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Gay Rights Activist Forced From St. Vincent's Hospital Into Nursing Home

By DNAinfo Staff on April 20, 2010 9:55pm  | Updated on April 20, 2010 10:01pm

Storme DeLarverie, 89, hoists a batch of flowers in her bed at St. Vincent's Hospital, shortly before she was moved to the failing hospital's psychiatric ward.
Storme DeLarverie, 89, hoists a batch of flowers in her bed at St. Vincent's Hospital, shortly before she was moved to the failing hospital's psychiatric ward.
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Arthur Nash

By Matthew Nestel

Special to DNAinfo

GREENWICH VILLAGE — After spending the past month in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Stormé  DeLarverie, a founding member of the gay rights movement, has been forced into a Brooklyn nursing home as the bankrupt hospital prepares to close its doors.

Stormé (pronounced Storm-ee) DeLarverie, 89, became a legend in the LGBT community after famously punching a police officer during the historic standoff against NYPD in their attempted raid on the Stonewall Inn in the West Village. She was also the famed "Drag King" of the traveling Jewel Box Revue performance troupe.

A now-elderly DeLarverie, who is diabetic, has been a patient in the psychiatric ward at the failing W. 12th Street hospital since March 7, when friends say she suffered a serious bout of dehydration inside her seventh-floor apartment at the Chelsea Hotel.

Reached by phone at St. Vincent's before she was moved to the hospital’s psychiatric ward, DeLarverie sounded lucid and convinced she was heading home soon.

"Of course I know what’s going on, honey," DeLarverie said. "I’m OK. My state of mind is just fine."

Asked about her apartment at the Chelsea Hotel, she said, "Of course I’m going back to live there. I’ve been there for 31 years. That’s my home. That’s it."

A few weeks later, she was committed to the hospital’s psychiatric ward, according to those who visited her there. A spokesman for St. Vincent's said he could not confirm the identity of patients being treated there.

DeLarverie's friends remember when she made regular pilgrimages to St. Vincent's to visit other Stonewall veterans injured during the rebellion, and also when she came back to visit many AIDS-stricken patients during the 1980s.

Stonewall Veterans' Association founder Williamson Henderson explained that DeLarverie played a central role in the organization's outreach from the early 1980s to the early ’90s, bringing food, funds and comfort to AIDS patients at St. Vincent’s.

"It’s true," he said. "There were many people we visited there, spanning years."

Friends and neighbors fear DeLarverie's failing health will mean the end of her tenure as one of the longest living fixtures at the bohemian Chelsea Hotel, which once housed luminaries like Dylan Thomas and Eugene O'Neill.

Her apartment, where she kept a trove of original correspondence and historic memorabilia, was cleaned out by crews with garbage bags days after her hospital admittance, witnesses said.

DeLarverie also owned an extensive art collection, including works by some of the hotel's original tenants, friends said. The whereabouts of those items is also unclear.

Chelsea Hotel president and co-owner Marlene Krauss said she didn't know anything about the crews seen in DeLarverie's apartment.

"Her stuff? I really lost track,” Krauss said. “I’m not the right person to talk to,” she said, referring calls to her partner, hotel vice president David Elder. Elder did not return calls from comment.

Sources said DeLarverie was taken this week from St. Vincent's to a nursing home called "Oxford" in Brooklyn.