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Stella and Ina Mae – Ringside Seats Forever

29 Jul Posted by in Marga Gomez | 17 comments
Stella and Ina Mae – Ringside Seats Forever

The first time I met them was about 1982 or 1983. Who remembers – it was the 80s, I was stoned back then. I was at the Valencia Rose in San Francisco on Gay Comedy night doing a bit about trying to pick up Mormon lesbians in Utah only to end up with Marie Osmond.

The two women in the front laughing the loudest were, I thought, enjoying the unbelievable concept of Mormon lesbians until the sassiest one, Stella, points to her partner and says, Hey, she’s a Mormon! I was aghast and asked them dumb questions like – did they have other wives? Through her guffaws Ina Mae told me about—Affirmations—the only organization for LGBT members and ex- members of the Mormon church.

It was a group in which she had played a leadership role. When I think back on that night I respect how good-natured Ina Mae was explaining her faith to an agnostic like me during a comedy show. I also realize that even if she and Stella might have been laughing at me instead of with me, the sight of them poking each other and doubled over and giggling was something I wanted more of.

On July 17, 2010 gay comedy lost its two greatest champions Stella Lopez-Armijo and Ina Mae Murri in a fatal car accident. Who they were and the life they made together during their 30 year relationship could fill a best seller and has positively impacted many people in all walks of life. Doing comedy is how I got to know them.

They were the original Gay Comedy super fans. In the 80’s and up to this year, Stella and Ina Mae, partners in love and laughs, followed us queer comics from San Francisco to Albuquerque and all over America to festivals and Prides and famously on Olivia cruises. They were the deadheads of Queer comedy. Sometimes you’d even see them sporting tie dye shirts (in rainbow colors of course.)

Sure they followed women’ music, loved traveling and all things LGBT, but we comics liked to think this couple bought that ticket or took that flight or got on that ship because of us. When they met, Stella was a wise-cracking chicana dyke who liked to have a good time and Ina Mae was a tireless political activist with a wicked grin. Gay comedy was a perfect fit for them on date night.

Their support meant the world to us comics. When they were in your front row it felt like a command performance and before the show was over at least one, if not all, of the comics would give them a shout out. We worked a little harder for them, because we needed to be at least as funny as Stella. We comics found it remarkable how they would appear in the audience when we were out on the road, always front and center. They had a way of sweet talking every usher in every town to let them take the good seats before the crowd rushed in.

On their tribute page many have noted that throughout their relationship you’d never see one without the other. I must admit I used to get their names mixed up because to me Ina Mae really looked like a Stella and vice versa. So Stina sounds like them. They were so close, like two distinct halves of a better world and always inseparable.  I am one of the lucky comics who got to be a small part of the great adventure that was Stella and Ina Mae. We will always remember them laughing, front and center.

Learn more about them in their own words:

Ina Mae’s Story

Stella’s Story

Visit Marga Gomez at

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  • Dianne Davidson says:

    Thanks, Marga… I am still left without words at this loss.

  • The Battleaxe says:

    Great story and tribute Marga, brought tears to my eyes.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Larry-bob Roberts, Marga Gomez. Marga Gomez said: Just published-My tribute to Gay Comedy fans Stella and Ina Mae. […]

  • Just seeing their faces brings back the wonderful times we had with them at Lavender Seniors. They were one hell of a pair.. a team sport to be sure! We loved them and were often just confused by their antics but trusted them to be exactly what the showed us they were.

    Not only the LGBT community will miss them… they touched the hearts and MINDS of lots of members inside that special community and out side as well. They brought to our world a sense of order and persuasion…consider, think, do the right thing.

    We are missing them big time and they will be in our hearts and memory forever. God Bless this awsome twosome!
    To their immediate family our love and hopes for brighter days of memory of Ina Mae and Stella.

    Suzanne and Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

  • Bruce R. Blackwell says:

    You know my aunt Stella. She was my Mom’s closest sibling out of a verly large family. You bit off quite a chunk if you ever want to make anybody laugh more than aunt Stella. One of my earliest memories was in the sixties and my Mom mentioned something about getting fat. Aunt Stella pulled up her shirt far enough to grab a handful and said, “You call that fat? This is fat!” Her children are some of my best lessons in real love.

  • Paula Lewis says:

    Marga, we love you. You made us laugh and you made us cry. We have been close friends with Stina for over 20 years and will miss them beyond words. Thanks for the memories! Hugs…

  • Jill Cruse says:

    Thanks Marga – I remember them from the first cruises they did with us in the early 90’s. Stella always had a wise-crack for me, while Ina quietly grinned in the background. Stella told me without hesitatioon what she liked, and what she wanted me to change about things on the trips – mainly for Ina’s hearing disability that absolutely needed front and center seats at every show (we never disagreed :-))

    In the early days (1990’s), they even sponsored one of the first Olivia House parties at their house and invited me over to talk about our trips. They loved Olivia, and we loved them. I know they are living their lives together up there, in their tie-dye shirts, laughing and continuing their strong love for each other… They will be missed.

  • Marga Gomez says:

    Hi Jill
    I didn’t know about Ina’s hearing loss. I remember having lunch with them on a cruise and Stella said to me something like “I like your stand up better than the theater.” I looked over at the buffet table and there you were disguised as a pineapple.
    your former roomie,

  • Marga Gomez says:

    Thank you so much Paula. We have to rock on for them.

  • Marga Gomez says:

    Hi Bruce,
    Love that story. I can hear her voice saying that.

  • Marga Gomez says:

    Thanks Ladies. I hear there will be a special meeting of LS about STINA on November 13. I bet there will be some more great stories told.

  • Marga Gomez says:

    Sending you love DD!

  • Marga Gomez says:

    See you soon gurl!

  • Jill Cruse says:

    Oh yes – The Pineapple head! Did you ever see the Watermelon head? Long overdue to do again – but more wrinkles to cover up now 🙂
    I will miss our very first Olivia cruises together as roomies, and the laughter of our dear friends Ina and Stella. Marga, I hope this finds you well, my friend!
    Love, Jill

  • Victoria Richie says:

    There are some pictures on the Facebook Tribute site I found in a folder on my computer labels “moms pics”. They look like they are from a cruise. Maybe you could help identify some of the people in the photos.
    Stella’s daughter- Vickie

  • Cathy Horten says:

    I just love reading this over & over. Thank you so much Marga & thank you all for your kind words, they really do help with the healing. It’s true being Stina’s kid, we were so blessed to have the best Moms who led by example.

  • My partner and I first met Stella and Ina at the Santa Rosa Pride Festival around 1996 when they had a booth selling gay pride rainbow products. We bought that business from them a year or so later and still continue to sell those products at festivals throughout the Western States as MarJane Enterprises. We were so saddened to hear of their deaths from their good friend, Cher, at the recent San Jose Pride Festival. We are so glad they enjoyed themselves at gay comedy events and going on cruises. They will be missed.
    Mardie and Jane