Edie Franklin, a mainstay in Detroit’s drag scene for years, is set to be officially recognized for her contributions with the Living Legend award at the fourth annual Motown honors at Gigi’s Gay Bar on April 14.
“I feel like I earned that one,” Franklin, aka Eddie Rhodes, said. “It took a lot.”
Franklin first started performing at Gigi’s in 1972, when she was just 18 years old. Michael Swayze, the bar’s original owner, did Franklin’s makeup on her first night. The number was “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, and a star was born.
“At first, I was real nervous, because it was my first time getting up on the stage,” Franklin recalled. “But I had seen other entertainers before I got up there. Michael kept telling me, ‘You can do it. You can do it. It’s nothing to it. You know the song. Just go up and there and have fun.’ And that’s what I did – and everybody else had fun, too. The audience gave a great reaction.”
Swayze came up with Franklin’s stage name, paying homage to Franklin’s favorite, the queen of soul. Franklin became known for performing a lot of Aretha and also Donna Summer. In 1978, Franklin became the fifth official Miss Gigi’s and though she made her rounds all across Detroit and the Metro area, Gigi’s was her home bar. In 2004, she was crowned Miss Gigi’s Classic.
Now, more than four decades after she first started, Franklin is being given the Living Legend award.
“Edie was chosen as this year’s Living Legend because it was simply her year,” said El Ross, who co-created the awards with Brian Rodeo. “She brings a sense of class and elegance to the honor, and we are so pleased to be recognizing her this year.”
The Motown Honors
Ross and Rodeo originally created the group Men of Detroit, which focused on the city’s showboys. But soon after, the duo decided to expand and pay tribute to Detroit’s nightlife in a broader way and thus The Motown Honors were born.
“We sit and look at every person we consider,” Ross said. “We look at their body of work, the years they have been in the business, etc. Then we narrow it down. It’s a hard choice because we would love to honor everyone, but that just wouldn’t be right.”
Other honorees this year include Diva Cliché, Lifetime Achievement; LaToya Ross, Icon; Sabin, Trailblazer; Ka’Juan D. Hill, Humanitarian; and Jamar Boykins, Most Respected.”
Ross said she was “deeply honored to be recognized by many of my peers for my work in the gay community for over 30 years. I hope that I can continue for many years to be a positive influence in people’s lives.”
For his part, Hill, who has made a name for himself in recent years hosting the “Let’s Talk About It” podcast and acting as a hype man for parties around town, said he was touched to be called a humanitarian.
“I do the work that I do for people because I love it,” Hill said. “I care about my community on so many levels from mental health to sexual health to toxic relationships. I’m open about my stories in hopes of inspiring and motivating others. I never thought of myself as a humanitarian. I saw a need in the community, and I thought I could help.”
The Motown Honors takes place Sunday, April 14, at Gigi’s Gay Bar, located at 16920 W. Warren Ave. in Detroit. Doors open at 6 p.m., dinner is served at 6:45 and showtime is at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $10.