who also performs as Putanesca.
Pennies for Pippi: A benefit party by DJ Bus Station John: 9 p.m. Saturday, July 22. $10 minimum donation. Emperor Norton’s Boozeland, 510 Larkin St., S.F. 415-926-8118.
Following Heklina’s unexpected death while touring London in April, Pippi Lovestocking was among the performers who paid tribute at the Castro Theatre on May 23. While onstage, she acknowledged from the stage that she felt like “the bottom was dropping out of my heart, falling down in my chest,” but attributed the sensation to grief and feeling drained after a long drive from her home in Barstow (San Bernardino County).
After continuing to feel hot and nauseous offstage, she was taken to the emergency room at Davies hospital, where she was monitored for a cardiac arrhythmia. Two days later, she was transferred to the California Pacific Medical Center for surgery following an aortic aneurysm, which was triggered by a cyst bursting on her heart valve that had been operated on in 1997.
During her 16 days in a medically induced coma, sepsis set in, resulting in damage to her kidneys and a lack of circulation to her hands and feet. There were times, Pippi Lovestocking and friends said, it seemed she might not live through the ordeal. More than once she was considered clinically dead.
“I just couldn’t die on the day of Heklina’s memorial, that would have been just too tacky and too perfect,” she quipped. “I think that may have been Heklina’s last attempt to drag me down to hell with her after I did my memorial roast onstage.”
Clearly, despite what she’s been through, Pips’ comedic timing remains as sharp as ever.
Free moved to San Francisco in the early 1990s after growing up in Benson, N.C., and living in Atlanta. In addition to performing at the Shack, where she honed her persona as Pippi Lovestocking, she hosted her own events, like Pipstock, a gay weekend at the Russian River from 1998 to 2000. She has also been a regular performer in Peaches Christ’s “Terror Vault” haunted attraction at the San Francisco Mint since its debut in 2018.
Following the murder of her neighbor Brian Egg in the South of Market neighborhood in 2019, she moved to the Palm Springs area and then to Barstow. Pippi Lovestocking hopes to move back to San Francisco to be closer to friends who can help her as she adjusts to her new disabilities.
Peaches Christ remembers that even in the skewed world of the Shack, “Pippi had a very eccentric, twisted charm.” That charm was in full force during her recent dialysis session, a necessity following the sepsis.
“Pippi said to me, ‘Peaches, ask me a question,’ ” she recounted. “I asked, ‘Where did you grow up?’ She then threw up her arms and said, ‘I don’t know. I’m stumped.’ ”
At first, Peaches Christ admitted she didn’t understand the punch line. “But then, I was cackling. I couldn’t catch my breath,” she said. “That’s the kind of comedy that gets us through these horrible circumstances.”
Peaches Christ added that although Pippi Lovestocking won’t be part of her “Terror Vault” show this fall, “she’s all set to do something especially horrifying in 2024. She’s not afraid of using her disability for the show.”
Pippi Lovestocking is also currently working on a video blog chronicling her recovery with drag daughter Sham Ibrahim.
“I’m trying to look on the bright side,” she said. “My friends in L.A. tell me there’s a big demand for handicapped performers now with all this inclusivity and authenticity. Maybe it’ll be a bonus to my acting career.”
Reach Tony Bravo: email@example.com
Follow: Tony Bravo is The San Francisco Chronicle’s Arts and Culture writer.