Very sad news to report. Paris Dupree has passed. Dupree was one of the legendary names of New York City's ballroom community. Paris was the founding mother of the House of Dupree and her annual grand ball "Paris is Burning" inspired Jennie Livingston's iconic 1990 documentary of the same name.
Details of Dupree’s death remain unconfirmed, but friends and fans began Tweeting “R.I.P. Paris Dupree” on August 15. She was living in New York City at the time of her passing. Dupree made her mark as one of the “big five” House mothers in New York’s ballroom scene. She founded the House of Dupree in the 1970’s alongside her fellow mothers Angie Xtravaganza, Dorian Corey, Avis Pendavis and Pepper LaBeijia.
"The ballroom runway ‘Grand Prize Competition’ in heaven got a bit thicker this week with the passing of Mother Paris Dupree," says famed performer Karl Xtravaganza. "Her death signals the end of an era."
Dupree’s passing also came at a very emotional time for the ballroom community, with two other deaths reported in the last few days, performers Kevin Magnifique Milan and Leo Xtravaganza.
Dupree's passing marks the end of an era, notes Monica Roberts. "Dupree was one of the last Big Five founding house mothers who appeared in the documentary still alive. Angie Xtravaganza, Dorian Corey, Avis Pendavis and Pepper LaBeijia [all] preceded Dupree in death."
Jennie Livingston came to The Latex Ball and said a few words. She also produced a very excellent tribute to Paris Dupree, who was the last of the "great mothers" of the Houses of the Ballroom community. Paris Dupree was missing Saturday night. Her passing and the passing of so many others this year and in recent years set a sad tone at the usually happy gathering. The short documentary captured the essence of a legend. Her attitude for the ages underscored the meaning of the whole affair.
There is a backstory to Dupree and Paris is Burning that many people today do not know. Dupree and several other performers sued Livingston and Miramax Pictures in 1990 for a share of the film's profits. Dupree and others said they were deceived about the film's purpose and wanted compensation. "DuPree sought the largest settlement with $40 million for unauthorized use of her ball, with other performers seeking sums of a few thousand." The suits were eventually settled out of court.
In Paris is Burning, one of the standout moments is when Dupree rips the wig off her head and yells "Butch, Queen!" to the judges. Fierceness 501 from a true ballroom icon. Watch that scene, Dupree on the microphone in her "Paris is Burning 1991" ball and a memorial video AFTER THE JUMP...