Beloved New York Drag Queen Sweetie Passes Away

"I have the easy job—I just have to die."

Veteran New York drag queen Sweetie NYC passed away Tuesday after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 51.

Born Daniel Booth, Sweetie was known for her flawless lip sync and raunchy humor. She got her start in the early 1990s, cutting her teeth at the Pyramid, the Slide, Boy Bar and Jackie 60, and at parties thrown by Susanne Bartsch and Linda Simpson.

sweetie
Facebook

“I had always considered myself a serious actor in a lot of ways, and drag was kind of lowbrow to me,” Sweetie told Michael Musto in Paper magazine last year.

“I loved watching it, but never thought I’d do it seriously, until I found out they were making money doing it, you know what I mean?”

After cycling through a number of names, she landed on Sweetie—”from that Jane Campion movie, Sweetie. ”

“[She] was an old-school drag legend whose dedication and craft helped pave the way for the current drag boom,” recalled Musto. “She gave everything onstage, and lit up a room with her pride, focus, and delivery.”

Longtime friend Daniel Nardicio hosted a birthday benefit for Sweetie at the Highline Ballroom that served as something of a farewell engagement. On Facebook, Nardicio recalled a recent conversation with her.

“Sweetie and I were talking about plans for ’the end’ and I looked down and realized, after her living with this disease for two years by that point, what that meant,” he wrote. “I started crying, and said to her, ’I don’t really know how I’m gonna go on without my best friend.’ And she just replied, “Don’t. I know I have the easy job. I just have to die.”

“I’m obviously bereft, but I feel lucky that we made it much longer than we had originally thought,” he adds “and so thankful she found love in her life the last two years, and managed to bury the hatchet and make peace with people she needed to.”

A memorial will be held at Pangea restaurant in New York on Sunday from 2 to 4pm, where Nardicio writes “We can invoke her spirit, raise a glass, and tell tales—or just hug.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery