Danee Russo-Signed headshot of Danee Russo-1985

Danee Russo

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Danee Russo

Danee died October 23, 1995.  She is buried in Thompson Memorial beside Mother Cavellucci.

By Stefani Moore

The first time I saw Danee in the Cart Wheel she was standing at David Toleno’s bar.  She had her hair up in a French twist and was wearing a little black dress with the sides cut out.  A model of elegance and style.  I was so enchanted by her, I asked someone, “Who is that?”

The man answered, “That’s Danee Russo, the prettiest boy in New Hope.”

That was a boy?!  A week later I returned to the Cart Wheel intent on asking her out to dinner, which I did.  On our first date, to Wildflowers, she said to me, “I am going to bring excitement to your life.”

She did too. Life with Danee was a roller coaster ride or maybe more like watching a shooting star race and fade out across the sky.

I learned that Danee had been thrown out of her home in Chicago by her father when she was 16.  She survived by doing drag shows at the Baton Show Lounge and sleeping on her friends’ porches. Eventually she would perform at the Queen Mary in Los Angeles, the Parliament House in Orlando and the Atlantic House in P’town.  She became a Las Vega showgirl and performed at Debbie Reynold’s casino.  She worked with B-list entertainers like Rip Taylor, Elgin and Pudgy.  She did shows at the Latin Quarter in New York City and in LaCage at Bally’s in Atlantic City where she impersonated Tina Turner.

Danny Windsor, a friend of Danee’s from Chicago convinced her to come to New Hope in the 1980s where she performed in the Danny Windsor Troupe.  When I met Danee in 1990 she was intent on becoming the first Miss Gay Pennsylvania, which she won.  She went on to become Miss Gay New Jersey 1991 and Miss Gay Michigan 1993, though she never won the prize she coveted most, Miss Gay America.

Danee was the most talented, fashionable, professional, generous, fun person I’ve ever known.  Wherever she went, you found the life of the party.


Life with Danee was an endless party.  She knew everyone.  If she didn’t know you, she found out who you were and made you feel welcome to New Hope.

Danee loved to entertain.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Monday, Tuesday, any day was excuse to fill our house with friends, good food and laughter.

On special occasions Danee loved to greet our guests at the door with a gift.  She called them ‘chotskis.’  She’d go to the Dollar Store and buy 30 cheap little gifts and spend all night wrapping them in paper and ribbons till they looked like they held the Hope Diamond.  She’d smile and say, “Presentation is everything.”

When people arrived at our house, Danee would present them each a gift with their name on it.  And if someone brought an unexpected guest, Danee would run into the living room where she had a pile of extra gifts without a name.  She’d scribble the guest’s name on the tag, and much to the person’s surprise and delight, present them with a gift with their name on it.

Danee died October 23, 1995.  She is buried in Thompson Memorial beside Mother Cavellucci.

Two years after Danee’s death, I was cleaning out a bureau in the living room.  In the corner of the top drawer was a pile of well-wrapped little chotskis without a name on the tag, still sitting there where she’d hidden them the night before a party long ago.

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