This site is a celebration of Stormé DeLarverié and is a labour of love.
For most of her life, Stormé used 24 December 1920 as her birthdate, and with that knowledge, I intended this site to go up on the 100th anniversary of her birth, December 24, 2020. Little did I know when I started that she'd really been born in 1923! But I'm going to (illogically, I know!) still consider this site "100 years of Stormé".
Update: December 24, 2023, is the 100th birthday of Stormé, so now this really is "100 years of Storme!"
In 2023, I received permission to share Stormé's original name, the names of her foster family (the only family she ever knew), and clippings about her life before she left home. The new section is called "Finding Viva Hublitz".
I fell hard for Stormé when I saw Michelle Parkerson's documentary film Stormé: Lady of the Jewel Box in the late 80s, but I'm from California and never met her. And I'm sorry to say that I forgot about her over the decades.
In 2018 I was reminded of Stormé when I saw her name being used in an attempt to discredit other people in the LGBTQ+ community in the run up to Pride. I saw an incredible, complex person being reduced to soundbites. I understand that people want heroes, especially marginalised people. But Stormé was a real person, not a mythic figure.
What I knew about her was 30+ years out of date, so I started researching because I wanted to tell others about who she was. Before this site went live, I spent three years researching Stormé. In the process, I had help from wonderful people and I found things that I'd never considered looking for, including part of her life before she became Stormy Dale.
This site is the result of that research. I hope you'll enjoy it.
Stormé (she pronounced it "Storm" in Lady of the Jewel Box when she introduced herself; her nickname "Stormy" goes back to when she performed as Stormy Dale in the 1940s) was a generous, fiercely protective, complex, and loving person who refused to label herself but instead existed — and thrived — in liminal spaces. She was a survivor of violence who dedicated herself to helping other people survive and to protecting and supporting the entire LGBTQ+ community.
Stormé left us a few (a very few!) breadcrumbs and stories about her origins and life. Some of the clues contradicted her stories; sometimes there were multiple versions of stories that contradicted each other.
I firmly believe that the stories that aren't true (whether fully or partially) were attempts to rewrite painful parts of her past into a form that was less painful to her, especially after the break with her family. I also expect that she knew very well that as an entertainer and part of the Showmen community, she'd be asked about her past and had stories ready to tell.
I find that very understandable. We all curate the parts of our life we choose to share! Sometimes the truth can be too personal, too painful or traumatic, or contain links to our past that we can't or don't want to talk or think about. We may also want to protect those we love, even if they've rejected us.
Stormé was a light-skinned mixed-race child in a time when interracial marriage was illegal in many states across the USA; it wouldn't be legal nationwide until she was 42 (Loving vs Virginia, 1967). In her interview with Avery Willard in the 1960s she said that she never knew her birth parents.
Stormé was, in her own words, "a Negro with a white face" who was a target of bullying and violence from both Black and white children growing up as well as homophobic violence.
Stormé loved women and was with her partner Diana for 26 years, from 1943 until Diana's death not long after Stonewall. In an interview with Penny Coleman in Coleman's book Village Elders, Stormé called Diana the love of her life. She also noted that she could get a suit tailored to fit her better than a label and never called herself a lesbian.
When I asked Michele Zalopany about Stormé's labels, she agreed, saying Stormé didn't "identify as anything but chose to live her life as a Black man". Stormé also referred to herself as a woman in various interviews. Her long-time friend Lisa Cannistraci has noted in at least one interview that she believes Stormé was non-binary.
In the 1960s, per Avery Willard's book, whenever she was asked whether people should use "she" or "he", Stormé told people to use whatever pronouns "makes YOU most comfortable". The people who knew and loved her varied in the pronouns they used; the ones I know about were she/her, he/him, and they/them.
Stormé was many different things to many different people: a beloved friend, chosen family, a mother confessor, a mama bear, a gentleman held up as an example of what a gentleman should be, and much, much more.
And always a person who refused to limit themselves to others' conceptions of who she "should" be.
Stormé told at least one person I interviewed that she'd been married and had children, but she never discussed them beyond the fact of their existence. (I am not in contact with them, nor do I know anything more about them.)
"It ain't easy being green."
A quote Stormé liked to use throughout her life.
Photo: From the personal collection of Stormé DeLarverié. Photographer unknown. DeLarverié's personal photos, as well as papers and other items are in the Stormé DeLarverié Collection at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.
Stormé had to recreate herself multiple times in her life: when she left home, when she and Diana lived as husband and wife, when she became Stormy Dale, when she became Stormé Delarverié, and after Diana died, when Stormé left the Jewel Box Revue to become a bodyguard.
Stormé was fiercely protective: of the young men she worked with in the Jewel Box Revue, of the people she was hired to protect, of children, of women, and of all the LGBTQ+ people she watched over, especially the young people where she lived. She did not tolerate what she called "ugliness" towards any of her people.
In his 2013 article “Stormé DeLarverie: In a Storm of Indifference, She's Still a Jewel" in Huffpost, her friend Robert West quotes Stormé as saying "I see a lot of things in my position as a bouncer, but please don't call me that. I consider myself a well-paid babysitter of my people, all the boys and girls."
She was open about being at Stonewall and punching the cop who hit her from behind — and she was also clear that she wasn't "the Stonewall Lesbian" credited with starting the fighting. Charles Kaiser was interviewed for the In the Life segment on Stormé and related that she said "I know who that was, but I'm not telling."
Stormé did immense good and helped many people, often anonymously. In 2000 she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by SAGE.
She lived at the Hotel Chelsea for many decades and was beloved by her friends and neighbors.
But so much of who Stormé was and what she did gets erased/ignored in favour of myths.
Stormé deserves so much better.
So here we are. Make yourself comfortable. Click on the links at the top to go where you like.
You can also support me at https://facebook.com/delarverie and https://facebook.com/Autisticat,
or by buying my designs at:
by searching for "Starfire Studio" (with quotation marks) on Amazon;
My Thank Yous
On my way from "I want to make a website for Stormé" to creating this one, I was able to contact friends and family of Stormé who were very helpful to me. I was also able to connect with people who hadn't known her but had other connections or who helped me in other ways:
My gratitude and thanks to:
Michele Zalopany and Robert West who knew and loved Stormé;
J.D. Doyle for his wonderful Queer Music History website;
Becci J. Thomas of the The Knight Museum & Sandhills Center in Alliance, Nebraska;
Steven Fullwood, archivist at the Schomburg;
Brooke Palmieri of Camp Books;
Fellow Stormé researcher and now friend, Jeanne Stanley;
and Tiffany and her Aunt Judy, who fondly remembers her Aunt Viva with the beautiful singing voice who came home to visit for some years after she moved away.
Thank you also to the following photographers and rights holders who kindly and graciously allowed me to use their photos of Stormé:
JEB (Joan E. Biren) @jebmedia;
The Estate of Robert Giard;
I appreciate your kindness more than I can say!
24 December 2020
(updated January 2024)