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PROUD LIFE: Vicki Lawsuit (1968-2008)

Big voice, big heart, big mouth: Vicki had it all

DIVA. In Vicki's world, queer was normal and normal was queer. Credit: photo courtesy of Karine Lacelle

One of the most visible members of Ottawa’s queer community passed away Dec 18 at the Ottawa General Hospital.

Vicki Lawsuit — also known as Allen Frederick Gilby — will be remembered for her bawdy and irreverent stage performances and for her work with local charities.

Vicky outlasted several of the gay bars where she was a host and entertainer, including Icon and Pink. She wrapped up a regular Saturday night gig at the Lookout in 2007 and was part of the cadre of queens at Edge for part of 2008.

For a whole generation of young people in Ottawa, Lawsuit was a gateway to the friendly, sexualized legacy of gay culture. Her performances were a mix of comedy and slapstick, always with a generous helping of music, especially from popular divas. She gloried in vaudeville and the burlesque.

Lawsuit had a nose for those who felt out of place, often finding the one straight man in the bar to flirt with and tease. She often encouraged uncomfortable audience members to participate in the show, either with lap dances or by prodding them to show a little skin. Her interactions with her audience weren’t mean-spirited, rather they were an invitation to embrace the transgressive side of an otherwise tame town.

Above all, she provided gays and lesbians with a space that was definitively their own. She lived in an ideal world where gay bars were always warm, welcoming, sexually aware places, environments where queer is normal and normal is queer. For one night a week (and for some of her career, more than one), bar dykes, circuit fags and gender deviants found a voice that was assertive, in control and ultimately powerful.

It seemed that nothing could stop Vicki Lawsuit. Indeed, this wasn’t her first battle with cancer. She was 40.

Tributes and prayers poured onto Facebook during her final week.

As one poster wrote:

“You’re all I’ve been thinking about these last few days. If there is a lesson to be learned from all this, it is to keep your friends close. You just never know when someone’s last days are going to be. I’m going to miss you so much.”

Arrangements: viewing at Hulse, Playfair& McGarry (315 McLeod) Jan 1 from 2-4pm and 7-9pm. Service at St John’s Anglican Church (154 Somerset W) Jan 2 at 11 am. Club Edge (212 Sparks St) will host a party to celebrate her life Jan 2 at 9pm.
As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions to the Canadian Cancer Society or to Bruce House would be appreciated by the family.