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Vocal acrobat Troy Walker to play Burbank's Viva Cantina

July 16, 2013|By Jonny Whiteside
  • Singer and androgynous firebrand Troy Walker performs Wednesday, July 17 at Viva Cantina in Burbank.
Singer and androgynous firebrand Troy Walker performs… (Courtesy of Phil…)

Anyone who remembers Troy Walker from his incendiary 1960s stint on the Sunset Strip club circuit or his infamous 1970s run at North Hollywood’s World Famous Palomino is likely beyond surprised to learn that not only did the ultra-flamboyant singer survive, but is now preparing to celebrate his 75th birthday. A strutting, bafflingly androgynous firebrand whose diminutive frame houses a surprisingly huge voice, Walker, who appears at Burbank’s Viva Cantina on Wed., July 17,  ruled Los Angeles’ lounges and honky tonks between 1958-78 with his patented mix of dazzling vocal acrobatics and blisteringly blue between-song banter.

Walker, when he first hit Hollywood over fifty years ago, was that rarest of nightclub creatures: an openly gay entertainer whose defiance of contemporary repressive social norms not only became his calling card it also ignited a thriving career with nightly SRO crowds. And these weren’t just local queers by any means; during a lengthy early 60s engagement at the Crescendo Club, Walker’s fans included Gregory Peck, Ethel Merman, Louella Parsons (she called him “an inspiration”), then-Governor Ronald Reagan, who proclaimed Troy “a great entertainer” and once had him play a private party as his Santa Barbara ranch. Phil Spector used to send in henchmen with reel-to-reel tape recorders so he could “borrow’ Walker’s richly creative song arrangements; even Elvis Presley stopped by to check out the local phenomenon. “Oh Lord, I remember that,’ Walker said. “I told the audience, ‘Uh-oh, the King is here—the Queen better sing!’”

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