Volume 43 Number 39-

June 24 – June 30, 2009

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Bending toward oblivion



Gay liberation changed Martin Duberman’s life. In the 1960s, Duberman taught history at Princeton, hardly a bastion of radical thought. Yet he found himself invigorated by nascent counterculture movements and became a champion of the left, penning essays in The New York Times and serving as faculty advisor to the Princeton chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. At the same time, Duberman spent years in intensive psychotherapy in desperate attempts to "cure" his homosexuality. Soon after the emergence of the gay liberation movement, however, he rejected this homophobic vision and embraced a gay identity. His work also became queerer.

Over the years, he has written more than 20 books — biographies, plays, memoirs, history texts, and a novel — on a wide range of topics ranging from antislavery activism to the civil rights movement and Stonewall. His new book, Waiting to Land: A (Mostly) Political Memoir, 1985-2008 (The New Press 352 pages, $26.95), is a combination of diary entries and recollections from the Reagan years to the present. This latest work serves as a window into Duberman’s activist and scholarly careers, as well as his critiques of the mainstreaming of the gay and lesbian movement.

SFBG We’re approaching the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the symbolic event of early gay liberation, and I’m wondering if you think there’s any of this liberationist spirit left in the gay movement.

Martin Duberman Well, I guess it depends on how you define liberationist. In the early days, gay liberationists were aware of a great many other ills in the society besides their own. Their own were real, and they were well aware of that. But there was a lot wrong, they felt, with the system, and their central goal was to challenge many of the established institutions and values. Today most LGBT people seem to think of themselves — certainly they tell the mainstream — as "just folks," except for this little matter of a separate sexual orientation. That they’re patriotic Americans and they want the same things that everybody else wants, etc.

SFBG In Waiting to Land, you cover this assimilationist turn in the gay movement. You talk about the March on Washington in 1993 where gays in the military became the dominant issue. You also talk about Stonewall 25, which happened one year later in New York City, where one of the biggest fundraising events was held onboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, and where corporate sponsorship arguably overwhelmed any celebration of resistance, history, or culture. Has anything changed in the last 15 years?

MD The early ’70s were still fueled by the countercultural movement of the ’60s, and the early gay movement built on the insights and the demands of, say, the feminist movement or the antiwar movement. I mean there was so much going on in the ’60s, and together it all amounted to a challenge to the so-called experts. There was an across-the-board challenging of many traditional views, so finally that began to seep down, or up — whatever it is — to us. That’s the whole trouble, I think, with the assimilationist turn. It denies our own gay past and our culture and our politics. I mean, they’re willing to throw all that away in order to make stronger the claim that we’re just folks.

SFBG And do you feel like mainstream gay people have become more heterosexualized? I mean in that particular way of embracing long-term committed partnership, monogamy, or now even marriage, as the only type of love or intimacy that’s valid?

MD Yeah. Once again, the banner of lifetime monogamous pair-bonding has been raised. Now some of that is the result of AIDS, in which people were scared to death, so they settled down into so-called permanent relationships. Not everybody. But many more than had done so in the ’70s.

SFBG When you talk about AIDS in Waiting to Land, it punctures the style of your writing. You’ll be writing something that’s more ruminative, and then you’ll have three or four sentences about a friend who died or a series of friends who died, and then you go back into your thoughts about something outside of that.

MD I think that’s right. It’s why I put that subtitle in. I say "mostly political," because when it came to the death of friends, I did talk about my personal feelings, and my sadness, whereas most of the time in Waiting to Land I’m talking about external events or public policies.

SFBG You yourself have played a role as both an insider and outsider in a variety of realms. In Waiting to Land, you deliver scathing critiques of the rigid hierarchies and competitive structures of academia. You talk about the homophobia of the straight left, and you talk about the limited agenda of the gay mainstream. You talk about the exclusiveness of establishment theatre and mainstream media. Yet you’ve also worked inside all these structures. So I’m wondering how these institutions have formed your politics and how you’ve helped to form or transform these institutions.

MD [W.E.B.] Du Bois, the great African American leader, once said something — I think he called it double vision. He said that although he had had a superb education and was accepted by mainstream whites, nonetheless he felt he was a spy in the culture, a spy who was bringing the news about the mainstream back to his own people. And on one level, I have had a very easy time passing — I went to very good schools, I was on the tennis team in high school, etc. Nobody, I think, or very few people, guessed that I was in fact homosexual, and I did my best to play along with that. I was very career-oriented, I was very competitive — I always wanted to be first in my class, win the best prize for an essay, and that’s where most of my energy went throughout my 20s. But then once the counterculture began, I sort of leapt on it. I was immediately sympathetic, and I wrote lots of essays during the ’60s in which I was very strongly on the side of the New Left. And then it took a while longer after that before I realized that of course the same applies to being gay.

SFBG In terms of your role as both insider and outsider, do you feel that that’s helped you to develop stronger critiques of all those institutions, whether on the straight left, in the gay mainstream, or in establishment theater and media?

MD I think so, because I knew the inner workings of many of these mainstream institutions, and so I was able to see the falsity of many of the attitudes, especially toward people who are not middle-class whites. White men, I should say.

SFBG I think one thing you’ve tried very deliberately throughout your career, whether as a writer, an academic, or an activist, is to build movement ties across lines of class, race, gender, and age. In the new book, you talk about trying to bring an awareness of queer and feminist issues into the straight left, and an awareness of race and class into the gay mainstream — and feeling mostly like you’ve failed.

MD I think it’s because the mainstream left is no more receptive — they all claim that, "well of course we believe you people should have your rights, and of course we’re tolerant of your lifestyle." But when it comes right down to it, you cannot get them to hang around long enough to listen to the ways in which queer values and perspectives might inform their own lives. They don’t believe that for a second. And that hasn’t changed at all. At least, if it has changed, I haven’t seen it.

SFBG And what about in terms of the other side of the equation? With the dominant agendas of the big gay institutions centering on marriage, military service, ordination into the priesthood, adoption, and unquestioning gentrification and consumerism, do you think that those particular emphases prevent a deeper analysis of structural issues of racism and classism?

MD Well, of course they do. Mainstream America is still further behind the gay movement in dealing with any of those issues. So when you’re bending your energy to turning into the mainstream, you’re simultaneously burying your awareness of the class and racial and economic divisions that continue to characterize our country.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (mattildabernsteinsycamore.com) is the author, most recently, of So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights) and the editor of an expanded second edition of That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation (Soft Skull).

Selling the park



GREEN CITY Considering that it exists just a short hop from the industrial grind of Third Street, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is a surprisingly wild and peaceful 150-acre bayshore park.

On a recent afternoon, a man practiced his golf swings, a group fished off a pier, and a lizard darted across a trail and into a clump of wildflowers, all apparently unaware of the storm gathering around the future of this waterfront habitat.

State Sen. Mark Leno’s Senate Bill 792 would give the State Lands Commission and State Parks Department the authority to negotiate an exchange of 42 acres in the park for patches of land on the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, allowing Lennar Corp. to build condos in the state park and reducing Bayview’s only major open space by 25 percent.

Leno claims that SB 792 "will help realize one of the few remaining opportunities for large-scale affordable housing, parks, open space, and economic development in San Francisco by authorizing a key public-private land exchange necessary for the development of Hunters Point/Candlestick Park."

"A lot of this property is dirt, and much of it is used by the 49ers for parking. It’s not high quality park land," Leno told the Guardian.

In addition to adding some amendments suggested by the Sierra Club, Leno said state and federal agencies must approve the deal, which would also require a full environmental impact report. "There will be no environmental shortcutting," Leno said.

But environmental advocates are outraged that Mayor Gavin Newsom and his chief economic advisor, Michael Cohen, are trying to get state legislators to facilitate an unpopular land swap that allows an out-of-state developer to build thousands of condos on state tidelands in exchange for strips and pockets of the toxic shipyard (see "Eliminating dissent," 6/17).

"When Michael Cohen asked us to endorse what they were calling a conceptual framework, he called it a rush to the starting line and promised us a full and robust discussion of the actual proposal," Kristine Enea, who works for the India Basin Neighborhood Association, said of last year’s Proposition G. "We’re not trying to stop the development, but we want a discussion. And we’re raising questions that otherwise won’t be raised until after the environmental impact report is completed."

In April, Newsom wrote to Sen. Fran Pavley, who chairs the state’s Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, claiming that plans for the shipyard and Candlestick Point had already been endorsed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and overwhelmingly approved by voters in June 2008.

"By utilizing a true public-private partnership, this [SB 792] will cause tens of millions of dollars of public open space investment to state park lands and public trust lands, at no cost to the state or the city’s general fund, providing a significant benefit to the state as well as to the citizens of San Francisco," Newsom wrote.

As part of the land swap, Lennar would pay fair market value for much of the parkland, with estimates of about $40 million that would go to the state for managing the remaining acreage. Lennar proposes to build 7,850 housing units on Candlestick Point, and it’s unclear how many of those will go into what is now a state park.

Critics say Newsom is trying to use Prop. G like a hammer to force through legislation that wouldn’t pass locally and would destroy the park’s current functions and wildlife habitat, forever changing life in Bayview Hunters Point, due to the scale and socioeconomic and environmental impacts of Lennar’s proposed redevelopment.

Created by the legislature in 1977, CPSRA is the state’s first urban park. It offers panoramic views of the wind-whipped bay, San Bruno Mountain, and Yosemite Slough, the only unbridged waterway in the city’s southeast sector. And while it’s not typically crowded, the park is well-used by residents, who like to hike and jog, walk their dogs, and windsurf adjacent to Monster Park stadium.

Saul Bloom — whose nonprofit group, Arc Ecology, angered Cohen and Newsom in February when it published "Alternatives for Study," a draft report that identified deficiencies in Lennar’s current proposal — admits that a section of the park is a weed-filled lot that 49ers fans use for parking on game days.

"But the leasing for parking contributes $800,000 toward park maintenance annually," Bloom told the Guardian, noting that this is a vital source of funding in tough times.

He also noted that the California State Parks Foundation recently raised $12 million to restore Yosemite Slough and the California Solid Waste Management Board (whose members include former Sen. Carole Migden, whom Leno defeated last year) recently completed a $1 million rehabilitation of a former construction debris field on the state park property.

But neither this nor the state Budget Conference Committee’s recent decision to institute a $15 surcharge on vehicle license fees of noncommercial vehicles as a dedicated funding source to keep California’s state parks open will save CPSRA from being hobbled if SB 792 is approved in its current state.

"Surely other land can be used for building condos. Affordable housing and condo residents need open space too," said Peter Barstow, founding director of Nature in the City, noting that the 42-acre parcel of contested land represents 25 percent of the park, but only 5 percent of the 770 acres the developer has at its disposal to build 10,500 units of proposed housing.

"Any loss in acreage would seriously diminish the ability of the park to serve the city’s needs, especially with 10,500 new units proposed for the Lennar development," Barstow said.

He said some "logical swapping" is possible. "But they are doing some numbers game, in which they are counting a huge amount of parkland that is already there."

"We should be thinking how to connect these ecologically isolated islands," Barstow said, who sees this debate as an opportunity to link CPSRA to wildlife corridors in McClaren Park and Bayview Hill. "The development should be in the interest of the people, critters, wildlife and plants in the Bayview, not in those of someone in an office thousands of miles away."

He also scoffed at proponents’ arguments that the density of the development means that it is smart urban growth. "Just because a development is dense is not an argument to build it on a park."

Cohen recently told the Guardian that the 77 acres of the 49ers stadium and all the paid parking inside its facility will be filled with "mainly retail and entertainment," while the 42 acres of state park would be used to build condos.

Meredith Thomas of the Neighborhood Parks Council noted that her group "fully supports the revitalization and redevelopment of the Candlestick Point/Shipyard area … But when folks voted for Prop. G in June 2008, nowhere did the measure say that by voting for it, you are agreeing to sell parkland."

"We are always concerned when municipal land that is being used as a park is put up for sale," Thomas said. "While it’s a state park, it really functions as a neighborhood park for those who use it. I think what happens when we plan for large developments is that we don’t do enough to plan for parks with the density increase that’s coming."

The Sierra Club has been leading the charge against the bill. "We lose 40 acres but gain a bathroom," Arthur Feinstein, the Sierra Club’s local representative jokingly told the Guardian. "Now that’s a good deal!"

Observing that the organization’s position is "no net loss of acreage, no loss of biodiversity, no loss of wildlife corridors," Feinstein said, "There are a ton of alternatives to this plan and no reason to destroy 25 percent of the park or build a bridge and a road over Yosemite Slough."

With Arc’s studies showing that the bridge, which will cost $100 million to construct, only shaves two minutes off travel time, Feinstein added: "This is a road to nowhere. It’ll cost $50 million a minute."

He also said that allowing a company to buy state parkland "sets a terrible precedent… Then every state park is at risk from developers as the state’s budget woes grow. I hope Sen. Mark Leno sees this."

"No one would ever think put housing on Crissy Field," Feinstein continued. "But in the Bayview, the attitude is, why not? That whole mentality has made the area into an environmental justice community. Even when it’s given something, it comes in a costly way to the community, but a cheap way for the developers."

March madness



CHEAP EATS I can tell you where to get pork tacos if your car breaks down in Petaluma and you have to wait for Kragen to test your battery, which for some reason takes an hour. I speak from experience; it’s just not mine. My only experience with experiences like this are vicarious. Now. As you know, I drive a new car and have gotten in the bad habit of getting where I’m going.

Which is nice, in a way, but my chances of marrying a tow truck driver are greatly reduced. Not to mention a Good Samaritan with a wrench. Not to mention early lunch at an unexpected hole-in-the-wall next to Kragen’s. How am I supposed to discover such discoveries?

That’s where friends with unreliable cars come in. And where would I be without them? Not at Taqueria Los Potrillos No. 1 in Petaluma, contemputf8g soccer posters, soccer trophies, and pictures of a guy named Hector Murillo with his arm around various and sundry soccer stars and, for all I know, stars who are stars of other things that aren’t soccer, such as …

Well, I can’t think of any examples right now.

"Today I got up at 6, left at 7, and broke down in Petaluma," my friend the Jungle had written in his e-mail. He described his consolation tacos as "out of this world" and "amazing" — "the best al pastor taco I’ve ever had in my life, I swear."

And to think he was having it at a time of frustration and despair. And for breakfast!

I had mine later that same day, for dinner, and I would agree with my buddy’s alacritous taco take whole-stomachfully, except that in my life, "the best al pastor taco I’ve ever had" doesn’t amount to very many beans. I’m more of a carnitas chica.

Or was. Now I don’t know.

I love it when life or pork shakes you up like this. Don’t you? You think you’re straight, and then you’re gay, or vice versa, or you think you’re bi and then it turns out that in fact, you are bi, but your favorite kind of taco is al pastor, not carnitas.

Happy pride!

As you may know, I am hyperbolically fickle when it comes to food, incoherently queer when it comes to sex, insane in love, and queerly incoherent as a writer. What else is there? For me, pride is not possible. But I wish you all the very best. While you’re reading this I will be dancing with animals, I’m pretty sure, at the Berlin Zoo. Not being proud so much as slightly drunk, I predict, and very very happy.

I’ll be being the B and the T. You bring the lettuce.

I write to you from an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean, at twilight. Tomorrow morning I will wake up, if I sleep, 5,658 miles away from the nearest Guardian news box. In other words, now would be the perfect time to say something really really offensive. I wish I could think of a way to piss off almost everyone, but I’m in this sort of uncaffeinated slow and soupy Ativan cloud right now, and, realistically, the best I can hope to do from here would be to mildly annoy a handful of lesbians.

I’ll pass.

Well, let me just pose it as a question, and then finish talking about tacos. What’s the difference between a march and a parade? That’s the question. My thinking is a parade is for showing off, being proud, putting on a show … and a march is all that too, only less organized and more to the point: the point being to rally the troops, gather momentum, numbers, spontaneous support. No? Now go look at the Web page for the dyke march that happens here every Pride weekend on Saturday night, and wonder with me: they talk a lot of talk about inclusion, then ask roughly half the population of San Francisco to politely stand on the sidelines and clap.

Sounds like a parade to me. Sounds like, if you don’t need men out there in the street with you, congratulations, your work is done.

The tacos were awesome. The green salsa was delicious. The chips were fresh. Oh, and check out the bleeding Jesuses in the window of the grocery store/carniceria two doors down, all crucified and shit, sad eyes turned toward heaven, wondering: "Is there a bi march?"


Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–10 p.m.;

Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.–10 p.m.

355 E. Washington, Petaluma

(707) 763-4220

Beer & wine


L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.

Intelligent design



The first world is so jammed with manufactured stuff we can’t perceive most of it — even the stuff we buy rapidly and take for granted, to be replaced by each next-model thingy. This process is now our economy’s bedrock, as was underlined when the government’s first order of business after 9/11 was to encourage partying like it’s $19.99 via those "America: Open for Business" signs with Old Glory as shopping bag. Yet the economy and consumerism’s ever-more-tangible impact on our planet seem to scream, "Shop less!"

Durability vs. disposability and perennial style vs. trendiness are conflicting impulses on both sides of the buyer/seller equation. In theory we might all agree everything we buy should be functional, sturdy, and attractive enough to keep until it gives out. But this flies in the face of nearly all marketplace logic, and purchaser desire. The whole idea is to generate decisions made on what you want, not what you need. Better still if that line blurs.

The New York Times’ "Consumed" columnist Rob Walker describes this drive as one for "the ‘New Now,’ a ‘New Next’" in Objectified, the latest documentary by Gary Hustwit. Like his Helvetica (2007), which looked at the stealthily enormous role of typeface in our lives, Objectified is more an appreciation than a critique of something utterly ubiquitous in this case product design — and a few stellar personalities behind it.

Hustwit isn’t interested in history or the full range of design as much as celebrating those idiosyncratic individuals whose design imprint falls within the ongoing tradition of 20th-century modernism, with its clean lines, minimal detailing, and whiff of yesteryear’s sci-fi future. "Good design is as little design as possible" insists retired innovator Dieter Rams of German home appliance giant Braun. Many of the film’s interviewees — mostly designers well-known within the industry by name or firm (IDEO, Smart) — muse on products rooted in the post-analog "connected world." With an item’s inner workings now reduced to the microchip’s all-powerful DNA, there’s little need for form to resemble function anymore; practically everything can be some sort of smooth, small, amorphous blob or plane.

Still, as Objectified emphasizes in Helvetica‘s same alert, amused, admiring way, the best designers don’t aim for depersonalizing aesthetic perfection (let alone garish flamboyance). Instead, their goal is honing every manufactured object we require or enjoy so it makes the world a mite more user-friendly. There’s an ingratiating segment here observing just how much thought goes into Smart’s creating garden-shear handles even an arthritic could love. Elsewhere, one colorful industry type rails that there’s simply no excuse for bad design anymore. Yet another GPS no one can figure out should occasion "riots in the streets," he says.

Objectified‘s primary images of rhyming-row merch in consumerist temples (IKEA, Target, etc.) are "globalization" personified. Yet as one person mercifully mentions here, that neverending parade of stuff only reaches a lucky 10 percent or so. Since the other 90 percent aspire toward disposable income and luxury goods, our insatiable minority now ponders how to tell them it’s all been a horrible mistake.

The designers here are aware of, yet somewhat flummoxed by, that crisis: It’s the very nature of their jobs that "most of what you design ends up in a landfill." It will fall to a different documentary to chronicle how product design adopts new agendas of quasi-permanence, successive useage, and biodegradability. When and if that truly happens, Objectified might turn into beautiful detritus, an artifact from a vanished age of elegant waste.


Wed/24-Sun/28, 1, 3, 5 p.m.

(also Wed/24-Sat/27, 7 and 9 p.m. ), $8–$10

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-ARTS, www.ybca.org

‘Manhattan’ 2.0?


Every once in a while Woody Allen breaks new ground, uncovering a different side of the incomparably prolific filmmaker. Just as often, he doesn’t. Whatever Works isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but it’s funny — in fact, it’s one of the funniest and warmest of his recent films. It just goes to show that even when he’s not the "new and improved" Woody Allen, he’s still Woody Allen. And that’s nothing to sniff at.

Allen doesn’t star in Whatever Works, but he might as well. Larry David plays Boris Yellnikoff, a crueler, more cynical version of Allen’s nebbishy persona. At first his condescension and misanthropy are a bit disconcerting: is this how Woody’s felt about us all along — that we’re idiots and he’s the only one who really gets it? But, like most Allen protagonists, Boris is a lot more relatable and less unpleasant once we get to know him. It helps that he’s forced to take in simple Southern belle Melody St. Ann Celestine, a runaway who somehow falls in love with her host. No matter how bad a hypochondriac curmudgeon you are, marrying a much younger woman is bound to lift your spirits.

As with his other films, the strength of Whatever Works is in the variety of talented actors Allen has assemble. Aside from Larry doing Woody — about as close to the real thing as you can get — Evan Rachel Wood is charming as Melody. Her performance, equal parts sexual and naïve, recalls Mira Sorvino’s Linda in Mighty Aphrodite (1995). And Patricia Clarkson, who stole her scenes in Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008), continues to wow as Melody’s mother.

In the end, Allen fans will embrace the film. Allen haters — well, they’re probably not about to start liking him now. There may be a formula at play here, but in the all-too-appropriate words of the movie’s title, "whatever works." Frankly, it’s comforting to know Allen can still put out a lighthearted comedy after recent serious detours. Hey, funny is funny. Woody is Woody.

WHATEVER WORKS opens Fri/26 in Bay Area theaters.

Paging all freaks



QUEER ISSUE As May gave way to June, news arrived that a veteran gang of gay magazines — Honcho, Inches, Mandate, Playguy, and Torso — were printing their last glossy naked pages, no thanks to the unending onslaught of Internet porn and hookup sites. For print fetishists of the queer variety, this would seem like a sign of the gloomy end times. But signs can be wrong. In fact, a teeming variety of small publishers are bringing a mix of sex and sensibility to those underground seekers who revel and rebel outside the eye of the computer monitor. Here’s a brief, far from complete, guide to the action.


In a recent interview on the Guardian‘s Pixel Vision blog, the artist Matt Keegan talks about the subversive social potential of gay calendars and magazines during past eras. You could say Baitline revives this potential. It’s the anti-Craigslist. Hallelujah! Hand-drawn and stapled, this local community resource can help you find your next pervy playmate or like-minded roommate, or assist you in stoking an artistic project and finding a job.

70 Richland Ave, San Francisco, CA, 94110. sywagon@gmail.com


Not-so-straight from the Netherlands comes the gay version of Playboy for the 21st century to tease your nether lands even though you buy it to read the interviews. BUTT’s been around long enough to be anthologized as a book. The latest issue is SF-centric, with appearances by Hunx from Hunx and his Punx, and Hunx’s sometime partner in crime, Brontez.

Klein-Gartmanplantsoen 21-I, 1017 RP Amsterdam, The Netherlands. www.buttmagazine.com


Artist Nathaniel Fink is interested in documenting male body types. This simple and cute little zine finds a shirtless and slim subject flexing against a big blue sky.

nathanieljfink@gmail.com; www.morephotosaboutbuildingsandfood.blogspot.com


Your teacher at Fag School is the one and only Brontez of Younger Lovers and Gravy Train!!! fame. Brontez knows how to turn funny anecdotes and sexy pics into an old-school queer zine for our ADD moment. Not as simple as it sounds. He’s also good at making straight guys takes off their clothes and model.



The most recent example of Regis Trigano’s photo zine presents a man alone in bed having some fun. Well shot.



This isn’t a zine, but instead a zine store run by Matt Wobensmith, the queer punk stalwart behind Outpunk Records and the zine of the same name in the 1990s. Opening night last month revealed a small emporium of countercultural wonders — queer stuff is just one facet. Just try to resist the Wuvable Oaf memorabilia.

Sat–Sun, noon–5 p.m. 766 Valencia, SF. www.goteblud.livejournal.com


Men, oft-scruffy, sometimes tattooed, taking care of themselves — based in San Francisco, this publication reaches all over the country to create images that owe a debt to old amateur raunch hands such as Old Reliable.

handbooksf@yahoo.com; www.hanbookmen.com


Christopher Schulz’s three-times-a-year publication featuring one or two models is bearish and cuddly, whether depicting a light wrestling bout or a sandy frolic with a beach ball.

contact@pinupsmag.com; www.pinupsmag.com; www.myspace.com/pinupsmag


This book lists and shares samples from the ever-expansive realm of queer zines. As a zinester from the early days who attended the Chicago SPEW conference decades ago, I can say it isn’t definitive — but it is wonderfully, revealingly comprehensive.

Printed Matter, 195 10th Ave., New York, NY, 10011. aabronson@printedmatter.org. www.printedmatter.org


I’d call this the My Comrade of today, replacing that primarily 20th century zine’s drag comedy with boyishness. In other words, here’s a rag for partying NYC art fags.



Still raunchy at 66 issues old, this is a classic, the daddy of them all, the one that exposes Penthouse Forum as boredom. Images by the late, great photographer Al Baltrop appear in the latest edition along with stories bearing titles like "Jockey Rides Teen’s Face — Wins Race" and "Appaloosa Stud with ‘Epic Torso’ Overwhelms Startled Shutterbug."

S.T.H., Box 20424, NYC, 10023. sth@straight-to-hell.net; www-straight-to-hell.net

Kingston nights



Everybody loves bounce. It persists as a state of mind, an epiphany of sexual exhibitionism and physical delirium: Baltimore club and San Francisco’s hyphy movement; Rio de Janeiro’s baile funk to Puerto Rican reggaeton; and London grime and dubstep to Berliners’ dub.

Philadelphia label owner, producer, filmmaker, and occasional journalist Wesley "Diplo" Pentz has probably done more than any other American DJ to popularize the notion of club music as an international phenomenon with common roots and regionally distinct varieties. Last year, Paste magazine claimed he "has updated the template set by 20th century song hunter Alan Lomax." Much like Lomax, Diplo has brought "undiscovered talent" to Western ears, from his early championing of Atlanta crunk as one-half of the pioneering DJ duo Hollertronix to his support of Brazilian rappers Bonde Do Role. However, just because he brings those artists to hipsters’ attention doesn’t mean they aren’t successful within their Third World communities.

Yet even if some myths of cross-cultural exchange persist, they aren’t fraught with as much racial tension as in Lomax’s day. This leads us to Diplo’s latest project, Major Lazer, with U.K. producer Dave "Switch" Loveys. The two traveled to Kingston, Jamaica, last year, recording with dancehall and reggae stars such as Turbulence, Mr. Vegas, Vybz Kartel, and Prince Zimboo at the Marley family’s legendary Tuff Gong Studios. The resulting Guns Don’t Kill People … Lazers Do (Downtown) is a wildly libidinous dance party, a hymn to club nights where pussies pop and guns blaze.

"We both concluded that there’s a lot of talent in Jamaica that isn’t really being exposed at the moment," Switch says from New York City. Many of Major Lazer’s Jamaican collaborators — including T.O.K., author of the infamous gay-bashing anthem "Chi Chi Man" — have had U.S. deals in the past. However, with the music industry’s continuing decline, U.K. label Greensleeves’ meltdown and purchase by equally troubled imprint VP Records, and the cyclical nature of Jamaican music’s popularity, they haven’t received as much attention as in the recent past. "All we’ve tried to do is expose the talent … on a more global scale than just in Jamaica," Switch says.

Switch is the lesser-known of the Major Lazer squad. He first drew recognition in West London for producing garage house tracks. He called his work "fidget house," and the term stuck: the English love their nomenclature. A U.S. trip to work with Spank Rock and Amanda Blank inadvertently led to credits on Santogold’s "Creator," a major hit that, coupled with his widely-acclaimed contributions to M.I.A.’s Arular (Interscope, 2005), helped fuel the Major Lazer project. "Now when we approach things, people are more willing to trust us when we want to make it a little bit more quirky," Switch says.

Both producers have traveled to Jamaica before. Diplo has released material by JA artists like Ms. Thing on his Mad Decent label, while Switch announces his love for the hot Kingston street party Passa Passa. After the two returned to the U.S. to assemble Major Lazer’s debut "in little bits" between other DJ and production gigs, word of the project leaked out to their American friends. "As soon as they heard we were putting it together seriously, they were, like, if you need any help, let us know," Switch says.

Perhaps the best parts of Guns Don’t Kill People … Lazers Do come when their American friends nestle against their Jamaican counterparts: Amanda Blank answers slack rapper Einstein with an equally filthy rhyme on "What U Like"; Brooklyn singer Jah Dan kicks a conscious flow on "Cash Flow"; and criminally underrated harmony sisters Nina Sky sing coquettishly on "Keep It Goin’." Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate our bouncement artists until you hear them hold their own with their Jamaican counterparts, like when Santogold chants a hook for Mr. Lexx’s gruff war chant on "Hold the Line." It’s then that you realize that club music’s lingua franca — swagger, sex, and having fun — has no borders.

Meanwhile, the cover art for Guns Don’t Kill People … Lazers Do pays homage to the comic art found on the back covers of old Jamaican albums like Scientist Meets the Space Invaders (Greensleeves, 1981) and the Upsetters’ Super Ape (Mob Entertainment, 2006). "Major Lazer is basically a fictional character we dreamt up to give this whole project we did down in Jamaica an identity, rather than it just being me and Wes — two white guys going down to Jamaica and trying to make a record," Switch says. "We tried to make it a little more fun."


Fri/26, 9 p.m., $26

Regency Ballroom

1300 Van Ness, SF

(415) 673-5716


Under the umbrella


Understanding music through the kaleidoscopic lens of jazz is daunting. But it’s a challenge made for virtuoso drummer, multiinstrumentalist, rapper, and arranger Karriem Riggins.

Riggins allows jazz’s free-flowing aesthetic to guide his quest to study genres, explore amorphous coagulations of sound, and synthesize diverse sonic influences and life experiences. His muse opens an expansive universe of musical possibilities. "I feel like I’m one with music," he says, during a recent phone interview. "But I want to reach the point where it’s so effortless to do anything I want to do. Any genre — I want to do everything." Whether playing drums for powerhouses like Ray Brown and Herbie Hancock or producing and rhyming with Madlib, Riggins shows a rare adeptness at either transcending or crossing skillfully between musical traditions.

As a youngster in Detroit, 17-year-old Riggins got his big break when singer Betty Carter invited him to perform with her band as part of the esteemed Jazz Ahead program in New York. He found himself awestruck by the city’s explosive music talent. "I stayed there, I didn’t want to go home," he says. "There were more people my age playing incredible [music]." After a two-week stint grooving with Carter, Riggins found work playing drums for pianist Steven Scott and jumped on opportunities to hold down percussion for Roy Hargrove and Benny Green, steadily absorbing their mastery through musical osmosis.

But Riggins also aspired to refine his other passion, hip-hop. After returning to Detroit, he honed production and lyricist techniques with Common and No I.D. while they were producing One Day It’ll All Make Sense (Relativity, 1997), even flipping a track of his own for the record. Since then, Riggins has laced textured beats for the Roots as well as soul conjurer Erykah Badu and finished the production on J Dilla’s brilliant posthumous project The Shining (Bbe, 2006). Riggins’ raw formula balances live instrumentation and samples, keeping the creative process free while allowing the final vision to cohere within a holistic jazz sensibility. "I feel like hip-hop and a lot of other genres are under the umbrella of jazz," he insists. "Jazz is really the core of the music." He nonetheless notes at least one fundamental distinction between jazz and hip-hop. While hip-hop’s flavor requires simplicity, jazz demands colorful and rhythmic experimentation, a complexity that would detract from hip-hop’s minimal solidity. The singular manner in which Riggins’ negotiates this tension is what makes his multifaceted sound so damn compelling.

In the upcoming Virtuoso Experience Tour, where Riggins plans to introduce his new quintet with pianist Mulgrew Miller, either Pete Rock or DJ Dummy will collaborate on the turntables. "There are very few musicians who are revolutionary musicians, who take the music into their own world and develop something really innovative," Riggins says, noting luminaries like Miles Davis and Gary Bartz. "That’s the type of artist that I want to be."


With Mulgrew Miller, Pete Rock (Wed/24) and DJ Dummy (Thurs/25)

Wed/24–Thurs/25, 8 and 10 p.m., $20


510 Embarcadero West, Oakl.

(510) 238-9200

Detroit rock city


Last year, Motor City troubadour Rodriguez’s 1970 recording Cold Fact (Light in the Attic) rightfully topped many critics’ lists as the best reissue of 2008. This year, another Detroit act, Death, is experiencing a similarly vital revival, through its jaw-dropping proto-punk onslaught For the World to See (Drag City). As Rodriguez hits SF in conjunction with the reissue of 1971’s Coming From Reality, I caught up with him by phone as he visited the office of his new label. I corresponded with Death’s Bobby Hackney by e-mail, with some help from Drag City’s Nicole Yalaz. (Johnny Ray Huston)

SFBG What were some of your favorite haunts and places in Detroit?

BOBBY HACKNEY (OF DEATH) Of course the Grand Ballroom, and later on, the Michigan Palace. Most of the shows we would see would be either at the Cobo Arena or Olympic Stadium.

SFBG Rodriguez, have you spent time with John Sinclair?

RODRIGUEZ Only as of late. We did a show together that involved music and poetry on a [street] corner. He’s quite a hero. We burned one.

SFBG Rodriguez, how important was Detroit and your experience of it to the lyrics on Cold Fact and Coming From Reality?

R I consider myself urban as opposed to rural or suburban. Any city has its heart, and my background is in the social realism of the urban setting.

SFBG Bobby, will the reformed version of Death be touring soon?

BH What a timely question. We have just finished a four-month process of production and rehearsals and this past Friday announced our first show at the Majestic Theatre in Detroit on Sept. 25.


With Fool’s Gold, Sam Flax and Higher Color

Fri/26, 9 p.m., $17–$19


333 11th St, SF

(415) 255-0333


Average Jane



Dear Readers:

I’ve known people who have sex for money, have sex as a hobby, write about (or perform about or do art about or teach about) sex as an avocation, and still have enough interest and energy left over to have the occasional bit of relaxing off-line sex at home with a partner when nobody’s watching or reading along. But I am not one of them. I get bored. There was a play about vibrators here recently and everyone asked me if I was going, but I said, "Eh, I’d rather see Up." I like to cook and read and watch shows about things that have as little to do with (my) real life as possible — high fashion, for instance, the nuttier the better. I like it when the models wear their dresses upside-down and have monkey-fur eyebrows and a teapot on their head. You don’t?

So … I’m a huge fan of Project Runway and a lesser one of its lesser successor, The Fashion Show. Every season, though, there’s some kind of challenge involving "real women" and, while it’s fun to see the contestants, used to dressing compliant stick insects, wrestle with a mouthy client who dares to voice her own, often scandalously après garde opinions (she often just wants to look nice, of all things), it’s appalling to hear what the designers have to say about the non-model bodies. Faced with the task of dressing a modeling agency admin instead of the expected model, one of the Fashion Show wannabes pouted, "She’s very normal. I don’t do normal."

Well too bad for you, darling! Let us return the favor!

So imagine my glee upon discovering a recent study which found that regular men (as opposed to fashion designers of any gender or sexual preference) not only DO do average women, they vastly prefer us. I knew it! All these years of assuring women that jutting hipbones and sunken chests are not only not required to attract guys, they aren’t even preferred, and now I have at least this one study to back me up.

This isn’t about the "something to hang onto" hypothesis, although I do think that men in general do prefer some padding on those they plan to bump up against, and not only to avoid all the bruising. Men who are attracted to women tend to be attracted to women, and women have boobs and butts and that cunning part in between, where it gets smaller.

You’ve probably heard about the alleged universally preferred waist-hip ratio: it’ s 0.7. This shows up constantly in popular-sciencey psych articles about men’s hard-wired preference for female bodies that signal youth, good health, and fertility (they also like symmetry, even skin tone, and teeth) and depresses female readers who wonder if they measure up. Some researchers in Australia decided to take a closer look, and recruited a bunch of guys to rate line drawings of female torsos for attractiveness. (I may have read too much hard-boiled crime fiction to hear about female "torsos" without mentally adding the word "dismembered," but let’s hope the test subjects had not.) From the NewScientist article:

The work, by Rob Brooks at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues, suggests that the popular notion that a waist-hip ratio of 0.7 is the most attractive only holds if the rest of the body is average (Behavioral Ecology, DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arp051 ).

"The orthodoxy says that you will be attractive with a certain waist-hip ratio no matter how the rest of your body varies. Our study shows this is not the case," says [researcher] Brooks…. The men showed a preference for women with a waist-hip ratio of 0.7 — but only if they had an average-sized waist, hips, and shoulders.

When compared with groups of real women, including Playboy centerfolds, Australian escorts advertising on the Internet and average Australian women between the ages of 25 and 44, the latter group most closely matched the preferred body shape.

Strike one for the average Sheila. Isn’t this heartening? Of course women who are substantially smaller or larger than average can still find plenty of ammunition here with which to wound themselves (the men liked average women, after all), and we don’t know for a fact that it applies to non-Aussie men. Even so, it’s something to remember when the heart sinks and the self-loathing rises upon looking in the mirror and failing, once again, to see Kate Moss pouting back at us. Suck it, Kate! Go eat some crisps.

In other heartening news, the editor of British Vogue put fashion designers on notice that she would no longer publish photos of ultra-emaciated models, so they’d better start sending larger clothes. Apparently the samples have been arriving at the magazines in ever-tinier sizes, until even the models we’re used to seeing, who are about 5’10 and 100 to 125 pounds, can’t fit into them. Not that the average size 14 Australian torso is going to be able to squeeze into those Valentinos, but at least it’s a start.



Dirty dancing



SONIC REDUCER "I guess it’s different things at different times. I guess different songs are in different modes." David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors is trying — but not very hard — to discuss his songwriting process by phone from Richmond, Va. From the sound of it, the Projectors are trudging along sluggishly today, so as one of those writers with a word or two to spare, I thought I’d help the tongue-tied onetime Yalie out.

"So do you write songs by jamming together as a band or do you compose all the parts yourself?" I wonder innocently.

"It’s hard to write music by jamming," sighs Longstreth, 27, "though not for someone like Phish. Or the Grateful Dead. Or the String Cheese Incident. Hey," he decides to turn the tables on his tiresome interrogator, "what kind of music do you listen to?"

Somehow I think I just got stuck in the String Cheese camp for throwing out the dreaded J word, although Longstreth gets gabby at the mention of his friends and fellow Brooklyner soft-liners Grizzly Bear and happily talks about the leaked "crappy burns" of that band’s latest disc, Veckatimest (Warp).

"We all like to hang out and listen to jams and stuff," he offers tentatively, as if trying out a new language, one perhaps invented by candle-selling hippies and moe.-moony preppies.

Oh, never mind — trust the art, not the artist, as my mother, a shiftless artist, once said. And Dirty Projectors’ art is excellent this time around: the Longstreth-led group’s seventh long-player, Bitte Orca (Domino), is a cunning, insinuatingly likeable collection of characteristically complex, left-field songs that seem to shoot from the hip for that ineffable quality that some fine Top 10 hip-hop appears to aim for — polyrhythmic pop that sound as easy and natural as a school-yard chant — while preserving Longstreth’s glimmering, almost-Afropop-like guitar playing, random (string cheese) incidents of harp, and unexpected time signatures that bring to mind, yep, the jams of Yes and their proggy ilk.

Still, those name-drops don’t quite encompass Longstreth’s romantic falsetto feints on "The Bride," the cock-eyed and sinuous Bjork-meets-Beyonce dance-pop of "Stillness Is the Move," or the fetching, erratic chamber folk of "Two Doves" — and do little to capture how luminously lovely the album is, for all its hard corners and uncompromising eccentricity, and how good his current band — which includes vocalist-guitarist Amber Coffman, vocalist-keyboardist-guitarist-bassist Angel Deradoorian, drummer Brian Mcomber — sounds live.

Little wonder that Longstreth has little patience for fool questions — words do little to sum up the gentle bite of Bitte Orca. "A song is like a living thing," he explains, not sure he’ll be understood. "And recording is a document of the song at a particular moment in time. But I think if you’re playing well, there’s an element of growth that’s happening as you’re playing. I wouldn’t describe it as improvisation — but flux."


July 7, 8 p.m., $15


628 Divisadero, SF




Though the tune first emerged last year, the infectious Day ‘n’ Nite has been going damn near every day and night since Kanye got behind the Cleveland, Ohio, native. With Sean Paul, Ice Cube, and others. Fri/26, 6 p.m., $25.50–$95.50. Shoreline Amphitheatre, One Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View. www.livenation.com


French rock’s photogenic mythical critters attempt to rise above the tabloid fodder — vocalist Thomas Mars is Sofia Coppola’s baby daddy — and hold the line the against futuristic Jamaican toaster with Guns Don’t Kill People … Lazers Do (Downtown) in hand. Fri/26, 9 p.m., $27.50–$70. Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness, SF. www.goldenvoice.com


The cold fact is that the resurrected folk-rock legend conquered the crowd at his last SF show. This time the Afropop-adoring LA combo promises to shines, too. Fri/26, 9 p.m., $17–$19. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


The SF band embraces a gentle, sunny, new clarity on its upcoming Gorgeous Johnny (Jagjaguwar), with Papercuts’ Jason Quever now in their midst. Sat/27, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Playing with Ethan Rose, Brosseau plies dusky, literary-minded originals on his handsome new Posthumous Success (FatCat). Sun/28, 8 p.m., $10. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com

Grade A



It was a gathering of tribes with more tattoos and partially shaved heads per square foot than anywhere else in San Francisco. The sartorial imagination at times rivaled the one on stage. In other words, it was the eighth Fresh Meat Festival, celebrating transgender and queer performance, and Project Artaud Theater packed them in.

Announced as the largest festival of its kind in the country, Fresh Meat is the brain- (and heart-) child of Sean Dorsey. A smart organizer and good artist, he programmed a lineup that showcased not only gender but ethnic diversity: a Latino singer, an African American rapper, and a Sri Lankan theater artist, among others. Differences extended to quality; not all the performers were equal in either craft or talent. But this was a theatrically pungent evening whose concurrent themes couldn’t be missed. Joyful affirmation of self and the pain of not fitting in went hand in hand.

The evening opened on a note of female assertiveness. Taiko Ren’s exuberant women embraced those huge drums — for centuries restricted to the male of the species — as their birthright. Planting their hips and focusing their energy into the hard-hitting batons, they set the air humming with overlapping and shimmering resonances. Hip-hop closed the two-and-a-half-hour show. Allan Frias’ high-camp and razor-sharp Mind over Matter Dance Company’s Bring it to Runway exploded the fashion world’s dehumanized body as a clothes-hanger. Seen as manipulated mannequins, the dancers revolted into a brigade of hard-hitting, furiously stepping males and females whose individuality was as strong as their sense of common purpose.

Coming fresh from the Ethnic Dance Festival, the Barbary Coast Cloggers’ footwork and the body slaps in Hambone didn’t sound as finely synchronized as they have in the past. However, the marvelous Wind It Up, to Gwen Stefani’s yodel-infected song, highlighted the sly note of urbanity that’s always present in these dancers’ take on rural traditions. Another reminder that common dance traditions often exclude non-heterosexuals came from North American same-sex ballroom champions Zoe Balfour and Citabria Phillips. Their spacious Ballroom Blitz, a suave and light-as-air foxtrot, went by too fast. I would love to see what else they do.

Most of the solo performers came from Los Angeles. Ryka Aoki de la Cruz’ Alternator Domme was a little heavy-handed in its use of metaphor, but she is witty writer and quick-change artist who times her material — paying for car repairs with a gig in a dungeon — well. In the hilarious excerpt from Ramble-Ations: A One D’Lo Show, D’Lo transitions from a traditional Sri Lankan mother into an Angelino "tomboy". The work dove deeply into the poignancy of not wanting to be put into a gender — or any other kind of — box. Rapper Deadlee’s in-your-face "We Serve it Up Nasty" — with audience participation — was a rebellious rant against homophobia in hip-hop. Yet I wondered whether its transgressive tone didn’t strike a note of simple-mindedness with this audience. StormMiguel Florez has a beautifully flexible voice, yet his family-inspired songs sounded bland. SF’s own Shawna Virago — edgy, elegant, elegiac — premiered a lovely new work dedicated to Sean Dorsey.

Dorsey’s substantial Lou is his finest work yet, and the festival’s highlight. The excerpt (performed beautifully by Dorsey, Juan de la Rosa, Brian Fisher, and Nol Simonse) stood well on its own. Some of the verbal links between memory and history probably could be tightened, but the simple yet eloquent choreography opens up Dorsey’s language and Lou’s life remains simultaneously tender and powerful. As for the next Fresh Meat Festival: less between-the-acts talk and tighter tech, please.

Velvet goldmine


They came from outer space (via Haight Street) sometime in 1969, and first to prominence as the palpably 3-D entr’acte between late-night underground and vintage movie reels at the old Palace Theater in North Beach. There they mounted a sort of acid-fueled, glitter-bearded, hippie drag-queen free-for-all, causing immediate convivial mayhem among the rowdy stoners there assembled. This was only the beginning. The Cockettes were a streak of homegrown countercultural iridescence registering profound if indeterminate influence on the lives of us all — even if you’ve never heard of such musical revues as Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma.

Midnight movie sequel of sequels: after 40 years they’re back, as Thrillpeddlers presents a devilishly sharp and inspired revival of the Cockettes’ Pearls Over Shanghai. Perhaps their most polished gem — indeed, their first scripted production, penned by Cockette Link Martin — Pearls is a rousing mock-operetta of strikingly elaborate low-budget design (notoriously padded in its original incarnation with the contents of a costume trunk pinched from the visiting Peking Opera), catchy music, and highly questionable taste, loosely based on an unabashedly Orientalist 1926 Broadway play, The Shanghai Gesture. Wonderfully arch and exquisitely fashioned, this pungent bit of business is a triumph for director Russell Blackwood (who broods and bellows and taps beautifully in the role of Mother Fu) as well as his winning cast and crew — which in addition to special guests like Connie Champagne, includes original Cockettes Scrumbly Koldewyn (composer, musical director and accompanist), Rumi Missabu (unforgettably reprising his role as the evil Madame Gin Sling), and Tahara and Bill Bowers (collaborating with Kara Emry on the eye-popping costumes and makeup).

Pearls hasn’t just aged well — it may be even more offensive than when it premiered. But somewhere too, amid all the jade and jaded ladies, is a whiff of the innocence and insouciance, glamour and naughtiness of those earlier years. Not to mention the "complete sexual anarchy," which, as John Waters counsels sagely in The Cockettes, Bill Weber and David Weissman’s excellent 2002 documentary, "is always a wonderful thing."


Through Aug. 16

Fri–Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m. (starting July 26), $30-$69

Hypnodrome, 575 10th St., SF

1-800-838-3006, www.thrillpeddlers.com

Shake, shimmy, subvert



The tradition of burlesque has always been about subverting the norm and challenging the privileged class. So it should be no surprise that queer performers make up a significant percentage of the new burlesque movement. Or, as Amelia Mae Paradise, cofounder of the queer femme burlesque troupe Diamond Daggers, puts it: "The burlesque world has always had room for freaks and queers and fat ladies."

A quick look at the current Bay Area burlesque scene confirms Paradise’s theory. The cabaret outfit Hubba Hubba Revue regularly features queer and straight performers. Though burlesque dancer Dottie Lux identifies as queer, both her Red Hots Burlesque showcase (www.myspace.com/redhotsburlesque) and the classes she teaches are geared for mixed audiences. And queer performers — from soloists like Kentucky Fried Woman and Alotta Boutte to groups like Twilight Vixens and sfBoylesque — find themselves performing for straight audiences nearly as often as queer ones. In the burlesque world, queer and straight performers bump up against each other so often (pun intended), it might seem arbitrary to distinguish them at all.

But most queer performers agree that there is a difference — however subtle. Queer performers tend to mix their burlesque with spoken word, lip syncing, or drag, and also tend to be more subversive and political than their straight counterparts. Some attribute this to the fact that many queer performers are already schooled in other kinds of politically-based performance art.

"There’s a strong component of the queer performance community who are extremely politically conscious and recognize the power they have when they’re on stage," said Kentucky Fried Woman, a.k.a. KFW (www.myspace.com/kentuckyfriedwoman), who founded the Queen Bees in Seattle before becoming a major force in the SF burlesque community. "You have this whole room of people looking at you, so you can make them focus on any issue you want."

Queer burlesque performers also seem more comfortable with comedy, farce, and a diversity of body types, ages, and races on stage. "I think queers are better at burlesque than non-queers," said Maximus Barnaby, founder of sfBoylesque (www.sfboylesque.com). "They’re not afraid to be outsiders."

And all agreed that it’s different performing for a queer audience than a straight one — even if it only comes down to how many people get your jokes. "Queer audiences already arrive loose and ready to have a good time," says KFW, a phenomenon she hasn’t always witnessed with straight audiences.

KFW also pointed out that there are places where the distinction between queer and straight audiences is even more pronounced — and where having queer-friendly events like Debauchery (www.myspace.com/debaucherydivine), a strip club night for queers of all genders, is even more important.

While some performers might be considered queer exclusively because of their sexual preferences, others — like Twilight Vixens (www.twilightvixen.com) and Diamond Daggers (www.diamonddaggers.com) — employ the title as a part of their subversion of the norm.

Indeed, when Paradise cofounded the Daggers with Cherry Lix (who later went on to found Twilight Vixens) and Fannie Fuller in 2003, the idea was to create empowering, queer performance as femme dykes. "We’re so invisible so much of the time, people assume that we’re straight," Paradise said.

Melding elements of musical theater, Hollywood glamour, and showgirl choreography, the Daggers created a campy cabaret troupe whose purpose was femme visibility.

In 2005, the Daggers birthed the Twilight Vixens. While the Daggers headed toward comedy, gender-pushing, and narrative performances — featuring the bearded Paradise and her six-foot-tall bearded butch wife Sir Loin Strip — Cherry Lix took the Vixens even further towards vintage Vegas showgirl glam. "In San Francisco, you have a lot of men imitating women being showgirls," said Lix. "This was: let’s be women being women who like women being showgirls."

Interestingly, Paradise says the lesbian audience hasn’t always been the easiest for femme troupes like the Daggers and Vixens. "It’s confusing," she said. "They ask, ‘Is it feminist? Not feminist? It’s hot, titilutf8g, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.’"

On the other hand, gay men have always loved them, especially in the beginning, because those groups and gay men tend to speak the same language of camp.

Gay men are also the primary audience for sfBoylesque, the all-male dance revue founded nearly three years ago. But they weren’t an automatically easy audience either. "People have different expectations of men in burlesque," said Barnaby. "The point of reference is Chippendale’s … this perfect, chiseled body. We are absolutely not Chippendale’s."

Whereas burlesque has traditionally been a place that empowers women of all body types, Barnaby said his troupe has had to create an audience to expect and accept the same from men. As for the troupe identifying as queer? Barnaby says that’s mostly because he likes the inclusiveness of the term.

When it really comes down to it, though, performers like Simone de la Getto, cofounder of all-black burlesque review Harlem Shake and the queer event Cabaret de Nude, thinks the titles are stupid — but necessary. "I guess I’m a queer black burlesque performer who’s a single mom," she said. "Once we get past all the labels, life will be easier."

Plus, the lines between queer and straight burlesque are becoming ever more blurred, as Getto — who joined the burlesque scene as a straight woman and then came out — should know.

"People like to see people taking their clothes off. It doesn’t matter who you’re sleeping with," she said. "That pretty much seals the deal for everyone."

Fierce! Forbes!


TV EYED Did I ever tell you you’re my hero, Michelle Forbes? Like, you’re the wind beneath my wings, standing out from the sidelines of TV series like Lost, Prison Break, and 24, pulling off the most ingenious little saves by just popping up, feline eyes a-glow, in the strangest, smallest cameo. Her latest appearance: Maryann — the power-hungry priestess/consort/groupie of Dionysus in True Blood, which just started its second shadowy season.

Sure, the pulpy, soapy, Southern goth series overflows — like so much hallucinatory V (a.k.a., the better-than-ecstasy vampire blood) — with acting talent. Start with Anna Paquin as nubile hot-pants psychic Sookie Stackhouse, and Ryan Kwanten as her perpetually puzzled-looking bad-boy bro, Jason, and continue to Stephen Moyer as Sookie’s increasingly cadaverous-looking vampire beau, Bill, and Rutina Wesley as the hardcore baby beeyatch with a heart of gold, Tara, and end with the stellar Nelsan Ellis as the trash-talkin’ queer V dealer, Lafayette. This season has almost everyone in good-times Bon Temps brooding in their whiskey glasses — prisoners in the literal or metaphorical darkness — and pondering who might have ripped the heart of the town’s voodoo exorcist.

But while the other True Blood-ies break down and climb in their bottles in confusion, Forbes shivers me timbers with her vibratory vixenish certainty. She’s the natural center of the storm that’s brewing in Bon Temps — convincing because the actress specializes in scarily strong women, bordering on the carnivorous and castrating. I was never a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so I never fell for her Ensign Ro Laren. But we’ve all noticed that even the briefest appearance by the actress gives the most implausible plot turn a heft and force only the formidable Forbes can deliver. So why hasn’t the lady made the break to the big screen? She made a memorable mark on Brad Pitt’s serial killer in Kalifornia (1993). Maybe it’s because she gets so much work on TV as a kind of Lucy Lawless, sans the throaty Down Under accent. My fave Forbes moments so far:


When will her maenad begin to tear apart the Bon Temps citizenry out of sheer bacchanalian exuberance? Her Pan groupie, with mysterious designs on Tara and doggy shape shifter Sam, threatens to steal the sinister thunder from the vampire population.


As the straying ex-spouse of Gabriel Bryne’s psychotherapist Paul, Forbes applied naturalistic shading and warmth to her character. She understandably got her rage on as Paul swooned for his patient Laura, but you can also understand why the beleaguered shrink later yearned for his ex to take him back.


She was the hawk to the more dove-ish Admiral Adama. Too bad the humans didn’t have to deal with her ferocious warlady from the planet Sappho beyond season two.


No surrender, no retreat



The dueling budget rallies that preceded the June 16 Board of Supervisors hearing on the city’s spending priorities officially ended the conciliatory approach offered by Mayor Gavin Newsom — a rhetorical political gambit that the Mayor’s Office never really put into practice.

The emotionally charged police and fire workers’ rally — where Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes riled up the crowd by ridiculing supervisors as "idiots" and "carpetbaggers" — featured Newsom as the guest of honor at an event overseen by Eric Jaye, the political consultant running both the firefighters’ union budget offensive and Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign.

On a stage lined with American flags and burly public safety workers, Newsom condemned the progressive supervisor’s proposal to amend his budget over a blaring sound system. "They’re asking us to retreat," Newsom said, in full battle cry mode, "and we’re not going to do that."

Across the street, city employees from the Department of Public Health held a competing rally, flying a banner that read "No Cuts to Vital Services!" It was painfully obvious that in a squabble between city employees, the mayor was positioning himself on the side of well-paid, powerful union members who got raises instead of layoffs, rather than the public health workers and advocates for the poor whom Newsom’s budget cut the deepest.

But before progressive supervisors challenged Newsom’s proposed budget — which ignored the supervisors’ stated priorities, despite Newsom’s December pledge to work closely with the board on it — the rhetoric was quite different. "We work through our differences and ultimately try to look at the budget as apolitically as possible," Newsom said during a June 1 event unveiling his budget. "It’ll only happen by working together."

Six months earlier, when the mayor made a rare appearance at a Board of Supervisors meeting to announce the unprecedented budget shortfall of more than $500 million, he adopted a similar tone. "We have the capacity, the ingenuity and the spirit to solve this," Newsom told the board in December. "It’s going to take all of us working together. It’s in that spirit that I am here."

The mayor’s proposed budget has spurred outrage from poor people and progressive supervisors, who charge that his decision to cut critical services while simultaneously bolstering funding to the police and fire departments is morally repugnant.

Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, and David Chiu responded by passing an amendment in committee to slash $82 million from the public-safety budget in order to restore some of the cuts to public health and social services. After that move, the spirit of "working together" quickly eroded, and seemed to be replaced by the bare knuckles politics of fear and division.

After the rallies, which even spilled indoors and devolved into shouting matches between the two camps, supervisors finally got to work on the budget. And they didn’t ask Newsom to retreat, they just asked him to listen and work with them.

The $82 million dent in the public-safety budget was described as a symbolic gesture to get the mayor to take progressive concerns seriously. "For many of us, it was the only way we felt we could have a seat at the table — a seat that was real, where the discussion was going to be meaningful," Campos said.

"I do not think that this budget is bilateral. It is a unilateral budget," Chiu noted at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

This year’s budget battle is especially intense because of the unprecedented size of the deficit, as well as the dire economic conditions facing many San Franciscans. California’s unemployment rate climbed to 11.5 percent in May, and stood at an only slightly less miserable 9.1 percent in San Francisco, according to the state’s Employment Development Department.

Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of San Franciscans in need of emergency food assistance, homeless services, and help with other basic necessities has spiked. Everyone seems to be feeling the pinch, but for the least fortunate, falling on hard times can mean relying on city-funded services for survival.

Against this dismal backdrop, big questions are emerging about the role of government. "The city’s budget," City Attorney Dennis Herrera noted at a recent hearing, "is correctly called the city’s most meaningful policy document. More than any other piece of legislation, it sets out the priorities that tangibly express the values of the City and County of San Francisco."

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi took this idea even farther at the budget hearing. "Aside from the politicking and any of the hyperbole, we [have to] do the best we possibly can for all the people of San Francisco," he said. "But in particular, the vulnerable classes, because what is also at stake is … the key question: Who’s this city for? And who gets to live here over the next 10 to 20 years, considering how cost-prohibitive it is to be in San Francisco?"

The budget battle is shaping up around some fundamental questions: is this budget going to protect the politically powerful while ignoring the thousands who are in danger of slipping through the cracks? Or will everyone be asked to make sacrifices to preserve the city’s safety net? And as these difficult decisions are hashed out, is the mayor going to sit down with the board to seek common ground?

A board hearing on the cuts to health services — which state law requires cities to hold when those cuts are deep — illustrated the divide with hours of testimony from the city’s most disadvantaged residents: those with mental health problems, seniors, SRO tenants, AIDS patients, and others.

"If we make the wrong decisions, it will mean that our homeless folks will be in ever-increasing numbers on the street. It means that folks with HIV will not receive the care they need. It will mean that kids will not have the after-school programs they need during their critical years. It will mean that our tenants will continue to live in substandard housing," Chiu summarized the testimony.

Avalos, the Budget Committee chair who has led the fight to alter Newsom’s budget priorities, has said repeatedly that cutting critical services does not work in San Francisco. And even as he proposed the amendment, he expressed a desire to reach a solution that everyone, not just progressives, would find palatable.

"We want to talk directly to the mayor, to have him meet us half-way, about how we can share the pain in this budget to ensure that we have a balance in equity on how we run the city government," Avalos noted as his committee began its detailed, tedious work on the budget. "We can do that across the hall here at City Hall, and we can do it across every district in San Francisco."

The Board approved the interim budget that more evenly shared the budget pain on a 7-3 vote, with Sups. Bevan Dufty, Carmen Chu, and Michela Alioto-Pier dissenting (Sup. Sean Elsbernd was absent because his wife was giving birth to their first child, but was also likely to dissent).

If Newsom chooses to veto the interim budget or the permanent one next month — which the board would need eight votes to override — San Francisco could be in for a protracted budget standoff, the least "apolitical" of all options. But for now, the political theater is yielding to the detailed, difficult work of the Budget and Finance Committee.

Progressive members of the committee have already signaled their intention to scrutinize city jobs with salaries of $100,000 or positions in each department that deal with public relations.

Among those highlighted in a budget analysts’ report is Newsom’s public relations team, a fleet of five helmed by a Director of Communications Nate Ballard, who pulls down $141,700 a year. Yet when the Guardian and others seek information from the office — for this story and many others — we are often stonewalled, ignored, or insulted.

During the budget hearings, the disproportionately high number of positions with six-figure salaries in the city’s police and fire departments also came under scrutiny. "What has worked in a lot of other agencies is you have employees who care deeply enough about the City and County of San Francisco that they are willing to give back in terms of salaries," Campos commented to Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White during a budget hearing, referring to firefighters’ refusal to forgo raises.

Another looming question is whether new revenue measures will be included as part of the solution. While progressive supervisors continue to call for tax measures as a way to stave off the worst cuts to critical services, Newsom proudly proclaimed his budget’s lack of new taxes.

A press release posted on Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign Web site suggests that since raising revenues doesn’t fit with his bid for governor, it’s not likely to be entertained as a possibility. "Mayor Newsom crafted a balanced budget on time," a press release notes, "without any new general tax increases, without reducing public safety services."

It’s a stand that’s certain to yield more political clashes down the line.

"I don’t see how we can get out of this budget without bringing additional revenue into the system," Campos noted at the committee hearing. "Once people learn about the situation we are facing, they will understand the need for the city and county as a whole to contribute."

The price of normal



With a 2010 state proposition on gay marriage in the works and a national gay rally on the Washington Mall being planned for October 10-11 of that year, it’s obvious that more and more of the LGBT community’s resources are being funneled into the battle for marriage equality, while other causes go begging.

Already gay marriage has become a black hole that is sucking untold amounts of money, time, and energy out of our community. In the 2008 election alone, gay marriage supporters raised $43.3 million to defeat Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative that California voters passed by 52 percent. It may be the biggest chunk of change the community has ever spent for a single fight.


I’m not against gay marriage. If queer couples want to be as miserable as straight ones, that’s their choice. Marriage is a failed institution. With a 54.8 percent divorce rate nationally and a 60 percent rate here in California, there’s no doubt in my mind that heterosexual "wedded bliss" is more of an oxymoron than a reality.

What’s troubling to me as a queer activist of almost 40 years (much of that time spent on economic justice work) is that, with the tremendous amount of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment in our community, we are spending so much dough on the fight to give a minority of folks — those who opt for tying the knot — rights and privileges that straight married folks have.

Sure, it’s unfair that married straights get tax breaks, not to mention the status of next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions when one partner is ill, and queers don’t. Altogether, married couples have 1,400 benefits, both state and federal, that domestic partners and single people don’t enjoy. It’s a matter of simple justice that the playing field be leveled. Only a right-wing idiot could disagree with that. Now, if only we could fight to give everyone (including singles) those 1,400 benefits.

For me it’s a question of priorities. We are living in scary times. Unemployment is sky-high; millions are without healthcare, including children; foreclosures are robbing homeowners and tenants alike of their housing; and business collapses are leaving a lot of people out in the cold and unable to pay the rent or the mortgage.


The queer community is no better off.

It’s a popular misconception that queers have a lot of disposable income. The "double income, no kids" (DINK) myth was promoted in the 1980s by gay publishers who wanted to expand their advertising base and their profits. These days, to read many gay publications, you’d think that all queers are going on fabulous vacations and buying expensive clothes, jewelry, and electronic gizmos.

That myth was easily dispelled by a recent study, "Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community," published this March by the Williams Institute at UCLA. Like "Income Inflation: the myth of affluence among gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans," the groundbreaking 1998 study by M.V. Lee Badgett of the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Williams report found that many members of our community aren’t shopping ’til they drop. They can barely afford to put food on the table.

Nationally, 24 percent of lesbians and bisexual women are poor compared to 19 percent of heterosexual women; 15 percent of gay and bisexual men are poor compared to 13 percent of heterosexual men.

Queers aren’t just low on cash — we’re homeless, too. A 2006 report, "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness" from the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and the National Coalition on Homelessness, showed that 20 percent to 40 percent of the 1.6 million homeless youth in America identify as LGBT. In San Francisco, the number of queers in the homeless youth population (estimated at 4,000 by the Mayor’s Office) is "roughly 44 percent," according to Dr. Mike Toohey of the Homeless Youth Alliance in the Haight.

Brian Basinger of the AIDS Housing Alliance says that 40 percent of people with HIV/AIDS, in the city once acclaimed for its care of those with the disease, are either "unstably housed or are homeless." In the Castro, Basinger said, there are only "12 dedicated HOPWA beds" for people with the disease. HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS) is a federal voucher program for low-income people with AIDS that is similar to federal housing assistance program Section 8.

Certain members of our community don’t fare much better in the area of employment. A 2006 survey by the Guardian and the Transgender Law Center reported that 75 percent of transgender people are not employed full-time, and 59 percent make less than $15,299 a year. A mere 4 percent of respondents earned more than $61,200, the then-median income average for San Francisco.

Fifty-seven percent of trangendered people said they suffered employment discrimination, demonstrating the need for the inclusion of "gender identity" in the federal Employment Non-discrimination Act. Human Rights Campaign, a national gay organization, and out Congress member Barney Frank (D-Mass.) cut transgenders out of that legislation the last time it was up before Congress.

It could all get a whole lot worse.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to lop at least $81 million from California’s AIDS budget, including money for AIDS drugs, leaving low-income people stranded without their medication. Senior services are also on his cutting block, including $230.8 million from in-home services and $117 million from adult health-care programs. (As we go to press, the state Legislature is working to restore the AIDS money to the budget.)

Mayor Gavin Newsom, in his proposed city budget cuts, is axing $128.4 million from public health and $15.9 million from human services. There’s no doubt these cuts in health and human services will severely affect people with AIDS, seniors, youth, the homeless, and others in our community who can least afford to pay for the city’s budget shortfall.

The millions spent on gay marriage in the past few years could have gone a long way in these lean times. It could have helped make the proposed queer senior housing project, Open House, a reality. With 88 units in the works at 55 Laguna St., the site of the old UC extension, it will be the only such housing for LGBT seniors in San Francisco.

The money also could have funded housing in the Castro for homeless queer youth or people with AIDS. It could have been used as seed money for a much-needed war against poverty in the LGBT community.


The queer movement hasn’t always been this obsessed about getting hitched. Forty years ago this week, drag queens and others fought back against the cops who were raiding a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s West Village. Three days of protests led to the creation of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), a revolutionary group dedicated to the sexual liberation of all people. GLFers weren’t looking to walk down the aisle or form binary couples. In a desire to "abolish existing social institutions," as the NYC branch of GLF said in its statement of purpose, some GLFers explored polyamory (more than one relationship at a time).

That’s why I edited Smash the Church, Smash the State! The Early Years of Gay Liberation, just published by City Lights Books, a collection of writings by former GLF members and other gay liberationists. I wanted to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall and the birth of GLF with a reminder of who we were and what we did. After all these years, I still don’t want to head to the chapel to get married.

When it really comes down to it, gay marriage is a conservative issue. It’s about wanting to fit in, to be like everyone else. Beyond the important issues of tax breaks and next-of-kin status — and the fact that if any institution exists, it shouldn’t discriminate against queers — marriage is ultimately a means of normalizing binary queer relationships, especially for gay men who have always enjoyed the freedom to be promiscuous. It’s a way to try and rein in our libidos, though the prevalence of extramarital sex among straight couples — 50 percent for women, 60 percent for men, according to a recent issue of Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy — shows that marriage doesn’t come with a chastity belt.

It also doesn’t come with any guarantees, as researchers discovered in Sweden, where queers were able to contract for same-sex partnerships from 1995 until recently, when full same-sex marriage was instituted. According to a study by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Swedish queers have been divorcing in high numbers, like their straight counterparts, who have a divorce rate that’s just a little higher than the United States.

For queers in Sweden, that’s the price of being normal.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who has been a queer activist since he was involved with the Gay Liberation Front at Temple University in Philadelphia in the early 1970s, is editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State! The Early Years of Gay Liberation (City Lights Books).

Busting bars



San Francisco’s legendary nightlife venues are being threatened by a state agency that over the last two years has adopted a more aggressive policy of enforcing its arcane rules, in the process jeopardizing both needed tax revenue and a vibrant, tolerant culture that these bureaucrats don’t seem to understand.

At issue is an arbitrary policy of the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. For the past two years, ABC has been on a campaign against a growing list of well-established clubs, bars, and entertainment venues in the city, an effort driven by vague rules and stretched authority. The community has rallied behind the bars and local politicians have spoken against ABC’s crusade, but the agency isn’t showing any signs of stopping.

Most recently, Revolution Café in the Mission District had to stop selling beer and wine for 20 days after ABC cited them for patrons drinking on the sidewalk adjacent to its front patio. Inner Richmond’s Buckshot’s liquor license was pulled because of technical violations of alcohol and food regulations, forcing owners to close their doors for a few weeks. Both bars stand to lose a substantial portion of their profits before returning to normal business operation.

DNA Lounge’s license is currently being held over its head because ABC saw operators as "running a disorderly house injurious to the public welfare and morals" after sending undercover agents in during queer events. State Sen. Mark Leno responded by telling the Guardian, "The ABC should enforce the law, not make statements relative to morals."

Café du Nord, Slim’s, Swedish Music Hall, Great American Music Hall, Rickshaw Stop, Bottom of the Hill, and a list of more than 10 others are also fighting long, expensive battles to stay open — but not because of underage drinking or drinking-related violence. In fact, most of these venues never had a run-in with ABC until two years ago. These bars’ livelihoods are being threatened because of an arbitrary technicality on their alcohol and food license.

ABC was established in 1957 with the mission to be "responsible for the licensing and regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, possession, and transportation of alcoholic beverages." ABC is funded through alcohol license fees, and has been run by governor-appointed director Steve Hardy since 2007, about the same time the crackdown started.

According to ABC spokesperson John Carr, the problem is that these clubs are deviating from their original business plans. The venues are "operating more like clubs, with only incidental food service." ABC didn’t notice any changes in these businesses until two years ago. In some cases, it took ABC 20 years to notice a change.

For example, when Café du Nord owners filled out the forms to get their business license, they were asked to predict the percentage of alcohol sales to food sales. Predictions didn’t pan out exactly, and ABC started an audit two years ago. The only recourse to an audit is to adhere to a random rule that requires these all-ages venues to serve 50 percent food and 50 percent alcohol. This rule is not a law, and ABC isn’t required to enforce it.

Slim’s has been cited on the same food/alcohol grounds. Its sister club, the Great American Music Hall, as well as Bottom of the Hill and most recently Buckshot all have similar 50/50 stories. All are fighting financially drowning battles with ABC. At some point in the court process, these bars must appear in ABC courts with judges hired by Steve Hardy.

Carr claims that only one venue, which he declined to identify, is being cited with the arbitrary 50/50 rule. All the other venues must adhere to their own specific ratio of food to alcohol, written in their original business plans. Regardless of the specific numbers, all are being threatened on the grounds that "they altered the character of their businesses […] which is different from the business plan they submitted to ABC when they were originally pursuing their ABC license."

Many of the bars in question have been around and thriving for decades with the same focus on business, music, and culture. Slim’s, for example, has been in San Francisco for 22 years, going the first 20 without a citation. But in the past two years, it has had four citations between it and the Great American Music Hall.

There is much speculation from all sides of this war about its causes, but no one seems to know why ABC, seemingly out of nowhere, started its crusade against music venues and clubs in San Francisco. Even the ABC is vague and unresponsive about this, broadly claiming it is acting on complaints and just doing its job.

Since the inception of the crackdown is a mystery, it seems fitting to focus on finding a resolution. The last thing anyone in this city wants is to see the clubs and venues shut down, something club operators say hurts the city’s culture. "Kids growing up with live music can only be good," said Dawn Holiday of Slim’s.

Beyond the culture and rich nightlife in question, bars and clubs bring in a significant amount of money to the state. Some of the bars alone can bring the state more than $5,000 each month in sales tax. In the current economic crunch, shutting down reliable sources of revenue doesn’t seem wise.

After two years of battles, ABC has taken some of the bigger hearings off the calendar in an attempt to come to a peaceful resolution. After talks with Hardy, Leno is hopeful for a positive end to the battles. Leno does not want to see any business closed and believes the best way to ensure a thriving nightlife is to establish a special license for the venues. If the only problem with our beloved venues is technicalities with the license, let’s change the license, not the venues.

In the meantime, the community is rallying around the bars and entertainment venues, showing its support. DNA Lounge started asking for donations for its legal proceedings. Visit its Web site for the full story and ways to contribute. When Buckshot reopens July 4, show up and support them. Maybe the best way to fight back is to go out and have a drink, listen to music, dance with queers, and over-indulge in unadulterated San Francisco culture.

Bar Bambino



Heresy is the true spice of life, and it was with this thought in mind that I sat one evening in Bar Bambino, a two-year-old wine bar in a most unlikely location — a heretical location? — and had a beer. The beer was a Moretti but also dark, a La Rossa. I’d never before seen Italian dark beer, either here or in Italy, and, truth be told, I didn’t know the Italians even brewed dark beer. The party of the second part, a beer skeptic, reached across the table to take a sip from the large, shapely goblet.

"Mmmm! That’s good!" was the verdict. "Chocolately."

The verdict, really, was unanimous and extended to Bar Bambino in its entirety. The restaurant sits on one of the bleaker stretches of 16th Street as it passes through the Mission District, and its narrow poker face is easy to miss. Once inside, though, you will feel as if you’ve stepped into an enchanted cave that includes a communal table (in the front window), a bar, a second communal table deeper in that can also be set aside for large parties, and, in the rear, a heated garden for a semi-al fresco experience.

Years ago, in the mid-1990s, we spent the better part of a Florentine afternoon lounging in a place called Cibrèo. Princess Di was said to be a habituée, and we could see why. Like Bar Bambino, it was off the beaten track and discreetly handsome, a place to sit and have a glass or two of wine and order a succession of plates of various sizes. It was my first in-country experience of polpette, the wonderful baby Italian meatballs that are typically served in a spicy tomato sauce.

Although Bar Bambino doesn’t look anything like Cibrèo (which sprawled like somebody drunk on a sofa), it does have a similar aura of relaxed but sustained festivity. It also has baby meatballs ($15); they come in a nice stack, with a potent tomato sauce and some shreds of chard, and they are very satisfying. Among other things, the polpette tell us that the kitchen takes its Italian cooking very seriously; the food is a lot like Delfina’s in this respect, though perhaps a bit more playful. You can get Italian-style "tater tots" ($5), nicely crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, just like the ones you used to eat on a stick at the state fair.

The white-bean-and-tuna salad is an Italian classic. Here ($9.50) it’s made with slow-cooked spagna beans, which looked a lot like cannellini to me and tasted as if they’d been simmered in broth. The only other players were chunks of tuna, slivers of red onion, and a healthy splash of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO, to the acronym-involved). The dish was very tasty but drab-looking at best, like uncooked brains. In Bar Bambino’s defense, I will say that I’ve had similarly dreary-looking versions in Italy — which is odd, since Italian culture manages to bring small flourishes of visual style to practically everything.

A plate of bruschetta ($11.50) topped Sicilian-style with stewed lamb leg, crumbled egg, parsley, and poor-man’s cheese, gets my vote as best bruschetta in the world. I’ve never had bad bruschetta, and I’ve had plenty of good ones, but this one, with its shards of profoundly tender meat, was unforgettable.

Among the pastas, the trofie ($13.50), sauced with cream and crumblings of mild sausage, attracted our attention. The pasta itself turned out to resemble hand-rolled cigarettes, vaguely tubular and tapered at the ends. It’s a Ligurian pasta and is notable for consisting only of flour and water — no egg. Its little rills and ridges caught the sauce nicely. This is the kind of simple Italian dish that leaves you wondering, How do they manage to do so much with so little? A dash of this, a touch of that, and a miracle.

Italian culinary miracle-working does not always extend to the dessert cart, but at Bar Bambino the charm lasts all the way to the end of the menu card (although there is no dessert cart). On the traditional side, we have the old Sicilian favorite, cannoli ($7), a trio of delicate pistachio pastry flutes filled with goat-milk cheese, ricotta, honey — the pistachio flavor dominates — and on the more playful end we find zepote di banana ($8), beignet-like banana fritters topped with melted Nutella sauce, which you pour out yourself from a little pitcher.

Will those around you be watching to see if you spill? Possibly. Bar Bambino’s snugness invites a certain degree of social espionage. On the other hand, the sophisticated look, including a long wall consisting of narrow wood planks and the wonderful chandelier made of wine bottles hanging over the front communal table, might help insulate you from over-overt scrutiny, which can help you enjoy your heresy, whatever it might be. *


Tues.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.;

Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–midnight; Sun., 5–10 p.m.

2931 16th St., SF

(415) 701-8466


Wine and beer



Wheelchair accessible

Appetite: Vanilla ice cream, beer-braised short ribs, Mexican portholes, and more


Every week, Virginia Miller of personalized itinerary service and monthly food, drink, and travel newsletter, www.theperfectspotsf.com, shares foodie news, events, and deals. View the last installment here.

Lick it up at Xanath. Photos by Virginia Miller.

New openings continue, economy be hanged. Here’s a few quick takes on some from the past week:

Oralia’s Cafe
From the owners of Mexican, Salvadorean Dogpatch eatery, The New Spot (dig their tasty pupusas and fresh juices) debuts a humble cafe in the same ‘hood which serves a mean pastrami sandwich ($7.49), along with other classic deli and salad lunches to go.
2347 3rd St., SF

In the former, tiny Frjtz in Hayes Valley space, Marino moves in a Mexican sit-down restaurant with nautical theme. Anchors and portholes line the walls and besides basic Mexican standards like enchiladas or meat-rice-beans platters, there’s Mexican-style seafood chowder (like a cioppino, loaded with mussels, prawns, etc…)
579 Hayes, SF

Another new ice cream shop in the Mission, this one located on prime Valencia Street with a vanilla focus (as the name would suggest), from signature vanilla bean to Madagascar, Tahitian and other variations, straightforward fruit flavors, plus Strauss Family Creamery ice creams.
951 Valencia, SF

Potrero Hill workers have a new day time bistro/cafe (dinner will soon follow) with a range of soups, salads, sandwiches and a ’round the world revolving menu of bites and snacks, starting with Portugal.
350 Kansas, SF


Oakland’s artisanal cocktail bars and gastropub spots continue to proliferate, with this new downtown Oakland stop for lunch (coming soon) and drinks. Pair beer-braised short ribs with tequila-focused specialty cocktails, beers from Linden Street Brewery, and Cali wines.
555 12th St., Oakl



Castello di Amorosa Horse-drawn Vineyard Tour and Tasting… and their 6/27 Midsummer festival with wine and jousting!
Castello di Amorosa rises out of Napa soil, an enchanting castle with turrets and dungeons, surrounded by vineyards and rolling hillsides, a snapshot straight out of Italy. Every Saturday, you have the option to book a Clydesdale horse-drawn carriage ride through winding trails and vines, learning about trellises and harvesting. At the end of this romantic ramble, reserve wines and chocolate pairings await. This Saturday comes its annual Midsummer Festival (6:30pm; a pricey $175 per person) – a unique evening which seems ideally suited to the backdrop: jousting, swordsmanship, 13th century fashion, archery, falconry, banquets, and yes, barrel tastings. You certainly don’t see the likes of this every day.
Carriage ride and tasting: $68
Saturdays by appointment only
4045 North Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga


“Intricacies of Phantom Content” and Trickle-down: Yours for the Mining


REVIEW Diamonds are certainly Hilary Pecis’ and Elyse Mallouk’s best friends. But even though the sparklers in their complimentary exhibits at Triple Base Gallery let off a familiar, enticing shine, do they reveal new facets?

Like antlers, rainbows, and feathers, gemstones and crystal-inspired geometric forms have bobbed to the surface as a motif of the zeitgeist, as seen both on gallery walls and the loud prints and new rave colors that adorn the merchandise at Urban Outfitters (not to mention Lady Gaga’s day-to-day wardrobe). I don’t fault Pecis’ art for its timing. Her untitled ink, collage, and acrylic laden panels, which intertwine black and white geometric patterns, gems galore, and cutout twists of metal and hair into eye-shredding nebulas, are indeed beautifully executed and easy to get lost in. But I wonder if their very au courant palette doesn’t time-stamp them to their disadvantage. Her acrylic paintings — all kaleidoscopic close-ups of Krypton-like surfaces, mostly in shades of gray — make a stronger case with their restraint. The continued influence of the original class Mission Schoolers (Alicia McCarthy, please raise your hand) have on younger local artists is striking.

One has to descend into the bowels of the Earth, as it were, to see Mallouk’s punnily-titled video installation Trickle-down: Yours for the Mining. A bare bulb scarcely illuminates a stack of diamond drawings (which viewers are invited to take). With the flick of a switch, the drawings come to life as the blackened space suddenly, literally, drips in a video projection of sparkling animated stones. Like the rhinestone cascade in the opening credit sequence of Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life — itself already redone by filmmaker Matt Wolf in the sweet short Imitation of Imitation — Mallouk’s diamante mirrorball cannily reflects the emotional and material investments we make in artifice; art itself notwithstanding. Space may be the place upstairs, but I’m gonna side with Etta James on this one: in the basement, that’s where it’s at.

INTRICACIES OF PHANTOM CONTENT AND TRICKLE-DOWN: YOURS FOR THE MINING Through July 26. Triple Base, 3041 24th St., SF. (415) 643-3943. www.basebasebase.com

Bill Callahan


PREVIEW If Bill Callahan is a shepherd of the lo-fi reformation, his musical evolution suggests a shell-like spiral. His initial releases in the late-1980s to early-1990s were ramshackle home recordings, mostly instrumental. In the realm of the professionally recorded, his mid- to late-1990s creations utilized more instrumentation and experimented with lyrics, while allowing him to hone his vocal style; his post-2000 releases mildly reduce the instrumentation while maintaining the consistent, almost affect-less, baritone singing Callahan developed under the Smog moniker.

After Dongs of Sevotion (Darg City, 2000), Callahan changed his alias to direct attention toward the music itself, rather than the idea of "Smog." After 20 years, the dissipation of Callahan’s Smog marks another transformation. Disposing of the nom de plume, he’s become more direct, plain, and open. The woeful and despair inherent to Smog has lifted — the sky seems visible once again, albeit occasionally cloudy.

Bill Callahan as Bill Callahan has already revealed a mini-spiral, like a mirror reflection of the larger spiral of Smog: his initial releases in 2007 reveled in a rhythm-driven aesthetic that abandoned most of his lo-fi leanings. But this year’s Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle (Drag City) returns to the intimate, acoustic-based Smog sound. "Jim Cain," the opener on Eagle, starts like a Callahan thesis. Using poetic enjambment for effect, he declares, "I started out in search of /ordinary things … I started telling the story /without knowing the end /I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again." Brian Beattie’s subtle string arrangements compliment the sentiment in Callahan’s slight reversal from the lightness of Woke on a Whaleheart (Drag City, 2007). But the sun peeps out when "Rococo Zephyr" finds Callahan momentarily "jaunty as a bee."

On Eagle, Callahan radically confesses an inherent inability to know everything. Not knowing the end of the story allows for ideas to evolve, and each Callahan album captures his sentiment at that moment. But a shepherd never strays too far from his flock, and even as Callahan’s overall travels take the form of a spiral, he returns to similar themes and sounds. "Well maybe this was all /Was all that meant to be /Maybe this is all /Is all that meant to be," he sings at one point on "Rococo Zephyr." Sounds like an epiphany, even if it takes him a few tries to get it out.

BILL CALLAHAN With Bachelorette. Tues/30, 8 p.m., $16. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. (415) 474-0365, www.bimbos365club.com

Black Skies


PREVIEW I grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., and I have to tell you, there’s not much allowance for rebellious rage on its well-manicured, dogwood-lined, basketball-crazed streets. James Taylor, not a noted sonic ruffler of feathers, also grew up there. That’s not to say the whole town is powered by sweet (baby James) tea — other acts that have emerged from Chapel Hill’s collegial womb and into the national spotlight include piano rockers Ben Folds Five; much-celebrated indie stars like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf; and throwback novelty acts like Southern Culture on the Skids and Squirrel Nut Zippers. Statewide, Cackalacky boasts of birthing some darker, heavier sounds, along the lines of Raleigh’s Corrosion of Conformity and Cape Fear’s Sourvein. New to my ears, and hopefully hinting at a burgeoning metal movement lurking beneath Chapel Hill’s tidy McMansion scene, is Black Skies, a trio who took their name from the South’s capacity for awesome, jaw-rattling weather (and indeed, the kickoff track from their self-released 2008 EP, Hexagon, is "The Quiet Before the Storm.") Like many bands, they cite Sabbath, Melvins, and High on Fire as influences; on recordings, guitarist-singer Kevin Clark at times sounds like he’s singing from the bottom of an angry, murky well. When he claws his way out, and hits the stage at Annie’s with bassist Michelle Temple and drummer Cameron Weeks, I suspect there’ll be eardrum punishment for all in attendance. Yes, yes, y’all!


Sat/27, 9 p.m., $8

Annie’s Social Club

917 Folsom, SF

(415) 974-1585, www.anniessocialclub.com



PREVIEW If you are a fan of the unknown, follow SCUBA, the six-year-old brainchild of small-budget presenters in Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and (since 2005) Philadelphia. This consortium of astute dance observers became acutely aware of the difficulties that not-yet-established artists face when trying to show their work beyond their immediate home base. So they made a deal: each could suggest local works they respect, and in turn program from the pool what they thought would be of interest to their audiences. This is how Shinichi-Iova Koga went to Philadelphia and San Francisco and saw Seattle’s wacky Salt Sea Horse company. The big unknown for the last of this year’s SCUBA programs is Minneapolis’ Chris Schlichting. When in 2008 he premiered the five-person love things, even longtime Minneapolis observers were surprised, having known Schlichting primarily as a performer. The work has been praised as a "gender-messing choreographic fantasy built and deconstructed from 1970s Americana." Schlichting will be paired with not-well-enough known San Francisco choreographer, Katie Faulkner. Also a gifted filmmaker, Faulkner draws on intense observations of the everyday and then spins them into tightly woven structures in which people, sometimes suffocatingly so, seem glued to each other. For this show she’ll restage The Road Ahead, which looks at a dying man’s relationship to his daughters. Also on the program will be Smoke and Orbit, a duet with frequent Faulkner collaborator Private Freeman.

SCUBA TWO Sat/27, 8 p.m.; Sun/28, 7 p.m., $15–$18. ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell, SF. (415) 863-9834. www.odcdance.org