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Legendary Key West Drag Performer Sushi Plans Final NYE Shoe Drop

Sushi, Key West's legendary drag queen
Florida Keys News Bureau
A drag queen sits in a giant red shoe surrounded by revelers

KEY WEST, Fla. -- After 25 years of “dropping” in a giant red high-heeled shoe on New Year’s Eve, elaborately dressed as legendary Key West drag queen “Sushi,” Gary Marion is hanging up the heel.

For a quarter of a century, Marion’s alter ego Sushi has starred in the Bourbon St. Pub complex’s New Year’s Eve festivities, a Florida Keys takeoff on New York City’s Times Square ball drop that’s dubbed the Red Shoe Drop.

Each December 31, wearing a lavish self-designed gown, Sushi perches in a super-sized replica of a woman’s red shoe high above Key West’s Duval Street, bantering with thousands of revelers below while entertainers perform on a streetside stage. Seconds before midnight, the red shoe-carrying Sushi is “dropped” from the complex’s second-story balcony, landing amid fanfare and applause as the clock strikes 12.

“The way I feel in the shoe is amazing,” said Marion. “It’s been a growth experience for me, because the first year I didn’t know what was going on; I didn’t realize that thousands and thousands of people would be watching me in a red shoe.

“So it’s exciting, it’s sort of dangerous because you don’t know what’s going on and you’re above the whole audience — but I enjoy every minute of it,” Marion said.

Since its inception, the Red Shoe Drop has become so famous that it’s often featured on national and international New Year’s Eve television programs. Even so, Marion has determined that this will be Sushi’s last year in the spotlight.

Plans call for the high-heeled happening to continue next New Year’s Eve with a different drag queen, who is likely to be chosen during June’s Key West Pride festival.

But late Saturday night, as the final seconds of 2022 tick down to the dawn of 2023, Sushi is to “drop” in the red shoe one last time.

“I don’t know exactly how I’m going to feel in the shoe at the moment, but I’m sure it’s going to be very emotional for me,” said Marion.