NEW YORK — A gathering of more than 300 people on Sunday attended a memorial service titled “A Life of Passion And Purpose” at Judson Memorial Church to celebrate the life of Candice Vadala, better known to the adult entertainment industry as pioneer feminist adult performer and director Candida Royalle.
Attendees, mostly dressed in red (Royalle’s favorite color), came from all over the U.S., and many more from Europe.
Following a heartfelt welcome by Mary D. Dorman, the “Mistress of Ceremonies,” an intimate and often humorous photo montage was presented by Dianna Stasi, with a remarkable soundtrack of music that culminated with the jazz standard, “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” which so aptly summed up Royalle’s approach to life, and quickly became the theme for the evening.
After an opening dedication by Rev. Donna Schaper, an inspiring segment named “The Club 90 Journey” featured stories told by Royalle’s early film collaborators, Annie Sprinkle, Veronica Hart and Veronika Vera, which brought together this group of feminists in New York City during the 1980s to support each other. Those collaborators forged many of the core goals and philosophies of empowered women in the early days of modern pornographic films.
Annie Sprinkle said of Club 90, “Thank you, Candice, for starting the world’s first porn star support group in 1983.”
“The first meetings were at my apartment at 90 Lexington Ave. — hence the name Club 90,” she said. “Every week we would sit in a circle and share intimate details of our lives. We helped each other imagine our lives’ dreams. We were the original ‘Sex and the City’ girls, long before ‘Sex and the City.’ We continued to meet and support each other for 32 years, and today most of our biggest, wildest dreams have come true.
“Thank you Candice for making hardcore sex films about love. That was so radically transgressive, as well as being one of the first to bring safer sex into porn. You risked losing it all to protect your talent. Thank you Candice. You will live on in the hearts and clits of Club 90.”
The evening continued with “memories of love” — a series of stories and tributes presented by a wide variety of Royalle’s loved ones, including her sister Cinthea Vadela, Italian film director Michele Capozzi, Bob Christian, Jan Dirk, Kitty Groet, Jayme Waxman, Larry Trepel, Cathy Brown and Joey Freeman.
Film director Michele Capozzi shared that he had been friends with Royalle for many years, but had never collaborated as their friendship was too precious to risk jeopardizing by working together.
On the first day of shooting a new Femme Productions film, Royalle’s assistant director bowed out of the project.
“She was shocked and not sure what to do, so I said, well, listen — if I’ve been an assistant director for a James Bond movie, I think I can be an assistant for Candida Royalle,” Capozzi said. “And I was, which began a long history of us working together on other films. I really thank you Candice for letting me be part of your work and part of your life.”
After a moment of silence lead by Robin Leonardi (daughter of Gloria Leonard), an original song was performed by Libby Johnson, which segued into a video montage introduced by Veronica Hart featuring rare footage of Royalle in a variety of often candid and always captivating scenes.
The evening drew to a close with a charming “tomato communion” in which the attendees shared cherry tomatoes as a nod to Royalle’s love of good food and gardening (as well as her memorable composition from 1973 “The Tomato Song”).
Prior to an abundant sociable feast reception, attendees were invited to take home a small bottle of Royalle’s ashes. A proponent of “Green Burial,” one of her final wishes was for people to take some of her ashes to put in their gardens to give back to the Earth.
During the memorial service, longtime friend Larry Trepel summed up his thoughts about Royalle, saying, “How fortunate I was to have danced with her. She brought joy and excitement and laughter into my life — not because she was Candida, but because she was the forever luminescent girl that lay beneath that image. Playful, sensitive, caring — she mastered her image without becoming hypnotized by it. She opened part of herself to all, and her realness was part of what drew so many to her.”