The life and death of Utah’s Cinamon Hadley — ballerina, goth queen and inspiration for Death of the Endless

Nov. 6, 1969 ~ Jan. 6, 2018 • Family and friends of one of Utah’s most eclectic and beloved personalities tell their stories of her “otherworldly” existence.

(Photo courtesy of Sarah Knight Photography) Cinamon Hadley, an influential figure in Salt Lake City's goth scene and the visual inspiration for the character "Death of the Endless," from DC Comics' "The Sandman," died Jan. 6, 2018.

Cinamon Hadley couldn’t help but make an impression. She projected an unforgettable image with her long dreadlocks, her tall and wispy, tattooed and pierced figure, her goth couture, her 6-inch-high heels.

But there was far more to it than that. She entranced people with her dancing. She inspired the look for the Death of the Endless character from DC Comics’ “The Sandman” series. Mostly, she enchanted those she came across with the kindness of her spirit.

“She was probably pretty empathic. She felt things from people around her — their hurts, their joys, and she was very, very compassionate,” said her mother, Patti Hadley. “I can’t count the number of people who came up and expressed how she had loved them and helped them, and it was genuine. She gave her heart.”

Cinamon Hadley died Jan. 6 in Salt Lake City from the effects of colon cancer. But through phone calls and emails, some of those who knew her best shared the memories of her that show her spirit still lives on.

The dancer …

Patti Hadley, mother • She started ballet at age 8, and that pretty much consumed her life until she graduated from high school. … We spent an incredible amount of time together because of her ballet career. She'd grab her soles, and she would leave school and go straight to ballet — she wouldn't get home until probably 10 o'clock. And that was probably five nights a week.

Ivy Earnest, friend • I met her probably when I was about 14 at The Palladium dance club. On Wednesdays, they had dance night for a dollar, and I’d sneak out of my house to go. And we ended up in the same friend group. She was actually very shy — very timid and quiet. So we kinda just sat there together and didn’t say a lot.

Tracy Painter, friend • The first time I saw her was dancing at The Ritz. I had never seen anyone like her. … Her movements were so graceful, like she was telling a story with her whole body. She was so excited because her dad had bought her the black dress she was wearing. It was a big deal, because he had never bought her anything black before. At that moment, I found a connection. I had lied to my parents about where I was supposed be (It’s OK — they know all about it now). We both come from an LDS background.

… My little sister was taking classes at the Christensen Center in Murray. I would go in and watch sometimes. One day, I was watching a class of older girls and saw Cinamon. Her gorgeous hair was tied up in a tight bun on top of her head, and she was in the requisite ballet uniform. Watching her dance was transcendent. It was like the world fell away and she was on her own.

The new scene …

Tarey Potter, friend • I met Cinamon at the Denny's in Provo in 1986. She was still blond then, but her hair was still as big as ever.

Patti Hadley • When she first got into goth, one day she said, “I only wanna wear black and white.” So, as mom, that’s what I did — we went to the store and tried to do black and white. And then it was switching to only black.

Jennifer Russell, friend • I would take her and other friends home with me to my family’s house in Holladay for sleepovers. She found a kindred friendship with my very Mormon mother, who used to be a ballerina for several dance companies in SLC. My mom always loved when Cinamon came to stay over. She never cared that she had a spiderweb painted on her face.

(Courtesy photo) Jennifer Russell, Cinamon Hadley, and Chandra Karren.

Tarey Potter • In 1987, she moved into a basement apartment at the Hollywood Apartments (aka “Kill Pigs”). We would talk late into the night, listening to and talking about music. We both had similar tastes, but she absolutely loved Skinny Puppy.

Corrinne Lovendahl, friend • I met Cin when I was 16, back in ’87. She let me live with her at “Kill Pigs,” where we painted our walls black and the bathtub blue — who knows why the landlord allowed it, but he did. We were in such a quandary how to dye the carpet black.

Jennifer Russell • We had many crazy adventures at SLC dance clubs (The Ritz and The Palladium). Many more at the apartment building on 1st and 3rd — nicknamed “Kill Pigs.”

Ivy Earnest • We’d panhandle at Crossroads Mall, trying to get a dollar to get a cup of coffee, and then we’d go hang out at the park.

Tarey Potter • We were all starving and barely making ends meet, but we all looked out for one another. Cinamon, much like me, hated to see anyone without a roof over their head, so she opened her apartment to our friend Chandra, who was only 15 at the time.

Patti Hadley • Absolutely everywhere Cinamon went, she was kind of the star of the show. It's just her degree of being able to put things together. She was a leader without even trying to be. That, plus a group that readily accepted her, where maybe she didn't feel as much acceptance from at least part of her own family of origin …

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Carlisle) Cinamon Hadley, an influential figure in Salt Lake City's goth scene and the visual inspiration for the character Death of the Endless, from DC Comics' "The Sandman," died Jan. 6, 2018.

The comic book …

Ivy Earnest • Our mutual friend Mike Dringenberg was a DC Comics artist, and he drew her one time. She had this certain look — people seemed to admire her fierceness. … We didn’t really know anything about that drawing until two years later, and then it was, “You’re in ‘The Sandman’ comic!” I think she was insanely humble about it. It was always other people — “Hey, you’re famous.” That never came out of her mouth. It was always kind of a word-on-the-street thing.

Jennifer Russell • As for her “fame” as Death, she really never cared too much about it. We all had a close-knit group of friends and watched Mike draw “The Sandman” over coffee at Bandaloops [Deli] and Nordstrom’s.

Corrinne Lovendahl • I found out later Mike D had convinced [series creator] Neil Gaiman to use her likeness as Death. We laughed and laughed and thought, “How fitting — a kind, beautiful Death. Yes.” Even she never realized that she would become an icon to people she'd never met.

Alana McDonald, friend • I found out about her association with “The Sandman” series. I had read it many times and love Neil Gaiman. Despite all that, in my head, Cinamon wasn’t Death — she was very much alive. There is a disassociation that still exists here for me.

(Photo courtesy of Sarah Knight Photography) Cinamon Hadley, an influential figure in Salt Lake City's goth scene and the visual inspiration for the character Death of the Endless, from DC Comics' "The Sandman," died Jan. 6, 2018.

The struggles …

Patti Hadley • There were tattoos and drugs and whatever else. She didn’t share a lot of that with me. … Living on the streets and trying to figure out whom to live with. Not everybody in the goth scene is of the same caliber as all the people I met. So there were some ups and downs for her. And of course, some of the people that she lived with were into drugs and so forth.

Corrinne Lovendahl • She loved Skinny Puppy, was obsessed. So, after getting our roommate to cover the rent and “watch the place,” we tried to hitchhike to Chicago for an upcoming concert. We made it to Portland, Ore. — her, Chandra and myself, in 1988. October is a strange time to hitchhike, cold. And we ended up on the West Coast, not Chicago. Ugh. We figured out SP was playing in Seattle and thumbed it there. … We lost each other in Seattle, when we got separated.

Tarey Potter • Once the rent money had run dry for Cinamon and Chandra, they tried moving to Portland. Cinamon’s car broke down as soon as they had arrived. The place they were supposed to stay had also fallen through, so they ended up living in the broken-down car. To make the situation worse, they were being chased after shoplifting some food one evening, and Chandra accidentally broke her ankle. Cinamon hauled Chandra around in a shopping cart for almost a week. … I never did find out how Cinamon made it back to SLC, but she did — of course without her car.

Corrinne Lovendahl • [We] reunited a few years later in SLC — I had an apartment on South Temple and 5th East. She came and laid in bed with me, and we talked and laughed and cried, and then she had to go. Back to somewhere.

The return …

(Courtesy photo) Jennifer Russell and Cinamon Hadley at a Ritz reunion party in 2010.

Tracy Painter • After the first Ritz reunion, Aaron Shea and I got talking and decided that Cinamon HAD to be at the next one. It was The Ritz — it wasn’t the scene history without her. We took up a collection and got her here. Meeting her at the airport, being able to give her a HUGE hug — it felt like coming home. That reunion was insane. A ton of people had found out that we were bringing her in for it, so folks that I hadn't seen since the early ’90s came out of the woodwork. She was mobbed by people and given SO much love. As a result of that, she decided to move back. She said she needed to come home. That was in 2010.

Cas Reich, friend • I met Cinamon when she returned to Salt Lake and fell back in love with her former girlfriend, my friend Megan [Dinnell]. Her aesthetic made her seem otherworldly — so ridiculously tall and graceful. Her thin dreadlocks reached her thighs and were often piled high on her head. … After they wed, they found themselves homeless with two kids. My husband and I welcomed them. Cinamon, Megan and [Megan’s] two boys, Po’okela and Ender, moved in with us. It was a rough time for them and they stayed with us for a while. We would encourage them to join us at meals so we could make sure they all ate. But they didn't want to be a burden (despite us assuring them they were not). … I vividly remember coming home from work to find Cinamon on our back deck sorting through potatoes and salad mixes she had gotten from the food pantry — this tall pagan goddess sitting on the ground picking out the best leaves and setting aside the wilted with a smile.

(Courtesy photo) Megan Dinnell (aka Olivia Megsysi) and Cinamon Hadley at their wedding reception, wearing matching wedding dresses made by friend and fashion designer Cas Reich.

Alana McDonald • Six years ago, my now-husband and I sat on the porch of the house he rented downtown. It was summer, blistering hot. He mentioned a few friends were coming by to pick up an old air conditioner he wasn’t using at the time. Two women and a little boy lightly walked down 900 East toward us. This is when I met Cinamon — her 5-foot dreads slipping from her hair tie while her then-wife struggled to collect them. I’d come later to know how precious her hair was to her. At times, when one dreadlock may have accidentally been clipped off, she would sew the fallen soldier back into its well-worn place.

Cas Reich • After they got back on their feet, we helped them move into an apartment downtown. The heat was off and it was so cold in there a kitchen sponge had frozen to a wall. I was anxious about them moving there, but they insisted, and it soon flourished into a beautiful home.

Alana McDonald • She lived about a block from us. I would occasionally visit her quiet apartment that was littered with antiques (seemingly Victorian era) and enough pink to turn a person blind. Her two babies, Frappuccino and Tulip (rambunctious chihuahuas), pranced under foot, begging to be touched while hiking endless steep steps to her door. She, always in heels nearly 6 inches tall. She always wore dangerously high heels — even in the winter, in ice, in mud, the rain. … We became fast friends rather quickly. She loved tea roses. We would drink cheap Burnett’s gin, with whole milk, a tiny bit of sugar and rose water underneath my wisteria in the summer; she and I talking and drinking entire nights away, falling asleep in strange places around my house. The next morning, we’d make breakfast. Whenever she left, it smelled of patchouli and roses. … As the last few years wound down, I walked with her through the end of a marriage, the death of her beloved pet, jobs … the loss of her home.

Tracy Painter • My favorite memories of her are the moments where it was just us, sitting around drinking way too much coffee out of HUGE coffee mugs. She talked about how she wanted to become a fashion designer. When she was accepted to [the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising] in California, she was beside herself. She was also devastated when she wasn’t going to be able to get enough scholarship money to be able to afford to live there. Fashion design became her life. She worked her TAIL off and pushed herself to get straight A’s.

Cas Reich • Being a designer myself, I was ecstatic to discover that she was entering the fashion program at [Salt Lake Community College]. She had modeled for me before and her taste in fashion was wild. We frequently chatted online about designing and sewing, and swapped techniques we discovered for working with plastics and vinyl (Cin’s favorite fabrics). Cinamon struggled with drawing her design croquis and agonized over every detail. Despite her anguish, end results were always fabulous.

Tracy Painter • One day she called and said she needed a break and could she come visit. We had moved to Perry by this point, so it was going to be a sleepover. This was in 2016. She hadn't been feeling well and just wanted to chill. She came up, we drank wine and watched dance movies, her favorite.

The cancer …

Cas Reich • Cinamon told me she hadn’t been well and was going for a biopsy. She was diagnosed as being in the advanced stages of small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma. This was devastating news.

Tracy Painter • On March 10, 2017, she called me, crying. She had just been told her biopsy came back positive for cancer. She asked if I would come to her doctor’s appointment with her, because she didn't want to face it alone. That next week, I picked her up and we met with her internist, who went over the results of the PET scan with us. Small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the colon. We were in shock. Her doctor helped get her next appointments with the radiation oncologist and medical oncologist set up, as well as applying for Medicaid, and we were on our way. As we stood in front of the elevator, she broke down and looked at me: “I don't want to die.” All I could do was hold her. I promised her I would be there every step of the way.

Patti Hadley • This particular cancer is supposed to be absolutely lethal — 94 percent fatality [rate]. When I got there, she could hardly speak. She was very, very weak.

Cas Reich • She had been too sick to work and she had no insurance. Our community of weirdos and freaks rose to the occasion. We mobilized and organized fundraisers and Medicaid coverage. We spent days cleaning her sweet, cluttery friend Dan’s apartment for her to move into, and organized meals. Her closest friends took her to chemotherapy and radiation treatments and held her hand through doctors’ visits.

Tracy Painter • Here is where we saw this amazing community come together. EVERYONE was there. They helped clean her house, took her grocery shopping, took her to get her prescriptions. They spent time with her, sat with her while she slept. I have never met ANYONE who has had that kind of magnetic power.

... Before her second round [of chemo], her hair was starting to come out. I told her I would shave my head with her. We turned it into a girls’ day out. We got our heads shaved, saved her knee-length dreads, then got our heads hennaed. It was an incredible experience to be able to share that with her.

(Courtesy photo) Tracy Painter, left, and Cinamon Hadley, center, about to get their heads shaved in solidarity, due to Hadley's chemo treatments.

(Courtesy photo) Cinamon Hadley and Tracy Painter, heads shaved in solidarity for Hadley's chemo treatments.

Patti Hadley • The days were filled with trying to keep her busy. Cinamon is a person who likes to stay busy, so that's kind of what we did on a daily basis, whatever project — we shopped, went to the canyons, we did Reiki healing [a Japanese form of alternative medicine]. … There were some other treatments she had heard about that she had availed herself of. So between the two, her body very quickly responded and was eradicating the cancer.

Cas Reich • Her oncologist said it was miraculous. Her tumors had shrunk and she was doing so well. I cried so many tears of joy when she got the all clear. Her tumors were almost gone.

The end …

Patti Hadley • When the radiation was over, you had to wait, I think, two months, because the inflammation in the body will show up the same as cancer. So you had to wait for all that inflammation to be gone. And so it was two months before her next scan.

… We brought her [to my home in Houston] for Christmas. She told me when she was here, “Mom, I don’t think I’m going to beat it this time. I think I’m going to die.” And, of course, my response to her was … “No, you’re not going to die.” And so, in some ways, I feel like I cheated her, because we could have talked about and addressed her fears. On the other hand, she had hope.

… So when she got back — I don’t know how she made the trip, actually — but she got back in time for a scan, and at that next scan, of course, it had just spread, it was still just going rampant. … Her body — she's very delicate. The chemo just really ended up destroying her immune system.

Cas Reich • The cancer returned with a vengeance. Despite returning to radiation therapy, she began to decline rapidly until [a few] weeks ago, [when] she was admitted to LDS Hospital.

Patti Hadley • At that time, we knew there was nothing else we could do for her. So it was a matter of me trying to figure out when should I go. She just absolutely went downhill so quickly. So she had gone to the hospital because she was in incredible pain and nauseous. And I got a call from one of her friends, Edgar, and he said, “You need to come.” And I thought, “OK, I'll get things wrapped up here so that I can come.” And then he called me the next day and he said, “You really can’t wait.”

Tracy Painter • My last private moment with her, she looked in my eyes, and I knew we would never be separated. I kissed her head and saw a tear slide out of her eye. That moment will stay with me forever.

Cas Reich • When I visited her in the hospital, she was so fragile and tiny. I sat awkwardly in her room amongst other friends and took her in. Despite being on her deathbed, when she came to, her light burned brightly. She thanked each nurse and visitor with a genuine smile. I held her hand and kissed her head, telling her that I loved her so much and I would see her tomorrow. I left her room knowing that was my goodbye. A nurse found me crying and hugged me so tight as I wept for my friend. She had so many plans, but life is fleeting.

Patti Hadley • My former husband, he did come. They had been estranged for … I think it’d been 20 years. I called him because I thought that he needed to come, I thought that it might be good for her. And so he came. She didn’t respond because she was that medicated and probably that much on the other side, as well. But he sat down and touched her arm, and as he began to talk to me — her breathing had been labored, but it totally changed. It was peaceful, it was like all was right with the world.

The legacy …

(Courtesy photo) Cinamon Hadley's urn, at the memorial and celebration of life held in her honor on Jan. 13 in West Valley City.

Patti Hadley • My life is forever changed from meeting all of her friends. The love and the acceptance — and so you look beyond whatever the clothing is, or the tattoos, or the piercings, and you find people with such incredible heart, that I thought, “Oh my goodness! I see why she loves this person. I want this person in my life, too!” So it was an immediate love and acceptance of me, too. I’m sure that’s because I’m her mom. But I get the attraction, because that’s not so much in the world that I live in — the acceptance without judgment.

Tracy Painter • Cinamon was this amazing, otherworldly entity. She was so loving and kind. She lived a hard life, but NEVER let the bitterness get to her. She never had a mean word to say about anyone.

Tarey PotterShe will be permanently etched into my memory — two kids fighting and clawing their way off of the streets to being good adult friends.

Jennifer Russell • The love that she gave was genuine and overflowing. … Cinamon was one of a kind, and I am a better person for having her in my life.

Cas Reich • Her light touched so many people across this Earth, and she will be forever in my heart.

Corrinne Lovendahl • She was an amazing human being. I’m so sorry the world has lost her.

Alana McDonald • What I truly will miss most about my sweet, timid, elegant friend … is her voice. There was a specific way she would answer the phone when I called. The delicate sustain of, “Hello. I love you!” will endlessly resonate in my mind. … My darling, Cinamon, you were, and are, otherworldly. Promise you’ll find me on the other side.

Patti Hadley • I have felt her spirit. I felt her spirit as her pulse left her body — and it was her. It acted the same way she acts. It was a very peaceful, quiet … It was just like she stealthily left her body, and she turned around and she was concerned about me. And she’s concerned about her friends. Several friends have reported to me that she's visited with them. … So, there’s this very strong spirit here … and I don’t know how all that works, but at least for right now, she is continuing to visit people and have some kind of an influence on her very dear friends. She has with me, as well. … I feel her spirit, I feel things from her. I’m not making it up. I wish I were more intuitive. I’d sure like it to be maybe more than just a vague feeling. I don’t mean to be hokey. I don’t know how that works, I don’t know how long she can do that, I don’t know if she’ll pop in and out. I don’t know.

My little grandson — I was crying the other day, and he came over to comfort me and asked me why I was crying, and I said, “Well, I miss Aunt Cinny, and I’m just thinking of wonderful things about her.” And he said, “Oh Grandma, it’s OK. You’re old — you’ll be dead soon and you’ll be able to be with her!” Haha! OK. There you have it.