Suzanne Hale, owner of the legendary downtown Portland all-night diner The Roxy, died in her sleep on Nov. 8. She was 67.
Hale’s daughter, April Shattuck, announced her mother’s passing Nov. 14 on Hale’s personal Facebook page. Shattuck’s husband shared a photo of The Roxy’s signature life-size statue of a crucified Jesus, balancing a printed sign on his loincloth. “RIP The Lovely Suzanne,” it reads, using Hale’s drag title. “Thank you for all the memories.” Eater first reported Hale’s death on Nov. 16.
Under Hale’s watch, The Roxy served perfectly greasy burgers, chicken strips, and breakfast platters to a rotating cast of club kids, college students, musicians, creative misfits and LGBTQ+ youth spanning 27 years. Hale was an active member of Portland’s drag scene, voted Rose Empress of the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court in 2000. These communities embraced Hale and The Roxy in kind as safe havens, and first visits turned into a rite of passage for generations of new Portlanders. The Roxy served filling meals, often named for Hale’s drag sisters, at all weird hours every day but Monday.
Hale ran a gay tabloid called The Art Rag from 1991 to ’92, under the motto “If you don’t like it I don’t even care.” The Art Rag was memorialized at The Roxy as a quad-shot latte towering with whipped cream and sprinkles.
Hale rebranded The Roxy from an older cafe called Roxy Hart’s, according to comedian Belinda Carroll, taking it over after her neighboring first restaurant, Blah Blah Cafe, was shut down due to issues with her landlord.
“Suzanne ruled with a steel hand in a velvet glove. She had the Rules and if you didn’t follow the Rules you were 86′ed. Either for a day, a week, or forever (depending on how bad you f’ed up),” Carroll shared on Facebook. “It was a badge of honor to not be 86′ed by Suzanne. She terrified me.”
The Roxy closed suddenly and permanently on March 20, due to a mix of pandemic-induced debt and structural issues with the diner’s building. Hale entertained patrons waiting on their final meals during The Roxy’s closing days and comforted any openly weeping guests.
Hale sold the last of The Roxy’s memorabilia in October, including limited-edition Barbie dolls and signed head shots of drag queens, gay porn stars, and A-list actors and musicians. Hale posted to Facebook in September about being under doctor’s care for an unspecified condition. (Her husband died in 2019.)
Shattuck posted that Hale’s funeral will take place in the next two months and will be open to members of the public. Shattuck couldn’t be reached for further comment, but wrote that Hale’s final wishes included a parade in her honor, celebrating her more than 50 years working in the service industry.
“I cherish the time we had together and for the invaluable lessons you gave us all. You will be dearly missed, forever in our hearts,” Shattuck wrote.