Orlando people who died in 2011
Local notables we lost
Published: January 5, 2012
John “Tweeka Weed” Barber
Local hairstylist, drag persona and philanthropist
2011 was always going to be a year of reckoning for John Barber, and from the get-go, before anyone else was willing to admit it, John – or “Tweeka Weed,” as his be-wigged drag persona came to be known – knew how it would end. Barber’s diagnosis at 38 years old with an aggressive form of cancer known as sinonasal carcinoma didn’t hobble his stellar ambitions; rather, it only made his star burn brighter and his laugh that much louder. After all, the longtime entertainer and hairdresser was already far more than the stereotypical sum of his gay parts by that point. His appearances in dark bar corners and on black-tie fundraiser stages from Atlanta to Orlando were the stuff of legend – though his appearance next to you on the sidewalk, cackling and jeering, could be just as illuminating. He took no bullshit. He held no illusions. He was the embodiment of underground honesty achieving the ultimate in mainstream acceptance. He was, indeed, special.
With his companion-in-mischief, Baby Blue, by his side until the bitter end on Oct. 17, Barber spent the year punctuating grueling bouts of chemotherapy, hospital-hopping and, ultimately, hospice, reaching out to the community, gay and straight. His Barber Fund – a charity set up not just to aid his expensive treatment, but the future medical needs of others – spawned raucous fundraising parties, some with funny brownies included, all drenched with tears of joy. It’s no irony that this son of former Winter Garden Mayor Robert Barber would be joined onstage by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer – Barber was, after all, a living anachronism: one part political, a million parts bizarre. (He also did Karen Dyer’s hair, of course.) Also not surprising was the outpouring of emotion at his passing, both on Facebook and at various memorials. Anybody who met Tweeka loved Tweeka, and to this day, people still flock to his Facebook page to tell him hello like he’s still there, just waiting for a call. “One Love” was Barber’s slogan in life, and that love is his legacy. “And then,” he would always say, presumably anticipating absurdity. And then he was gone. – Billy Manes
It was early Saturday morning when the phone started ringing. Musicians never call each other before noon unless it’s critically important – or indescribably horrible.
Orlando musicians can tell you exactly where they were on Sept. 10, 2011, when they heard the news that Ralph Ameduri was shot and killed. He was such a vital and beloved part of the creative community, it seemed impossible that he could be taken from us so suddenly – and so brutally.