Anthony M. Boston, a former WERQ-FM disc jockey whose irreverent portrayal of the drag queen "Miss Tony" became a fixture in Baltimore nightclubs for more than a decade, died of kidney failure Friday at Maryland General Hospital. He was 36 and a longtime Woodlawn resident.
Mr. Boston - who abandoned the role late in his life and worked to help the needy - was born in Baltimore, raised in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood and a 1985 Harbor City Learning Center graduate.
"As a kid, he was singing and dancing all the time. He even took dancing lessons," said a brother, Jermaine A. Boston of Baltimore.
In the mid-1980s, Mr. Boston, who acknowledged being gay, began dressing as Miss Tony.
"But make no mistake, says Tony Boston. Miss Tony was a man, and there was never any plan to change that fact," according to an article on him in The Sun in 1999. "Miss Tony was an all-out, unrepentant drag queen, a man who admired women and their ways and strove to be a souped-up, extra-feminine version of them."
With an over-the-top wardrobe and fancy coiffure, Miss Tony quickly became something of a cult figure and a favorite in city nightspots.
"Nearly everyone in Baltimore knew this woman, or at least had heard of her. She could walk into a room, all brassy, sassy 350-plus pounds of her, and bring you to your feet, singing, dancing, laughing. Or to your knees with a stabbing glare," the article said.
Mr. Boston was working as a security guard for the city housing authority and as a master of ceremonies for parties when Frank Ski, a personality at the station known as 92-Q, heard him sing at the Shake and Bake Family Fun Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"He listened to her do a few songs and then hired her. That's how it started," Jermaine Boston said.
Hired as an entertainment reporter for WERQ in 1994, Mr. Boston later became half of the station's morning team - first with Randy Dennis, and later alongside Mr. Ski.
"By night, she was a glitzy after-hours nightclub diva; by day, a raspy-voiced early-morning disc jockey for Baltimore's most-listened-to radio station," said The Sun article, published a few months before Mr. Boston was fired from the morning show. He continued working part time at the station, however, as host of the late-night show Off the Hook Radio.
However, the fast life - years of drinks and drugs, he told The Sun - was beginning to catch up with Mr. Boston. He suffered kidney failure in 1999, which required him to have dialysis treatments three times a week.
Despite all of the celebrity and fame that Miss Tony had brought him, Mr. Boston chose to shed the persona that had gripped his life for 12 years.
In 1998, he walked into Victory Center, a nondenominational Northeast Baltimore church. He was carrying several bags of shoes and dresses that he had worn as Miss Tony and had come to renounce the character before the church congregation.
"Miss Tony was a person he lived 24 hours a day," Jermaine Boston said. "It'll be five years ago this Easter Sunday that he stopped living as Miss Tony and became Anthony Boston again. It was a lifestyle that was over."
Until his death, Mr. Boston worked in the church's outreach ministry assisting the needy.
"The life he lived the last five years can't compare with the previous 31. They were the most peaceful and rewarding of his life. He lived as a man for the remainder of his days," his brother said.
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and the funeral at 10 a.m. Saturday, both at Higher Dimensions Christian Center at the Palladium, 2900 Liberty Heights Ave.
Mr. Boston also is survived by three other brothers, Philip Boston of California, and Reginald Little and Kevin Boston, both of Baltimore; three sisters, Shirl Boston, Roslyn Boston and Sharana Boston, all of Baltimore; and many nieces and nephews.