Honoring The Memory Of Poppi Kramer Reminded Me Of The Power Of Community

Lights like Poppi Kramer never go out.

Poppi Kramer was a legend. A comedian. A fixture of the West Village!

And, most pressingly, a best friend and family member to a slew of magnetic New Yorkers.

Which is why hearts were collectively crushed when she passed away on July 27th, 2018. The culture in Manhattan seemed to dim a little when the news of her sudden passing circulated throughout our community.

However, I believe in the deepest depths of my lesbian little heart that lights that burn as brightly as Poppi Kramer never truly go out.

courtesy Poppi Kramer

All of us who attended the first annual fundraiser to benefit Gilda’s Club NYC at Midtown West’s event venue “Hudson Terrace.” in Kramer’s honor (accurately named the “OOOHHHH POPPI Show” and hosted by the fierce-force-of-nature with a heart of gold, Danielle Millet-Stanziale) felt the bright energy of Poppi enter our hearts throughout the incredible evening.

In fact, the legacy and light of Poppi filled the entire space and made its way through the city and into the universe.

The evening was a beautiful smash, executed in true, authentic cabaret-style—the eclectic kind of variety show that one can only find in the dynamic city of New York.

*All photographs by Johanne Millet-Stanziale.

The night featured Poppi’s favorite comedians, singer-songwriters, cabaret performers, and drag queens who kept the audience both laughing and weeping (I mainly wept, if I’m being real) from 7:30 PM till 10:30 PM. The glittery talent included the likes of Ariel Sinclair, Brandon Cutrell, Brandy Rowell, Ruby Roo, Maria Gentile, William TN Hall, Kayla King, Deena Sydney, Anne Steele, John Bronston, Jeni Aaron, Joe Devito, Jody Wassermann, Keith Price, Rena Zager, Danny Cohan, Melissa Driscol, Adam Chandler, Nancy Witter, Jared Fried, David Hodorowski, Hillary Schwartz, Danny McWilliams, Shecky Beaglemann, Maureen Langan, Shanna Sharp, Brian Nash, and Kramer’s sister Jenny who called event producer and host Danielle Millet-Stanziale to the stage. 

The show was brilliant and attained the very unique, sacred intensity that only something fueled by deep love can possess. I believe that powerful performance is all about having a reason to sing your heart out, to joke your heart out, to speak your heart out, and I could feel the strong, passionate objective of honoring Poppi Kramer pulsing through every single performer’s set.

One aspect of the event that really stood out to me was the sense of unified community among the attendees. Kramer clearly resonated with such a gorgeously diverse range of members in our community. There was a slew of old-school Manhattan eccentrics, baby dykes who worshipped her as she held court behind the bar at Stonewall, comics of every stripe and style, gay men, queer kids, and fabulous New York women. And in such a divisive moment in our history, it felt magical to all be in one room together as a community feelin’ nothing but love.

Truthfully, I didn’t know Kramer on the level in which so many of my loved ones and friends did. Yet, I was still viscerally gutted when I heard the news of her passing. I didn’t have to know her well to feel the loss; Kramer was one of the great characters in our community. She was the face behind the bar, the comic that cracked us all up when we were having shitty days at our dismal job, the funny girl you could always find traipsing around the village. In essence, she was the kind of entity that makes the village, the village. The kind of entity that holds a community together. The kind of entity that made girls like me proud to be gay and fierce and expressive.

I left the event reminded of how utterly important it is to, despite our differences in thought and identity as a community, stick together. To look out for each other. To hold each other. Because community is really just another word for family, isn’t it?

Maybe we don’t share blood-lines, but, in a way, we share something equally as deep: We share the experience of navigating a tough, homophobic world side by side. That’s some powerful shit, you know?

“This event was probably one of the hardest events I had to do over 15 years,” Danielle Stanzielle tells GO. “This was my heart and soul with added tears. But, I wanted to celebrate Poppi as who she was. As she made everyone laugh and sing for joy. This event represented her life and came alive for honoring her. I vow to keep this going throughout the years. She will live on.”

May Poppi Kramer live on, and may we laugh and sing for joy in her honor and the honor of the rest of the city kids, aspiring comics, and baby gays to come for the rest of our lives.

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