History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

James Marr
aka Lana St. James


March 31, 2011
Primary Involvements:

Bar owner





James was born in Massachusetts in 1967. When James was 5, he and his mother moved to Albuquerque NM. There he met Damien Rose who became his life long friend. They both moved to Milwaukee in 1991.

James became a bar tender at C'est La Vie. He then worked at and lived behind Walker's Point Cafe. I remember that apartment as we had been there several times, one, so James could make me up in drag for Halloween. He had one entire room he converted into a huge closet. Yes, James was a very popular drag queen. "Lana St. James" performed at shows all over the state, most of which were for charity. He also became the unofficial "mother" to the up & coming drag queens. He often referred to them as his "bitches".

He also worked at Partners and then In Between just prior to him purchasing Triangle Bar in 2000 from Rob Bruckner. Bruckner had run the business into the ground so James had his work cut out for him. He slowly grew the business back to the days of Al Thomas owning it. His favorite time of year were the holidays. He loved decorating and every year, there had to be a new theme for each holiday. James was proud of the fact that every year, OutBound magazine put Triangle on the cover of the Christmas Issue.

I had stopped in Thursday March 31st, 2011 to discuss the "Remember When" party as we had planned. He wasn't there, which was extremely unusual. He was out the night before, but no matter how much he partied, he always showed up for deliveries. I placed a call to Damien and left a message to check on him when he got home. Later that day, Damien found James had passed away in his sleep. He had died from a torn aorta.

James' passing came as a shock to the entire community. Triangle's facebook page exploded with comments of support, love, condolences and memories, many of them funny. The memorial service was held April 3rd at Triangle. People came from all over to celebrate James' life. I'm not even going to try to guess how many showed up but it was alot. There was so much food that much of it was donated to Hope House, a transitional living and emergency housing program.

James is survived by his mother Linda and his two younger brothers, Michael and Cole. Linda said she will keep Triangle open.

(The preceeding biography was written by Jamie Taylor.)

Following is a tribute written by James' long time friend Damien Rose.

I had no idea how short forever was.

My longtime friend Harry “James” Marr died suddenly on March 31. We met many years ago in New Mexico and have lived in Milwaukee for the last 20 years. James had such a wide-ranging influence on so many people, but on a personal level he changed my life profoundly without even knowing it. I was lucky enough to be able to tell him how he changed mine before he died.

There are so many wonderful stories about James – I have a million, just ask. I hope people tell those stories over and over as the years go on, but I want to share how I met James and how it changed everything about my life. Many people who know both of us wonder why we were so close, since we seemed so different. We chose different careers, different lovers, different hobbies and different daily lives. What people didn’t see is that at our core, we were the same. That is the tie that binds.

The night I met James, I was barely 17. He was much older and wiser at 22. We were both at the same party. He was tall, loud and having a good time. I was drawn to him and moved closer.

He was making fun of the right side of his chest, which was a little sunken from a birth defect. He was walking around covering his chest with a flyer showing a shirtless man with a perfect chest and asking people to feel his perfect chest. This was the ’80s, and my friends and I had hair dyed all the colors of the rainbow and, of course, teased out as much as possible. He was yelling, “Somebody get me a comb! I need to fix these kids’ hair!” I was instantly intrigued with him. We talked all night until the sun came up.

I had been raised by a conservative family and had learned what appropriate behavior was and what should be said out loud. I also knew what was expected of me and how my life was supposed to go. I had never met someone like James who spoke out loud what I was thinking in my head. I believed the way I thought was inappropriate and should be kept inside, and here was someone who let what was in his head come out of his mouth. It was funny and usually correct and it didn’t spawn the negative reactions from others I had been told it would.

Quite the opposite, it brought people together socially in a way I hadn’t seen before. It brought everyone to the same level. By highlighting his differences, he made people realize that their differences made them interesting and that nobody is better than anybody else.

From that day on, I learned that the thoughts in my head could come out. I could say how I felt. This extended to being who I was with no apologies. It was a freedom I had never known.

I am so grateful to James for leading by example and helping me discover this early in my life. That lesson has profoundly affected the person I am today. Because of James Marr, I have led a life of freedom!

Thank you, James and I’ll see you on the other side."

Your BFF, Damien Rose

Recollections: The following are recollections of others who have been kind enough to submit their personal memories to the webmaster. You are welcome to do the same!

    "When someone was homeless, he gave them a place to stay. When someone was unemployed, he would pay them to do odd jobs even if those jobs did not really need to be done. When PrideFest was in financial trouble, he joined in with other venues and held fund raisers to help out. Those are some things I remember about him. He also had a great sense of humor. A lesbian walks into Triangle, James says, "Finally! A person with real facial hair!"
                                              - Jason Skonecki (April 2011)

    "Thanks, James for all you did for Ric Fest! You are going to be greatly missed! Lana St. James was one of the people who performed at the first Ric Fest in 2005! Say hi to Ric for me! Love you!"
                                              - Peter Konrath (April 2011)

    "Hanging out at Walkers Point Cafe were some of the best days for me, especially at a time when I was trying to come out. James always stands out in my mind because he was one of the "celebrities" (local drag queens) who was very approachable and down to earth as far as the youth were concerned. Talking, joking with us and even doing the youth shows at 3B's. People can speak words about themselves all day, but character is displayed in action. The world lost some character yesterday, so we now have to make up for that loss by being better ourselves. R.I.P. my friend."
                                              - Terrance Raffeet (April 2011)


James circa 2009-2010

James as Lana St. James, his drag queen persona

Pencil sketch of James, as he will be remembered

Possible High School graduation photo?

As a child

Another photo of Lana St. James
June, 1998
(In Step vol 15 issue 13, page 22)

First December issue of OutBound magazine, featuring the staff of The Triangle on the cover (which became an annual tradition)
December 2002
(OutBound vol 1 issue 5)

Article on The Triangle from that first December issue of OutBound magazine
December 2002
(OutBound vol 1 issue 5, page 10)

Photos from various drag shows, one of Lana St. James
(OutBound vol 1 issue 5, page 13)

"Best of" article, listing Lana St. James as 2nd most elegant drag queen of all time in Milwaukee
October 1999
(In Step vol 16 issue 20, Q section)

Dec. 2010 issue of OutBound magazine, cover featuring The Triangle
(OutBound vol 9 issue 12)

Credits: information from Jamie Taylor;
Last updated: April-2011.