True to her name, San Antonio drag queen Shady Lady rolled across the line between glamour and camp, impressing some fans with her classic style and singing, while rousing others with down and dirty antics.
Javier Martinez, who entertained thousands across Texas as Shady Lady for more than 40 years, becoming a local legend at nightclubs such as Pegasus and Heat, died Friday of complications from diabetes. He was 66.
Throughout her long career, Shady Lady won pageant titles such as Miss Gay Texas US of A 1990 and Miss Texas Continental Plus. She held residencies in Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Valley clubs and participated in drag and LGBTQ-oriented events outside of the nightclub scene, including Gay Fiesta. In 2015, she was one of the grand marshals of the San Antonio Pride Parade.
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Shady Lady often performed classic pop songs such as “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra and Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever.” She also regularly sang songs by Spanish artists such as Rocío Dúrcal.
“What initially attracted me to her was when she did her Mexican ranchera songs,” said Peter Morales III, a former nightclub DJ and decades-long friend. “Everything down to the makeup to the hair to the dresses, it was all Mexican class.”
Those who frequented her shows knew Shady Lady made the most tips when she performed her signature move: rolling on the ground to the tune of “Dunkie Butt” — commonly known as “Let Me Ride That Donkey” — by 12 Gauge. This, of course, earned her the nickname San Antonio’s Roly Poly.
“When you heard that song, you knew she was going to roll,” said former coworker and friend Desiree Brooks. “And the more money people pulled out to tip her, that was the encouragement for her to roll.”
Outside of the spotlight, Shady Lady lived a humble life as Javier Martinez. Originally from McAllen, he spent much of his down time at his South Side home, where he collected limited edition Barbie dolls, hosted meals with friends and spent as much time as he could with his mother, Juanita, until her death several years ago.
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He was single and had no children, but many local drag queens and members of the San Antonio LGBTQ community looked up to Martinez as a father and/or mother figure.
“A lot of people can say when they went to the bar, Shady made them feel like it was home,” Morales said. “She had that power and strength to change their world.”
As he got older, performing as Shady Lady became harder for Martinez because diabetes began to affect his mobility. While accounts differ as to when exactly he hung up his wigs for the last time, his final club appearance was Oct. 29, 2017. Though she was not in drag for the occasion, Shady Lady’s persona was in full effect when she came out to entertain the crowd gathered at Pegasus for a Sunday evening drag show one last time.
Morales was at Martinez’s side when he died Friday morning at University Hospital.
“(Shady Lady) is the last member of the original Saint show cast (which included the late Erica Andrews), so losing Shady is like the end of an era,” he said. “Her motto was, ‘If you want to be respected in this world, respect other people and love everybody.’ And that’s what she did.”