Born Arthur Francis Galster (known to his friends and loved ones as Arturo) on May 7, 1959, Mr. Galster was raised in Philadelphia, where he began performing in musicals while in high school. He moved to the Bay Area in 1978 and enrolled at the SF Art Institute, which he attended for 4 years.
By the early '80s, Mr. Galster was a rising star in the city's drag cabaret and theater world, a leader in what's been described as a new wave of ironic camp performance. Besides his iconic cabaret work as Patsy Cline, he created tribute performances to Marlene Dietrich and to Chet Baker, in the guise of the jazz musician's fictitious widow, Chesty Baker.
In 1986, he moved to Japan for four years, where he studied Japanese and traditional kyogen and kabuki theater. In recent years he was an active participant in hula studies and supporter of the preservation of traditional Hawaiian culture, as well as an enthusiastic Airbnb host.
Arturo Galster appeared in plays, musicals, cabaret shows and films in the USA and several other countries from the early 1980s until his death in 2014. He appeared in two cult drag films: as Noodles Nebula in Vegas in Space (Troma Entertainment, 1991) and as Patsy Cline in Virtue II (Margin Films, 1999). In addition, he appeared as a drag-queen streetwalker named Fabrege in “Javelin Catcher,” a 1996 episode of the television series Nash Bridges.
Onstage in San Francisco, Galster performed in a many high-profile and often high-camp theatrical productions that epitomized the city’s renowned queer culture from the mid-1980s on. Among his stage turns were roles in Naked Brunch, Phillip R. Ford’s Dolls, Christmas With the Crawfords, Eve, Dirty Little Showtunes, Naked Boys Singing, Half-a-Dozen Dorothies, Lavender Lockerroom, Stale Magnolias, Simply Stunning: The Doris Fish Story, Scalpel! The Musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Pearls Over Shanghai.
From 1982 to 1989, Galster toured every summer as the incarnation of country music superstar Patsy Cline accompanied by a tribute band dubbed the Memphis G-Spots. The act appeared at nightclubs in Atlanta, Dallas, LA, Miami, New Orleans, NYC and SF, as well as London and Tokyo.
From 1995 to 2012, Galster was a regular performer in shows presented by impresario Marc Huestis at the Castro Theatre that brought together camp and classic films with appearances by stars of the movies accompanied by drag tribute shows. Galster performed in 15 of the productions, singing live in such personas as Conrad Birdie from Bye Bye Birdie, Endorra from Bewitched and Tim Gunn from Project Runway.
Galster also performed in a number of San Francisco’s noted queer nightclubs of the 1990s and 2000s, including Klubstitute, Dragstrip at the DNA Lounge and Trannyshack.
At various points in his career, Galster worked administrative jobs to supplement his theatrical work, most recently at Theatre ZinZanni and the Immune Enhancement Project, both in San Francisco.
The circumstances surrounding his death and its immediate cause remained unclear at press time, but friends and family said there was no indication that a hate crime was involved. Mr. Galster is survived by five brothers and three sisters - Rod, Gerry, Rick, Joseph, Greg and Miriam Galster and Helen Elliott and Cate Fetterman - as well as 17 nieces and nephews and 11 great-nieces and nephews. He is also survived by a wide circle of chosen family, friends and colleagues in San Francisco, around the USA, and in numerous other countries.
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