Orlando’s community is mourning the loss of John ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”TweekaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Barber, who died Oct. 17. Barber was a performer, philanthropist and friend to many. Early this year, he was diagnosed with Sinonasal Carcinoma Cancer, a rare and highly aggressive form of the disease. He was 38 years old.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”The community is very sad,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â said local performer Baby Blue Star, who was Barber’s best friend. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”It’s crazy how one person can touch so many people’s lives, but he did.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Barber’s ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”TweekaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â character was developed at the Big Bang, a notable downtown LGBT dance club which is no longer open.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”Tweeka was always willing to dress up and climb into that persona if it was for a good cause,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Watermark publisher Tom Dyer, who has known Barber for 15 years.
Barber was known for tireless volunteering and fundraising for a number of causes, but Hope and Help of Central Florida, Inc. was the charity closest to his heart.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”Definitely his charity work was a commitment to the awareness of AIDS,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Blue said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”Hope and Help was his charity of choice, he was very loyal to them and became a spokesman for AIDS awareness.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Local drag legend Sam ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”Miss SammyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Singhaus performed with Barber hundreds of times after meeting him at the Big Bang when Barber was 18. They dated for a while, then Barber moved to Tampa to go to school. Singhaus said they started performing together in drag at Sherry’s Diner in Ybor City as Barber was graduating from the University of South Florida.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”He came back to Orlando and was doing some drag,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Singhaus said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”He started cutting hair and he cut everybody’s hair in town, too.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Dyer said Barber was they stylist of Mayor Buddy Dyer’s wife, and Singhaus said because of his friendships in that office, Barber had a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”influenceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â on downtown politics.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”He was so giving and so not afraid to be himself,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Singhaus said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”It took a lot of courage to be Tweeka and everyone loved him for that.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Singhaus said Barber worked through the coming out process with a conservative family, moved to South Florida for a while, and then headed up to Atlanta where he met Blue.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”He threw me up in a go-go box and told me to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Go!’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said.
Toward the end of his battle, she acted as a liaison between Barber and the rest of the community via Facebook.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”His last month he was out and about, but then he got sick and [Facebook] really did help us communicate because people were hungry to find out what was going on with him,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said.
Blue said Barber is survived by his mother, two sisters, a brother and countless friends.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”He was such an amazing soul who touched so many people and he had the ability to make every person he came in contact with feel special. I think what we are experiencing now is proof of that,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Blue said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”He is just so loved. And he had the meanest high kick on the planet.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”When the cancer hit, it was devastating because we all love him, we were all part of his life.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Singhaus said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”There won’t ever be anybody like him and we’ll miss him dearly.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â
There will be a memorial service 11 a.m. Oct. 21 at the Church of the Messiah in Winter Garden. An ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã…”AfterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢”šÂ¬Ã‚Â Party, at Barber’s request, is in the works for Oct. 23 at Stardust and XL Gallery from 5 – 8 p.m.