Pop Goes The News — Iconic Toronto drag performer Chris Edwards died early Tuesday, a little more than a week after collapsing at a show. He was 54.
A Florida native, Edwards came to Toronto in his late 20s as part of the cast of An Evening At La Cage, in which he impersonated artists like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.
He became a fixture in the city’s drag community, performing regularly and organizing pageants.
Edwards also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for AIDS, cancer, and homeless organizations.
Edwards was rushed to hospital late on Aug. 26 after suffering cardiac arrest in between performances at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. He remained in hospital until his death.
“What an amazing talent and wonderful human being,” commented Cineplex Media CEO and philanthropist Salah Bachir on Facebook.
Harry Singh, owner of Zipperz — one of many Toronto clubs where Edwards entertained — said he was heartbroken. “RIP my friend! I will miss your laughter and hearing your voice! Love forever.”
Tributes are pouring in on Facebook.
Another drag icon, Michelle Ross, said she was “at a loss for words.”
“My heart is broken and I am in a state of shock,” Ross shared. “We were all made better knowing this gentle and loving person.”
Nikki Chin wrote: “What an icon. What a loss. Chris Edwards, you are loved, respected, admired, adored, and you will be missed.”
Glen Paulin-Haskin shared: “I can’t even begin to put into words the loss I’m feeling for myself and this Community. We have lost a friend and much loved entertainer.”
Jewelry designer Bryan Greenwood, a friend of Edwards for three decades, posted an emotional tribute.
“This was a person that hundreds, thousands, countless people will remember with joy, happiness, giggles and good feelings,” he wrote.
As a drag queen, “he was a true trail-blazer in Toronto and an example of fortitude, strength and tenacity,” Greenwood wrote.
Joey Viola also remembered Edwards as “a trailblazing icon.”
He wrote: “I was always blown away by his epic performances and legendary community involvement.
“When we talk about people who paved the way for the younger generation – Chris is one of those people. Whether you knew him or not, he was a pioneer for so many of us in so many ways.”
Edwards was predeceased by his partner, John.