aka Terry Presley
11 May 1951 - 1991
Clubs & Associations
Sybil was the drag persona of Terry Presley. Terry's real-world ex-wife, who had been his high school sweetheart, was also named Sybil.
Sybil also wrote a history of the Honky Tonk Queen in Ten Years IAGSDC: A Collection of Pages From Our Memory Book. Sadly, Sybil met her untimely end in 1991, not long after writing the last chapter, on the operating table of a local veterinarian who had lost his practicing license many years ago during a malpractice suit involving several prominent citizens from Two Egg, Florida. The ugly rumors that both Steffany and Terry were volunteer Candy Stripers at the Animal Hospital where Sybil met her sad, sad end are just that, ugly rumors.
This would not be the end of Sybil, however. In 1992, at the convention in Albuquerque, Sybil was "found" deceased (complete with tape markings on the floor from the police investigation) in MULTIPLE dance halls during the weekend. Then in 1995, for the 10th anniversary of the HTQ Contest in Chicago, Sybil's body was exhumed and rolled in on a bellman's luggage trolley, while wrapped in heavy duty green plastic garbage bags. Her make-up and attire were suitably decayed. Even in "death" Sybil put on quite a show.
Chapter 2: 1987, Portland
A Star Is Born
It's 1987, Portland, Oregon and Virginia finally reveals her genius and how she managed to win the title three years in a row. It seems that every year up until 1987 she didn’t allow any other contestants! Is that brilliant or what ????? In 1987, she allowed other contestants to run and decided not to run herself (which is good 'cause she would have just won again). The contest was held in her hospitality suite. The room was packed with gorgeous sweaty square dancers, both male and female. The contestants were milling about, the atmosphere an odd blend of casual and tense. And there I was a young innocent girl from San Francisco, just out for a good time and a few laughs. There were other contestants. I would describe them but, unfortunately, compared to me they were so blah and pathetic that I can't honestly remember a thing about them. Oh yes, I do remember one thing, they were all unbelievably ugly. But why dwell on the unpleasant. I, SYBIL, won, and things would never be the same.
Oh Yes, I should mention one important side event. Steffany, from Western Star, made a brief appearance. I had worshiped her from the first moment I had seen her at the closing of the Gay Games in San Francisco the year before. She was everything I thought a Drag Queen should be - two tons of teased hair. But now seeing her through the eyes of the freshly crowned and universally adored HONKY TONK QUEEN, I saw her for what she really was-two tons of ratty wig. I felt something akin to pity for her (or was it repulsion?) But, why dwell on the unpleasant? Anyway I won, I won, I WON !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A STAR WAS BORN.
(from postings to the lgcwsd mailing list)
[Terry and his wife, Sybil had] been a square dancing couple. After he started dancing with Foggy City, he was going in drag for a dance (probably Halloween). He still had her square dance badge, so he put it on; thus, "Sybil."
— Freeman Stamper
[Speaking of Terry and Sybil as a couple] He left her for a man, she left him for a woman. Also I think he started in her clothes.
— Bill Anderson
I am deeply saddened by Terry's passing. Just yesterday I was telling a friend how Sybil was modeling a new pair of tit clamps as sweater clips at the convention in Chicago and IML. I still have Sybil's recipe for "sour grapes."
Terry/Sybil, you will me missed...
Hey Sybil.... YOOO HOOO
— John Faulds
One of my fondest memories is of the 1988 San Francisco fly-in, held at the Franciscan Hotel on Market Street. Sybil came zooming down Market Street on a little white Vespa, long blond hair, petticoats and skirts all flying behind, waving and shouting "Hi boys!" It was in the orange, white, and blue outfit she called "Filipino Woman on Acid."
I was present at the 1989 HTQ contest where Sybil wore the mermaid outfit. It was so tight, she could not get up the three steps to the stage. Someone says "think of it as a fish ladder.
— Darrell E.
Sybil/Terry was part of my formative years in our beloved IAGSDC square dancing family. I first attended convention in 1987 in Portland, and I remember Sybil well. S/he provided me lots of entertainment and good memories and even though s/he hasn't been dancing with us lately, that doesn't mean s/he isn't part of our family. Much love and yellowrocks....
— Ett McAtee
Terry as Sybil has the historical honor of creating the golden age of Honky Tonk Queens and being lovingly and happily remembered as the best HTQ and MC ever to host the contest. A little history:
Gary Way was selected as Honky Tonk Queen the First (Stella North-Dallas) at the very first convention in Seattle. There were no more Honky Tonk Queen contests until the 4th convention in Portland. There, in the Seattle Hospitality suite (remember get wet in Seattle and squirt guns anyone?), Gary held a contest and passed the crown on to Terry/Sybil. This was also the first contest where Mike DeSisto was a judge. Few people knew how ill Gary was and he returned from Portland and died shortly there after.
In Arizona the next year, Sybil hosted a Honky Tonk Queen Contest in one of the hotel Lobby areas which put the HTQ contest in a major venue for the first time—two waitresses from the hotel joined in and were fired until Sybil went to the manger and demanded reinstatement. The next year Pam Demonium (who won in Arizona) could not make it and Sybil appeared in her in her Famous Mermaid outfit—spawning in hops up the stairs to the stage. And what a contest it was. Sybil with her great wit and acid tongue. Nearly 50 contestants. A real mother escorting her son in drag—and Skip dressed little a mountain in drag delivering the crown.
There are many more stories to tell about Sybil, but then there is Terry the warm-hearted man, who we all remember fondly and will miss greatly.
It was Terry/Sybil who used to remember fallen Queens –especially one in particular (another Arizona/New York story Miss Yu Whoo) by taking time at the HTQ contest to wave to the heavens with a very loud “You Hooo”. Perhaps some similar recognition of Sybil can take place this year.
Hey Sybil: You :Hooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— Harlan Kerr
My own fond memory is of the '92 convention in Albuquerque where Sybil was found deceased (complete with tape markings on the floor from the police investigation) in MULTIPLE dance halls during the weekend!
We were just watching old tapes of past conventions recently...Terry/Sybil appeared in several of them!
I'm so glad I had the chance to know him!
— Bill Eyler
I was not yet a square dancer at the first Portland Convention. I was there looking for Carl Gravel, whom I knew through softball. Carl took me to that contest, where I met Sybil. Within minutes, in the midst of that hubbub, turmoil, and crowd (!!), Terry had whirled in, made me feel as if he was an old friend and that I was home, and spun away; that genuine warmth first shown by Terry and felt from so many since is an aspect very much a part of why I became and remain a square dancer. A seldom seen but very dear friend I shall miss for a long long while.
— George Fox
Terry always made sure the guys in the chorus didn't know about his other persona (Sybil) and when I'd joke with him about it, he'd just give me one of those Terry looks...I'm sure people know what I'm talking about!!!
He was truly an Angel on Earth, and now he'll be one in Heaven as well!!!
— Jeff Stiarwalt
And this is most telling.
Terry was without a doubt, one of the finest, generous and most extraordinary people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. And a measure of that extraordinary person was his ability to comprehend and empathize with those whom he encountered, and then respond to them in kind. It was truly genius.
For me, the quality he identified in me was my intense desire to understand the complexities of the world around me. So even though my interaction with Terry was mere moments, when compared with the interaction of others, there is no question that I understand far more about the world as a consequence of those brief moments with him. One of these was his reasons for no longer wanting to play the character of Sybil.
There is no question that Sybil, as played by Terry, was amazing on many, many levels (far too numerous to mention, and far better done so by others). But the character of Sybil was in many ways separate and distinct from Terry, and she took on a life of her own --- and therein the source of the problem.
With great frequency, Terry would be invited to an event, and when he arrived, he would be greeted with, “Where’s Sybil?”, to which he would respond, “Sybil isn’t coming,” and subsequently witness the huge disappointment on the faces and in the words of those with whom he would then spend the evening. In short, Terry found himself competing with Sybil (and losing), more and more as time went by --- and decided one day that he’d had more than enough of that. So in Terry’s words, “I found myself competing with the bitch, and so I killed her.”
And then was haunted by her forevermore.
I too have fond, fond memories of Sybil. But I also have even fonder memories Terry. And I know with every fiber of my being that the finest way to honor the memory of Terry is to do so by remembering Terry --- with the fictional character that he brought to life as just a footnote, rather the focus of attention.
So with this in mind, when Terry is honored at the upcoming convention in Cleveland, I suggest that “What Terry would have wanted” be the guiding principle --- with those who knew him well in recent years being the best source of guidance for what this would be.
That having been said, I suspect that:
Hey Terry: You Hooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Would be right for the occasion.
— Paul Waters (re Jeff's comment above)
My most vivid memory of Terry/Sybil is from the Chicago HTQ at which a "dead" Sybil was present for the HTQ 10th (?) anniversary.
Sybil made her entrance duct taped to brass upper carriage of a bellman's luggage trolley, while wrapped in heavy duty green plastic garbage bags. One of her two animators was Wella Balsam from SATB, I'm afraid time has erased the name of her other animator from my memory. Sybil's make-up and attire were suitably decayed. Even in "death" Sybil put on quite a show.
Another light gone from our constellation.
— Michael McMullen
Perhaps it should be remembered that Terry could have been a fine caller had he chosen that path. Back when the demo teams were a much-anticipated part of any convention, Terry co-called Boogie Brass Band for a performance team. His vocalizing and timing (like Sybil's) were flawless.
— Don St. Jean
Yes-- Terry was a very active member of the Foggy City Performance Team and did do some great calling with them as well as dancing.
One other great piece of Sybil/Terry trivia: Terry had been married and he and his wife lived in Florida and square danced.
When he first did square dance drag he still had her old badge, so put that on his dress. Her name: Sybil Presley.
He had a good story about how much his former wife, and former mother in law, reacted with hysterics when he showed them Sybil's picture.
— Harlan Kerr
- 2001 IAGSDC Convention Program (Vancouver), p.37
- Ibid., p.35