Berlin Sylvestre, Staff Writer
For some time now, Atlanta has been in a state of mourning for a legend of stage and friend to all. The passing of Ashley Kruiz came at the end of an arduous battle in ICU. Initially hospitalized for breathing problems, her condition worsened. Loved ones showed solidarity with bedside visits and prayers, but sadly, she passed on March 31, Easter Sunday. In droves, members of the Atlanta drag community showed support through prayers, fundraisers, and kind words over social media. The outpouring of love and support for her surviving family appear daily on Facebook, and nightly in the many bars she’s graced.
Known as the “Ultimate Pageant Queen,” Ashley was known for her intense attention to detail when preparing for a show. That shouldn’t be too surprising, considering her cosmetologly training at Roy’s of Louisville Beauty Academy in Kentucky. Under the tutelage of Kentucky’s own Chelsea Pearl, a two-time winner of the Miss Gay USofA national crown, Ashley flourished in her first drag cast in the Imperial Court of the Bluegrass Empire.
After making waves in Kentucky, Ashley moved to Atlanta in 1987 and jumped right in. For the next six years, she was a staple in the female impersonation nightlife of our city. From gigs at the Gallus basement bar to joining Charlie Brown’s Cabaret, you could count on Ashley to doll up and throw down.
Over the next seven years, Ashley graced the stages of clubs in Nashville, Louisville, and Indianapolis, honing her skill to an even finer point before returning to Atlanta in 2000. Naturally, Charlie Brown snatched her right back up and she headlined with the cabaret at Backstreet until the club shut its doors.
A born (and fierce) competitor, Ashley thrived on the pageant circuit. It’s unclear just how many awards Ashley racked up over the duration of her illustrious career, but the following list should give you an idea of the dedication she put into her work:
- Miss Georgia USA
- Miss Gay Alabama America
- Miss Georgia Continental
- Miss Renaissance
- Miss Hotlanta International
- Miss Gay National
- Miss Gay World
- Miss Continental Elite
- Miss Gay Cobb County
- 1st runner up at Miss Continental
- 1st runner up (twice) at Miss Gay USofA
-1st runner up (thrice) at National Entertainer of the Year
A star on the national talk show circuit as well, Ashley made appearances on “The Jenny Jones Show,” “Maury,” and “The Phil Donahue Show.”
After the closing of Backstreet, she continued performing with Charlie Brown’s Cabaret through numerous other venues until settling at Burkhart’s Pub as a host, performer, director of entertainment, and most importantly, a sister, godmother, and inspiration to countless people — both performers and those who were simply there to give love back.
And the love continues.
Tonight, Jungle is accepting donations at the end of Ruby’s Tuesday show to benefit Ashley’s family.
Burkhart’s Pub will host a show Wednesday, April 3 (tomorrow) from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. in honor of their director of entertainment.
From their press release:
A legend in the gay and drag community nationwide, Ashley spent decades performing everywhere from the smallest of stages to Pride’s annual Starlight Cabaret in Piedmont Park. This show will be hosted by a trio of Ashley’s close friends: From their many years working together at Backstreet, Mr. Charlie Brown, as well as Burkhart’s own Shavonna B. Brooks and Angelica D’Paige. Ashley gave much to the community and this is our chance to come together and give back. All donations will be used to help offset personal and medical expenses. Please keep Ashley in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Thank you for your support.
A lineup of entertainers scheduled to perform at Burkhart’s:
Mariah Paris Balenciaga
Nicole Paige Brooks
Monte St. James
… and many, many more.
On Wednesday, April 10, LeBuzz is organizing a farewell benefit show and memorial event to help with the family’s final expenses and in her memory. This special show will be held at 10 p.m. There is no cover charge and all of the participating entertainers are giving their tips and donations to Ashley’s family, courtesy of Johnathon Murphy and Destiny Brooks, representing the management and entertainment staff of the popular Marietta nightclub. As well, donations will be accepted at the front door. LeBuzz invites anyone interested to donate their time and energy (in any capacity) toward the event. Search for Johnathan Murphy and/or Destiny Brooks on Facebook.
The Atlanta Eagle will be having a special drag show on Friday, April 19. The Eagle isn’t known for extensive drag calendars, so this truly will be an event thrown in Ashley’s honor. The show will be from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Through donations and a silent auction, the club and performers are raising money for a memorial fund for Ashley.
If you are interested in being part of the show at the Atlanta Eagle, please contact Al’Meria RichMan at 770-833-2618 or send her a message via text or Facebook. You can also email her at [email protected]
If you’re unable to attend but would like to make a donation, contact Al’Meria or Robby Kelly, the owner of Eagle.
FENUXE will devote space in our next issue to let Ashley’s friends speak of the superstar in their own words. Feel free to contact [email protected] if you’d like a few words to be considered for inclusion.
Have a memory of Ashley that you’d like to share right now? FENUXE always welcomes comments in the space below.
Have some information that you feel will enhance the article? Please share. Always. We know Ashley was a beloved member of our community and we hope to provide a safe space to further honor her memory, and what better source than her friends, family, and fans?