Atlanta drag icon Mr. Charlie Brown dies unexpectedly at age 74

ATLANTA — The Atlanta LGBTQ+ community is mourning the loss of an icon – Mr. Charlie Brown.

In a news release posted to the Atlanta Eagle’s Facebook post, it said Charles Dillard was recovering from a second heart valve replacement when sepsis set in, and Dillard died.

“Brown was christened with his future drag name while working the front desk at the Holiday Inn in Nashville in the late 1960s. When the night auditor arrived to work and found the front desk in disarray one evening, she playfully shouted an expletive at him, adding “CHARLIE BROWN!” The nickname stuck for the next half-century,” the news release said.

Brown started his career in Atlanta in 1974, “by climbing up on the bar at the Sweet Gum Head nightclub and performing Della Reese’s ‘You Came a Long Way from St. Louis.’ He performed the impromptu number as a visiting drag performer from Nashville’s Watch Your Hat and Coat Saloon. The audience reaction resulted in an immediate job offer.”

“Brown would go on to perform at Illusions (for audiences that included a young RuPaul), Charlie Brown’s Cabaret at Underground Atlanta, and most recently, Lips Atlanta and the Atlanta Eagle,” the news release said.

[PHOTOS: Mr. Charlie Brown through the years]

In 2022, Mr. Charlie Brown was honored by the city of Atlanta with its highest award – the Phoenix Award.

In a post on the city’s Division of LGBTQ Affairs’ Facebook Page, the city said, “Charlie has been an integral part of Atlanta’s vibrant cultural landscape for decades, and his contributions to our city will be forever cherished.”

Charlie’s legacy as a drag icon, entertainer and advocate has left his mark on Atlanta and beyond. Our thoughts are with his loved ones during this difficult time.”

Lips Atlanta honored Charlie Brown, saying they are “eternally grateful that this fabulous queen was a part of our lives. Charlie will be remembered forever and always hold a special place in our hearts!”

“Brown had recently completed work on ‘Bitch of the South: How I Survived Vietnam, the AIDS Crisis and MAGA Drag Bans,’ a memoir co-written with Atlanta journalist Richard L. Eldredge. The book will be released later this year to commemorate Brown’s 75th birthday,” the news release said.

Brown was surrounded by his husband, his chosen family and friends when he passed Thursday night.

The Atlanta Eagle said that will go dark Saturday night for their regular showtime from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. so people can gather to share stories and “have a toast to a True Atlanta Icon.”