Community Mourns Death of Entertainer, HIV Advocate and WeHo Resident Irene Soderberg

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Irene Soderberg - Photo by Mike Pingel

The West Hollywood community is mourning the loss of entertainer, HIV Advocate, Fairy Godmother of Fundraising, and WeHo resident, Irene Soderberg, who sources say, passed away this morning at Cedars Sinai.

Soderberg has been entertaining for over 30 years. Wherever there was a piano in West Hollywood, she was there singing and entertaining. She performed regularly at the Christina Applegate-owned Villa VillaKula back in the 90s (where Fiesta Cantina now sits) and she also entertained at the long gone Don’t Tell Mama piano bar in West Hollywood to name only a few of the venues she performed in.

Council member John Duran adjourned in memory of Soderberg at the West Hollywood regular council meeting tonight. “[She] was one of our own, an HIV activist,” he said at virtual meeting. “Irene Soderberg passed away this morning. She was a dear friend to many of us on the City Council. She was an entertainer. She was an HIV positive woman. She was an incredible singer and used her voice at so many HIV and AIDS fundraisers around West Hollywood. I last saw her when John Carvalo and I had dinner with her at Cafe D’Etoile right before it closed. I’m glad I got to spend the last time that I had with Irene. We were giggling about the old bad old days of the 80s and 90s. We had an opportunity to tell each other that we loved each other. I’m glad we got to do that before we lost her this morning. Rest in peace to Irene Soderberg, one of our residents and an activist and a warrior against HIV.”

Mike Pingel and Irene Soderberg

“What an incredibly sad day finding out the news that Irene Soderberg passed away yesterday,” WEHO TIMES contributor Mike Pingel posted on his Facebook timeline today. “She had a wonderful spirit, she lit up the a room when she walked in and don’t forget she always had CD to give you! This songbird had a heart of gold. The sweetest person you will ever meet. Rest in peace.”

“Irene Soderberg. a legendary person one could really smile when thinking about,” posted Matthew Mullens. “Every joke, every smile and every laugh will never be forgotten. thanks for making our world better and brighter. rest in peace.”

As of the posting of this piece, there are 120 messages on her Facebook timeline sharing memories and saying goodbye. The cause of her death is not yet known. Some sources say she passed due to heart failure. Other sources say she had complications with an infection.

“As some of you know now, Irene had just come home from the hospital from an infection in some wounds, and she and we thought she was strong and doing well,” posted Cindy Kendall on her Facebook Timeline. “They have not yet officially declared cause of death but no one thinks it was her heart…would be hard to believe that the best heart in the world would ever have any problems…was sudden and a shock and likely related to the infection.
She wasn’t answering her phone and then she was gone. I honestly thought Irene was going to outlive our entire generation…her infinite Love and joy and appreciation for each and every detail about EVERYONE who crossed her path, was her infinite strength.
I believe she is JOYOUS to be with her friends and family who left before she did, while still immersing all of us in her eternal Love. I don’t know how my daughter (Irene’s “Fairy Goddaughter”) and I are ever going to find the feeling of such joy and magic and love and hugs and laughter and song as she brought into our life. Irene and I were so grateful to love each other and to be so loved by the other, and it was our joy to share our joy with E.
Please message me on Facebook if you want to talk by Message or phone. It may take me a few days as I am not much for talking yet. Irene’s brother and I will talk again tomorrow about how best to Celebrate her Life. We are thinking of doing a Zoom service very soon and then a gathering/party/celebration of Irene when this quarantine is over…all with singing and talking story… All Love to you all…Cindy Kendall”

HIV Plus magazine named her #19 in the 25 Most Amazing People Living with HIV in 2019 and credited her for raising millions for those living with HIV with her wildly entertaining and inventive stage shows. San Francisco declared April 21 “Irene Soderberg Day” in 2002 for her tireless work and contributions to HIV and AIDS causes over the years. Her husband infected her with HIV in 1990 while she was living in San Francisco. She came out as HIV positive to battle HIV stigma. She was 67 years-old.

 

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Don Taylor
Don Taylor
3 months ago

I’m heartbroken. she was a shining star and the bestes friend a gay man could ever have.

Elizabeth PettePiece
Elizabeth PettePiece
3 months ago

She was a Goddess of the best sort, never met a stranger, always encouraged everyone to be themselves, made me laugh, made me cry and sometimes made me get up and sing…she will be so sorely missed.

Deborah Deibler
Deborah Deibler
3 months ago

My friend and my Fairy God Mother. Our beautiful day together when my Mom and I passed through on a road trip was nothing short of a fab time. And yes and in true Irene fashion she made us a few cd’s for our travels while makinng us desert. When I’m cruising acroos our great country I do play here cd’s . Her singing always made me smile!!! Aloha Ke Akua Titah …. we will never forget you!

Mel Greene
Mel Greene
3 months ago

Irene was a dear friend for many years. I first met her in San Francisco, & every year I’d go to Russian River to see her perform for my birthday (July 4) at the Triple R. Many fond memories of her. I also went to Honolulu when she lived there for visits & adventures. She will surely be missed by many, but especially by me. We really grew up together during my 28 years I lived in San Francisco. Soar with the angels now dear. You are now a star among the stars….

Peter
Peter
3 months ago

She used to sing frequently at the Rose Tattoo where I once worked. Ironically the building that housed the restaurant and cabaret was just torn down as part of West Hollywood expansion.

TomSmart
TomSmart
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

Expansion? I believe you meant destruction

TomSmart
TomSmart
3 months ago

RIP dear lady. I remember Applegate’s Rubi Rosa in that space but not the one in this article.

Paulo Murillo
Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  TomSmart

Rubi Rosa became Villa Villakulla, then it became Faulkner’s, then it became Villa VillaKulla again and the people just started calling it Sybil for its multiple personalities. All owned by Christina Applegate. I was a host on the second round of Villa Villakulla and she performed numerous times there. I especially remember the crowd she drew the last New Year’s Eve party before the restaurant closed. I think it became an uppity restaurant called Lua, which didn’t last, before it became the trashy Puerto Vallarta-inspired Fiesta Cantina that we see today.

TomSmart
TomSmart
3 months ago
Reply to  Paulo Murillo

Hahaha Fiesta IS a shit-hole. Can I say that here? I wonder why the health department hasn’t shut it down. Would it hurt them to clean and paint once in a while? Thanks for the Applegate history lesson!