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09 March 2008

Diane Delia (1957 - 1981) Performer

John Delia was the son of a builder, John was Rh-negative and required a transfusion within hours of birth. His mother doted on him and, preschool, dressed him as a girl. He attended Manhattan’s High School of Art & Design and specialized in music.

He graduated to become a drag artist: doing lip-synch impersonations of Diana Ross. He would perform without underwear so that the audience could see his penis under his skirt. At age 21, after several gay affairs including one with Robert Ferrara, he started seeing a psychiatrist with a view to transition, took estrogens, and had facial surgery.

Then he met Robyn (originally Roberta) Arnold, the rich daughter of an ear, nose and throat surgeon. They became lovers and John stopped his hormone shots and started lifting weights to discourage his breasts. His father was delighted. John was starting to perform at the major Manhattan discos. John announced that they would marry.

Diane's one and only modelling gig.
However his urge to be a woman had returned. After discussion, Robyn agreed to support him in this. In November of that year he flew to Dr Biber in Colorado and returned as Diane (from his favorite impersonation subject). Diane worked for a while as a nightclub hostess in Montréal, and as a model for Avon cosmetics.

After a run of unsatisfactory promiscuity she persuaded her old flame, Robert Ferrara to marry her, which he did, in his home town of Berwick, Pennsylvania. His parents tried to talk them out of it, and a neighbor objected to the sheriff that they were two men, but Dr Biber's affidavit and a reissued birth-certificate carried the day. Robyn paid $1400 for the wedding ring. Although Robert had had affairs with women, he did not relate to having sex with Diane. They also argued and fought, physically. So she moved out, and in with Robyn.

The move expanded into a two-day party. After the party Diane agreed to meet Robert to talk over their difficulties. She was never seen again until her body washed up in the Hudson River. Robert and Robyn lived together in the latter's apartment after the murder. They were charged together that they had both shot her. Robyn, with her expensive lawyer, was acquitted. Robert, with his inexperienced lawyer, went to prison. The bar where Diane used to do her Diana Ross impersonations commemorated her passing by having several people imitate her impersonation.

  • "Transsexual Murder: Tangled Relationships Described in Trial of Former Lover, Husband".  New York Herald Journal, Sep 27 1982.  Online  
  • Carol Vecchione. "The jury in the slaying of a transsexual fashion.." UPI, Oct 9, 1982.   Online 
  • Linda Wolfe. "The Transsexual, the Bartender and the Jewish American Princess".  New York Magazine, 17 Jan 1983.   Online.   Reprinted in  The Professor and the Prostitute, and Other True Tales of Murder and Madness. Ballantine Books. 1987: chp 6. 
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Ethel said...

I think the first sentence should say that John was Rh+ and his mother was Rh-. This would be the only reason I can think of to cause an issue requiring an emergency "exchange" transfusion soon after birth.

Unknown said...

She seemed like a good person. I wish I couldve meet her. She had a lot going for her. I feel so bad for her. This should never had happened. I feel alittle connection. We love you Diane.

Unknown said...

I just saw a profile of this case in "Happily Never After," a series in Discovery ID. Diane seemed like a good and talented person. What I don't understand is why they had to kill her. If Robert wanted nothing further to do with her, fine, get a divorce and be done with it. If Robyn was complicit, she must have been a very two-faced and evil person because she doted on Diane for a long time prior to the murder. I hate people who think they can take another person's life and do so. It's an extremely arrogant and evil sense of self-entitlement. I understand Robert is now out of jail since 2008. I hope he never has peace and lives in a state of fear and regret over what he did.

e jerry said...

A bit of a different explanation is offered in a newer Investigation Discovery show, "Scorned: Love Kills," episode "Disco Queen." After Diane moved away from Robert, Robyn and Diane started getting competitive about cruising guys together. Diane felt disrespected because Robyn kept outing her as a transwoman. Dian took up with another woman briefly, which made both Robert and Robyn jealous. Robyn went to Robert's apartment and took everything she'd ever bought for Diane back. Apparently they were both so angry with Diane (who was angry at both of them in return), and when blind rage gets involved...

October Mist said...

I am glad that Robert is now out of prison, but it seems that the law was tilted in Robyns favor. It is unfortunate that Diane was murdered. There was another way to solve their issues.

Unknown said...

I know both john and his lover, never met Robin. John (Diana) was a statuesque thin pretty affeminate male but made a gorgeous woman, her mistake was she thought her lover wanted a woman, but was wrong. Robin paid for the surgery, hormones, psychiatrist all of it. Rest in peace

Unknown said...

Why are u glad Robert is out of prison? He's a murderer

Zagria said...

He served 25 years as sentenced. The best years of his life were spent in prison. So why shouldn't he be released. He is not a mafia hit man or a serial killer.

Karmz said...

Robyn is now called Robyn Arnold Barbers and is living an affluent life. She went on to have two college grad daughters by a successful dentist in NY. I wonder if they know their mom's involvement in such a crime? Just seems unfair to me that Diane died, Robert spent 25 in the pen and Robyn just walked away. I guess money does talk?

Unknown said...

Read and saw shows of her short life. What I saw and read. She was a true DIVA!