Aug. 9, 1976 – Feb. 5, 2021
Lorenzo R. Blaylock, former model and exotic dancer, died Feb. 5 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 44.
Blaylock grew up on Detroit’s East Side but his father served in the military, so Blaylock moved frequently during his formative years. He graduated from Seventy-First High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1995. Blaylock moved back to Detroit after high school and soon he began working as a dancer.
He auditioned to dance first at the Rainbow Room, but it was at Tony Miller and Dan Smith’s Off-Broadway East on the city’s East Side that Blaylock, who was dancing under the stage name Panther, quickly found a following. In the late ’90s and early ’00s, Panther was among the most popular African-American dancers and entertainers on the LGBTQ+ scene along with Rob “Dazzler” Haines and Ty “Tiger” Greer.
“When I think of Panther, I think of a time in Detroit’s entertainment history where male exotic dancers were abundant,” said Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit and former publisher of Kick magazine and board member of Hotter Than July/Detroit Black Gay Pride. “Panther was very free in his physical expression. He was always polite, always a gentleman. He was a very popular guy and very handsome, too.”
Anthony Winn, the founder of Strongarm Productions, frequently featured Panther at parties he hosted.
“Panther was one of our premier, most requested dancers at our Strongarm parties,” Winn said. “The history of our business partnership was both long and very strong. While his performance skills were without question, his kindness and humility is what stood out about him the most. I appreciated both his professionalism and, away from business, his friendship.”
After several successful years, Blaylock left Detroit. He lived for a time in New York and also Atlanta, where he continued to model and dance. He also performed at various LGBTQ+ Prides across the country and on LGBTQ+-themed cruises. Eventually, though, he returned to Detroit.
Blaylock attended Wayne State Community College and became a certified nursing assistant. He also attended culinary school and learned how to cut hair.
“He was real creative,” said his best friend Reggie Dior. “He’d get bored. He liked to make things, decorations, little things around the house.
“He was very giving,” Dior continued. “He was really sweet, really dependable. No matter what you needed, if you needed somebody to help with anything he was always there. He was very loyal. Sometimes loyal to a fault to the point that I’d get upset with him. He loved to laugh. He was very funny. He loved scary movies, and he loved his family.”
Damon Percy knew Blaylock for more than two decades.
“What I want people to know about Lorenzo is that he was a gentleman’s gentlemen; one of the best friends you could ever have. He was like my little brother. Besides being one of the most beautiful men ever, he was kind, loving and real. As Panther, the sexiest male dancer of our community, he was one of the best male entertainers and dancers of the LGBT community in the ’90s and cemented his status as a legend. His presence should never be forgotten.”
Arrangements for Blaylock are being handled by the James Cole Funeral Home, located at 16100 Schaefer Highway in Detroit. Viewing is from 12 to 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19. A funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. To view the service live, go to livestream.com/jameshcole.
An earlier version of this article stated that Blaylock first lived in Detroit’s Boston-Edison Historic District and then moved to the East Side. But while he moved to the Boston-Edison Historic District while still a kid, Lorenzo was technically originally from the East Side. We have updated the article and regret the error.