'Midnight' star, Savannah legend The Lady Chablis has died

'Midnight' star, Savannah legend The Lady Chablis has died

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil scene-stealer and Savannah legend The Lady Chablis has died.

According to sources, The Lady Chablis passed away at Candler Hospital surrounded by family and close friends.

The Lady Chablis rose to fame in John Berendt's book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the subsequent movie. She also authored a book, Hiding My Candy, and appeared on various TV and talk shows, including Oprah.

The Lady Chablis continued performing around the country, making Club One her home base in Savannah, drawing crowds once a month for special appearances.

She was actually set to perform last weekend but wasn't able to because she was ill.

Club One General Manager Travis Coles says he started working at the club about 12 years ago, and over the years their friendship grew strong. He said when she was on that stage, you never knew what you were going to get but you knew you would be satisfied.

"It's definitely going to be felt you know, I think that her not being here every month, it's going to be tough. I think over the next few months especially not being able to see her, not being able to speak to her for those that travel all over the world to see her, they're disappointed but they're also sending out condolences," said Coles. "I personally will miss most that she always treated me like family. You know for better or worse. Whether she has something stern to say or something nice to say, she always treated me like family. And there's just no one quite like the grand empress. There's no one as quite as sharp as her brand of humor."

WTOC was told family members will hold a private ceremony, but Club One plans on doing a celebration of life sometime within the next month.

Author John Berendt issued the following statement:

Chablis has been by far the most popular character in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," the one I'm asked about most often.  She'll be remembered for her outrageous profanity-laced spontaneity and for being one of the first up-front transsexual personalities to be accepted by a wide audience.

Chablis could be playful and ironic, but she had a tough inner core. "Don't be fooled by this dress I'm wearing," she'd say with a hint of danger in her voice. When it was announced that Clint Eastwood would direct a movie of the book, Chablis was only half-joking when she said, "If I'm not cast as myself in that movie, there won't be a movie!"

Eastwood wisely cast Chablis as Chablis.  He then encouraged her to be herself, and to deliver her lines in a manner that seemed most natural to her, which she did.

Club One, where The Lady Chablis performed, released this statement:

The Lady Chablis, who stole hearts - and the spotlight - in Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil, passed this morning surrounded by friends and family. 

In his Best Selling novel, known in Savannah as The Book, John Berendt wrote that when he first met The Lady Chablis, "she had both hands on her hips and a sassy half-smile on her face," a pose that would grace many stages. 

Just as The Book shined the spotlight on Savannah, so too did Chablis shine the spotlight on the gay scene, and especially on Club One. She was Club One's very first entertainer, officiating our grand opening in 1988, and paving the way for female impersonation in Savannah. No one, however, could outshine the Grand Empress herself. 

With the success of "The Book," Chablis shot to stardom. She was a guest on Good Morning America, and was interviewed by Oprah. She insisted to USA Today that she would play herself in the movie - or there would not be one. She'd be the first to tell you that she stole the show in Clint Eastwood's 1997 adaptation. Since then, thousands of visitors have come to Savannah, visiting the locations in The Book, and crowding into Club One to see her. 

Club One cabaret member and friend Destiny Myklz released the following statement:

"The real show happens in the dressing room.  With Chablis, it was no different. To sit behind closed doors and talk with her was always a hilarious experience that I will miss.  I had the privilege of sharing a stage and microphone with her for nearly 20 years.  In that time, we shared many laughs.  Most of those were while we had a drink and talked about anything to get our minds off of the show and unwind. Mostly about her favorite dog, Cracker.  Never a night went by that she did not take the time to stop and thank each entertainer that she worked with.  It did not matter if she knew them personally, or not.  She brought the spot light on Female impersonation in Savannah, GA and held her head high, even when others looked down upon her. Her wit, humor and ability to turn any situation into laughter is what I will miss most."

Read her obituary here.

The Memorial Service for The Lady Chablis will be Saturday, Oct. 8 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lucas Theater in Savannah. Reception to follow at Club One Jefferson.

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