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Sylvester, 40; 'Disco Queen' Dies of AIDS

December 19, 1988|ROBERT WELKOS | Times Staff Writer

Sylvester, a popular soul-rock singer often referred to as San Francisco's Disco Queen, has died of complications from AIDS. He was 40.

The falsetto singer, who one San Francisco critic said went from "drag infamy to hit records without giving up his gowns," publicly acknowledged last month that he had the deadly disease. He died Friday.

Once an icon to San Francisco's night life, Sylvester's image changed to that of a gay man struggling against acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

He joined gay pride organizations and even appeared in a parade seated in a wheelchair because he was too weak to walk.

Born and raised Sylvester James in Los Angeles, he gained fame as a youngster singing gospel music in Southern California.

In 1977, Sylvester achieved success with two recordings with the backup singers Two Tons O' Fun. Another album, "Step II," remained high on the charts for many weeks.

As the years passed, Sylvester stubbornly kept to his dance-oriented style.

As one critic put it in a 1985 Los Angeles Times review: "Disco may be dead, but Sylvester's allegiance to it isn't."

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