‘True icon’: Newcastle drag legend Glenda Jackson dies

Newcastle drag queen Glenda Jackson
Image: Facebook

Newcastle drag legend Glenda Jackson has passed away, her loved ones have announced.

Longtime friend Ian Tufrey announced on Glenda’s Facebook page the drag icon, who performed for more than 50 years, had died this morning (May 27) after a battle with cancer.

“He passed away at 7.50am this morning in his sleep at the Mater Hospice surrounded by a number of very close friends including Heinz, Doris, Laurie, Diane, Philip and his brother-in-law Duffy,” Ian wrote.

“Rest in peace our dear, dear friend.”

Ian said details were to come about a memorial service at Glenda’s beloved local Carrington Bowling Club, with a tentative date of Saturday, June 23.

For many years, the drag performer hosted her Big Balls Bingo at that club.

Glenda Jackson started at Newcastle’s Star Hotel

Glenda first donned full drag in the early 1970s in the “steel city” of Newcastle, inspired by the iconic Les Girls she saw in Sydney.

In a 2022 podcast interview, Glenda recalled her earliest days in drag at her hometown’s Star Hotel.

Glenda said the owners gave her and her fellow showgirls a small alcove to perform in “next to the men’s toilets” in the pub’s gay bar.

“I used to wear a bikini set, diamante in the navel and a little feather thing, and do a number,” Glenda recalled.

“We packed the place. Because they could see that we could do shows… we got shifted up to the dining room upstairs.

“We had a cabaret upstairs… We used to bring the house down.

“It was a mix of straights and gays. We got on with everybody. It was a novelty in the late 60s, early 70s.”

Glenda Jackson would perform across Newcastle at numerous venues for over 50 years, until her last performances last year.

Tributes flow for Glenda Jackson

After the sad news emerged, hundreds of people posted tributes to Glenda Jackson on social media.

Friends and punters acknowledged Glenda as a “true local icon” and “Newcastle’s number one diva”.

The Newcastle Pride Festival team posted a moving tribute to their “dear friend” online.

“Today we say farewell to a legend, a friend, an amazing drag performer and drag mother to many over generations,” they wrote on Facebook.

“Glenda Jackson an icon and pioneer in the LGBTQIA+ community performing in venues across Newcastle and beyond to audiences of all ages.

“She was always ready to jump in to perform at fundraisers, birthday parties, private functions [as well as] her famous Big Balls drag bingo.

Photos of Newcastle drag queen Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson in the 1970s (left).

“She brought the feathers and sequins to every performance. ‘Tits and feathers,’ she would say. Always the professional, her performances are legendary.

“The team at Newcastle Pride are blessed for having Glenda work with us for years. She will forever be a part of our history and always be in our thoughts.

“It’s the final curtain call for this showgirl, so kick off those stilettos. It’s time to rest.”

‘She inspired me to be who I am’

Her drag daughter, performer Sandy Bottom, wrote a moving tribute to Glenda.

“I was lucky to have someone like Miss Glenda Jackson in my life,” Sandy wrote

“We spent many an hour dancing, singing and making me learn the bloody words to those show songs.

“Most of all, she inspired me to be who I am and not pretend to be someone I’m not.

“Enjoy the next part of your journey as those bastards in heaven will love you as much as we do.”

Another tribute read, “Glenda was a one of a kind gorgeous, talented, beautiful soul. She will be very missed.”

“Here’s to you Glenda. I’ll raise this this glass of wine this afternoon to you for helping me coming out in the 80’s,” another said.

“She was an absolutely fabulous soul who brought light into our lives and so much joy,” someone else wrote.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

1 Comment

  1. 27 May 2024

    Another legend gone, she will be truly missed such a beautiful person. May she rest in peace  Glen/Glenda Jackson

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