(Photo: Sam Emerson, Warner Bros.)
(Photo: Sam Emerson, Warner Bros.)

The Lady Chablis, the transgender performer who became an unlikely celebrity for her role in the 1994 best-seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, died Thursday in Savannah. She was 59.

Chablis’ sister, Cynthia Ponder, confirmed she died at Candler Hospital. A close friend, Cale Hall, said Chablis died from pneumonia and had been in the hospital for the past month.

A modern, nonfiction murder-and-mischief take on Southern Gothic storytelling, author John Berendt’s Midnight thrust Savannah into the pop-culture spotlight. And the sassy, blunt-spoken Chablis rode the book’s popularity to a level of fame that was rare for transgender performers at the time.

“The legacy that she wanted to leave was one of ‘believe in who you are and never let the world change who you are,'” Ponder said. “Love yourself first and respect yourself first and others will love and respect you.”

For the complete story, visit USAToday.com/Life/Books.

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