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Who's Stormé?

The simplest answer is what Stormé DeLarverié said in her interview with In The Life in 2001:

"I'm a human being that survived. I've helped other people survive."

For a more complex answer, we have to go back a ways.

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1942 Senior Photo, Alliance High School, Alliance, NE

The Beginning 

Stormé always said that she was the child of a Black woman and a white man and that she was born in New Orleans.


Both her foster parents, Harvey and Rose (Conway) Hublitz, had connections to New Orleans. They'd met and married in Memphis in 1919 when Harvey was stationed there with the Coast Guard. In 1920 he was discharged in New Orleans. Harvey's mother Sarah Anne Canenburg was born in New Orleans in 1862; after her mother's death, her father had moved the family to Nebraska. Rose had lived in New Orleans for a period before her marriage to Harvey.

Rose brought two older children to the marriage, Carrie Elizabeth (8) and George Lewis (10), both born in Illinois.

Some time after Harvey was discharged, he moved the family back to Box Butte County, Nebraska. I don't know if they moved there before or after taking in Viva to foster, but she was with them, age 6 and listed as Viva M. Thomas, boarder, on the 1930 census, and that's where she was raised. By 1940 she was listed as their adopted daughter, Viva M. Hublitz.

Stormé stated many times that because she was a mixed race child in Louisiana, she was never issued a birth certificate. She told Avery Willard in the 1960s that she never knew her parents and had been raised by her foster parents, and the evidence I've found suggests that was true. That interview, published in Willard's book Female Impersonation is the earliest documentation I've found her 24 Dec 1920 birthdate listed. And that date is interesting to me because Rose's birthday was 25 December. What I've found on Rose suggests that, just like Stormé, she may not have known her actual date of birth or her parents.


By 1930 Carrie Elizabeth had married Ben Freeman; she, her husband, and their infant daughter are living separatedly from the Hublitzes.

In 1940 George had married Marge Simonson and they had a small son, Andrew. The three are living with the Hublitzes.

George was Stormé's only brother, so was very likely the brother who rescued her when she'd been beaten up and left hanging on a fence by one leg (leaving her leg badly injured and Stormé with a limp she'd have all her life). It just wasn't in New Orleans. 

She certainly did have that leg injury; Kurt Mann mentions it in his interview on, stating that she referred to her leg brace as "Jonah". Lisa Cannistraci notes in her Profiles in Pride interview that Stormé limped all her life due to that injury. Stormé told Kirk Klocke "Oh, I'm crippled in one leg; it took me years to get the brace off my leg. I got a big scar here where they left me hanging on a fence by one leg. My brother got me off."


Stormé's vocal talents were evident early on. In November 1939, 15 year old Viva was part of a concert in which she performed two solo numbers. She was mentioned in the newspaper several times in 1940 for the solos she sang at church, in school concernts, and at local events.

In 1940 she received a "good" rating for her voice in the annual high school music competition. In 1941 she received an "excellent" and in 1942 she received two "superior" ratings, one for her solo and one for the girls trio she was part of with Esther Vance and Coralee Beagle.

Stormé graduated with her class on 28 May 1942. On the previous Sunday she'd performed as part of the girls trio at the Baccalaureate ceremony at the city auditorium.


Leaving Home: 1942-1943

Two weeks after her graduation, the Alliance Municipal Band Concert series started, and Viva Hublitz was part of it. I couldn't find clippings for every week, but Viva was listing as a soloist for the 7 weeks I could find. She sang:

"Blues in the Night", "Memphis Blues", "Alice Blue Gown", "Basin Street Blues", "Old Man River", "Angels of Mercy", "White Cliffs of Dover", "Stardust", "My Wild Irish Rose", and "Blues in the Night" was requested by her again for the last of the ten weekly concerts.


After years of multiple mentions in the local paper each year, Viva was only mentioned twice for the rest of 1942: when her father died in October, and in mid December when she was in the chorus of the Messiah.


Harvey Hublitz was the only father figure she had, so he's almost certainly the father/grandfather who Stormé credits with telling her at age 15 that if she didn't stop running, she'd be running all her life. She noted "I stopped running and I've never run a day since".  

Harvey died tragically from a head injury. Stormé is mentioned in a newspaper article about his death, but it doesn't mention whether she's living in town. She, Elizabeth Hublitz Freeman, and George were all listed as Harvey's foster children. 

I believe this late summer/fall in 1942, after the concert series ended, may have been when Stormé left home because of anti-gay abuse. She did also note in at least one interview that she rode horses in the circus as a teen until she had a fall and injury. I also believe she may have been Diana that way; Diana was a dancer and an aerialist.

In Penny Coleman's book Village Elders, Stormé says she was in "Nebraska, of all places" when she won an amateur talent show singing with a jazz band; that win led to a two week engagement and a long singing career. Know she grew up in Nebraska makes we wonder where in Nebraska that talent show was! It could've been local, across the state in Omaha, or anywhere else.

In the same interview she says that she and Diana had been together for 26 years when Diana died soon after the Stonewall riot. That means they met in 1943 at the latest.

The only times I can place her in Alliance in 1943 are March, May, June, and July. She sang twice at municipal concerts and once each at the Presbyterian church and at a Salvation Army wedding. 


There are only 4 later mentions of Viva Hublitz that I've found in currently available newspaper & magazine archives (not including a couple in the local paper of the "On this day 10 years ago" type):

The 20 April 1946 edition of Billboard Magazine lists "Viva Hublitz, blues singer" as a member "Patsy Lee and the Bomberettes" in the Girl Show in Max Goodman's Wonder Shows of America. 

That Girl Show was run by Raynell Golden; her husband George was working as the Concessions Manager. I've not yet found any newspaper clippings for that year's show, but I do have a fair number of clippings from when Stormé worked for Raynell at least 3 more years as Stormy Dale.

On 21 January 1947, the local paper has a photo of her (from the same Bloom photo session as the one Stormé had). It reads "ALLIANCE SINGER -- Viva May Hublitz, daughter of Mrs. Harvey Hublitz of Alliance is a professional singer in Pensacola, Fla. Miss Hublitz is a graduate of the Alliance high school of the class of '42 and is well known in Alliance for her excellent low voice." I suspect she visited at home for Christmas. Or she may have mailed her mother and/or sister copies of her new photos.

Another item appears on 23 December 1949 in the local Alliance paper. It reads "Viva Hublitz, formerly of Alliance and who has been singing professionally in Omaha as "Stormy Dale" is visiting in Alliance with Mr. and Mrs. Ben Freeman. Miss Hublitz is a graduate of the Alliance High School in the class of 1942."

The final time I find Viva's name is than a decade later, November 1960, years after the break with her family. She's named in her mother Rose's obituary as Rose's "step-daughter Viva Hublitz".


Professional Headshot

Part of a set of at least three photos taken by Bloom Chicago between 1942 and 1946. To me she doesn't look much older than she did in her High School Photo.

Chicago-- and Possibly Florida

I don't know what year Stormé arrived in Chicago; in the Profiles in Pride interview with Cannistraci, Lisa says it was when she was 18. Stormé turned 18 in December 1941, when she was a senior in high school. She was active musically in her hometown through the summer of 1942 and again that Christmas (as noted above), so it could have been Autumn 1942 or 1943.


At the same time, both In the Life Media's A Stormé Life and Penny Coleman's book Village Elders state that when Stormé's partner Diana died in the month after Stonewall, they'd been together 26 years. That means they were together by 1943.

Stormé related in more than one interview that she learned to ride horses at home (and her brother-in-law Ben did indeed have horses) and was an equestrienne for Ringling Brothers in her teens until an injury forced her to quit. She turned 20 in December 1943, which means if it was in her teens, it had to be in 1942 or 1943.

Her partner Diana was an aerialist (a person who works on tightropes, high wires, and/or trapeze) as well as a dancer. I believe it's likely that they met at Ringling Brothers or via the greater Showman community in 1942 or 1943. (There was an aerial ballet group in 1942 called "The Dianes", and that makes me wonder again if "Diana" was a name Stormé used after her partner's death in talking about her either for privacy or to keep something precious private. But I really don't know. I don't know enough about Stormé to have any idea if that seems in character for her. But that said, the idea that she'd use a name that called back to when and how they first met makes my heart melt.

Could they have met in Chicago -- the place she told Lisa Cannistraci that she went to after leaving home -- where she auditioned & joined Ringling? It seems possible, especially if Stormé'd already connected with the Showman community. The last concert date in Alliance was 20 August 1942; Ringling Brothers played in Chicago from 14-27 September that year.

In The Cowboy of the West Village, The Nod, 15 Apr 2019, Lisa Cannistraci said that Stormé went to Chicago as a woman who dressed as a man and lived as a straight man. 


Lisa also said, "Diana would have her girlfriends all over the house and they would play cards in the kitchen and Stormé would have her friends over and they would hang out in the den and drink brandy and smoke cigars. It was like that."

I can also place Stormé in Chicago when her professional photos (which she used as "Stormy Dale" were taken by Bloom Chicago in 1946. The Blooms were well known, reputable, and did beautiful, artistic photography. The majority of their clientele were show business people: Vaudeville, Burleque, actors, musicians, and circus and carnival acts. 


But the details of Stormé 's life in Chicago are a mystery to me.  Was she a bodyguard in Chicago? Did she work with the mob? I couldn't find anything one way or the other, but she told at least some of her friends so.

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More Bloom Chicago

The other two Stormy Dale shots.

I don't know if these two exist outside newspaper clippings

Stormy Dale  —  1946-1949

In Stormé: Lady of the Jewel Box, Stormé tells us that she met Doc Benner & Danny Brown in the winter of 1946 when they had their club on the Venetian Causeway in Miami. They opened that club in March 1946.


Frank "Doc" Benner and Danny Brown first had a club called The Jewel Box in Miami in the early 40s, until the military requisitioned the hotel it was in. They moved to Tampa ~ Jul 1942 & were there until Feb. 1946.

The last ad I've found in the Tampa Times is dated 2 Feb 1946. The stars in that ad are Joe Patane and Ginger Raye (Lorow). While the ad doesn't mention it, the other names (Billy Hayes, Pinky Pepper, Cleo Renee, and Lynn Lopez) were female impersonators.


On 17 March the Miami News has a write up about the opening of Doc & Danny's new Miami Jewel Box Nite Club on the Venetian Causeway in Miami, with Joe Patane is one of the openers.


Less than four weeks after that Stormé was listed (as Viva Hublitz) as the blues singer in Raynell (Lorow) Golden Girl Show on Max Goodman's Wonder Shows. I haven't found any advertisements for the 1946 season that mention her (yet. I live in hope!).

Remember Ginger Raye Lorow who sung with Joe in at the Jewel Box in Tampa? She was Raynell's younger sister; did she introduce Stormé and Raynell? Did Joe? Doc or Danny? Or was it Diana, who probably knew them all? Or maybe Stormé already knew everyone but Doc and Danny after four years in the Showman community.


By December 1946 at the latest Stormé had her Bloom Chicago photos, because the Hublitzes or Freemans had a copy of at least one, which they had published in the local paper in January.

In the Orlando Morning Sentinel on 23 Febuary 1947 there's an article about the Exposition with one of the Bloom photos and the very first mention of the name Stormy Dale that I've found. Stormé's standing with her left arm resting on a pillar) and looking to her right, smiling. The caption reads "STORMY DALE, singing star of stage, screen, and radio, who will be presented in Raynell's Show Girl Revue of 1947, on the Midway Avenues of Royal American Shows during the Central Florida Exposition opening in Orlando next Monday for six days and nights. Joe Patane, golden-voiced tenor of light opera, will also appear in the Raynell production." While Stormé wasn't mentioned, Raynell's unit also appeared at the Florida State fair, about a week before the Exposition.

A third photo from the Bloom set appears in an advertisement for the Stable Room in Tampa in the Tampa Daily Times on 12 April 1947. In this photo Stormé's sitting on a stool with her legs crossed and looking at the camera. (Photo on the left above.)

On May Day, the Royal American tour started in St Louis, MO. Multiple clippings exist that mention Stormy Dale between then and November (end of the season).

In 1948, Raynell signed with Cetlin & Wilson, and again Stormé was paired with Joe Patana and there are a fair number of newspaper and Billboard mentions.

In 1949 appears in a fair number of clippings, either performing on her own or in Showman articles. Stormy Dale performed in Terre Haute, Kenosha, and Appleton (these are the clippings I've been able to find). In early March she was in St Louis to attend the Showmen's Building Fun Frolic and in St Louis again at the end of March when she was an AGVA nominee for St Louis, running against Ernest Heldman and Bobbie Kellie.


I've not been able to find "Stormy Dale" after 1949, nor Stormé by her original name. I suspect that this ties into the break with her family -- they knew Viva and they knew Stormy Dale and if she didn't wanting them finding her, maybe she made a new name.

I don't know if the early 50s were when she was building her businesses, being a bodyguard, still singing and entertaining as someone she never later spoke about, or what.

There's a 1962 Jet article that harks back to 1952, though.

In Jet Magazine dated 8 Feb 1962, there's a photo of Storme, saying she'd filled for a marriage annulment in Los Angeles. The husband was an air conditioning engineer named George S. Freeman, and they'd married 24 December 1952. 

George is her brother's given first name. Freeman is her sister's married surname. 24 December is her own month and date of birth. 

I've not had the funds to do a search for divorce records in California, so I don't know if she even DID file anything, or it was something to protect her and Diana.

If it was the latter, she was maintaining that she was divorced through at least 1966. In an interview with Hurley Green for his paper The Chicago Bulletin, she says she was recently divorced. Could it have been protective colouration? Sure. But she also told friends many years later that she'd been married and had children. 

A mystery.


Hand tinted photo

This seems to be the same suit, tie, and hair as the black & white photo above.

Stormé Delaverié in the Jewel Box Revue

Stormé joined the Jewel Box Revue in January 1955, replacing Jo Vaughn, the previous MC, to be the "One Woman" in the cast. For a time they alternated shows before Jo left.


Doc & Danny had several "One Woman" MCs over the years. The ones whose names I've found are Tommy Williams, Mickey Mercer, Jo Vaughn, Stormé, and Mary "Corky" Davies. Tommy, Mickey, and Jo were before Storme. Corky performed in 1960 at the Apollo theatre and may have performed other times. I've not found a record of who the "One Woman" was between the time Stormé quit in 1969 and the show ended in the early 70s. 

If you look through the Jewel Box programs at JD Doyle's Queer Music Heritage, the women all have the title "Miss" and the men "Mister"; this protected them in a time when crossdressing and "impersonating" a person of another gender was a crime -- unless it was clearly a performance.

Stormé'd had years of experience performing by the time she joined the Jewel Box. Once the show was set up, she could oversee it, according to her and Robin Rogers in Stormé: Lady of the Jewel Box.


The Jewel Box Revue was a family-friendly show featuring the cream of the crop of female impersonators in the 50s and 60s. It toured in the US, Canada, and Mexico.


It was owned and run by Danny Brown and Frank "Doc" Benner. While they later claimed it started in the 30s, the earliest clipping I've been able to find for the travelling Jewel Box Revue is 7 Dec 1949 in the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. The owner of Curly's where they're playing, says that they opened on 20 May that year.


Doc & Danny had, over several years, several clubs called "The Jewel Box" or "The Jewel Box Nite Club". they were first in Miami, but after the hotel their club was in was requisitioned during WWII, they moved to Tampa. They were there until February 1946, and in March 1946 they went back to Miami.

Danny had also run travelling female impersonation shows in the 30s. He was the MC, and Doc danced under the name Darrell. They were both were active in the Showmen community, just as Stormé was. 


In addition to being family friendly, the Jewel Box Revue was also a family enterprise. The Wardrobe Mistress, Mrs. Elizabeth Gardener, was Doc's mother. Road Show Manager Mrs. Bertha Braun was Danny's mother. Musical Director Jerry Sherman was Danny's brother-in-law.  After Elizabeth's death in 1966, Danny's older sister Mrs. Adele Greenburg replaced her as Wardrobe Mistress. 


(For a great deal more information, head on over to! J.D. Doyle has a wonderful collection of programs as well as Danny Brown's own scrapbook, all scanned.)


In 1961, Stormé met and became friends with Diane Arbus, who photographed her in Central Park that year. (The Estate of Diane Arbus doesn't allow her photos to be posted online, so they aren't included here.) 


Sometime in the 1960s before Stonewall, Stormé was also photographed by Avery Willard in Central Park. He included some of those photos in his 1971 book Female Impersonation, but Stormé's personal collection included many more, which are included on this site.


In his profile of Stormé, Willard said (in part):

"When she isn't appearing on stage as a male mimic, Stormé might be found doing a number of other things, such as cutting her own hair, modelling (for artists or photographers), laying tile flooring, writing poetry or magazine articles, collecting good luck statuettes (elephants with upraised trunks), or reading, reading, reading." (I've not been able to track down anything she wrote, but I live in hope. Anybody reading this know what magazines she wrote for, what topics, etc?)

He also noted:


  • "…she has been active in an air-conditioning business and she has done some interior decorating." 

  • "Stormé now always dresses like a man…."

  • "In her male attire, Stormé is constantly taken as a man…."


A letter on from Paris Todd, another JBR performer, notes that she uinitially believed Stormé was a straight man at first after she (Paris) joined the Revue.


Stormé stayed with the JBR for almost 15 years, leaving on 7 September 1969 after Diana's death, only a couple months after Stonewall.

I've been unable to find any further info on Diana's death. Were they living in NYC? None of the Dianas I can find in death records seem to match.

Anybody reading this ever see the photo of Diana that Stormé kept in her wallet? or the photo of Diana she kept at her bedside?

More JBR Photos

These are by Vicente, and were probably arranged by Doc and Danny when Stormé started with the Jewel Box Revue. I've not been able to find anything at all about Vicente.


Stonewall and Stormé

 Stonewall has achieved mythic status; the stories about it shift and change and are repeated endlessly.


Almost everyone, I think, has heard the story that Stormé was the cross-dressing dyke who fought back against the cops while handcuffed & shoved into a police car, and yelled something like "Why don't you guys do something.", "sparking the riot".

There are issues with this version, including:

  • this account contradicts Stormé's own words, across multiple interviews over many years;

  • Charles Kaiser says Stormé told him that wasn't her (and that she knew who it was but wasn't telling);

  • this story gets mixed with "threw the first punch" (which is likely true. Or, as Charles Kaiser noted in In the Life, possibly the only punch).

After finding as many historical sources and reading/watching/listening to the earliest accounts from Stormé herself (ie the ones least likely to be affected by memory issues due to her vascular dementia), these are my own conclusions:

Stormé was there. She'd walked over to check on her friends & see if anyone needed her help) after the last (midnight) show of the Jewel Box Revue at the Apollo and found the fighting already started. She stayed back and watched to see what was going on. (But it's possible the JBR wasn't at the Apollo that night. I can't find anything one way or the other.)

A cop, who perceived Stormé as a man, said, "More along, faggot", and when Stormé declined, hit her from behind, injuring her eye. Stormé responded by spinning around and knocking him out with a punch before leaving. She went home to take care of her eye, got hold of a lawyer, and went back with money in case she could bail out any of her friends.


IOW, Stormé wasn't perceived as a dyke, wasn't arrested, didn't resist arrest, didn't yell, wasn't put in a cop car.


How I reached these conclusions:

The Village Voice

The oldest references I could find to a dyke fighting back at Stonewall are just days after it: two separate articles in the 3 July 1969 issue of the Village Voice, which you can read here:


Both say there was a dyke who fought back when being taken into custody. Neither mentions her slipping out of handcuffs, rocking the car, nor asking the crowd "Why don't you DO something?"


Truscott writes, wrt the woman fighting back, "It was as that moment that the scene became explosive."

Interviews with Stormé that mention Stonewall
(I preferenced pre 2007 ones, from before her memory issues due to vascular dementia were noticeable)

1) Transgender Warriors, Les Feinberg, 1996, Beacon Press, Boston:

"They call it a riot, a rebellion — it was civil disobedience. The were banged and bruised and some were put in jail. But everybody got tired of being pushed around, of being raided. The cops got the surprise of their lives — those queens were not going to take it any longer. I walked into it. I was coming around the corner and got hit right dead in the eye. I got in a few hot licks against the cops."


2) From the interview with Stormé in Village Elders, Penny Coleman, 2000, University of Illinois Press, Chicago
The cop barked, "Move it, faggot!" and then blindsided her, caught her in the eye with his fist. Stormé spun around and hit him back. 


"There was no fight," she says dismissively. "I only hit him once. I guess I knocked him out. It was nothing."


Stormé went home to see to her eye and then rounded up a lawyer and some cash and returned to the scene of the confrontation.


3) From A Stormé Life, In the Life Media, 2001:
A) "I just walked up. I used to come in whenever I came in town to see if anybody needed help, or if they were in jail and I could get them out, what, what I could do."

"When the fight really started they were just running around calling names and things and throwing toilet paper down from the windows and what-have-you."


B) Charles Kaiser relates that when he asked Stormé about the cross-dressing lesbian (when he was writing The Gay Metropolis), her response was "Oh, I know who that was, but I'm not going to say."  


Stormé 's life at that time

Both Arbus and Willard noted in the 1960s that Stormé was often assumed to be a man in public, not a woman. Willard noted that her tailor knows she's a woman, while her grocer thinks she's a man.

Paris Todd, when she joined the JBR, thought Stormé was a straight man.

Given that people who knew Stormé over time and saw her in the daylight took her to be a man, it seems vanishingly unlikely that strangers (ie people who didn't know her) in the middle of the night at Stonewall would describe her as a crossdressing dyke. Like the cop who hit her, they'd have described a man.


Source: S. Martin


Source: Avery Willard


Source: Avery Willard

After the Jewel Box

I haven't found out a whole lot about her life post JBR; there are far fewer published sources after she left show business. And just as she didn't talk about her family and friends, her friends honour her privacy, which I respect.


But there are a few sources that tells us a bit about her.


In Robert West's Stormé DeLarverié: In a Storm of Indifference, She’s Still a Jewel for HuffPo in 2013, he relates a story told by Patrick Merry, one of their fellow patrons at East of Eighth. It's about Stormé during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. It's a great story, go and read it! Robert also quotes her 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."


Michelle Parkerson in Stormé: Lady of the Jewel Box shows her reminiscing alone and with fellow JBR star Robin Rogers, working as security at the Cubby Hole, going through old photos, and performing a rendition of "There Will Never Be Another You" with a band.


She participated is Les Feinberg's book Transgender Warriors in the 90s; she was one of the featured profiles in the portrait gallery. In the preface to Suits Me, Diane Wood Middlebrook expressed her gratitude to Stormé, Jamison Green, Jay Prosser, and Rupert Raj-Gauthier for "views from inside the transgendered life."


In the Life's A Stormé Life notesthat in 1999 she was honoured by SAGE with its lifetime achievement award for "her courage and enthusiasm in crashing the gates of segregation and for the gender-bending example she showed the world".

In the same segment, Ginny G'Antonio a social worker for SAGE, said, "She lives her life quietly and does much of what she does very quietly, sometimes anonymously. She's happy doing that because what matters to her is that she does what she does, not that it, you know, makes a big splash."

Stormé fought against "ugliness" all her life, the term she used for harassment and hate towards the LGBTQ+ community. She protected her friends and chosen family, her "babies", and women and children in need.

I know it's not a lot, but it helps me know who she was. (Although if you have stories to share, I'd love to add them! Or even hear them if you don't want them added!)

What I've learned from Stormé:


Fight "ugliness" whenever you see it and shut it DOWN as soon as you spot it.

Take care of ALL our LGBTQ+ kids, whether you understand them or not.

Be a role model of strength, love, and protection.

Refuse to let yourself be defined by others.

Love ALL our babies.

Be the best damned person you can be.


And never forget Stormé DeLarverié. 

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