Bon-vivant, muse, troublemaker, clown, artist, and porn performer Hollie Stevens is remembered at a boozy, tearful, and snack-filled gathering at Burbank’s Hyaena Gallery.
“Hollie was about to take off as an artist,” says Eric Cash, Hollie’s husband of 23 days. Stevens died at their home in San Francisco on July 3, the victim of an aggressive cancer she’d strongarmed for nearly two years. She was 30.
Cash, a comedian, had met Stevens years before but they reconnected on New Year’s Eve, days before her 30th birthday. She had already lost a breast, but Cash says Stevens was staying in the fight.
“She wasn’t giving up,” Cash says. “I asked her to breakfast the next morning, and she pulled her panties from a cookie jar. That’s when I fell in love with her.”
That cookie jar now holds Hollie’s ashes.
By the time they got together, a network of San Francisco friends and supporters had already gathered around Hollie, throwing fundraisers, driving her to numerous medical appointments, and providing moral and physical support. This was largely under the banner of sex worker aid organization SolaceSF, whose wide umbrella helps porn performers, strippers, and street prostitutes. Solace founder Laura Lasky coordinated efforts to first help Hollie fight cancer, and then to ease her transition as the prognoses turned grimmer.
Bill Shafer manages the Hyaena Gallery, where many of Stevens’ works were on display.
“There’s so many people Hollie’s life touched,” Shafer says, “including my own. She was such a genuine person.”
Shafer says Stevens was “a phone call away” for many people, “the weirder the better.”
Shafer served cherry moonshine and goldfish crackers at the private event, which was attended by photographers, fire eaters, artists, and scenesters young and old. An earlier, more elaborate event in San Francisco, where Stevens spent most of her time, featured goldfish, sloppy joes, and cotton candy.
“She dictated there be circus food at her memorial,” Cash says.
I’ve been to a number of porn funerals recently, but the attendees at Hollie’s service were the most diverse.
“That’s because porn was one of the many things Hollie did,” Cash says.
Songwriter, filmmaker, and ex-Runaways impresario Kim Fowley is at the Burbank ceremony, a courtly old rascal in a pin-striped suit and cane.
“Hollie was her own thing,” he says. “She was a real artist.”
Cash delivers a moving, funny eulogy detailing Stevens’ feistiness, sense of humor, and vulnerability. He talks about how many “scenes” his late wife had been involved in, and says he’s jealous of the other attendees.
“I never knew Hollie the way you did,” he says. “When I met her she was already sick. That’s why I love these memories people share of her.” He adds that he had considered himself a “miscreant” before meeting Hollie, and that his time with her “was the best I’ve been in my life.”
Cash plays a video by artist Steven Leyba, Hollie’s best friend.
Stevens was in great pain for most of the year, but she fought to stay lucid, and insisted on knowing her prognosis, which by the end of June was dire. Some of the best examples of her wicked sense of humor come from her very short hospice period, when a nursing staff cared for her at home in her final days.
“We had a long hallway (between the) bedroom and the bathroom,” Cash says, “and she demanded the nurse take her there” because Stevens rejected her diapers. Cash describes watching, bemused, as the nurse labored to move Hollie to the bathroom at the latter’s insistence, lifted her from the wheelchair, angled her through the narrow door, set her down on the toilet, and waited.
“The whole process took forever,” Cash says. “When (the nurse) was about to lift her up again, ‘Hollie goes, ‘Uh uh. I’m gonna run down the hall.'”
Another time, Hollie was half asleep as her male nurse worked near her. Lazily Hollie reached up and fondled the placket of his shirt before letting her hand fall.
Like she got away with something, Hollie smiled and said to herself, “Molester.”
Cash and 6-foot transsexual performer Morgan Bailey were with Hollie when she died. Bailey tried to close Hollie’s eyes, but they kept opening. Bailey and Cash ended up laughing about it.
“That is Hollie’s sense of humor,” Cash says.
Personally I think of Hollie’s promise to haunt me—”but only in San Francisco; L.A. is too far to go for something like that”—and I am waiting to see what she’ll be wearing.
Hollie Stevens leaves behind many creative people in the prime of their own lives, all of whom are going to work the woman born Tia Kidwell into their own art and performances. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them, though I have a feeling Hollie would be both extremely touched and a little embarrassed. She’d also want to go out to eat afterwards.