As the “oldest living Armorette in captivity” I must say that of the 35 years I have been performing as a female illusionist, the 20 years I have been associated with the Armorettes have been my most enjoyable, gratifying and heartwarming.
In 1982, a group of my friends in Birmingham, Alabama and me formed a gay softball team and joined the Hotlanta Gay Softball League. During that summer I met the Armorettes as they cheered for the Armory teams. I became close with several of the girls and soon learned the history of how and why the group was formed. I would like to share this with you.
In 1979, a group of guys who worked at the popular bar called “The Armory” decided they wanted to find a way to draw more folks into the bar on Sundays during the Atlanta Falcons game. Greg Troia, aka Thelma Natalie Troia, was bar manager and he approached several of his bartenders and bar backs, along with a few regular customers to form a group of “camp drag queens”. They would dress in cheerleader outfits; walk the bar during the Falcons game serving shooters each time a touchdown was scored. As this began to draw a crowd, they decided they needed to add some entertainment during halftime. It was at this time that the “Armorettes” were born. Dressed in their cheerleading outfits they would lip-sync to songs from the fifties, sixties and seventies; and swing from the rafters during a song that one of the girls made famous within the Atlanta community. That song was “Looking For A City”, would become one of the closing numbers, along with “United We Stand”, of the shows throughout the eighties and nineties.
As the group grew and became part of the Atlanta community, the HIV/AIDS epidemic began its horrible path of destruction throughout the world. In the early 80’s when the virus made itself known, it began killing some of our dearest friends and soon became known within the straight world as a “gay disease”. It was at this time that the group made the decision to lengthen their Sunday shows to 2 hours and begin performing in the Prince Albert restaurant next to the Armory. The girls decided they would donate all money raised at the end of each show to the cause of eliminating AIDS. The show soon became the place to be between 9 and 11 on Sunday evenings. Throughout the 80s many of the original group members succumbed to this dreadful killer. Due to this, the group began holding annual auditions to add members dedicated to the cause of eradicating this disease.
As I witnessed many of my dear friends pass on due to this killer, I became more and more dedicated to raising money for the cause. In 1991, I moved from Birmingham to Atlanta and in 1992 became a member of the group. I have spent the past 20 years working to raise as much as possible to help eliminate this disease. Additionally, I joined the Armory softball team and throughout the nineties the team, made up of mostly Armorettes, traveled the country and Canada playing in tournaments and entertaining during the banquets. The group’s popularity around the country and Canada grew which helped raise funds for the cause on a national level. When the Armory closed in the early 2000s the group moved to Backstreet and then moved to our current home at Burkhart’s in 2004. No matter where we call home, the group has remained dedicated to our cause. I am proud to be part of a group of extraordinary men dedicated to the cause and am proud to call them friend and sister.
For the past 33 years, this group of extraordinary men has raised funds to donate to local area AIDS related charities to help with their cause to eliminate this disease. Each year during our annual anniversary show, we give checks to the charities of choice and in some cases the checks have been enough to fund the organization for an entire year. As the group closes in on celebrating raising $2,000,000 over the past 33 years, we continue to grow and will continue to raise as much money as we can until this disease is wiped from the face of this planet.