Disco Legend Sylvester Remembered With Musical and Rainbow Honor Walk Plaque

Max Redfern/Redferns
Sylvester performing in the UK.

It’s been almost 26 years since disco legend Sylvester passed away, but his legacy is having a huge moment right now. As the curtains prepare to open tonight (Sep. 5) on Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical, an off-Broadway musical in New York, visitors to San Francisco’s Castro District are enjoying the late singer’s newly-unveiled space on the Rainbow Honor Walk. He is the only musician to be a part of the latter, a hall of fame type series of plaques honoring gay icons such as Oscar Wilde and Frida Kahlo.

Mighty Real creators Anthony Wayne (who wrote, directed and stars in the musical) and Kendrell Bowman (co-director and costume designer), who are partners in life as well, draw deep inspiration from how Sylvester lived his life.

“I think we live in an era now where it’s all about being free and being yourself, and Sylvester was a trailblazer for that,” says Wayne. “Before there was RuPaul, before there was Adam Lambert, there was Sylvester. And so we’re really excited to bring this forward because the moral of this show is to know that you can leave up out of this theater being yourself and to know that yourself is more than enough, just like Sylvester did. The time period is now for this story to really be out there.”

“From the music standpoint, I think people are getting tired of the same type of music that’s in our generation right now,” adds Bowman. “People are not making music that really makes you feel good, that when you turn on the song it really makes you want to dance and feel good about life. So now, with all the social issues that are going on with the world, this is [bringing back] an era that made people feel good and without any problems in life.”

The timing of this coast-to-coast recognition is simply serendipitous, not the result of strategic planning. Wayne and Bowman reveal that they learned about Sylvester just a few years ago, when TV One aired a documentary about the singer in 2011. And the Rainbow Honor Walk has also been more than three years in the making.

 Sylvester Rainbow Walk

“I certainly think Sylvester has been given love and recognition in many ways since his untimely passing,” says Sergio Fedasz, a DJ and event promoter who will hold his third annual tribute to Sylvester in San Francisco on September 6 via his club night Go BANG! “Understandably, since he has been an icon for free expression and gay liberation, he was one of our great icons who sadly succumbed to the symptoms of AIDS, and he was so vital in San Francisco's disco heritage including Hi-NRG, which is a predecessor of house music. He's been appreciated for a good while. But I think that since the anniversary of his passing was 25 years ago last year, which prompted reissues and a more widely-popular recognition of his accomplishments, this has led to a fortunate coincidental grouping of circumstances this year.”

Fedasz has put together a mix of his favorite Sylvester tunes and looks forward to continuing his event each year. “As more time passes and more learn about him or are reminded of him in a greater context, his legacy and influence will continue,” he asserts. “And as someone who has been inspired and whose party is based in large part on the legacy which Sylvester has left behind, I couldn't be happier.”

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