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

Jackie Roberts
born John Paul Jaccard


January 5, 2017
Primary Involvements:

Drag Performer





(The following are excerpts from a biography of close friends Jackie Roberts and Rudi D'Angelo by Michail Takach for this website in 2023.)

Jackie Roberts was born John Paul Jaccard. While attending Milwaukee High School of the Arts, she and classmate Rudi D'Angelo hung out at Club Marilyn's Teen Night. One fateful Sunday in May 1989, they were invited to join a group of Milwaukee Ballet employees who could "get them in" at La Cage nightclub (801 S. 2nd St.) They returned two weeks later with friends from school, and in many ways, never really left.

"I was fascinated with the star performers of that era: Holly Brown, Goldie Adams, Mimi Marks. You didn’t see drag queens on TV. YouTube wasn’t teaching kids how to contour and blend make-up. The scene was SO much more underground," said Jackie in 2009. "I just stood against a wall at the front bar, which was very dark, and took it all in!"

One week, Jackie was pulled from the audience to work the spotlight. From there, she worked her way through every job in the bar, until finally becoming a showgirl herself in February 1990.

"Coming out to La Cage used to be such an event," she said in 2009. "People planned their outfits all week. People worried about their outfits all week. Was it enough? Was it ever enough? People really dressed up just to be here. This was THE original S&M bar - Stand and Model. Now, everything is too casual. I mean, sweatpants? At La Cage? That would have been unthinkable."

Jackie became the Queen of La Cage, leading its house review, and winning multiple state and regional titles over the next two decades. She is remembered for blockbuster shows at PrideFest, Brady Street Festival, and many other venues over the years.

After close friend Rudi D'Angelo's passing in 2014, Jackie took a leap of faith and moved to Kansas City for a job opportunity. However, she was diagnosed with cancer and returned to Milwaukee in December 2015. She bravely faced her situation, never losing her lust for life, or her gratitude for supportive and loving fans and extended family.

On January 5, 2017, Jackie was gone. A memorial service was held January 28 with a Life Celebration Memorial at La Cage on January 29. At Jackie's request, there was no show, just a circle of friends remembering and sharing their memories of Jackie. Donations were made to Courage MKE in Jackie's name.

On September 19, 2021, the second floor cabaret of La Cage was renamed the Jackie Roberts Show Lounge in her memory. As Jackie would say, "My Show Isn't Over Yet."

Jackie's life and career were summarized in her obituary in the Winter 2017 issue of Quest magazine (vol. 24-no. 1):

    Jackie Roberts, In Memoriam

    Milwaukee lost a legend on January 5. Jackie Roberts died while in hospice care after over a year's battle with cancer.

    Jackie's rise to icon status began back in her days at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts. In the early 90s she began exploring the city's club scene and quickly became known as an inspiring drag entertainer. Her mantra was that of the true trouper, saying "if you're not bleeding, sweating or crying, you are not trying hard enough!" She performed throughout the state at various venues like Milwaukee's Tropical Nightclub, Club 219, Hamburger Mary's, PrideFest and Madison's Club 5 among others.

    However, she made LaCage nightclub her home and remained its star for two decades. There she was truly the Queen of LaCage, leading its famous revue, 'LaCage Presents'. She won many titles over her decades on the stages including Miss Gay Lakeshore Wisconsin USofA 2006, 1st Alternate to Miss Gay Wisconsin 2007 and Miss Gay Wisconsin USofA 2010 to name just a few. She played all roles in the pageant scene. Whether back up dancer, judge or contestant, Miss Roberts was known for her inspiring support, humility and graciousness. She touched everyone she met, some as a drag mother and others as a best sister, and to many as both.

    In 2013 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award and asked, "Does this mean I'm done?" But she was far from done and continued her appearances, famously performing in that classic white dress as her idol, Marilyn Monroe. In fact, her apartment was adorned with three Marilyn images (she also was proud of her closets marked with male and female icons for her wardrobe. The female door was larger). She also had a favorite quote by the blonde bombshell that fit her own philosophy of life perfectly, "Sometimes things fall apart so that things can fall together."

    In June of 2014 wanting a change in her life she moved to Kansas City and found a job. She returned to Milwaukee late in 2015 to the welcoming embrace of her many friends and fans after she was diagnosed with cancer. With the support of her family and friends close by, the battle began. She chronicled her year long struggle on social media, confronting the disease and all its pain and frustration with determination. At times she was hopeful. After the initial surgery in December 2015, she was soon out and about. She cheered herself on when she got health insurance. Her friend Nova D'Vine had also tried to help with her medical ex-penses, opening a GOFundMe page on her behalf.

    Then came chemotherapy and meds. In October she posted a trip to the zoo with her mother. But soon thereafter she was hospitalized again. Still she bravely tried to keep up with all the messages of support sent by her friends. On December 13th she listed her status as "feeling grateful" for all the kindness and support her community gave her to help get her through the horrors of her illness. But, just days later she posted, "NO ONE SHOULD BE IN THIS MUCH PAIN IN A HOSPITAL!!!" Still, on December 25 she wished everyone a Merry Christmas. Her last post of 2016, on December 29, was a Shared Memory with Lena Chavez.

    Then on January 5th she was gone. The shock of her passing reverberated throughout the community. The outpouring of grief and sadness was a testament to her decades-long legacy as both entertainer and friend to so many. Her love for life and humanity are the common threads of all those who left their heartbroken condolences.

    But that was exactly who Jackie Roberts was.

    Once interviewed about the drag show at the Brady Street Festival, she said, "it's about bringing the community together, even if it's only for one day. If people can put aside their differences, open up their hearts, open their minds, then that's all the reason to do it."

    Her joy in life should not be forgotten with her last exit from this earthly stage. As Jackie Roberts would say, "My Story Isn't Over Yet…"

    Nova D'Vine and Jackie Roberts' family arranged memorial services to which all were invited to attend both. Jackie requested to be cremated.

    The obituary and memorial information appeared in the Journal Sentinel on January 22, 2017. Visitation took place on Saturday, January 28th from 10am until the Memorial Service at 12 pm at West Grandville Presbyterian Church, 6935 N 107th St. in Milwaukee.

    Additionally, a second memorial "Jackie Roberts Life Celebration Memorial" took place Sunday, January 29th at 1pm at LaCage Niteclub, 801 S 2nd St. Milwaukee. By Jackie's request there was no show. Instead, friends gathered to share all of the wonderful stories about their love and adoration for their wonderful friend.

    Final tributes were requested by donation to CourageMke in Jackie Roberts name.

    Nova D'Vine wrote "Jackie Roberts had entertaining in her soul. She was one of the most courageous people I have ever met. She was driven to make people happy, sometimes in a crowd and sometimes one on one. She was thoughtful, kind and one of the best friends you could ever hope to have."

Jackie Roberts continues to be looked to as inspiration to the drag community, and the community at large, into the 2020's. In 2009, the La Cage nightclub, where Jackie presided as "Queen of Drag", opened a long-awaited upstairs cabaret space on the second floor. Called 'Montage", the lounge became home to a series of memorable drag shows and other shows. Then during a 1980's/ 1990's Reunion Party on Sunday, September 19, 2021, management announced that 'Montage' would henceforth be known as The Jackie Roberts Show Lounge. Her legacy continues...

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(photo from Facebook posting)
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Page 1 from Quest magazine, v24-01

Page 2 from Quest magazine, v24-01

Show cast at the old Club 219. Left to right Mary Richards, Tiffany Thomas, our pal Jackie Roberts, B.J. Daniels (in see through leopard), Timothy Paul Lober, and Lena Chavez aka Ricardo Ferrise.
(Photo courtesy B.J. Daniels via Jamie Taylor's
'Milwaukee LGBT History' Facebook group)

Credits: Personal recollections and background from article by Michail Takach;
Major content from Quest Magazine article;
Additional information and photos from Facebook pages;
Web site concept, design and layout by Don Schwamb;
Last updated: November-2023.

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