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

 
Holly Brown Tongue

Born:
Died:

1945
November 16, 1991
Primary Involvements:

 
Singer, Comedienne, Dancer

 

 

 

       
 

Holly Brown Tongue was known as Holly Brown in Milwaukee. The singer, comedienne, and dancer Holly Brown started out performing at Club 219, then headed up "Holly and Company", a troupe whose shows at La Cage in the 1980's gained for them an enthusiastic following among both the Gay/Lesbian and straight communities.

See the Obituary below for more about her early life, career, and time in Milwaukee.

Holly Brown bid an emotional farewell to Milwaukee in April, 1990 with a gala performance at La Cage as she prepared to leave for her native Australia. In several moving performances, Brown thanked the people she has known, "the ones who made all this possible". Holly and Company put on a show to their usual high standards, with Brown appearing as Bette Davis and Shirley MacLaine, among others. Also well received was Goldie Adams; Adams lip-synched to "Changes" while she removed her make-up and costume to metamorphize into a male softball player. The distress on Adams' face at this, the final curtain, was evident.

Holly Brown died of complications of AIDS on November 16, 1991 in a Queensland, Australia hospital. Her obituary appeared in the 'In Step' issue of December 5-18, 1991, and read as follows:

    Australia - Female impersonator, artist, and entertainer extraordinare Holly Brown died of complications asscoiated with AIDS on November 16.

    Holly, 45, had been discharged from the Gold Coast Hospital in Miami, Queensland, Australia hospital ln late September after recovering from pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP). She re-entered the hospital in mid-October where she remained until her death. Her loving and devoted mother assured friends Holly Suffered no pain, thanks to medication.

    Holly was born in the Australlan outback and grew up in the small town of Dubbo. She started her stage career at a young age, and was known not only for her stage work, but also made a name in costume designing.

    Her stage career began at the age of 15 when she moved to Sydney to begin modeling, acting and working in female impersonation. After making a name for herself in her native country, with the support of her family, Holly appeared ln Europe, and than the United States. She performed in Milwaukee, her favorite US city, for five years after her '86 arrival.

    She started ln Milwaukee at Club 219, where she made a name for herself locally. She then started Holly & Co. at La Cage, where the group performed to packed houses thiee nights a week for several years in the late '80s.

    She also returned to her fine arts roots during her time in Milwaukee, including a exhlbltion of her works at the Leo Feldman Galleries. She also designed the mural that decorated the now closed Mom's Kitchen. One of the final things she did before moving back home was appear ln film-maker Cathy Cook's vignette entitled, "Bust Up." She had looked forward to returning home to spend time with her loving mother, and concentrate on painting.

    She was a great human being, and made many friends and fans wherever she lived. She made people happy, even though her life was sometimes a little rough. Several Milwaukee area friends planned to meet Holly in Europe in the Spring of '92, and then return here with her, afterwards. Her accent, her smile, her love and her bawdiness will be remembered and cherished by many.

    Holly is survived by her mother, Iris Tongue, and two brothers who both live in Australia. Her father preceeded her in death in 1988.

    Several friends were trying to arrange a Milwaukee area exhibit of her artwork, and a show as a Memoriam in Holly's honor. In Step will publish details as they become available.

Her death was also recognized in the magazine's 'Steppin Out' column on page 55, reading:

    I'm sure most of you have heard by now that both Holly Brown and Ginger Spice passed away recently. You can read their Memorials elsewhere in this issue. It's always sad when members of the community succumb to AIDS — but it impacts even more when they were vivacious entertainers who brought smiles to our faces everytime they performed. I'm sure they would want us to remember them with smiles on our faces and in our hearts, so here's a thought... I bet Holly and Ginger are up in heaven right now planning a Holiday Reunion Show the likes of which their fellow angels have never seen! Let's remember them in that way!

Four of Holly Brown's paintings are shown below, shared by contribitors to the Facebook page, The History of Gay Wisconsin. One is a side-by-side of a photo of B.J. Daniels from the '80s and the painting that Holly Brown did of her as a gift for her (BJ's) 26th birthday in 1986. According to BJ Daniels, "It reminds me of all the fabulous friends and memories I am privileged to have. I still miss her laugh, her Aussie accent, and our girls nights in, watching classic films. She will always live on in my heart and those of many others..." Two other paintings were shared by Ricky N. and another by Jamie Taylor, all via the Facebook group.

 

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!

      For Halloween 1989, I built Holly a Victorian style coffin so she could "lie in state" as Bette Davis for the La Cage "Holly Brown & Co." Halloween show (Bette had died a couple of weeks prior.) She was amazing: she laid in repose through the entire show, and just as they were playing the show's closing overture (remember, the opening and closing overture for her show?) she sat up in the coffin and shouted "Wait a minute (a-la Davis)" and then climbed out of the coffin and did a parody version of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" ("Dead for the very first time, you know" she sang.) I am so glad I have those memories and thanks for stirring them for me...
                                      -- Dean McB. via Facebook

      Holly was brought to Milwaukee by Ginger Spice, who met her in Chicago. She lived with Ginger(Richard Wyatt RIP) in Libertyville for quite a while before they both moved to Milwaukee. She was part of the 219 shows for a long time, before going to LaCage down the street to do her own thing. We toured together with the 3 of us for a summer in the mid-'80s. She was an accomplished painter as well as a performer who adored classic films.
                                      -- Bjorn Olaf N. via Facebook

      Going to the Sunday night Holly Brown Revue was my first exposure to gay nightlife/culture when I was young and just coming out. So many great memories 🙂. Can anyone confirm a few things that I heard back then? — that (a) she was once a Rockette, (b) during that time she spent an evening with Lily Tomlin & they slept together, and (c) that she wrote an autobiography called “Oh Boy!” and a sequel called “Oh Man!” Thanks! (And thank you, Holly 💜)
                                      -- Kurt N. via Facebook

      Truly had the time of my life with Holly and the show. Blessed to have been a part of it. Holly was amazing inside and out. Miss her.
                                      -- David K. via Facebook

      She was so much fun. I spent a very memorable afternoon with Holly and our mutual friend, Andy. I never laughed to hard in my life!
                                      -- John K. via Facebook

      Who remembers when they had a water feature on stage at Club 219? (Photo below is of) me, Holly Brown, Erica Stevens, and Ginger Spice in the mid-1980s. I cannot tell you how much I miss all of these people. Trailblazers all of them. Erica was the first person of color to be Miss Gay Wisconsin, Ginger was Miss Gay WI too, and so was I. Holly was an artist, literally whose paintings graced restaurants and my own wall at home today. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
                                      -- Bjorn Olaf N. via Facebook

Photo of Holly Brown at Club 219 in 1980s
(shared by Bjorn Olaf N. on Facebook group)
 
Photo of Holly Brown
(shared by Packer Chad B. on Facebook group)
 
Bjorn Olaf N., Holly Brown, Erica Stevens, and Ginger Spice in the mid-1980s
(shared by Bjorn Olaf N. on Facebook group)
 
Photo of De De, Chalotte Lorraine, and Holly Brown
upsatirs at M&M Club
(shared by DeDe C. on Facebook group)
 
Holly & Company cast picture
(shared by Wesley LeM. on Facebook group)
L-R back: Phantom of the Opera - Michael Jaskie, Liz Seidel, Kelly Greene, Joe Camiaro, Holly Brown, Vanessa, is that Tim?, Mary Richards. L-R Front: David Kotke, Goldie Adams, Christopher (Chris Tuna) (per Tony A.)
 
Additional Cast Picture
(shared by Wesley LeM. on Facebook group)
 
Holly & Company performing at La Cage advertisement
June 1989 (Wis Light, vol 2 no 11)
 
Photo of Hoilly Brown and friend at Pageant
November 1989 (Wis Light, vol 2 no 23)
 
Holly & Company performing at La Cage advertisement
November 1989 (Wis Light, vol 2 no 22)
 
Roast for Holly & Co. at Triangle
November 1989 (Wis Light, vol 2 no 22)
 
Side-by-side photo (left) and Painting by Holly (right)
of B.J. Daniels
(shared by BJ on Facebook group)
 
Painting by Holly Brown
(shared by Ricky C on Facebook group)
 
Painting by Holly Brown titled 'My Obsession'
of her Australian boyfriend
(shared by Ricky C on Facebook group)
 
Painting by Holly Brown
(shared by Jamie Taylor on Facebook group)
 
Obituary
(In Step vol 8 #24, p41)
 
Tribute advertisement
(In Step vol 8 #24, p42)
 
 

Professional photo


Professional photo


Photo from Facebook group


Wisconsin Light article, (volume 3 no. 3)


Wisconsin Light article (volume 3 no. 9), 1990 Farewell show


as Shirley MacLaine at 1990 farewell show


as Bette Davis at 1990 farewell show


at 1990 farewell show


(courtesy Jamie Taylor)


(courtesy Jamie Taylor)


(courtesy Jamie Taylor)


(courtesy Jamie Taylor)


(courtesy Jamie Taylor)

Credits: much information Wisconsin Light articles;
Web site concept, design and content by Don Schwamb;
Select photos, and recollections from Facebook, courtesy of Jamie Taylor.
Last updated: February-2022.

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