If you’ve been to any parade or festival in Queens, you’ve probably seen a friendly street entertainer with a colorful, bushy beard and extravagant women’s clothing, his pet parrot and poodle in tow. We most recently spotted him twirling and posing at the St. Pat’s for All parade and the Flushing Lunar New Year parade. Wherever he goes, he doesn’t hold back on having fun and bringing smiles to people’s faces.
So who is this character? It’s Oswaldo Gomez, also known as “Ms. Colombia” or the “Queen of Queens.” Gomez lives in Elmhurst and travels all over the city on a daily basis to be a part of the action (and a center of attention) at various parades, street festivals, beaches, and parks.
Pavement Pieces has the story behind this local street celebrity’s ways. Now in his late 60s, Gomez learned about 25 years ago that he had AIDS, and the devastating diagnosis changed his outlook on life. “He decided he should enjoy what little time he had left. So he put on a costume.” And he has been the life of the party every since.
Gomez has been in every single parade in NYC, even when his participation is not welcome (like in the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day parade, when police kicked him out several times but he just rejoined the procession anyway). He was once a lawyer in Colombia and was studying for a Ph.D. when he was diagnosed with AIDS; but now his full-time job is to get strangers to smile. Despite his serious illness and the dozens of medications he takes to control it, he has said, “I do in one day what most people do in a week.”