Much Beloved Georgia Icon, The Lady Chablis Has Passed Away

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It is with heavy heart that I tell those of you who may be interested that Georgia has lost another Icon. The Lady Chablis, ( Brenda Dale Knox, née  Benjamin Edward Knox) has passed away.  I lived in Savannah for a time and had the opportunity to see her perform at  Club One. I believe that was my first time attending a drag show. I clearly had the honor of starting with the best show out there.  She was one sassy drag queen and a transgender celebrity well before the current social trend toward acceptance. She was much-loved in Savannah and you rarely heard her labeled as anything other than a lady because she transcended all labels.

I am certain that the entire town of Savannah is grieving this tremendous loss of a life force that gave the entire town a special spotlight in the media and in the hearts of those who came to know her.

Please click through for the press release from Club One.

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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.

In 1996, she released her autobiography “Hiding My Candy,” dubbed by her publisher as a cross between The Color Purple and Cinderella. The Doll loved to cook, and included several of her favorite recipes at the back of her book, like Brenda’s Kickin’ Chicken.

She has long been a giver to the community. Throughout the 2000’s, she worked closely on various campaigns for the American Diabetes Association, donating thousands of dollars raised by her performances to the cause.

She was the headlining entertainer for Savannah Pride’s inaugural celebration, and hosted their Miss Gay Pride Pageant. She would go on to perform, donate and contribute to many LGBT charities throughout her career.

Chablis always wanted to give the audience, be it 15 or 1500, the best that she had. With her declining health, she regretted that her body wouldn’t allow her to give more. Chablis is survived by her sister, Cynthia. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, who request privacy during this time of grief.

 

Two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it…

 

40 Comments

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40 responses to “Much Beloved Georgia Icon, The Lady Chablis Has Passed Away

  1. Mel

    That makes me so very sad.

  2. Oh, no! That hurts my heart. Thank you for letting us know.

  3. Margaret Shepard

    I loved that saying, 2 tears in a bucket etc. I adored the book and the movie, Midnight in the garden of good and evil. I was in Savannah a few years ago and I wish I had seen her show. She was a real firecracker, RIP Lady Chablis!

  4. RealChicagoHousewife

    Seeing her picture puts a smile on my face.

    • Blondesense

      That is exactly what I was going to say. She radiates an inner beauty in that picture. I have looked her up and she was certainly a trailblazer. RIP Pretty Lady.

  5. Microop

    So sad. I moved from Savannah out west exactly a year ago. She was a legend. A woman who encapsulated the world she inhabited.

  6. Dee

    I’m so sorry to hear.

  7. Jaded

    Was just in Savannah and wondered about the Lady Chablis. Sad.

  8. The ultimate Lady and a beautiful person inside & out…

  9. oh Sheila! you a good Judy

    my heart is thoroughly broken. “two tears in a bucket…” to quote an icon.

  10. Joanplus2dogs

    How sad! Definitely a loss of one of a kind personality. I enjoyed reading Hiding my candy much more than Midnight. She will always be remembered.

  11. Holly

    Oh noooo! Gone too soon! She was awesome and signed her book for me with the “Two years in a bucket, mother #!$@ it!” So sad, she was aMAzing. RIP The Doll, the Grand Empress, The Lady Chablis

  12. Twilly

    Loved the book and movie and visited Savannah years ago. Beautiful, spooky town. RIP Lady Chablis.

  13. A Little Birdie

    “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is one of my favorite movies and The Lady Chablis stole the show. RIP Lady Chablis

  14. spk

    Too sad, her style of wit and sass is needed today. RIP. Really thought her portrayal in the movie was well done and left me with the feeling it just barely scratched the surface of her humanity.

  15. Minky

    I remember seeing her on an episode of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, a loving her right away. She seemed like such a fun, joyous person. This is truly sad news. RIP.

  16. Margarett

    She was unique and certainly will be missed. As another commenter said, she stole the show!

  17. The Shadiest Grove

    The Lady has made her grand exit. Look for her among the stars, she has always been one. R.I.P LC.

  18. Lolita

    Thank you for sharing. You are blessed to have met her. I loved her♡♡♡

  19. captivagrl

    RIP Lady. She was sooo good in Midnight.

  20. French

    She will be missed.

  21. ZenJen55

    Savannah is still my favorite place to get away to when I’m needing to decompress.
    Thanks you TT as I had not heard any other place report this.
    Sad, the city will never be the same.
    Gone but never forgotten.

  22. JoJoFLL

    Heartbreaking. I haven’t seen her perform since 2000 but saw her a bunch in the 1990s. She always loved my husband! RIP Lady Chablis, you were a wonderful entertainer, actress, and beautiful lady.

  23. She was amazing in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and whenever on screen I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. 59 is way too young to die. I know she is rocking her iconic 80’s glamour eleganza up in Heaven.

  24. Secret Admirer

    Thank you, Miss TT, for passing on this most important info regarding a life well led. May she rest in peace or continue sharing her jois de vivre in the next phase of the afterlife.

    Regarding a related vignette of sorts: The moment I first laid eyes on Sheree Whitfield, it put me of a mind of the imitable Lovely Lady Chablis (sans her charming whimsy, of course).

  25. One of the very few books I’ve read twice and even fewer movies that I’ve rewatched. Always wanted to take “The Book” tour in Savannah…now? Not so much. :(

    (It was such a waste of time watching NeNe make a fool of herself in the Club. Wish they would have edited out the HW’s and more footage of the Lady.) Grrrrrrrrrrr

  26. RaVonda Dalton-Rann

    She will be missed! She truly put Savannah on the map!

  27. tinn6sic6

    I am very saddened by this news. It had me tore up all day yesterday. I am a Savannah native, and I live in Savannah now. To say The Lady was an icon is a bit of an understatement. She was a force of nature, larger than life. I met her on several occasions, and she was always kind to me. All that sass in “The Movie”? All that sass on stage? That was The Doll all the time. She will reign forever as the Grand Empress of the South!

  28. baybek8s

    Funny how I was just thinking about her. I loved Lady Chablis in the movie, ‘In the Garden of Good and Evil’. She will be missed. My favorite line from that movie is “From my top to your bottom from your bottom to my top, from your middle to my middle”.

  29. Iprefermyteaunsweetend

    I remember going to the Prince concert in Columbia, SC a couple years back and there she was in all her glory standing in front of the concession area waiting on a friend. I totally “fan-girled” and begged her for a picture. She wasn’t feeling it but “the doll” being who she was gave in and I had my fiancée take the pic quickly. I swear I was more excited to see The Lady than Prince. R.I.P.

  30. Cat

    Sounds like a very special person. So sad.

  31. sarcasatire

    I read (and loved) her book.

    For RHOA fans, you may remember her by that that Savannah episode she was featured in, when the girls all went to Club One.

  32. Mamameach

    I grew up on Hilton Head Island, about an hour from Savannah. I saw The Lady Chablis at a tiny bar called MJ’s there were 5 of us there, and she did a Tina Turner number that knocked my socks off. She taught me how to do her backup dance to Proud Mary. She was tiny, and awesome. I was so happy she found her fame from the book. Big wheels keep on turnin, Lady!

  33. Ken Lau

    I was in Savannah during Labor Day week..we were exploring all of Savannah’s squares and purely by chance we stumbled by Clarys Cafe. They have Chablis’ picture in there. Later we parked on Bay Street and again by chance we saw that Club One was just a block away. My brother took a pic of Chablis’ poster at the window. Later that night, we found out she passed away that very morning. We were like..wow…that was weird.

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