I’ve tried to write and re-write this piece fifteen times over the last few days. It’s difficult to pen a piece about a friend who passed away, your mind gets lost in the memories and emotions you thought you had under control suddenly bubble to the surface. Once they are re-opened —before you know it you’re in the same sort of headspace you were the moment you realized you’d lost them. It’s a strange and surreal place, but when your friend was an icon, it’s something you push through. You take a breath, you close your eyes, and you try to figure out how to put your feelings into words.
So, here I go.
I met Alexis on one of my first first nights out in West Hollywood, at a seedy little bar called Numbers. Walking up to her I said. “My name is Keny, and Miracle Beach is one of my favorite movies. Can I have a photo?”
Laughing. Alexis told me I absolutely could have a photo, but it was gonna cost me a kiss. So I paid the fine and we took the photo. Then we got a drink, sat down and chatted. I told her I’d seen parts of the Surreal Life, and something about how her courage gave me courage – or something equally as nauseating. I told her I was fresh off the farm from Montana, and she told me to be careful. I was a cute little blonde, Los Angeles was going to eat me alive.
Before the night was over, I’d made a new friend. We’d talk on the phone quite a bit as I didn’t live in the heart of everything when I first moved out here, but in Moorpark where the sidewalks roll up at 7pm. “You need to leave that place,” She would say to me. “You’re never going to find a man out there.”
She was right. So, she was ecstatic when I moved to West Hollywood and we could finally hang out on a (somewhat) regular basis.
Alexis was one of the first people I sent my debut EP Fall Apart too. Containing a cover song of the 80s Tiffany classic “Mickey”, the first thing Alexis asked me if she could do was to send it to Toni Basil. “You have to let me,” she said. “She’s gonna fucking love it.”
Apparently she did.
When I started doing interviews, Alexis would always give me the best answers to the hypothetical questions she’d never ask. One day, out of the blue she looks at me and says “Do you know what to say when a reporter asks you if the carpet matches the drapes?”
“What?” I laughed, choking on my soda. “No one is going to ask me that.”
“They might,” she said. “Do you know what to say?”
“What?” I asked.
“Tell them it’s all hard wood.”
Then she burst into laughter.
That’s who Alexis was. Always laughing. Always fun.
Fluid in her gender identity, Alexis could flow seamlessly into different looks multiple times a day.
Alexis would have been 50 this past July. Her sister, Patricia recently reflected on her late sister’s experience transitioning into a transgender woman over at US Weekly, “It was a big decision, so there were a lot of conversations about it. ‘Are you sure about this?’ Alexis gave up a lot to live her truth; she was a very successful actor,” the Oscar winner, 51, said. “And we talked about, ‘Well, what about work? What about getting cast in things? What about all the parts you want to play, will people limit you?’ We talked about all the different things and it’s scary in the world, honestly.”
The last time we hung out, in his tiny little apartment in West Hollywood, we spent the day looking at some of the art he’d done and playing dress up. For hours. It was a blast. Alexis was a blast.
We had a short conversation, not long before he died. Just a quick, “How are you? I’m fine, we need to hang out,” sort of conversation.
A few weeks later I was walking past the apartment, and I sent a text saying, I’m out and about, by your place.”
I didn’t get a response.
Like most people, I found out Alexis had passed away through various online sources. It was a strange and surreal experience, because, literally ten seconds after I found out Alexis had passed, I started getting messages from journalist who’d seen photos of us together, people who I didn’t even know asking me questions like “Hey, didn’t you know her?” And “Did he have AIDS? He had AIDS didn’t he? You can tell me.”
My response was always to ask Alexis’ siblings. I wouldn’t be able to answer those questions.
Charley Gallay/Getty Images
Patricia told Us, “Alexis died in September 2016 at 47.”
The actress and activist, whose story was told in 2007’s Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother, died from cardiac arrest. However, TMZ reported that her death certificate stated that she also suffered from bacterial endocarditis, cardiomyopathy and HIV.
Alexis fought HIV for 29 years.
Her sister Rosanna said that in her final moments, Alexis was comforted by the music of David Bowie, requesting that “Starman” be played at her bedside. But it was Tom Petty who comforted Alexis’s sister, actress and activist Rosanna Arquette, during this difficult time.
It’s been three years now and not a day goes by that I don’t think about the way Alexis use to make me smile and laugh. A crude sense of humor wrapped up in one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever met. We lost an honest treasure and a true icon.
Watch the Us tribute video below.