Suzanne Hale, also known as “the Lovely Suzanne,” died in her sleep on November 8, her daughter, “Miss April” Shattuck, reports. The longstanding owner of beloved downtown diner the Roxy and onetime Empress of the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court, Hale was known as a staunch advocate for the Portland queer community, a chosen mother for many of the city’s unhoused youth, and an effervescent presence within the city’s restaurant scene.
Suzanne Hale spent more than 50 years of her life in the hospitality industry, once a waitress at Northwest Portland’s 24-hour restaurant Quality Pie before its 1992 closure. She became the force behind the Roxy in its early days, raising a population of young people — in particular, LGBTQ and unhoused youth — who relied on the diner’s all-ages, 24-hour shelter and warmth.
“I’ve watched a lot of kids grow up, and make it,” Hale told Eater Portland in a March interview. “I would be tough on them. I’d say, ‘If you’re going to be in here, you’ll behave,’ in a mom way ... but you watch these kids grow up, into productive, contributing people — there are a hundred stories like that.”
For almost three decades, the Roxy stood as a beacon at the core of Portland’s “pink triangle,” also known as “vaseline alley.” On any given night, the Roxy would be filled with drag performers, graveyard shift workers, teenagers, and Portland’s queer royalty, who would chat with Hale and Shattuck between sips of coffee. Hale was known as a fierce protector of her clientele, unafraid to call someone out if she was concerned about the safety of her “kids.”
“She was the mother of all misfits,” says writer Byron Beck, an old friend of Hale’s who also covered her for Eater Portland in the past. “She was so fucking kind, you know? But she was also a badass bitch. ... There’s no one else in this world I’ve seen who’s been as true to herself as her.”
The Roxy closed in spring 2022, which Hale attributed to issues with the building, pandemic-related financial strain, and the diminishing presence of a late-night dining public. Ahead of the Roxy’s closure, masses of current and former regulars flocked to the diner to say their goodbyes, noting the Roxy — and Hale’s — legacy on Portland as a whole. “This place is the reason so many people didn’t die, whether it be by suicide or somebody assaulting them,” former Roxy employee Al Young said in a March interview. “Suzanne made sure all of us were taken care of.”
Shattuck, who also served as the Roxy’s general manager, noted that she would spend the next few months planning Hale’s funeral services, which will likely include some sort of parade, per Hale’s wishes. She recommends that those interested in attending Hale’s memorial services follow the Roxy’s Facebook page for updates.
“You will be dearly missed, forever in our hearts,” Shattuck writes in a Facebook announcement, addressing her mother. “We always think we have more time, but your memory will be kept alive by the numerous people upon whom you left an indelible mark.”
This story will be updated with more information. Have a memory to share about the Lovely Suzanne? Let us know via our tip line.