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The details are very sketchy, but the pioneering Rock and Roll Fag Dean Johnson has died, cause to be determined by autopsy, in Washington DC.

We have absolutely no details yet as family members are en route to DC to identify his body.

As we try to comprehend this loss, we give thanks for such a singular being, born star, and great friend.

Mood: devastated
Music: Stevie Nicks
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Dean Johnson passed away this week. Details surrounding Dean's
death, along with the death of another young man are still uncertain,
and an investigation is, as of this writing, still ongoing.

I have included details and links about Dean's life below.

Dean is survived by his father is Ellis Johnson and his sister is
Beth. For several years, Dean cared for and visited his mother
Linda, who succumbed to a battle with cancer in 2006. He was a
devoted son, brother and friend to scores of people who comprised of
Dean's chosen family.

Some sources:
History of Wigstock (update coming soon)
The crowd grows to a few thousand. John Sex works the guys (and girls)
a frenzy with his gyrating cover of "Secret Agent Man". 6'6" big, bad,
porn star Dean Johnson rocks the house with his original "Bourgeois
Underground band 3 Teens Kill 4, featuring artist David Wojnarowicz on
piano, hypnotises the masses with their trippy sound effects. John
Kelly as
Dagmar Onassis sings his version of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" which
becomes the traditional Wigstock finale for years to come:

"By the time we got to Wigstock we were several thousand falls...
And I dreamed I saw the drag queens spraying hairspray in the sky and
made all the yuppies die"
The "Lady" Bunny is bewitching!

A-Listers in Mortar: The Velvet Mafia
Interview by Derek de Koff
When did you form The Weenies?
Back in '85. Dean And The Weenies. We were a club band. We used to play
And Roll Fag Bar and some of the other clubs. It became something of a
phenomenon. I did this song called "Fuck You" in the film Mondo New
From that I was able to get a recording contract with Island Records.
signed me based on my performance of "Fuck You" but when they realized
I was
a gay activist and a drag queen, they freaked out and found an excuse
dump me. They released my record in an unmarked brown paper wrapper and
said that they were dumping me because the album wouldn't sell.
They printed out thousands of CDs of "Fuck You" and then decided to get
of them. They dumped them into a dumpster behind the Island offices.
Homeless people pulled them out of the garbage and sold them for a
dollar on
St. Mark's and it became a huge phenomenon. That's how I really
myself as a performer back in '87.
by Walter Cessna

Dean Johnson has been so many things in his life, it's hard to keep
track of
them all. Besides fronting the band THE WEENIES, he was the first
doorman at
SAVE THE ROBOTS and also ran the legendary ROCK 'N' ROLL FAG BAR before
heroin addiction landed him in jail.

Staging a comeback, Dean started a new band called THE VELVET MAFIA.
looks at this band, as the first focused thing he's ever done. "I named
band after my idols Barry Diller and David Geffen because of how
they are. Like them, THE VELVET MAFIA is definitely a commercial
Geffen actually caught the band's gig at the nightclub JACKIE 60, but
didn't exactly rush backstage. "I heard he freaked when I sang a song
dedicated to him called 'Hello, Good-bye!'" As New York's reigning
6-inch bald drag queen (and that's without heels), Johnson gives the
sarcastically bittersweet songs an added punch.

Review/Film; Seeking the Outrageous In New York By WALTER GOODMAN

Trip Records Press Release 27 May 1998

NEW YORK -- With the founding of Rock & Roll Fag Bar over 10 years ago,
Johnson created a venue which quickly took hold and helped to define
growing East Village scene of the 80's. It's only fitting, then, that
Johnson leads his band The Vel vet Mafia onto the stage for the release
their debut album "We Know Where You Live" during the "Rock & Roll Fag
Reunion Party." A much-lauded event, the show will take place
Wednesday, May
27th at Lust for Life in New York City.

The Freak Shows of days gone by may never return as we knew them, but
Velvet Mafia weaves a circus side-show mystique, conjuring flashbacks
Siamese twins, Bearded ladies and unicorns that look mysteriously like

Refugee of the 80's Island Records act Dean and the Weenies, Dean
(New York's reigning six-foot-six-inch bald drag queen who also spewed
attention-grabbing tune "Fuck You" in the film Mondo New York) plays
ringmaster to his caustically catchy clan of degenerates and outcasts
in a
full frontal assault on 'normal' America. "We Know Where You Live"
stories of queer life in their own unique feisty and poignant
style - a Ritalin-free Dr. Seuss for adults.

As Head Mistress to his seven-member menagerie, Johnson is joined by
Mary Feaster (on permanent suspension from St. Ignatius School for
Girls) on
Bass and background vocals, guitarist in boy-drag the ever-evasive
Bettelheimer (aka Susanne Hassenstein), cellist from Hell Satan (aka
Spreitz), Holy Jazz-man and sexy-saxist Father Josh Atkins, nautical
percussionist and background vocalist Sailor McDrum (aka Tom McCrum),
the deceptively friendly and always firm-handed Nurse Wanda Hill (aka
Walsh). A true cacophony of irreverence which creates a recipe for a
in-your-face queerer-than-thou delivery that slams your brain and
leaves you
flying well above the carnival world below, all anchors of comfort
tossed aside.
Advocate, The, Dec 5, 2000 by Cathay Che
Queer club life is alive and well in New York City, thanks in part to
hard-rocking HomoCorps

Longtime New York club denizen and musician Dean Johnson is turning 40
year. Most infamous for New York City's popular late-'80s weekly party
& Roll Fag Bar, Johnson is now drug-free and in love, involved in the
healthy relationship of his life. He's also just started a new,
much-buzzed-about monthly showcase for queer musicians called HomoCorps
the legendary CBGB's. But don't suggest that this survivor, also
for his punk anthem "[Fuck You" (by Dean and the Weenies) and for his
current band, the Velvet Mafia, is now a gay role model.
"How dare you!" says Johnson, laughing. "I've never been accused of
before." As much as Johnson, who is bald and a striking 6 feet 7 inches
without heels, bristles at being anything but irreverent, he does talk
talk of a queer activist. "Well, I've always said that the recording
industry is like the Army: It's run by homosexuals and is completely
homopbobic," says Johnson dryly. "The fact that there are a lot of gay
people actually works against queer musicians because either they are
in the
closet and afraid of being outed or out of the closet and afraid of
accused of having an agenda."


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Poets and Priests of nothing... Legends

The lights went out for a few seconds and when they came back on Stevie now had on a white shawl.
The last song was "Has Anyone ever Written Anything For You" and it looked like she had tears in her eyes.
Maybe because this was the end of the show and she was sorry it was to end.
At the end of the song where she speaks, "And when they ask her about the men in her life she said,
"Well in answer to your question, they were poets, and they were priest of nothing, they were legends."
She follows that singing out in beautiful voice "legends"!!!
Stevie and the band walked up to the front of the stage and took a bow, then Stevie thanked everyone and ended the evening with,
"I miss you".


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Yes. This Wednesday was schedule to be the first installment of Dean's reading series, READING FOR FILTH, and take place each Wednesday in October. We will celebrate our friend, our dear family member's glorious life here at Rapture. Wherever Dean is concerned, the show always went on.

Miss Webb (our very own DJ Baby K) has begun an honoring wall around the stage, and asks folks to bring any music Velvet Mafia or Dean and The Weenies; photos; DVD footage; or any other Dean-related memorabilia to share.
Deans death has hit me very hard even though I haven't even seen him for years.

I used to know him enough to say "Hi Dean" and have a brief conversation with him.

I was a teenager when I met him, and all the regulars at The Pyramid.

These memories are so concrete that it is hard for me to picture anyone from that time period in any other context. I adored them all when I was kid. I worshipped them and I considered them my parents as ridiculous as it sounds. No one understands either unless they were there.

I can see Wendy Wild in the coat check booth telling me about a new brand of hair coloring and smiling. I can see John Sex on the stage singing about Woolworth's. I can remember talking to Ethyl Eichelberger about a million things in the dressing room and there are many others who have passed that I remember as well.

I went to a lot of Dean's club nights over the years but still cannot shake one memory of him in the Pyramid basement.

I just wanted to share this memory with you all because it is how I remember him whenever I think of him, no matter in what context.

Here it is:

Everyone is in The Pyramid basement dressing room.

Dean is in his black spandex dress and wearing those big glasses. He is surrounded by all the wonderful Pyramid drag queens. They are all getting made up to go dance on the bar and Dean is sitting nearby chatting with all of them.

He is gonna perform with Dean and The Weenies later on and everyone is just having a fucking good time.

Sun Pk (formerly Peter Kwaloff who used to do Clitoris Gash, LaToilette Jackson and many others at (on stage at Mud Club and Pyramid) is there and he says something to Dean that makes Dean absolutely howl with laughter.

That is my memory of him, he is laughing and having fun, and he never leaves that place in my mind.
I met Dean in 1984 at Robots and worked with and around him on and off throughout the years. Recently we got much closer through myspace and our mutual love of writing and we joked that it was funny how after all these years we had become closer than ever over the internet. We made plans to hang out a few weeks ago at a birthday party, but they fell through and we missed each other. I had no idea that was the last chance I'd get to see him. I still have an email sitting in my mailbox wanting to know when we could try it again. I thought I had plenty of time to answer!

Dean was one of the people that made the city feel like New York to me. Even though we weren't super close in an every day kind of way, I consider him a member of my extended family. And the tragedy is that on top of the personal loss, it's also a huge loss to the artistic community. I am truly sad, and I send out my condolences to everyone who is grieving.

We love you, Dean. Probably more than you knew!
This just out:

Daily Intelligencer
Edited by Jesse Oxfeld and Chris Rovzar with Michael Idov

5:00 PM
Promoter and Queer Icon Dean Johnson Dies

Photo: Patrick McMullan
Downtown icon and gay performing artist Dean Johnson died last week, friends just learned. The 6'6" promoter was found dead by authorities in Washington, DC, but remained unidentified until this week. Police are still investigating the cause. Johnson, 45, founded the iconic weekly party Rock and Roll Fag Bar in the late eighties, and also started HomoCorps, a monthly gay music showcase at CBGB, before the punk club closed. At times a porn star and at other times a rock star (he fronted Dean and the Weenies and later The Velvet Mafia), he was always recognizable by his height (often augmented by heels) and brazen eyewear. Friends say he helped shape the growing East Village art and club kid scene in the late eighties, continuing through to today, with popular and notoriously raunchy parties he's hosted at dive venues like The Hole and The Cock. He had battled drugs "historically," said his longtime friend Joe Birdsong. "Bit in the past year he had cleaned that up." Friends will celebrate his life next week at Rapture Café and Books on Wednesday at 8 p.m


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by some magical synchronicity "live at red rocks" arrived from netflix yesterday. i put it on the queue because *musQrat hasn't seen it but also because i heard dean tell a story about watching it with clark (of the bankheads) and wanted to get back into it myself.
i'll be thinking of dean while i watch it today.
I thought some of you who knew Dean like I did might get a kick out of this. It was the last story I worked on with Dean while I was the Editor of Next Magazine. I'm going to miss him a lot, but I take some consolation knowing that now he's jamming out upstairs with Laura Branigan...and reading all the other angels for filth with Hilly Kristal between sets. Love ya, Dean...

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Thanks for posting that Gregory T.

I have a question that probably only Hattie Hathaway can answer.
As I remember it, Dean was the first one to put (the now ubiquitous) skinny East Village Rock & Roll boys in their underwear up on a bar.
I know it was first done at The Pyramid Club for sure but did Dean do it?



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Oh dear. Such sad news. Two of my old show-biz partners, Tabboo! and then Philly (notoriously famed for projectile vomiting in the Pyramid production of Attack of the Spider Crabs from Star Nebula), each called me yesterday to break the news about Dean. I'm so glad that someone here wrote about remembering his laughter in the Pyramid dressing room.

I remember that too, and his different laughs. He had a slow snickering laugh that could build into a bigger, volcanic eruption of laughter, sort of like laugh steam escaping from a place deep inside--where he did see the humor in just about everything.

I don't remember if he and I ever had a conversation about the topic or not, but it seems that we did share an understanding that nothing should be taken seriously for too long --- that everything was in life was easier to digest if we could find the funny side.

Dean always laughed at my jokes no matter how stale or how stolen they were. I always appreciated that about him, among many other things, his talents as a poet, a performer, a punk, a rocker, a fag, a porn star, a prostitute, an icon and a genuine and sincere person.

He and I were never close friends, but were both moths drawn to that flame that burned brightly for a magical period in NYC during the early 80s. (I think the flame still burns, though not so brightly, perhaps it's an ember just needing new fuel. One hopes . . .)

But, anyway From what I know about him, he seemed like many of us, some still here, others like Baby Gregor, Ethyl Eichelberger, Tanya Ransom, Larry Shox, Wendy Wild, John Sex, Craig Vandenberg, Ann Craig, David Crocker, Greer Lankton, et al, who are now gone; to have been raised with rules and regulations that did not suit the development of our inspirations and aspirations, and so one-by-one we shed those rules and regulations to create our own --or the bravest among us, to live without any whatsoever.

Amazingly this mass of people ho cherished their individuality and creativity migrated separately only to find each other and join forces, to experiment with our new rules or lack of rules . . . but to forge a society and, (dare I say it?) a movement.

I for one, was fueled by Dean's example to continue on with saying "fuck you" to conventions and rules of society and family that stifled my spirit and blinded my creative vision. Because many of us struggled with a dual citizenship of being partly the person we were born as and the person that we recreated for ourselves . . . we have lost one of our most glamorous generals in the battle for unique individuality. A loss that I deeply mourn.
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Yes daddy. He was the first to have boys in white jockey briefs - with tubesox and combat boots, if I remember correctly. It was also the uniform of the female members of Dean and the Weenies. But they wore bras. In fact, it might have been one of the female Weenies that came up with the look first, and Dean realized that it was the best look for his bar dancers.
so sad, to have lost such a wonderful person.

dean and i were friends at NYU and i was his first drummer in Dean and the Weenies. Over the last few weeks, I kept meaning to reach out to him and tell him the following:

Hi Dean - I wanted you to know I have been playing drums to your first Velvet Mafia record and listening to it non stop for the last several weeks. Despite marriage, kids, suburbia, and this BS called a career, I still manage to play and your record has been my first choice for the last several weeks.

The record is brilliant and Deli Boy is breathtakingly stupendous - one of my all-time favorite songs. It got me thinking back to the mid 80's when we started playing. Being practically the house band at Pyramid on Drag Queen Sunday nights, sharing the dressing room with Hapi, Lady Bunny, etc. was so fun. Playing with the Weenies has become an indelible part of me and I can never thank you enough for allowing me to share in that experience. You touched my life then and continue to do so now. Thank you for being you and allowing me to be a small part of your life.

I write the above in sorrow - we have lost someone so unique, so special, and it fills me with emotion. Regret that I never got to send the above email. Sadness that I will never be able to thank him in person. But hope that he will return and assault us again with his cutting humor, brilliant songs and wanton thoughts!

I will love and miss you forever Dean.

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An Historical Note...

In our culture it seems to be of paramount importance who was "the first," when in reality any ideas we might have are the result of a barrage of influences we receive from the cradle onward.

"You know you weren't the first bald drag queen, Dean," said Constance in the mid-nineties.

Likewise, the first boy bar dancers at the Pyramid in jockey shorts were Greg W. (a wall streeter by day) and Sister Dimension (!). This was in 1981, before Dean came here from the wilds of Maine.

However, whether or not Dean had ever seen Constance or those very first Pyramid bar dancers, or even knew about them, he took both concepts to the N-th degree, and made them his very own.

This is what makes a legend a legend. And Dean one of the most special in the pantheon of legends. He will truly be missed.
You're right of course Hatch, the whole "being the first" is so "Francine 59" of me.
First or not, Dean took everything to the extreme.

I remember DJing at one of his parties.
There were HUNDREDS of guys totally naked going totally ape shit!
At one point he had at least 15 or 20 guys jerking off in unison on the bar (he told them all to come at the same time).
It was hysterical.
I got inspired and put on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
With the lights out, its less dangerous
Here we are now, Entertain us.

They came together.
It was a high point in my DJ career and I'm sure Kurt and Dean are laughing about it right now.
Thank you for your stories and words here, they are a comfort and I know our own "velvetmafiacapo" is reading every word.

For friends of Dean's who might not have seen him of late, I just wanted you to know that he went out at the very top of his game, creatively challenged, respected, even worshipped by new legions of fans, writing,!

His last performance, September 8 at Low Life in the Howl Festival was a complete departure from any of his usual schticks, and yet he made it completely his own. Knowing of his historically troubled relationship with the NYPD, we asked him to portray a crooked Irish cop from a century ago.

In his Keystone Kop uniform and gigantic pentagram, he TURNED IT OUT! On his blog, of his LOW LIFE show he simply wrote:


Like Pops, I will cherish that last memory of him, the humor and tongue-in-cheek glamour, the roar of appreciation from this VERY hometown crowd, till we meet again.


Photo by Mark Tusk


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From Mark Tusk:

sorry to hear about dean; i didn't know him well, but i knew him for
for a long time, i now realize. i so wish i'd taken photos at his
birthday in the courtyard of the world in a whole other era: someone
gave him a big bouquet and i remember joking how he beamed like little
(big) miss america. and, the guy grilling hot dogs said to everyone
"spread your buns and i'll stick it in." weenies, haha.

what's freaky about the attached pic is that after low life i came
across this, which i took one night at rock and roll fag bar and blew
up myself in my first apartment. i photographed the photo and it's
been in my camera since...i never thought i'd show it as any kinda
tribute, but there's something about his face being washed out, the
eyes peeking thru his shades and his loop earing blocking the eye of
the guy in the backround that i like. and yeah, that's young-er me on
the right, having shot it myself. i'm mystified how i got both
of us in the frame, but greatful i did.

anyway, i thought you'd get a kick outta that, and feel free to put it
on the motherboard if you like. i've got a few other r&r fag bar
shots, but that's the only one with dean that i blew up.

...and, i also wish the shot backstage of him giving me the finger,
which i didn't include in the flaneur pile, came out better. may have
to review the full set...

again, sorry how this turned out, but boy, did he go out with a bang:
his song in TSP totally rocked!



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I knew Dean as did many through the years via performance and always
viewed him as an exotic spider - gorgeous and terrifying. The physicality
alone was a phenomenon. When told 'his
body could not be identified for a week' ... I made a bad black-humor joke - "What fool couldn't identify THAT body?"

I only got to know the man personally very recently as a result of doing
editorial for our Verbal Abuse #5. Dean's submission was a masterpiece
of concision, mordant wit and insight... I barely had to do a thing to
'make it' perfect. Ask Chi Chi and she'll tell you how unusual that is.
... well now I can't resist relating something about it...

It's a zip-through the 80s, a 'Lost City' indeed, as per the various famous
types he rubbed up against. He always has something rude and hilarious to
say about them. The next-to-last entry for 1988 is appallingly awful...
I literally screamed when I got to the end of it.
That wicked humor and what my friend Carl Apfelschnitt would term
"tragic-pig grandeur" shines with a
hysterical gleam. I'm thrilled we have something of his for #5 and I'm
thinking Chi might have to make it a Memento Mori for The Johnson.

Dean does seem in himself one of those Utopian cities, a place where a
certain order and truth strained to be perfect, but always
with a black laughing edge slashing through the glitter.

In the course of our short correspondence I asked him if he had more
material about his life, since his mini-tour of the 80s promised so
much more thick and rich detail. He said he'd been wanting to write his
autobiography and had TONS of material. But that he didn't know how to get
started or get focussed. I offered to look through everything he had and
start editing it. He was excited to think someone would help him with this project.

This is another thing I wanted to say... Look around you, and tell the genius next-door HOW MUCH YOU LOVE THEM and appreciate them.... NOW. You'd be surprised to know how marginal and isolated ... Dean told me he felt! As so many of us feel.... SO DON'T WAIT until we're on our death-beds or as "a hot dame on a cold slab" to say you worshipped our asses! TELL US NOW.

Sorry to say, he did not get around to sending me anything. We decided to meet up first when I got to NY. So I hope this material for his Autobiography is right there on his computer desk-top, to be discovered, kept intact and
cherished. And if the executors decide to go for it and need an editor, I think Dean would have been happy with my red pencil.

Pax Vobiscum
I got the call from Walter on Friday and it took me a long while to process. Then I sent out an email blast to whomever I thought might not have heard. I got replies from Fenton of WOW and Danny Fields, as well as Tall Paul Gellman, and a number of others from back in the day. All were unanimous in saying it would be hard to imagine NY without Dean. My memories of him are also of his laughter...the loud percussive dirty cackle that he would often greet my snide commentary with.

He was one of the few people I would actually take the time to see when I visited NY (apologies to all others!) because I knew I could make him laugh and that would make me laugh.

I'd known Dean since the mid 80s...and he was always the same; ridiculously talented, hilariously opinionated, outrageously filthy, and way way way ahead of his time.

I hope the images I put together from my old vault below will bring some joy...I know I have more somewhere but these really caught him in his many guises from that era when I first met him.

Love to all of you who shared your love for Dean here.

Your old friend,

David Scharff
I only found out about this today! It's a very sad day in New York, we will all miss Dean and his incredible influence on the East Village gay (sub sub)culture. My fondest memory of Dean:

He was hosting that ultra notorious club night "Pubic Hair Club for Men" at the Comeback. Go-go boys were required to masturbate. To get to the dancefloor you had to climb a flight of stairs in a narrow hallway, and open a door. Just as I was about to open the door, the door flies open, and there is Dean, in a black dress, lipstick and those sunglasses and heels having a HUGE fight with his then boyfriend (let's just call him "Chris")they were wrestling with each other on the floor!, Dean pulling "Chris'" hair. I was speechless! and it finally sort of ended abruptly, neither of them any worse for the wear. The funny thing was Chris started working at Dick's Bar a week befor this happened, and he was the one who invited me to go see the place!
I will miss you very much Dean.
I wasn't planning on crying today...but when I heard this news, the tears pretty much took over. This is so very sad, and my heart goes out to everyone in Deans immediate circle of friends and family.

Dean was a very special and wonderful person. Although he wasn't someone I spoke with on a daily basis, I was honored to call him a friend.

He was without a doubt, one of the nicest, most sincere people in the downtown "scene". I first learned of his exsistance in the Eighties, the same way many people watching him serve up his own brand of bald fierceness in "Mondo New York". I was still in high school at that time; a gay goth loner stuck in the drudgery that was 1980s New Hampshire. It comforted me to know there where all these freaky people somewhere in the world that were doing something different, cool and vital with their lives.

Suffice to say I was totally star struck when I finally got to meet Dean in person, in the early nineties. But he was totally gracious and he made me laugh with his deadpan dry wry sense of humor. The Velvet Mafia was a great band. Such great songs and a live set that was packed full of pure fag rock energy. I loved every second of the shows I was privvy to see. I only wish I'd have gotten a chance to see them play more.

Dean will be missed. He will always be a rockstar in my eyes.
The one good thing (maybe the only good thing) about a tragedy like this is that it brings the family back together.
Just "seeing" so many familiar faces here makes me (and I'm sure Dean) very happy.
When we owned MOTHER I knew we had something very special because when something like this happened, MOTHER was where everyone would gather. It was where the memorial would be etc.
The torch has now (happily for Chi Chi and I) been passed on to Mr. Joe and The RAPTURE CAFE.
Same family (watched over by the dowager Hathaway) -different house.
Chi Chi had the idea of bringing the MOTHER community online. I, of course, had no idea what she and Rob were talking about.
Now I do.

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