Thanks to Ron Sanford Productions, Jungle Atlanta and everyone involved with putting this together to celebrate Ashley’s wonderful life. I’m hoping to see you there! I’ll be in Nashville at the same time and am planning on making the drive down south to see dear friends, visit my old stomping grounds and remember great times shared with Ashley Kruiz. Take care of yourselves. X
It’s amazing how life is one way one minute and very different the next. It’s so very unpredictable and incredibly precious. But when it’s taken away from us unexpectedly is the time we treasure it most. The following post is a heartfelt tribute to my dear sister Ashley Kruiz who sadly passed away very recently after battling incredible illness. There’s so much I’ve wanted to say but have waited until now. I wanted to give myself a few days to process it all. With the recent passing of another amazing legend Erica Andrews, it’s given me and many others time to pause to appreciate life and celebrate for those who may no longer.
It’s hard to remember when I first met Ashley Kruiz but I know it was in Atlanta circa early-90s. I made a cute living during these years choreographing everything and everyone from Mr. and Miss Hotlanta pageants to local male strippers to Atlanta’s finest female impersonators including Shawnna Brooks, Heather Daniels, Lauren LaMasters, Raven, Tweeka Weed and Atlanta’s Darling, Ashley Kruiz, among others fabulous drag entertainers around the south.
One of the first memories I have of Ashley is when she and I shared a backseat to Bob Taylor who was driving Arianna Dupree to enter a pageant in Valdosta at Club Paradise. Coincidentally, Ashley was stepping down from the title. I’m not sure if there was air-condition in the car because I remember it being very uncomfortable and humid outside. The saving grace was a stop by Dairy Queen and everyone shared memories of Monica Munro who also loves a good Dairy Queen drive-by. Arianna won the title while Bob and I danced back-up to a Grease medley. Well, I think I was in it but am seeing Bob doing the bigger part in my mind. Pun intended.
Another trip to Orlando found us all piled up in the famous room #101 at the Parliament House sitting on the beds having a marvelous KiKi with Ashley, myself, Kimbol Purkerson, Bob and Tiffany McCray and not sure who else. We sure were laughing a lot. Anytime with the Kruizmaster was a BIG TIME! God, I miss her. When Bob called to tell me that they were allowing final visits at the hospital all I could say between the painful tears was, “This one hurts.” He sadly agreed. All of my memories of Ashley are wonderful ones. She was family to those who knew her best and inspired legions of entertainers by her confident walk, pageant prep, incredible accomplishments and approachable demeanor.
I must share one more fun story of Ashley Kruiz and I. It actually ranks right up there with one of the most humiliating times I’ve personally ever spent on a stage. I’ll get to the point… Picture it. Mr. Hotlanta ’99. My dear friend/former roomie Christy Lee was producing the contest and I was up from Ft. Lauderdale in support and to party. Well, Chris needed another contestant and I agreed to compete knowing good and well there would be muscle gods in the pageant so not to expect much. I looked good but had a completely different image from the other guys. I’m optimistic but realistic about what’s what. No Tea.
Ashley and my dear Tony Curtis were on the judge’s panel so I thought that it wouldn’t be so bad. After applying the white paint to my teeth that Ashley always swore by and shimmied into my costumes I was ready to go, bright smile and all! When it came to the Fantasy Costume category I decided to do Zorro with the cape, mask and whole gig. I also made the clothes rip-away to give it all some drama. For some apparent reason I believed in a haste that a piece of electrical tape between my legs would hold down my shirt in place before the big reveal. I came out and saw their friendly faces I felt like nothing could go wrong.
The music started and I begin to gyrate giving the kids the business. Well, I rip the costume off and I believe it’s all come off without a hitch. Underneath I had on chaps with my bare ass and a leather harness, master cap, et al. I bent over showing my ass (literally!) and acting quite foolish for the conservative Atlanta crowd. I had been to L.A. and was feeling my moment I admit. The look of horror on Tony and Ashley’s faces was priceless as I strutted off. The guys backstage congratulated me which was nice but when I reached down to remove my chaps I noticed the piece of black electrical tape was hanging on sadly between my ass cheeks. Humiliation, down. Laughter, now. Memories, priceless.
When Ashley hired me to choreograph her “Beauty and the Beast” production we were outside on the balcony at Backstreet having a cocktail late one Saturday night overlooking the parking lot and long line forming to get inside downstairs. After we talked over logistics and what she wanted, it was a deal that continued on through a good number of pageants. She always knew what she wanted and had the support team and followers to make it happen. I loved working with her every time. I would worship to hear Ashley say once more in her organic southern tone, “Hey, What’s going on?” or “Horrible” which always came out as Harrrrrrrable.
I loved seeing Ashley Kruiz compete in future contests after we finished our work together and notice a bit of my choreography she took with her from routine to routine. It made me feel like she truly loved what I did for her. Ashley was a fierce competitor. Kruiz placed first runner-up at many of the top systems’ nationals including Miss Gay USofA Classic, Miss Continental, National Entertainer of the Year (twice, I believe) and Miss Continental Elite. She was deservedly crowned Miss Hotlanta International, Miss Gay National ’99, Miss Renaissance ’09, Miss Gay Orlando and I believe was the only queen to be crowned Miss Gay Georgia USA, Miss Georgia Continental, Miss Gay Georgia National AND Miss Gay Georgia America. Quite the legacy of a life lived in the loving spotlight.
I do remember one time in Dayton, Ohio at Miss Gay USA (in these days there was no “of” between US and A) when I choreographed Ginger Manchester, Maya Douglas tore the house down and won the punchbowl while Ashley didn’t make the final cut and stood backstage crying in a friends arms. I was so sad for her. She seemed devastated. Kruiz went on to greater things and made her mark everywhere else. Ashley and I were actually in the same group at Miss Gay USA ’92 when Tandi Andrews won and I most certainly did not. We shared tons of memories which will stay forever.
Oh, my dear sister Ashley Kruiz. We knew each other so well. Even though time and distance grew between us, each and every moment we reunited was as if time had stopped since the last one and we picked right up as true family does. I’ll miss our chance encounters and will see you again one day. In my heart and soul you stay forever while the memories of laughter, lashes and late night madness keep us near my dear love. Rest Beautiful. X