Richmond icon Stanley Kelsey left us behind on Wednesday morning, June 1, following a severe stroke. Raised in the Farmville area, Stanley attended Longwood College as an Acting major. He delighted in performing in Longwood’s theatre productions. Upon moving to Richmond, he quickly became a cornerstone of Richmond’s drag community as Doralee Lewis. Miss Doralee captured the title of Miss Gay Richmond, and was an active member of Richmond’s Awards Club for many years, where she was crowned Best Actress.
Anyone who attended drag shows in Richmond during the 1980s and ‘90s, especially at Scandals or Alexander’s Upstairs Lounge, can attest to the captivating theatrical talent of Miss Doralee Lewis. Stanley also loved to wow the crowd on Richmond’s dance floors, or take his turn at the mic on karaoke night. Among Stanley’s greatest and proudest accomplishments are his many protégés within Richmond’s entertainment community, who fondly refer to Doralee as “Mama” or “Mom” today.
Complications from diabetes left Stanley wheelchair-bound five years ago—in body, but certainly not in soul. If anything, Doralee was even more spectacular in her annual Christmas show that year, featuring her performances as Bette Midler’s Delores Delago and Joan Crawford’s Blanche Hudson (with fellow legend LaDonna Spaulding as Baby Jane!). Stanley was looking forward to celebrating his sixtieth birthday at this month’s Estavaganza at Babe’s of Carytown. He was excited about attending the Scandals Reunion, and receiving a replacement for Doralee’s “Best Actress” crown which he’d lost during a move. He’d already expressed interest in the Fabergé exhibit, coming to VMFA in July. And of course, between all those dates, Stanley would have been out on his shopping excursions, composing his next signature look as one of Richmond’s royalty.
As a performer, there was no higher compliment than to hear Stanley say, “YOU were fabulous tonight!” Or as a friend, to hear, “It’s good to see you. I’ve missed you.” His expectations of his friends, and of today’s entertainers, were as high as those he’d placed on Doralee Lewis through the years. Always striving, always growing. Forever pushing on to that next level…
On Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m., Metropolitan Community Church, 2501 Park Avenue, hosts a memorial service for Stanley Kelsey. (804) 353-9477