It’s official. At 85 years old, Darcelle now wears the crown as the world’s oldest drag queen performer.
Guinness World Records awarded the City of Roses’ grand dame — who operates Darcelle XV Showplace, the longest-running drag revue west of the Mississippi — the designation this week.
Portland resident Doyle Stiles, a friend of Darcelle’s who helped shepherd the application to completion, said he got an email from Guinness early Tuesday morning with the news.
Doyle said the quest for the world record began in November when a female impersonator who is younger than Darcelle was listed as the world’s oldest.
“I immediately got into contact with Guinness and found out what the process was,” Doyle said.
Doyle spent the following months assembling paperwork, which included the birth certificate for Walter Cole, who has been playing the character of Darcelle since the late 1960s, as well as witness statements from the likes of Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts. Guinness requested witness statements as proof that Darcelle was still performing (and she is — at least four times a week).
Then came that 5 a.m. email from Guinness. Doyle said he and his wife, Sarah, revealed the news to Darcelle and her partner, Roxy, at dinner on Tuesday.
“I showed Darcelle a picture of the certificate on the phone, and she started tearing up and got so happy,” Doyle said.
Doyle said his reasons behind his mission are simple: friendship and thanks.
“Not only is it just doing something nice for a friend, but Darcelle has done so much for the community,” Doyle said. “I didn’t want her to have to work for an award for something that she has worked for for her whole life.”
“It’s wonderful! What an honor,” Darcelle said of the designation, before adding with a laugh, “And guess what? I don’t even mind being called old.”
For more about Darcelle and her legacy, check out the Oregon Experience’s documentary “Darcelle XV.”