'Don’t be bitter; be beautiful’

The name on Facebook is Vogue Vandernikoffe, but anyone familiar with Key West’s nightclub and drag scene from the 1980s through today knew him as Diva Vogue, the inimitable performer, entertainer and DJ who created a world all his own. Others were just fortunate to be invited for a visit.

Vogue, the house DJ at Sidebar on Angela Street, died on Thursday, Jan. 13 at the age of 68.

“He was working at Sidebar that night and had a heart attack,” said longtime friend Kenny Cabrera. “Apparently, he passed away in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. But you know what? That would have been the way he would have wanted.”

No long sickness, just a grand exit. 

The sassy and spiritual St. Louis native arrived in Key West in the late 1970s and loved it here, sister Deborah Davis told the Keys Weekly on Jan. 19.

“Everybody knew the same person when it came to my brother,” she said. “He didn’t change for anyone. I remember he bought me my first Patti LaBelle record and made us all be his backup singers.”

In Key West, Diva Vogue was the house DJ at the legendary Copa nightclub on Duval Street,  which was destroyed by a fire in 1995. After that, he spun tunes and performed in drag at the former Divas nightclub, which was at the site of the current Aqua nightclub.

Recent years found her at the DJ table at Sidebar.

“I remember one night at Divas, everyone was closing up and Billie, the bartender, thought Vogue had already left,” Cabrera said. “But Vogue was still in the back and got locked into the club. The message she left on Billie’s answering machine (before cell phones) was hilarious: ‘Billie, this is your Diva Vogue. I am locked in the club. Please call me.’”

Key West dentist Claude Harris was a decades-long friend of Vogue, and recalled how “his upbeat attitude, fabulous smile and infectious laugh brightened everyone’s day.”

Famous for a Tina Turner impersonation, Vogue was “simply the best, better than all the rest,” said Michelle Norwood, who worked with Vogue every time he volunteered with AH Monroe. 

Stay tuned as plans are being finalized to celebrate Vogue’s life with a fitting Key West tribute.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.