SAM I AM WHAT I AM


Sam Singhaus died last night. Too soon. Too painfully. Unfairly.

Sammy wasn’t one to dwell on the pain of life. Joy was his domain. When Sam gave into anger, it was of the righteous variety. He rejected cruelty. He loved crinoline, which creates its own cloud. He didn’t get bogged down in the trivial. He chose trivia, which he hosted with incredible style.

Sam was an exceptional drag artist. Always smiling, leaving laughter and good times in his wake. He should’ve died suddenly, in an ironic way. Without suffering. Better to get run off the road by a semi-trailer full of pride flags. Were he here, I'd tell him cancer is obviously caused by the wearing of poodle cut, acrylic wigs. He would have howled, repeating the story, improving the joke each time. Making it his own.

Sam assumed everyone he loved knew each other which was mathematically impossible. Too many people loved him for the equation to work.

“Greg, I had lunch with Gretchen. You know how she can be.”

“I don’t know Gretchen.”

“Yes you do,” he’d say with an eye roll that could be heard over the phone. “The one-armed tattoo artist from Oviedo? She was at my show last week. You were two tables away from her!” leaving me to kick myself for missing my only chance to meet a one-armed tattoo artist from Oviedo.

Going to the home Sam shared for many years with his brother Steve & sister-in-law Marcy was like entering the world of Auntie Mame. Fabulous chaos, served up on a midcentury platter of fun. A place where anything could happen.

They had two huge poodles, a brother and sister they neglected to get fixed. The siblings mated and had inbred puppies. They kept one. “He's not the brightest boy, but he's so sweet.”

Lesson learned. Ignore judgment. Embrace joy. That big, stupid poodle was always happy. Sure, he’d walk into walls, but everyone did at Casa Singhaus. The drinks were just that good.

This week as Orlando held its breath, my friend Judy Marie posted a video of the 1983 Tony Awards, featuring Sam as Clo-Clo, an original Cagelle in the first Broadway production of La Cage aux Folles. Watching it for the first time since 1983, I remembered myself buried in the closet as those beautiful men performed “We Are What We Are”. They were braver and stronger than I could ever imagine myself being. Breathtaking. To know one of them. To have such a friend. What would that be like?

Then it happened.

Sam owned a bar called the Big Bang. The backroom was a black box theater. I’d come to see my friends in a play, intending to leave afterward. Instead we stayed when the theater surprised us by morphing into a dance floor. We closed the place drenched with sweat.

While walking to our cars a handsome man in Daisy Duke shorts rollerbladed up to us. It was Sam. We escorted him to the night deposit box as though we were Brink’s bodyguards protecting the night’s receipts.

Instead we were on the brink of a 30-year friendship.

If heaven is a talk show, and who’s to say it isn’t, the band was playing “I Am What I Am” when Miss Sammy entered last night. He lived that anthem. He saw life from a different angle. He loved each feather and each spangle. He understood there’s just one life and that it should be lived proudly, in the open. There was no room for Sam Singhaus in his closet. It was full of fabulous dresses. He was the Orlando Met Gala. A life lived exceptionally well.

Right now what I am, is sad. I’m trying to lead by my friend's example and let joy of knowing Sam outweigh my grief. I plan on facing this loss with a little guts, and lots of glitter, just as he taught me to do, long before I ever knew him.

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