Amazing Stacy: How sweet the sound(s)

"DJ" Stacy Ledwith. Photo By Shea Carmen Swan

Anastasia (Stacy) Ledwith, October 29, 1966 – March 2, 2024.

On March 2, 2024, we lost a beloved member of our community, Anastasia C. Ledwith, known to thousands as DJ Stacy. Stacy, 57, was riding her scooter home from a gig at 2:45am when she suffered a fatal accident. She tragically died just steps from the apartment she shared with her wife Valerie Perez, whose love inspired her to live her best and most purposeful life.Stacy was an integral member of both the GO and NYC Nightlife communities, and was revered by so many of us. Stacy’s energy, music, and kindness touched the lives of thousands. She will be forever remembered as unequivocally authentic and a most loving friend, with a childlike exuberance for everything she did.For over two decades, Stacy graced us with her vibrant presence, her infectious laughter, and her boundless love. She wasn’t just a DJ; she was a force of nature, a guiding light, and a true friend.

“She was so passionate about making music and she was committed to creating a community out of a room [full of] strangers,” recalls Amy Lesser, Publisher of GO Magazine. “Her enthusiasm was infectious. And her friendship and loyalty were limitless and unconditional.”

Those who knew her were in awe of her tenacity and grit, the hardest working person bar none in the nightlife circuit. When life threw her a curveball, Stacy never allowed herself to stay down. Instead, she turned the toughest of times into a launch pad that propelled her to new pathways, then lifted others up along the way.

A pillar in the architecture of queer society, Stacy came up when the Lesbian-chic nightlife scene was flourishing in the 90’s; then spun her way into the collective invigoration marked by the debut of The L Word in 2004, when the airwaves pulsed for the first time with a series dedicated to lesbian stories and the city exploded with massive events just for the girls.

She was there, at every venue, welcoming newcomers with open arms and spinning tunes that filled the dance floor with joy. Her DJ booth was not just a place to play music; it was a sanctuary, where she shared her love for music and her love for life with all who entered.

But beyond her talent and her music, Stacy was a friend. She had a way of making everyone feel like they were the most important person in the room, showering them with affection and kindness. Whether it was her trademark bear hugs that enveloped you like a warm embrace, or her playful antics of placing a napkin on your head or talking into her shoe, pretending it was a phone, while saying, ‘Listen to me, listen to me,’ Stacy had a gift for making people feel loved and cherished.

She was the kind of friend who would drop everything to be there for you, who would lift you up when you were down, and who would always have your back.

We humbly, lovingly, dedicate this issue of GO to our friend, Stacy Ledwith.

Dedication by Margaret Hetherman and Coco Obayda.

It began with vinyl

Stacy loved music from the very beginning of her life. She grew up in Wading River, Long Island, listening to the music her mom and three aunts played – from Donna Summer to Classic Rock.

When she was young, a neighbor showed her how to work turntables, unknowingly sparking a lifelong love affair. After begging her parents for equipment, her father made her a deal and bought two turntables, a mixer, amp and speakers; in exchange, she gave him ten percent from every gig until she paid him back. Stacy mixed records at Wading High School dances and by 16, was spinning at local bars and clubs and even topless strip joints on Long Island and Queens. She landed her first gig at a gay club in the 80’s at Sizes in Bay Shore, spinning for the boys downstairs and upstairs at Cats, the venue owned by Jacqué Piazza.

Staying true to her childhood perseverance, Stacy’s career catapulted past a series of challenges in her early 20s, including that period in the 80’s and 90’s when the “anything goes” culture had people doing lines right off the table.

Her recovery set the tone for how she would take on the decades ahead: Stacy was always going to be okay because she was a survivor.

“She was always able to pick herself back up and go on to the next thing,” says Vicki Hogan, 40, her god-daughter and cousin who looked up to Stacy like a big sister. Vicki credits her for infusing her with a sense of empathy and desire to make sure that everyone feels like they belong.

“The fact that she was able to be as light – and full of light and full of love and generosity – and always welcoming to people, no matter who they were, was a testament to who she was in her soul.”

Stacy would go on to become a beloved fixture at our community’s most iconic venues, from Henrietta Hudson to Rubyfruit/RF Lounge where she would breathe magic into its very survival. She would light up Slate and Webster Hall, spin Asbury Park, the White Party in Miami, and The Dinah in Palm Springs. The most prominent promoters wouldn’t cut a deal unless Stacy came with – she rocked LoverGirlNYC, girlNATIONNYC, LESBO-A-GO-GO, and massive Pride events; all the while, bartending and managing restaurants. It was not unusual for her to finish up at 4am at Stonewall and take a morning ferry to Fire Island, where she held an 18-year DJ residency at the venue that she adored most: Cherry’s on the Bay.

Her ascension into nightlife began at age 26. While on the cusp of the new millennium, she grabbed every opportunity that came her way. She put her eyes to the lens as a camera person for NY1 and the Food Network, supplementing the DJ work she did at parties and charities on the side. Her energy and ability to connect with people were beginning to shine along with a budding reputation as a DJ who created an atmosphere of non-stop fun, and who lived to see her clients happy.

She reconnected with Jacqué Piazza in the 90’s when they ran into each other at Fire Island staple, Ice Palace at The Grove Hotel; Jacqué went on to own Cherry’s on the Bay, and in 2007, Stacy made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“Give me a chance…”

“I’m a really good DJ! Give me a chance, my friend!” Jacqué Piazza remembers the day Stacy approached her at Cherry’s on the Bay. “And I did,” Jacqué says.

“I stayed with her the whole time in the booth that day, and whatever days Stacy spun at Cherry’s, I spent at least half the gig in that booth with her – for eighteen years.” Stacy did the music, and Jacqué did the lights from inside the booth. They simply loved being together. “We both enjoyed music. We shared music. She taught me a lot.”

“I used to ask all my DJs, ‘What is your go-to song if nobody’s dancing?”, Jacqué says. Stacy’s was Whitney Houston’s, “I Want to Dance With Somebody.”

The energy on the dance floor turned every bad day into a good one, both for Stacy and those who packed the space to hear her spin. “And the cutest little thing: people would throw money in the booth and say, ‘Play this!’ If the beats didn’t line up right then to mix in the song, she’d always tell them to take the money back.” A rarity among DJs. But Stacy never played for herself.

Restauranteur John Greco remembers how Stacy soared at the turn- table on Fire Island. “She really came alive out there. She was in her element and it was like seeing Elton John at the piano…That was Stacy behind that DJ booth.”

The RF Whisperer – The unlikely broker who helped save a West Village staple

Stacy had been DJing and bartending at Hudson Street bar and eatery Rubyfruit Bar, when the establishment began experiencing financial difficulties before closing around 2007. She continued working despite virtually empty pockets that left it impossible for her to pay her rent. As long as she had a pack of cigarettes in her pocket and food in her cat’s bowl, she was content. But an idea was brewing.

Annetta Budhu first met Stacy in 2006 at the Cubbyhole, the always kitschy, always packed, magical West Village neighborhood Queer bar. They both knew longtime owner, Tanya Saunders. Stacy, with her unwavering resolve, set her eyes on the prize: an opportunity to secure herself with the help of a deep-pocketed friend. Annetta laughs, “She was looking for me.”

“You know, I work at the Rubyfruit Bar,” the DJ told Annetta. “Well, it’s not doing well. It’s going to close down. And I know you’re a successful person, and you should do something for the community.” Annetta knew nothing about bars and said so, but Stacy was not deterred.

“Another time, she followed me to Cubbyhole and said, ‘I need to talk to you…maybe you can take over the bar, you know, give me a job there.’” By this point, Stacy was basically couch surfing and Annetta empathized with her plight. It would be risky, but the British Guyanan native had the savvy and the means. Annetta asked her close friend and now potential competitor Tanya Saunders about it, and Saunders gave her blessing. The seed that Stacy planted was about to sprout.

“I’m going to rebuild this bar, and I’m going to call it RF Lounge – give it credit for the legacy of Real Friends now,” Annetta decided. She named Stacy the manager and helped her find an apartment. True to the bounce-back ethos that colored her days, Stacy stepped through the door that opened and took off, engines full-throttle.

“She became a prominent person, because she always had that goodness within her.” Annetta reflects. “…I saw a gentle kindness in her. She was an honest, happy person.”

DJ Stacy On The Red Carpet At GO’s 2016 Nightlife Awards. She Took Home The Prize For Best House DJ. Photo By Shea Carmen Swan.

“And she [would] always say, I love you. I love you” – a remembrance echoed by so many – the way she’d end a conversation and exit every door. “She gives freely because she really means it – that’s the person that she is.”

They became an inseparable duo. Stacy bought them matching helmets so they could scoot around town together. One time, Stacy set out to buy them a trike scooter and spent $1,500 on what she thought was a deal – only to get scammed with a remote-controlled car that came in the mail. “That’s our special story,” Annetta laughs lovingly.

For a time, RF was a very successful venture – an intimate and upscale destination for both locals and tourists in search of a good time. Stacy played for them, never for herself – a masterful characteristic she carried through her career. She and Annetta had their own favorite song: Black Eyed Peas, “I Got a Feeling.” When Annetta walked into the bar, Stacy cranked the volume. With Stacy in the house, it was always “going to be a good, good night…”

The two remained dear friends even when Stacy ended her RF run after three years. In 2011, it was time for new ventures. A world of possibility opened for the DJ, who had also been managing restaurants for the past decade. She’d since met Val, and with the support of the love of her life, she took a leap of faith into the wine business.

“She Loved Connecting with People”

In 2000, Master Chef John Greco had just set up Posh in Hell’s Kitchen when Stacy walked in one day, eager to DJ. “I’m going to do great for the business!” John didn’t know her, but took a chance. From day one, she was on point. It was the beginning of a 24-year working relationship and ever-deep-ening friendship.

Over the years, as her ambitions expanded, she took on bartender and manager roles at his establishments, including Philip Marie in the West Village, Bamboo52 and sports bar 1 2 3 Burger Shot Beer. She sold him wine when she started with wine importer Jacques Azoulay, a connection that happened, oddly enough, through The Real Housewives of New York.

Stacy had been managing AOA Bar and Grill when RHONY’s Ramona Singer – in the wine business – was making a sale at the establishment. They became friends, and Ramona introduced Stacy to Jacques Azoulay, ex-boyfriend of RHONY’s Luann de Lesseps and owner of Gabriella Fine Wines. It was a time in her life that wife Valerie likens to running, running, running and falling back, then finally getting her speed. “And she was in first place,” says Val, who supported Stacy while she found her stride.

In no time, the DJ was developing client relationships, showing them a great time, working alongside Jacques. The wine importer remembers Stacy as a go-getter, who was very exciting to work with because of her dynamic personality.

“She embraced the idea of connecting with people,” Jacques recalls. “She was always finding ideas. She wanted the clients to be happy.” Sure, there were the rare humorless few who might have been put off by the likelihood that she’d call you “Babe” two minutes after meeting you. But most people adored her. She always had a great story or joke – her laughter, remembered as “explosive,” filled every room.

“Other people saw her heart and joy of life, and they just had a good time with her,” Jacques says. Team meetings with her were like sitcoms, and she loved to purposely mispronounce the names of Burgundy wines to annoy him. “You couldn’t get mad at her because she was just too much of a happy soul.”

John Greco echoes the spirit of friendship. “I supported her because she was always there for me. She was a pure friend,” he says. “No matter when things were really bad. She always came up with a brighter side to look at.” He could always pick up the phone and call her: “‘Stacy, I need you. Now.’ Whatever it was – emotional support, business support, a hand behind the bar, a DJ…Stacy would always be there for me with a smile on her face…she watched my back like nobody else would.”

The DJ Comes with ME

Danielle Stanziale of the acclaimed and long-running weekly girl party girlNATION hadn’t always been a promoter in the queer space. Twenty years ago, she was working the straight scene, when a friend suggested she start a lesbian bar and party. Danielle and partner Hana Love landed at Nation’s Bar in Midtown. The space was huge and possibly perfect. But one thing was missing: they didn’t have a DJ. As Danielle was bemoaning the fact over a happy hour with a friend, the music got her attention. It was fantastic!

“Wait a minute – who is playing right now?” Her ears perked. “This person was screaming, getting people to dance on the bar,”she remembers. “Who’s that?”

Her friend said, “That’s Stacy.”

“Well, get her to come over!”

When she heard what Danielle was looking to do, Stacy was immediately on board: “Hey, oh my God. You’re throwing a lesbian party here? Oh, my God. This is my dream. This is my dream!” Danielle told her it was her dream too, and Stacy exclaimed, “We’re gonna be friends forever!” And from that day forward, they were.

Thus, girlNATION was born. It was 2004 when Hana and Danielle launched the party as a weekly event, and the rest is history: Stacy mixing the best music from her booth eight feet up. Every weekend, a different vibe. It was everything you could imagine from one of the best lez parties in town ona Saturday: 500 women, 3 floors – shenanigans of all types, fistfights, women dancing on the bar, sex in the elevator, detectives who came to play but also had a list of people that could be arrested soon. Stacy was the center of it all, showering the scene with music, like confetti.

But it was not an easy thing to survive off DJ work alone. When Stacy needed more money for rent, Danielle and Hana stepped up to introduce her to other promoters in the city to make sure she got more gigs.

Stacy Lentz brought her into Stonewall. “And she was there forever,” says the fierce activist and founder of The Stonewall Gives Back Initiative. Lentz had gotten a call from Stacy when The Stonewall Inn, like so many other bars, was in trouble. “I needed the lesbians to rally and I needed the music. I needed promoters. I needed everything…” Lentz said. She wasn’t going to let Stonewall fall. And so Stacy became a resident DJ. One of the best they’ve ever had.

In addition to a work ethic that had Stacy spending up to 20 hours a week doing prep in advance of the next Saturday’s gig, Lentz remembers admiring how Stacy could take a song she heard on the radio and make it her own – whether Katy Perry or Rihanna. “She played it in a way that you’d never heard before…She mixed pop music songs to make them sound different and make you want to get out of the chair.”

Close friend, Hollybeth Plowman met Stacy at Nation 20 years ago….“I was there the first time she DJ’d, and she lit it up.”

One industry night back in the day, Stacy invited her pal up to throw on some CD’s. “She had her own party in that booth,” Hollybeth recalls that night vividly, all the way down to the sticky turntables– Hana Love’s spilled Cosmo, the culprit. Stacy shared her music with “Hollaback” – gave her everything to get started on a 3-year hardcore DJ run. Hollybeth gets goosebumps thinking about the generosity between three of the preeminent girl DJs at the time – DJ Susan Levine, DJ Stacy, and DJ Mary Mac who shared their music together. “That’s how you pull each other through success, through music. Because music is the love of life, and that’s what Stacy told me.”

Coco Obayda, who met Stacy at girlNATION over 20 years ago, says, “she was so much more than the music; she was the heartbeat of the party, the soul of the dance floor, and the life of the celebration.” Stacy served as Coco’s resident DJ when Coco produced the events West End Girls at HK Lounge and Stardust at the Out Hotel. It was at these events that Coco watched in awe as Stacy brought “her unparalleled talent and infectious energy to each event…Stacy’s DJ sets were legendary, her energy infectious, and her presence electrifying.”

The ladies always had her back…and she had theirs

Stacy’s loyalty and ability to forge powerful, lasting connections catapulted her through many doors and left her with an iron-strong community. When Danielle joined renowned promoter Kate Frawley as a partner for the immensely successful annual Pride Party, Pier Pressure, she was adamant that they hire Stacy as a DJ. “You hire me, you hire Stacy.” Kate remembers Stacy as an exceptional entertainer devoid of the ego issues and competitiveness that can plague so many in nightlife as they battle for gigs and recognition. “She was so talented and so generous. She collaborated with other DJs without hesitation. She loved to teach and she loved to learn. She was one of a kind.”

Wearing her heart on her sleeve, it was also impossible for Stacy to hide her shameless fandom. “She would wildly, inappropriately, go up to celebrities and ask for a picture to be taken, and make a production,” Amy Lesser recalls. “Management would shoot her down. Then [the celebs] would come back days later like, ‘Where’s Stacy?’” Danielle remembers how Stacy had photos with Sting, the whole Z100 crew, and how Stacy brought Elvis Duran to her Bachelorette party. “She won everyone over,” Hollybeth says of her fun-loving friend, “she was a sensitive little bean.”

Danielle will never forget how Stacy was there for her after her father died. “When I walked into my father’s funeral [my watch] stopped at that moment…1:15pm.” Danielle continued to wear that watch and Stacy eventually noticed that it was perpetually stuck at the same number. She hugged Danielle, and told her that she loved her. They cried together. “You have to take the watch off,” Stacy said, removing her own watch to give to her grieving friend. “You’re holding on to a time that doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Once you knew Stacy, you just became family,” says Mel Albaladejo. Now in her 40’s, Mel met Stacy during a tough time when she was coming out and was laid off from a marketing job. Stacy introduced her to the owner of Stonewall where she was spinning, and Mel was immediately hired. Fifteen years later, Mel is still there. She treasures memories of “the most ridiculous fun silly things” they did – like when Stacy rode the coin-operated kiddie machine motorcycle for a quarter in Brooklyn. She’ll miss “that stupid f-ing laugh,” her tone, endearing. “And just the randomness of her…she knew how to make a person smile.”

Grace Millo was part of a guitar duo at Rubyfruit when she met Stacy. “We all just hit it off. It was just a very close environment. And everybody loves Stacy.” When Stacy was managing AOA Bar and Grill and put on a Broadway brunch around 2016, she invited Grace to put on the musical she had been working on. “It was a huge success for me from that day and moving forward.” People who came that day became close friends, and also financial supporters. When she saw Stacy last, she told her what was happening with the show. “I’ve never forgotten how much she actually just helped me.”

Stacy’s last gig was at Brenda Walsh’s much-loved East Village bar, the Phoenix. When Brenda took over ownership, stamping her warmth and vintage posters to the hangout, she brought on DJ Stacy. It was a new lesbian night each Saturday – “Girls Night Out to Act Out” – featuring different DJs at Stacy’s side. Stacy described the new vibe to GO in 2011: “It’s downtown and east-side…I’ll always be there to greet everybody and I’m really excited about this new venture.”

Brenda remembers that Stacy was the DJ she just “had to book” for that opening. “She reminded me of myself. She never claimed to be more than she was. She was a strong, butch woman. She loved her community,” Brenda says. “She had such an impact on the crowd, her emotions were in her music, and she had such great diversity in her music. She loved playing for her audience and interacting with her audience. I loved her spirit, her humor, her craziness, and her openness to everyone. And like me, she could have a fiery temper. But, she would get mad and then forgive as quickly. She was one of a kind.”

Stacy Lentz remembers, “She became a part of the family. She wasn’t just a DJ, she was a personality as well as a DJ…” In a culture where DJs often had to prove themselves and walked on eggshells on a regular basis, Stacy was always welcomed back at the Phoenix; the bar’s Juke Box full of Stacy’s music will now be housed at 3 Dollar Bill in her memory.

Stacy died the night of the Phoenix reopening. The irony is not lost on those who knew her. “Because to me, she was the ultimate fucking phoenix,” says Stacy Lentz. “She always rose out of the ashes.”

“There was just something about Stacy”

Lisa Cannistraci, owner of Henrietta Hudson, saw how special Stacy was, like so many others did. Stacy worked at her bar from 2013 to 2023 with breaks in-between. “There was this kind of innocence about her. She had this tough kind of demeanor, but she was a teddy bear and she was a sweetie.” Henrietta Hudson has evolved with the times and now identifies as a “queer-human bar built by dykes.” “The young kids were very drawn to Stacy because Stacy is amazing, but also because this young generation of queers is really into those intergenerational experiences.”

After the bar’s post-Pandemic reopening in 2021, Stacy scored the Friday night resident DJ spot. “She was just about being there in the moment, and she liked to make people happy.”

When Gaby Rosales, 23, first started working at Hens, she noticed “Stacy was just always a good time – whether house music, or rap, or silly songs that were trending…she was always down to play whatever the people wanted.” Now a manager at the bar, Gaby has a great memory of a prank they played on the DJ. They told Stacy an influencer was there who really wanted to hear the theme song from their childhood cartoon, Arthur. So Stacy played it. The dance floor positively caught fire. “Everybody was so down because they were not expecting that [song] and everybody was having an amazing time.”

A lot of young people attended Stacy’s funeral. A hush seemed to fall over the world of nightlife and beyond after she passed. “She was definitely a big part of the framework of the West Village and Fire Island,” says Lisa. “… They knew her legacy. It felt more profound that she was gone, because they felt it while she was in the room with them.”

“The People’s DJ”

Brooklyn-based DJ/Producer, Peter Napoli first met Stacy while he was in middle school in Mineola. He was best buds with Stacy’s cousin, Vicki. Stacy was a young adult at the time – 17 years older – but inspired him as the first person in his life who was part of the LGBTQ+ community. “She was definitely one of the first figures in my life, who gave me a sense of normalcy – of being someone who’s gay and out and living their true self.” Their friendship took off in his early 20’s, after he became interested in spinning. She immediately set him up with equipment.

“She taught me how to mix, and different things about music and introduced me to the New York club scene a little bit.” Stacy was strict with him, making sure he learned how to do it the right way. “As a kid, I just remember her being very outspoken and outlandish and so much fun…a loudmouth and very much in your face,” he says affectionately. “I always love people like that…true to herself and unapologetic, full of confidence…and the first gay figure in my life that gave me some inspiration.”

Peter went on to a successful career, known for merging House, Techno and Latin percussion – often, billed alongside some of the industry’s top artists.

He still cherishes the playlist she gave him in 2010 to get him started with Beyonce (one of her faves), a Disturbia dance remix, Pussycat Dolls, Mary J. Blige and more. Her “vibrant personality and infectious energy” is all over the compilation – attributes Peter will miss the most.

Mila Polyak, aka DJ Monstar, met Stacy when she was about 19 years old – back when Stacy was spinning at Rubyfruit/RF. “I remember the first time I met her…how passionate she was and very lovely to interact with,” Mila tells GO. “I came up to the booth and requested a song, and she was like, ‘Absolutely, I’m gonna play it!’”

Though young, Mila managed to get into some clubs (we won’t tell) and, like Peter, was venturing into new rainbow territory. “I wanted to be part of the queer nightclub [scene] and experience that…it was like going to Toys R Us for first time,” she laughs. “You know, eyes wide and just like, oh my gosh!… and you’re just in astonishment that you’re finally in a safe place of community.”

As time went on, Mila started working in nightlife. “I would visit her at Stone- wall when she DJ’d and she would always, always wave to me and give me a hug.” Mila took to the turntables herself at age 21. They ended up having a residency together at Hens for years. Stacy opened, Mila closed. “We always had each other’s back,” and Stacy would often tell Mila, “I love you, my brother.”

Mila remembers Stacy as always dapper and put together – rocking a button down shirt or vest. How she could read a crowd, switch genres on a dime, always playing amazing tracks. Once, someone asked Stacy to play “Dance Monkey.” Stacy said, “I’ll write it on the wall so I don’t forget.” Mila says it’s probably still scrawled on the wall of the DJ booth at Hens.

Mila has a screenshot burned in her memory – the two of them behind the DJ booth, arm in arm, hopping and dancing. “That was her in her element. She was the salt of the earth of this community. She paved the way for other female DJ’s in the queer nightlife.”

Mila was shattered to hear of Stacy’s passing. “It was like losing a sibling…like someone you grew up with.” Her heart was in pieces to see Valerie – “the one Stacy always talked about. How much she would do anything for her. How much she loved her wife.”

People saw in Val and Stacy, the essence of love, and what love could be.

“Now everything is for us”

Photo Courtesy of Valerie Perez; Photo By Grace Chu; Photo Courtesy of Valerie Perez.

When Stacy met Valerie Perez and stepped into love, something shifted. “She became inspired, reinvigorated – with something so real to her, something so authentic and so good and pure. It changed everything. She was transformed,” recalls Amy Lesser.

The relationship was a near miss when the DJ got distracted by partying friends and went MIA for her first date with Val in 2008. Not in the habit of getting stood up, Val got her good – calling in to a radio show next day when Stacy happened to be on air, talking about the fun she had the night before, making chicken cutlets with friends and carrying on. “I’ll never be able to describe Stacy’s face in that moment,” a friend laughs.

Fortunately, Val was up for offering some early-stage grace. True to Stacy’s modus operandi, she took a second chance seriously – and knew Val wouldn’t stand for more nonsense.

It wasn’t long before their make-out sessions turned into a “circle of trust” that the two crafted together – to keep out the noise, to keep focus on their blossoming relationship, which occupied a space embedded in party culture. They were determined to do right by each other. Girls would throw themselves at Stacy in the booth, but Val never really feared for Stacy’s loyalty. She loved watching Stacy shine and in the earlier days and shared the “OMG what if they don’t dance?” butterflies. She enjoyed the perks of “being with the DJ” – getting called to the head of the line, flown to Palm Springs to spin for The Dinah. They had dreams of expanding their family of two.

It was a playful dynamic that Val likens to Ralph and Alice on the 1950’s sitcom, The Honeymooners. Stacy was Ralph, of course, and Val was Alice. “She’d come home with the latest scheme…Don’t get in trouble, Ralph,” Val would joke. “Ralph always felt that he wasn’t good enough for her, and he was always trying – which is always why he would get in trouble,” Val says. But she appreciated Stacy for the great good that was within her. “There were many times I had to break it down to her.” She would tell Stacy: “You are perfect. You are good enough.”

Stacy rose to the challenge of taking on her share of responsibility and all it took to build a solid, stable life with Val. She hustled for extra work to help with the mortgage, and they began to build a life together. Her portfolio of experiences continued to expand. She worked with ceaseless energy, spinning all the while. Relentless in her drive, Stacy forged the means to enjoy the type of travel she had never had dreamed possible – from staying at the El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico, a nod to Val’s heritage, to vacationing in Anguilla. “This is what you deserve,” Val assured Stacy. “If you work for it, this is what you deserve.”

Stacy and Val adored Cherry Grove where they had an apartment. They loved its sense of community and the ocean where they first found love. “Fire Island was our everything. We lived and breathed it…” Off-season, Stacy would get so excited looking forward to the summer that she’d start packing salt and pepper shakers in the winter. And they never packed for one; they brought for seven or eight because they knew they’d have neighbors up to eat and drink. “It was such a community, like our own little Melrose Place.”

Stacy had wanted to get married from day one. With the legality of marriage spreading across the map, Val gave serious thought to locking in real assurance that nothing could keep her from Stacy’s side. “God forbid, if something happened to one of us” – the fear that has haunted so many queer couples over decades and centuries past.

It had been an impromptu and intimate affair. Being in the events business, for Val, it was either going to be a huge party teetering on the edge of control, or something that felt easy and didn’t require a lot of prep. So, she called Stacy on a Friday in 2016 when she was scooting back from work. Reminded her to pick up some toilet paper on the way home. And by the way: “We’re gonna get married on Monday. We gotta go to City Hall!”

Stacy was a romantic until the day she left this earth. She showered Val with abundant expressions of feeling. Weeks after Stacy’s death, Val was still finding notes. She found one left in a bag that she had taken to Fire Island. There were notes in the medicine cabinet that Stacy had placed next to jars of creams. Everywhere, testaments of devotion.

“July fourth was our anniversary, but she would give me cards for every fourth [of every month] for the last 15 years. So I have a stack with cards like this…” Val demonstrates with her hands. “I saved most of them.” She pulls out one she found in a drawer.

“I love you. You’re the air that I breathe.”

After Stacy passed, she came upon a note that Stacy had written on the letterhead of the El San Juan Hotel, with roses, now dried.

“Valerie I love you with all of my heart. Our life together is such a blessing and a beautiful journey.”

Val has a card that Stacy wrote when they were trying to have a baby. “And when we have two children, we’re gonna move. I’m gonna buy us a big house.” Stacy was all in. Like the proverbial soldier returning from war, ready to do what she had to do for her- self, and absolutely for her wife But after a difficult one-year uphill battle, disappointment, and all the money used up for the venture, Val said she couldn’t do it any more. Stacy took to her side:

“Not a problem,” Stacy comforted her wife. “Now everything is for us.”

Turning Grief to Love

Stacy will always be remembered as someone who gave back more than she ever took from this world. She never left any- one without saying, “I love you.” In that raspy voice, a precious gruffster. Scent of cologne and cigarettes.

Hana Love says Stacy’s passing was a “huge loss to the community. [She] will always be in our hearts. There will never be another Stacy – a loving, caring, and awesome friend.”

“Memories to last a lifetime. So much love.” Annetta Budhu has been searching for a way to cope, though nothing will bring back the friend who used to tap her on the nose and say, “Think about it. Think about it.” The grief is immense. “If I don’t turn this grief into love, she will never go – and it’s time that I let her go, so she can get to her next journey out there in the heavens.”

“I’m not really a huggy loving person like Stacy,” says Cherry’s Jacqué Piazza. But in the wake of Stacy’s passing, she is grateful for a moment recently shared that will ring forever poignant. “She and I went into the booth, and I just looked at her, and I just put my arms around her and we both cried. I don’t know why.”

Jacqué is dedicating a new dance floor at Cherry’s to Stacy. She will script her name into the wood with her own hand.

On Father’s Day, June 16th, Cherry’s will host a dance party in Stacy’s honor. The mixes she enthusiastically curated on her laptop will be played from the speakers. While people dance, Val will take a small boat out on the bay and scatter Stacy’s ashes in the waves off of Cherry Grove. And when the day comes, Val will join her spirit in those waters.

“I can’t think of anything else that she would love more.”

MARGARET HETHERMAN is a Brooklyn- based Independent Journalist. Her work can be found in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Gothamist, Scientific American, Business Insider, and more.

My Stacy, With Love, From a Friend

“20 years of friendship gone like that. I had to say bye to one of my best friends.

A wonderful human being, she had this unconditional love for life. Her life was too short and taken too suddenly.

She loved people, she loved music, she loved Tito’s, she loved The Sopranos, she loved movies, she loved the Jets and the Mets, she loved her dogs Baby and Butters, she loved her wife, she loved her cousins, she loved her family, she loved her friends, and she loved me.

The last time Stacy was at my apartment, we were watching a movie, and she looked at me and laughed. I said, “what are you laughing at?” And she just said, “I love you man. I’m so happy you’re my best buddy, I just love you so much.”

The last time I saw Stacy, she was DJing in my neighborhood. She just came from seeing her aunt in hospice. She turned to me and said, “Holly, thank god for music. Thank god for friends and family and thank you for being here.”

Stacy told me that night, if anything were to happen to her, to make sure people knew she loved them and to make sure her life is celebrated with music and laughter.

Stacy, our friendship was silly and full of laughter. I’ll miss laughing with you, my friend. I’ll miss you putting your hand on my face saying “you so stooppid.” I’ll miss hearing you say “whhhaaatt” at the top of your lungs. I’ll miss the jokes. I’ll miss seeing you on the dock on Fire Island screaming, “Hollaback!”

I’ll miss seeing you dancing and DJing in the booth. I’ll miss you making me ride stupid rides in Coney Island that were half broken. I’ll miss hearing you yell at my dog from the stairs in my hallway, “Baxter! It’s Uncle Stacy!” I’ll miss your hugs. I’ll miss your support. I’ll miss your laugh! I’ll miss your love.
I will miss you always.

DJ Stacy, you “Listen to Me,” you watch over your friends and family, especially your wife Valerie. I hope you’re at peace and having a Tito’s on the rocks some- where with our friends.

I had the best time with you. We had a lot of fun; the memories are endless. Thank you for being my friend.

My best friend, my best bud, I love you Stacy C. Ledwith.

Rest in peace, you beautiful soul.”

-Hollybeth Plowman

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