Farewell, Mark & Bianca

Bianca Paige may be gone, but her unmistakable voice, and kind heart, lives on.
As the alter ego of actor and community activist Mark Middleton, Bianca graced Nashville’s stages for the better part of three decades. Basically, if it had a bar and a stage, Bianca probably worked there — and brought in a crowd every night.

Often lost in the rush to see (and hear, and suffer at the hands of) Bianca was Mark’s unflagging devotion to several groups and charities within the Nashville GLBT community. As quiet as Bianca was bawdy, he could be counted on to give of his time and talents at a moment’s notice.

So whether it was prowling the stage at Artrageous, terrorizing unsuspecting heterosexuals at the Chute, helping out at Nashville CARES in myriad ways or just being a kind, attentive friend, here’s to a class act. Mark and Bianca, we will miss you.

I can best describe my memories of Mark/Bianca by comparison with another drag performer, Divine. Like Divine, you had to get past the unremitting weirdness—or in Bianca’s case, the “over the top, in your face” gravelly, often deliberately vulgar bravado—to discover an actor/actress of genuine talent, with a natural sense of comic timing and uncanny gift for puncturing pretension. And like Divine/Harris Milstead, Bianca’s larger-than-life persona gave you no hint of just how shy and gentle a person Mark Middleton was in day-to-day life.

Mark/Bianca was an incredibly generous performer. Nashville CARES and the people we serve benefited countless times from that generosity. I am also grateful for his courage to be open about his experience as a person living with HIV/AIDS. That openness helped to reduce the stigma still associated with the disease and helped to remind the GLBT community that HIV remains an unresolved challenge for us.
— Joseph Interrante, CEO, Nashville CARES

I remember coming out in the mid 90's and the place to go to first was to see Bianca at Connections. She would always make you feel warm and welcome and ensured that you would laugh and have a good time. Being new to the scene, she embraced me and helped ease me into this new lifestyle.

As Mark, he was wonderful, caring and made sure to say hello and ask how you were when walking down the street. Mark worked with my partner at World's End and he was always such a delight.

Bianca was larger than life with a personality that would fill a stadium. The passing of Mark/Bianca has left a deep void in my soul. However, I am trying to fill it up with all the great memories he gave us. Bianca, have a safe trip on your next grand adventure. You will be missed, but the love you gave us will live on.
— Jack Noe

"Bianca was a true class act and a dear friend. When my mother passed away in October she was the first one to call and say, “If there is anything I can do for you, gal, let me know. I truly loved her. May she rest in peace.
— Diamond Dee

“Paging Mr. Tail, Mr. Cock Tail! Bianca was more than a queen; she was a mentor, friend and icon to many, many people. Bianca never held back when helping charitable organizations or up-and-coming kings and queens. I will always remember Mark at my grandmother's for Christmas, and Aunt Bianca giving me tips on how to be a king. May her spirit live on inside each of us. We love and miss you Bianca. Keep them laughing!”
— Damien Payne

Bianca/Mark was not just a man in makeup, but a masterpiece of performance and person. Oh, how you’ll be missed. Heaven needed to be entertained by one of our best, and is why we had to let him go. All my kisses and love to you, Ms. Bianca Paige, you’re now the fiercest angel above.

Living In New York City for 10 years now, I have seen many a performer, and yet NOT ONE has been able to even come close to the majesty that was Mark Middleton/ Bianca Paige. I was so very fortunate to know Mark privately as well. And as many times as he blew me away ON the stage, I think he moved me, blew my mind and inspired me even more OFF of it. If ever there was a true heart in this world, it was Mark's. From that instantly recognizable voice to the firm, real hugs to the laughter to the talks, there was never a dull moment, nor one that was meaningless. Mark put 150 percent into EVERYTHING he did, whether in the lights or out of them, and he will be SORELY missed. I miss him, and pray he is still laughing, loving and dancing in the light.
— jeremygann

WOW! I only wish I could have said good-bye. I can remember seeing Mark/Bianca at the Warehouse and following his career through the years. He became someone I could go and see perform and forget how the world was treating me. We would sit and chat at the Chute on many occasions, and I would love to sit and listen to his stories. A great performer will be greatly missed but I will keep him in my heart forever. If it starts to get crowded up there in heaven save me a seat because I'll be the first in line to watch you perform again!!!!

I have known Mark since I moved to Nashville 16 years ago. It didn't matter who you were, he was always nice and down to earth to everyone. He was wise beyond his years and always gave the best advice. My favorite Bianca moment was when she MC'd at Connections and did Annie Lennox’s “I Need a Man.” Ain't that the truth! Anyway, some people have to pass before they are a legend, but Bianca was a legend from the day she took the stage. I will miss Mark as a person and Bianca as a performer.
— JennJenn

Mark/Bianca will certainly be remembered as an amazing person, performer and entertainer. Her style and charm on and off stage were second to none. Equally important though, were Mark's contributions to the GLBT community in a more substantive way. In the few years I spent volunteering for a few local groups, I don't remember Mark ever saying no to a request for help. He worked hard on stage to keep us entertained, but he worked harder to better the GLBT community...he donated so many hours to most every volunteer organization in town and always seemed happy to do it. I'm grateful to have seen Bianca on stage for so many years, but I'm more thankful for his tireless contributions to all of us in the GLBT community.
— David M.

Memphis is so saddened to hear of the passing of Mark Middleton/Bianca Paige. Bianca was one of a kind and always would put on a killer show. On many trips to Nashville, watching Bianca's show was always at the top of the list of things to do while in town. I will always remember the first time I saw Bianca at the Chute, she would get the crowd so excited and would always make you laugh. Her performance on stage was always fantastic with people in line just to tip her; you could tell she was very much loved in Nashville. We were always so excited when Bianca would travel to Memphis to perform at Crossroads. Mark/Bianca you were very much loved in Memphis and you will be missed very much!
— Cliff

Bianca Paige, Nashville's Rage! The most theatrical drag queen I've ever seen! Her facial expressions were animated! She ruled the stage. She will always hold a special place in my heart! Thank you Bianca for all the cheers and laughs!
— Brian Green

Mark/Bianca, I will always remember your kindness and thoughtfulness. When I lived in Nashville 1994-2002, you gave me such memories that I still hold close to my heart. My favorite was when you ... sorry they were all my favorite. Our loss is heaven’s gain as the have a new headliner! Godspeed.
— Donald Elgin

My first drag-queen experience was with Bianca! I remember one night at The Connection in Nashville and watching with amazement a Bianca Paige performance. I went up to tip her, first time ever in my life tipping a drag queen, and she looked down, and said in that gravelly voice “THANKS DOLL.” I was so taken back that it made me jump. My life as a gay man and as a part of Nashville's gay community was immensely enhanced and influenced by Mark after that initial experience. I have and will always have the most utmost respect for him and his incredible talent. I will also greatly admire his selfless contributions to the community at large. He was friendly, humble and a genuine down to earth kinda guy -eh, girl. Mark, you will be greatly missed. I wish to thank you for being an incredible influence on my personal life and on all of those lives that you touched! Truly -Rest In Peace!
— Jimmy Smith



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