Arriving in Phoenix from Los Angeles in the early '80s, Felicia took up professional residence at the notorious -- and now defunct -- 307 Lounge. Located in a male hustling district on East Roosevelt, just off Central Avenue, the anything-goes drag den was unlike any place the city had to offer: The talent had to dodge traffic as they raced to the stage door from a dressing room across the alley, and it was just on a nearby side street that former Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce had his much-publicized 1991 melee with a beefy transvestite hooker who frequented the joint. Closed earlier this year, the club was so spectacularly seedy it was featured as one of Phoenix's more colorful tourist attractions in Rolling Stone magazine.
A lanky looker who from some angles resembles an equine version of comedienne Christine Baranski, Felicia started off as just another member of the bar's Golden Girls Revue. Over time, however, the ambitious newcomer eventually took over the show (and, to some extent, the bar itself), augmenting her onstage activities with duties ranging from resident choreographer, publicist and interior decorator to den mother, house mascot and, when she felt the situation warranted it, even commandant. ("If you look bad, if you need your makeup fixed, I'll tell you. If you don't want to know, don't ask," says Felicia, whose candor has cost her more than a few friends. She asks, incredulous, "I'm a bitch because I'm honest?")
A heady era highlighted by testimonial fetes for her charitable work on one end and screeching, hair-pulling brawls on the other, Felicia Fahr's roller-coaster reign in Phoenix's drag demimonde now appears to be nearing its end in more ways than one.
And with it, she may be drawing a permanent curtain on one of the most jaw-dropping finales in the annals of local female impersonation: At the end of her act, the impeccably groomed Felicia frequently doffed her wig, then removed her dentures. And, for a sure-fire wrap-up that never failed to shock first-time viewers, she triumphantly flashed the pair of hormonally enhanced breasts that had been her pride and joy for more than 30 years.
Professionally inactive for several years and far out of the local drag loop of which she was once the epicenter, Felicia Fahr has announced she now suffers from a cancer that's spreading through her artificially induced breasts.
"They tell me I've got a year, maybe a year and a half," says the painfully frail Felicia, her trademark rasp barely audible. Sallow without makeup, her strawberry-gray hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing a black slip and flannel shirt that dwarf her skeletal frame, the former ball of fire now spends her good days curled up in front of a TV in a modest Glendale apartment she shares with her 22-year-old Latino boyfriend. She spends her ever-increasing bad days in bed.
"I've never slept so much in my life," she say wearily, sounding far older than her 50 years.
Concerned about multiple lumps she'd noticed in her breasts over the past few years, Felicia finally heeded a friend's advice and visited a doctor this past summer. Outside of morphine administered during periodic visits to the emergency room when the pain becomes too intense, however, she says she doesn't have the desire, finances or energy to fight the disease.
Whether the disease is even remotely attributable to the massive doses of female hormones she's been taking since she was a teenager (even among experts, the jury's still out on that one) is a matter about which she couldn't care less.
"What is there to say?" says the gaunt-looking former showgirl between coughing jags. "I didn't cause this. I may have helped it along, but I didn't cause it. I had a biopsy, it was malignant and I'm not having an operation. Plus, they'd never get it all anyway. My aunt had breast cancer, and within a week of her third surgery, she was dead. No way I'm going through that shit."
Growing up in Rochester, New York, as the fifth son of an Italian father and a Puerto Rican mother, young Phillip Mortuiccio (Felicia's birth name) once had considerably more faith in the medical profession than he does now.
Convinced that he was actually a girl for as long as he can remember ("When no one was home, I'd drape a sheet around me as a gown and use a hairbrush as a microphone to sing along with songs on the radio I liked"), the teenager visited a clinic specializing in transgender cases with the hope of qualifying for sex-change surgery.