A radiant light went out in the Bay Area burlesque community in the early morning of Sunday, May 26, when Sarah Klein, known as Sparkly Devil, died in a tragic automobile accident.

Sparkly was a performer, producer, journalist, friend, and a sister, both on- and offstage. Sparkly lived her life out loud. A real-life bombshell, with curves as wild as her platinum blonde mane, she blazed her way across the country from Detroit, MI to the Bay Area, bringing with her a passion for the stage that left her audiences lusting for more and her fellow performers inspired.

Sparkly embodied burlesque, body and soul, and to see her was to watch a live celebration of the art form. With a beauty reminiscent of the pin-ups of yesteryear and comedic timing that rivaled that of the greatest female comedians, she truly was our very own Goldie Hawn.

Sparkly shined just a little brighter than the rest of us. It emanated from inside. Most of us saw this light beaming from stage. Arriving in 2007, she helped define and develop the neo-burlesque movement in the Bay Area. She was fierce, commanding, and, quite simply, thrilling to watch.

Whether spoofing a sketch from Saturday Night Live, embodying Betsy Ross getting funky to James Brown’s “Living in America,” or combining the grace and beauty of a Sally Rand fan dance with modern hip hop, Sparkly Devil challenged contemporary beauty and body ideals while pushing the boundaries of what burlesque could be.

For those of us lucky enough to call her friend and stage-sister, we knew a kindhearted soul who celebrated the community she called family.  Sparkly hosted our holiday gatherings, was the first to welcome visitors backstage before a performance, and taught us all about family, friendship, and glitter, of course.

Her diplomacy and loyalty were top-notch, and her dedication to sisterhood transcended our scene as she worked to honor the performers who paved the way. As a journalist, Sparkly told the stories of the burlesque stars of yesteryear.

She also founded the Legends Challenge, an international fundraising event that provides financial support to burlesque legends around the world. She raised awareness of these once-forgotten performers and specifically highlighted the challenges faced by women of color.

The Sarah I knew had an enormous heart and loved to its capacity her husband, her art, her writing, her family, and her friends. It is the extent to which Sparkly embraced life that makes her death so unbearably shocking for those of us who knew her.  She was one of the most alive people I have ever known.

In Sarah’s world, there were no roadblocks, just hills to climb. The last couple of years, she implemented that philosophy in a more literal sense as she turned her focus to physical fitness and strength. She was a badass known to wake early the morning after a performance to run a 5K or deadlift 200 pounds at the gym, and we all cheered her on as she accomplished her personal fitness goals. She was looking forward to competing in Tough Mudder in Tahoe this year, and we were looking forward to watching her.

Sarah was a very rare person those left behind feel lucky to have known. I will miss my friend, whom I greatly admired, and I will cherish the memories I shared with my sister on stage.  In our Bay Area burlesque world, we relish all things shiny. Aptly named, Sparkly was truly our brightest rhinestone. Her twinkle changed all of us, and we deeply mourn this light that has gone out.



3 Responses

  1. Lady Monster

    Thanks Honey (and Lauren) for this beautiful remembrance. I keep seeing her smile, feeling her hugs and the wetness of her kisses. It seems so impossible that her incredible energy is gone from our lives and the stage.

  2. Ivonne

    A fitting article that does her justice. Thank you for sharing your side of her with us who may have not known her as well as you have.

  3. Stasha

    I too hail from the Midwest and had known Sarah since we were practically kids. When she moved here she consulted with me on every detail before deciding her fate. Leaving Detroit was a tough decision for her but once she made it we hit the town running and San Francisco ate her up, welcoming her with arms opened wide.
    We loved like sisters and fought like sisters. Over two decades we hit some bumps in the road and my biggest regret is that we left somethings unsaid. In past months we had exchanged a few emails. The last one was me telling her how proud of her I was. I can only hope she read it.
    When I think of her I think of her crimson stained mouth wide open in that Lucille Ball way she had about her that made us all laugh and l love her even more. I think of this incident about a decade ago now where in the middle of a performance at a major event she fell but got right back up. After the performance she took the picture of her on the floor with a caption telling people the difference between greatness and not is the ability to get back up after a fall. For the longest time I had that as my desktop. I wish I could find it again because it really was her personified.
    The other thing I think of is her giving me a lap dance for my birthday while we were all in Las Vegas and as a joke she put her face between my boobs. I was wearing a black shirt and she left a perfect makeup print of her face on it which we dubbed the shroud of Sarah. It was something that we laughed about every time we saw each other.
    While I am sad that I can’t ever say the things left unsaid I did find an email from her from way back in the spring of 98. She had made a blog entry asking people to tell each other what they most admired about one another. I told her the thing I admired the most about her was her ability to love so completely with her entire heart, soul, and being and even when it didn’t work out she just brushed herself off and continued loving that way. That she was loving to the fullest extent one can be. She said that I was the same way she was and it meant the world to her that I noticed that in her and at the time she said it was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said about her which I actually thought was funny because I know now it’s what attracted us all to her the most. That and her absolute lust for life.
    She will obviously be missed by so many people and it may be selfish to say but her Midwest sisters… well I think will miss her just a little bit more than anyone else and I include in that myself, Debra and Batty. We were kindred spirits after all.
    I am still in shock over the whole thing but I know that she’d want us all to live life the way she did with just a tad bit more sparkle, a fully opened heart, and a hell of a lot more glitter.


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