SUPER EGO To paraphrase an even bigger Gaye than me: what the fuck’s going on? Bloodshed and glitter, testosterone and falsies, international hatred and asymmetrical haircuts, Katyusha missiles and fuchsia Converse. It’s the middle of summer: Clubland’s on fire and the world’s going to hell. Everything’s a water-based-mascara blur, a streak of tears and soju. Can’t we keep the wars on the dance floor, where they belong? Help us, Willie Ninja! Save us, Amanda Lepore! Rescue us, what’s-her-name from the Gossip!
It’s really all gone, Pete Tong.
Well, fine with me: I’ve got my apocalyptic outfit all picked out, with two different pairs of tangerine pumps to match the flames. The problem, of course, is which hair — Meyer lemon yellow for the toxic blast or Bing cherry red for the fallout? The earth’s gonna ’splode and I’m going down like an atomic Carmen Miranda, child. But first I’ll be glowing under the black-light sleaze. Our politics of dancing may have lamed out (no mosh pits, break wars, or vogue balls), but there’s still no escaping the thrill of the electric boogaloo, especially when the brink wiggles ever closer, its plutonium-lashed antimatter Betty Boop eyes blasting through you. Party time!
Unfortunately or fortunately, that means I’m writing to you from a denial-induced metafabulous blackout. The last two weeks are coming back to me in strobe-lit flashes, a wet jockstrap here, a fogged-up Prius there, and everywhere the stink of cheap whiskey on my breath. Oh, but I’m dutiful. Below is a Harper’s-like rundown of my recently recalled Clubland affairs, a fortnight of forthright escapist fandango.
Soundtracks: DJ B’ugo, a.k.a. Ugo N’gan’ga Gitau of Montreal (www.bugo.dj). All three discs of the new Defected Records Eivissa 2006 Balearic house mix. Old Slits. CNN in the liquor store
Shoes: brown suede Emericas. Grape Kool-Aid shell toe Adidas. Fuzzy gorilla slippers. No Crocs
Outerwear: Home Depot and ImagiKnit
Drag queen out of drag most encountered: Peaches Christ
Drag queen out of clothing most encountered: Rentteca
Burning Man camp fundraisers successfully avoided: 157
Number unsuccessfully avoided: 36
Cute Israeli refugees I managed to drag home: 2
Cute Lebanese refugees who thanked me politely but said they “weren’t having it”: 12
Number I continued hitting on anyway: 12
Roller-skating-oriented nightlife events attended: 5
Bruised inner thighs: several
Trampled wigs: half
Efforts to really go check out that new club Shine (shinesf.com) being derailed by more focused pick-up efforts of eager, scruffy bicyclists on South Van Ness on the way there: many
Formal reprimands received at the Dore Alley gay leather fetish fair for doing something that “wasn’t allowed”: 1
Times I got away with it: roughly 3
Thwarted attempts to register for the upcoming San Francisco Drag King contest just so I could hang out in the dressing room: 2
Trips to the bathroom during the Guardian Best of the Bay party to puke up free petite sirah: still counting
Amount of self-respect somehow retained throughout all of the above: pricey SFBG
SAN FRANCISCO DRAG KING CONTEST
Call for time and price
375 11th St., SF
Super Ego: clubs, nightlife, parties, bars | SF Bay Guardian
- No categories
SUPER EGO Oh, the endless string of characters! Clubland just keeps ’em comin’ in glorious, sequin-spangled kablooeys. Go on, children, do it while you still got freedoms. And tits to you for saving Pride. Pink Saturday was a nightmare, the Dyke March was a walkathon, and despite the amazing turnout — that whole outpatient rehab thing must really be catching on — Pride Sunday found me huddled at the foot of the Tylenol PM booth, cursing the sunlight and desperately searching for something, anything, worth following home. If it wasn’t for the Trans March, the underground parties, and the occasional streak of club freaks, the weekend woulda been boot. Best overheard quote: “Let’s make a suicide pact. I’ll kill you and you die.” Gay love!
So OK, it was a slightly flabby hottie in lime green denim daisy dukes and a handlebar mustache. I followed his flashing go! go! bootie up to the Castro until I stumbled over a sandwich board outside Nutri-Sport advertising “New! Ejaculoid!” I erupted with inquisitiveness. A “natural male explosion” product that promises increased virility by thickening my semen? At last! Thank you, Goliath Labs! (Other products: Groloid, Stimuloid, Thermoloid, Tribuloid, Sleep Cycle. Add in Grumpoid and Viruloid and shazam! A list of my seven exes.)
What the hell? It was Pride. I was bored. My body’s an amusement park. Let’s do it.
I downed the stuff with a back-pocket Cuervo shot, pushed my “Thank you for shopping with us!” skirt down, pulled up a George W. Bush Jell-O mold, and . . . where was I? Oh, yes, personalities. Clublebrities. As I felt my resolve slowly stiffen, my self-appointed-arbiter-of-club-cool mind drifted to two of my latest, completely unrelated, faves: MC Cookie Dough and Dee Jay Pee Play. Now, in a segue only a mother could love, I briefly exclaim their greatness to you.
“Cookie Dough is a smile from ear to ear, a kind word said to all,” quoth la Dough. (If there’s one thing I adore, it’s a drag queen who refers to herself in the third person — because the first two are reserved for schizophrenia.) “But Cookie Dough is also a talented, unstoppable force who’ll chip away at every queen in the city, take control of the top, and gloriously welcome the day the name Cookie Dough rolls off everyone’s tongue and melts in their mouth. I do believe it’s happening now.” Look out, ladies, she’s gonna Pills-bury ya.
Cookie’s a bloody-pantied Trannyshack alum who’s brought some greezy downtown flavor to the Castro as hostess of the biweekly trash drag rock ’n’ roll bonanza Cookie Dough Monster Show at Harvey’s. Sublebrity guest performers, send-ups of old-school howlers, cutie audience galore — you know the drill. A local movie starlet and “theatrical personage,” Miss Dough-nuts also gets keyed up, pianowise, with Cookie . . . After Dark, her occasional Martuni’s croonfest, featuring, if you can believe it, live singing. Me love Cookie.
“I don’t know about Ejaculoid, but I worship Sphincterine,” says Pee Play. “I make all my tricks use it.” (Sphincterine? Check out www.mintyass.com now.) A skater, a hater, and the DJ most likely to throw on Hi-NRG remixes of the Boys Choir of Harlem at a party, Pee Play’s the latest, greatest apocalypse of taste.
Along with his right-hand bag lady Marina Bitch, he revived underground vogue balls, until the cops made him stop (www.myspace.com/vogueordiesf), and is allied with half-assed gay bike gang–party mafia GBG OMFAG. Plus, how can I resist a kid who shows up at circuit parties as “Al Gayeda” with a giant fake beard and “Do Not Rape Me” magic-markered on his chest? His next party is — gasp! ugh! — a masquerade party called M. “Make sure you’re there at midnight when the Masque of Red Death descends!” he says. “Well, actually, it’s just a bunch of people running around giving everyone AIDS.” Cannot wait.
And Ejaculoid? A total wash. If you wanna know the deets, you can find me gulping bubbly in the ejacuzzi. SFBG
For more on Ejaculoid, go to www.goliathlabs.com/ejaculoid.html.
COOKIE DOUGH MONSTER SHOW
July 22 and every other Saturday
10 p.m.–2 a.m.
500 Castro, SF
10 p.m.–2 a.m.
500 Castro, SF
SUPER EGO “I’m from Indiana,” confided the partly melted drag queen, after nailing “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” in a wicked patent-leather Duchess of Spades dress. “You know we do things different out there. I just got here a couple weeks ago, and when I first pulled my hair out the box, the other girls asked if it was three wigs or one.”
“So you’re a Hoosier,” I replied. My observation went ignored. “The scene here’s much more weave than cone,” she winked, then disappeared behind a wall of mirrors. A tape-recorded version of “Is That All There Is?” kicked in. Metaphors!
I wish I could remember what she called herself, but I was knee-deep in my English Summer, an acrobatic concoction hovering halfway between a mojito and a Pimm’s Cup. Mnemonic device, it wasn’t. We were at Harry Denton’s, 46 stories atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, peeping Scarlet Empress Donna Sachet’s swank new “Sunday’s a Drag” brunch show — me and a posse of party kids looking so out of place we may as well have been Skittles in the deviled eggs. The combined total of our online ages was probably half that of any one of the cackling grandes dames around us.
But no matter: “Sunday’s a Drag” blasted off into outer space and gladly took us with it. A parade of energetic old-school queens teased the roomful of swilling octogenarians into Depends-dampening titters, and the whole affair took on the air of legendary drag club Finocchio’s, circa 1985 — but with better prosthetics. (“A lot of money and a lot of surgery,” rasped the nonorganically gorgeous Cassandra Cass as she handed me a “Cassandra Cass: Fantasy Girl 2006” calendar. Memo to Cassandra: It’s June.)
Donna Sachet’s one of those amazing creatures who do so much I often think there are two of her. (“Well, alcohol is a fuel,” the little voice in my head pipes up, the one I call Deficit of the Doubt.) And it was somehow fitting that I was applauding our fair city’s 30th Empress that afternoon, seeing as how I’d come to three hours earlier on brand-spanking-new Jose Sarria Court in the Castro, named after the ass-kicking queen who’d started the whole gay Emperor-Empress dealie — the Widow Norton, her Big Kahuness, Madame Awe. I had Jose Sarria pebbles in my y-fronts, bits of Jose Sarria laurel bush drifting from my hair.
The afternoon launched to another cosmic level when Hoosier-name executed a full-on backbend to Taylor Dane and one of her press-on nails flew off, somersaulted in midair, and landed on the table next to my blueberry pancakes. Which made me lose my bacon.
“It’s like Mabuhay Gardens or the Deaf Club, only gay,” I thought the first time I went to Sissy, the new punk rock monthly run by my favorite obnoxious club brat, Foxy Cotton. When people see Foxy a-comin’ they usually take to runnin’ — he’s kind of like an amped-up Woody Woodpecker with half the feathers missing — but the queen’s got talent pumping somewhere through his veins and an impecc-pecc-peccable sense of style. Plus, he’s actually kinda sweet to me.
Sissy hit me as the potential realization of all my stuck-in-the-Midwest teenage dreams, which imagined the underground punk scene of ’80s San Francisco as a writhing network of gay-friendly mohawks, complete with carpeted dance floors, passed-out hotties, and who-knows-what in the bathrooms. Dead Kennedys in the front, Mutants on the roof. Plus it’s after hours. Rad!
Since its early days (no naked mosh pit, alas), Sissy’s expanded its musical format — but it’s still the ginchiest metal-heavy queer experience out there. Where else you gonna hear L7 nowadays outside a lesbian jukebox? And it’s fun to drop that brainy “post” from post-punk and just let loose. Although clubs may have stopped moving into the future, they’re at least digging into the past with sharper queer nails.
“Did you hear about Kevin Aviance?” It was a friend from New York City calling me, which always means more now that there’s e-mail. Kevin was one of the fiercest things of the ’90s, a club queen with chart-topping dance records, a towering hulk of ferocious, ebony-skinned femininity. Like Eartha Kitt on stilts, but breathier. And bald.
He was famous for never wearing falsies. Now he was in the hospital with a fractured jaw and a useless knee, felled as he left a Manhattan gay bar by six kids shouting “faggot” as they kicked him in the chest. People just stood around and watched.
Every year around Pride I overhear some visitor squealing, “Your Pride here’s so political!” and I think, what’s the opposite of politics? Advertising? Circuit music? Sex on marijuana truffles? This year when I heard it, I wanted to spin around with my slapping hand out and scream, “Kevin just got gay-bashed, dammit! Everything’s political!” But when I turned I saw the person who had said it was smiling. He had a “Queers Bash Back” bumper sticker on his bike bag. He was wearing a T-shirt that read, “It’s The Tits.”
Suddenly I was surrounded by munchkins. They were everywhere — in the lobby, on the dance floor, hanging over the balcony railing. “Oh, no,” I thought with a pang, “my cocktails are interacting. Better dance it off.” I slammed another Stoli Cran and wobbled through the knee-high crowd toward the speakers.
“When I stop the music and yell freeze, everybody freeze!” hollered DJ Sake 1 over “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite. “Freeze!” I looked around again. Dear god, these were children. Even more horrifying, I was at Ruby Skye. It was Saturday afternoon. Obviously my medication wasn’t working. I backed slowly off the dance floor before anybody’s parents mistook me for a Pampers snacker.
Luckily, the ’rents were too busy mobbing the bar. I had landed at “Baby Loves Disco,” the mind-blowing summertime monthly new wave and disco dance party for toddlers ($10 for walkers, free for crawlers). The place was packed with young ’uns running every which way, occasionally chased after by their stumbling progenitors. The club was completely trashed. The music veered from “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang to “Controversy” by Prince, and the whole thing had more than a whiff of bar mitzvah party, but less mature. What’s less mature than a bar mitzvah party? Oh yeah, Ruby Skye.
I made my way upstairs to the VIP lounge — why not? To get there, I passed chilluns with pink mohawks, chilluns with sunglasses, chilluns with full-on ’80s-fierce attitude. I entered the dimly lit backroom. There, on a VIP chaise, reclined the most beautiful toddler I’d ever seen. His little fedora was pushed back on his perfectly round head. His leg straddled the chaise’s red velvet arm. He may have been smoking an inflatable cigar. For a moment our eyes locked, my being immersed in the crystal clear beam of his unjaded, baby-blue gaze.
“Someday,” I realized, “this baby will rule the world.”
SUNDAY’S A DRAG Sundays, noon and 3 p.m. Harry Denton’s Starlight Room 450 Powell, SF $30 (415) 395-8595 www.harrydenton.com SISSY CLUB First Fridays, 10 p.m.–4 a.m. Deco Lounge 510 Larkin, SF $5 (415) 346-2025 BABY LOVES DISCO July 15 and Aug. 19, 2–5 p.m. Ruby Skye 420 Mason, SF $10 (415) 693-0777 www.babylovesdisco.com
SUPER EGO Gurl, I woke up on the wrong side of Tuesday afternoon. I don’t know if it was that pint of Cuervo I ordered for appetizers the night before or that quart of quinine I downed soon after for the tetanus I got from sitting on someone’s iPod, but I was hella hungover. My jaw was swiveling, my heart was pounding, and my languid extremities felt so hot that the unicorns on my nails nearly melted. One minute I was hosting the World Cup in my fantasy bra and panties, the next I was hosting it in my actual head.
“This is it,” I thought through the shuddering echo of tiny cleats. “Mama’s gettin’ middle-aged.” I’d finally hit one of midlife’s big Hs: hot flash, hair loss, hangover. And I’m only 19! Good thing I carry some Remifemin and an extra wig in my beaded Whole Foods evening bag.
Fitfully I scanned the Dumpster for any half-smoked butts and chased my scattered thoughts to their grim conclusions. Folks think I’m frickin’ Carrie Bradshaw, being a columnist, lolling around in my Blahniks, whimsically riffing on the romantic wiles of my telegenic brunchmates, leaping with a shy giggle into the magical dilemmas of contemporary life. But this is clubland, Samantha: Dive too deep down in it and — hey, presto! — abracadrinkingproblem. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little party-party, y’all, but us clubbers gotta watch for that border cross over the Rio Messy: Shit’s about as tasteful as soyr cream on a tofurkey burritofu, but with almost twice the calories.
So, maybe it was time for a tiny hooch holiday. Me, I’m an uncurbed child of the streets, where “time-out” is code for “free clinic” (and “free clinic” means “trick’s bathroom”), but in my new semi–fully employed state I’m always running into vibrant-looking Guardian people taking “a personal time-out” — from drinking, from smoking, from imported prickle-backed Peruvian shellfish, whatever. You’d think my health insurance here would cover hangovers, what with the professional risk involved in my line of work, but alas, “no dice.”
“You can do this,” I assured myself. “Just for a week. It’s not like when the government made you give up Wal-Trim diet pills. That was forever.“
But just because I wasn’t drinking didn’t mean I wasn’t going out altogether. She’s still gotta earn a living, and her living’s spilling tea. Luckily, along with the current wine bar burst, San Francisco’s having a tearoom explosion as well. (No, not that kind of tearoom, perverts. Leaves first, then you pay — not the other way around.) And the goddess of cups provides several venues for bar-hour tea-totaling glee. The slightly hoity-toity yet still chill Samovar Tea Lounge (www.samovartea.com) in the Castro is a bookish, cruisey mecca and just opened a Yerba Buena Gardens outpost to boot. Modern Tea (www.moderntea.com) has taken hold in Hayes Valley, with its stylish presentation and unequaled view of all the tipsy drag queens stumbling from Marlena’s down the street. Hang on to your saucers, ladies.
But the real news on the late-night tea front is the hip-hop-oriented Poleng Lounge. Yep, you read right, it’s a hip-hop tearoom. The kids from Massive Selector have transformed the former 1751 Social Club space into a Bali-inspired wonderland that also hosts performances by some of the top names in roots and electro (Ohmega Watts, Vikter Duplaix, Triple Threat). Poleng’s restaurant and tearoom opens to the public June 9, with a huge kickoff bash featuring Faust and Shortee, Amp Live, host Lateef, and probably more than a few chipped handles. Food and tipple are also available, but the focus, of course, is on the leaf — green and otherwise.
Whew! After all that tea I need to take a leak. But before I saunter off, look at me — I’m fantastic, I’m radiant, I’m slightly hypercaffeinated. I feel like I could do yoga in the street. Maybe I should do this personal time-out thing more often. As they say, the liver the better (just kidney!). Now somebody order me a damn mai tai already. SFBG
“LET THE RHYTHM HIT ’EM”
With Faust and Shortee and Amp Live
Fri/9, 9 p.m.–2 a.m.
1751 Fulton, SF
Where’s my babymama! I want my babymama!
That’s what I planned to shriek at the Be Nice Party. I was gonna strut myself right up to the bar at Catalyst, the party’s venue, and politely order a babymama cocktail (strawberry vodka, banana liqueur, and pineapple juice, spiked with a flash of grenadine claw, strained and served on the rocks. Britney Spears in a short glass, darling). Then, without warning, I would flip a total schizo switch and attempt a full-on, foaming Whitney-Houston-out-of-butane meltdown, exclaiming the above, appalling every pleasantry-spewing goody-two-socks within earshot. I even intended to strew a few glass pipe shards and fling stray weaves about during my one-queen crackhead kabuki act (visuals). And maybe toss around a couple stained toddler jumpers or a threadbare bib with a faded Little Mermaid on it (poignancy). Britney, Whitney, and Disney — that’ll teach ’em to try to “be nice” at me.
But intentionally getting 86’d from something called Be Nice was far too obvious a reaction, like snarking Madonna at Coachella or shooting Phish in an alley. Me? I’m all about subtlety. I try to keep my scars behind my ears, thank you. So I hit up Be Nice with an openish mind and, instead of babymamas, got soused on redheaded sluts (Jägermeister, peach schnapps, and an ample screech of cran, shaken and quickly poured out — Kathy Griffin in a shot glass, darling). If there’s one thing I’ve learned on life’s Naugahyde stool, it’s that liquor’s the best revenge. And sluts are fun. And Tyra Banks is an alien pterodactyl.
Wow, I sound super gay this week.
So what’s Be Nice about? Once a month, a diverse group of randoms meet in a space “where you can make eye contact without it being ‘cruisy,’” with “music just loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to easily talk over,” to “say hello to someone new (or old)” but not to “impress people with how cool you may want them to think you are.” (“And … it’s early!”) Somewhat contradictorily, this “low-key public event” aims to bring the spirit of Burning Man’s Black Rock City to the heart of San Francisco. But the promoters mean in the sense of BRC’s ethic of PLUR and kindness (BRC PLURK?) not in the sense of “Oh god, it sounds like Burning Man on a stalled elevator — why not just throw in Whoopi Goldberg and call it German expressionist mime kill me now?”
But yes, I expected a cult. What I found was about 40 hip-but-nonhuggy characters sprawled across Catalyst’s booths, nary a silver Nike among them. The first thing that hits you when you enter a club whose music is pitched to pin drop is the odd, nostalgic staccato of conversation. I’m usually surrounded by jibber-jabberers aplenty — hello, mirror — and music can make a great escape pod. Hell, half the time I’m not even sure what I’m saying myself at the club, but that could just be my thick Vicodinian accent. Seriously, though, when was the last time you walked into a roomful of people talking and could hear both sides? It was fuckin’ spooky, Scooby. Waves of mutual exchanges washed over me as I leapt in, latching on to a couple groovy goth chicks and a freelance programmer in golf pants. Soon I was gabbing away, natch. I must have had fun because here are my notes: “Internetz … herpes scarf … deep-fried diet pill.” Oh yes, and Ramsa Murtha Begwagewan is the Anointed One, all praise him.
That there can be a successful club whose hook is friendly conversation may say more about technology’s limits than it does about a possible resurgence of Moose Lodges or canasta parties — although bingo is definitely in. Nightlife, this business we call tipsy, took a sucker punch from its former friend the Interweb, of course. (Why go out when you can get drunk online?) And we’re pretty much used to thinking of clubs at this point as either struggling to imitate the ethernet with hyper-adverbial interactive “concepts” or fetishizing things that computers cannot touch yet. Face-to-face give-and-take now joins classic cruising, live performance, art exhibits, sculptural environments, oxygen bars, professional mixology, vinyl archaeology, sweaty bodies, and chocolate syrup wrestling (www.chocolatesyrupwrestling.com) in clubland’s Museum of the Mostly Mouse-Free.
Clubs. Is there no index they can’t gloss?
One other nightlife experience that can never be truly virtualized: that predawn abandoned bus ride home, muffled sounds of the club still ringing in your ears. I like to think of Muni in those moments as my personal stretch Hummer; the driver is my handsome Israeli chauffeur/bodyguard/secret paramour who will someday betray me, and I’m a (kind of smelly) target of salivating paparazzi. Then I start to feel a tad snobbish and base and also possibly paranoid. But then I have a Snickers and I’m OK. — Marke B. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Be Nice Party
Second Wednesdays, 6–11 p.m.
312 Harrison, SF
"Oooh, I do detect/ I can’t go on/ Without you," the latest lesbionic Chaka Khannabe, Leela James, rasps in the spooky reedit of "My Joy" that’s dominated dance floors worldwide for about five months now. The mix is by NYC’s deep house genie Quentin Harris, whose last smash crack-up, of Jill Scott’s "Not Like Crazy," whistled lonely through the graveyard on the grounds of soul’s asylum. "My Joy (Quentin Harris Shelter vocal)" is a classic melancholic spine-tingler. A Hammond B3 swirls toward climax, the bass skips a heartbeat, strings of life collide, and the woeful diva’s voice is drawn and quartered, pulled in four directions, wailing "My mind! My mind!" despite an uplift in the chorus: "No, no, no, ain’t no way/ You gon’ take away/ My joy, my peace, my strength." In the end, James dumps her psycho lover and moves on — but we’re all left shaken to the bone.
Whatever happened to house? It devolved into circuit, all shrieking modulations and lame-ass breaks, the pale lingua franca of gays worldwide. It rode the elevator down to easy listening lounge, the wallpaper tube-topped bimbos spilled appletinis on. It got all lush and gospel, overeagerly fronting its blues-black roots. It stripped off its base and went seriously loony, fattening up Fat Boy Slim’s paycheck and Paul Van Dyke’s portfolio.
Poor little house, kicked to the curb with its shoelace untied, crying foul in its white-label milk. What’s an unabashed househed freak who loves working it out gonna do?
Go to Fag Fridays at the Endup, for one. Despite all the lip service to a house revival and a titilutf8g resurgence of underground queer clubs dedicated to old-school jacking, the national house scene’s been whittled down to a mere trifecta of well-respected bastions — Shelter in NYC, Deep in LA, and our very own Fag, which gathers all the varied arms of house back into one long, sweaty embrace. I’m not saying Fag’s the only happening house gig in town, far from it, but it’s the only weekly joint where you’re guaranteed to hear slices like "My Joy" — and not feel obliged to wonder if you look a mess while you lose your shit over it. No matter what you do, you will never, ever be the messiest-looking freak up in there.
Fag was started by grassroots impresarios David Peterson and Jose Mineros a decade ago, when queer was still a dirty word and sex columnist Dan Savage was getting hate mail from homosexuals because he allowed readers to address him as "Hey Faggot." The golden age of local fun houses Klubstitute and Product had just petered out, folks were still dying left and right of AIDS, and gay men were heckling me on the street because I sported — gasp! — baggy pants and a wallet chain. Homo-hop was unheard of, gay youth was a derogatory term, and Manhunt hadn’t been invented. People who did drugs had to actually leave the house to get laid! For the group of streetwise queer kids of color who clustered around Peterson and Mineros and had roots in House Nation, Fag was heaven — a clubhouse, a get-down, and, for some of us, a home.
Now, 10 years later, Fag’s still going strong, featuring not only some of the best known SF DJs as regulars (David Harness, Pete Avila, Neon Leon, Rolo) but pulling in the globally acclaimed as well (Frankie Knuckles, Tony Humphries, Angel Moraes, Honey Dijon). The upcoming anniversary celebration kicks off with singer Dajae, she of back-in-the-day "Brighter Days" and "U Got Me Up" fame. Sure, Fag’s now become a kind of institution, associated by some with shirtless boys, GHB casualties, shit-faced queens, and on one occasion, raids for Versace’s killer. But it’s hung in there, proving that house isn’t dead. It’s alive. It’s joyful. It’s kicking.
It’s also relevant. I went there last month to hear Quentin Harris himself on deck, and he did this thing all night where he kept a little fuzz box of white noise going on behind the mix, which — to my overanalytical mind, at least (metaphors! metaphors!) — was a perfect representation of the global mess outside we were all hopping around to escape. Groovy, cute, and smart? Hey, Quentin, wanna date?
10th anniversary with Dajae
May 12, 10 p.m.–6 a.m.
401 Sixth St., SF
SUPER EGO Fur suit! Is there anything better? The darling buds of May are peeping through, the beautiful ladies of the Bay are showing out their zirconia belly-bling, and clubby bears are waking up from long, wet winter naps with raging hankerings for fun (as opposed to raging hankerings for little girls in Appalachia). "Lhudely sing goddam!" the poets shout, "it’s spring & all." And for once they’re right, you know? I feel downright exuberant. The city stretches out its arms, scratches its stubbly ass, and yawns. What’s for breakfast, Goldilocks? A party, dude. A freakin’ party.
So what could be more natural than to throw on a big, fuzzy purple costume and break-dance in public on a sunny afternoon?
At least that’s what I’m hoping. Do you know the guy I’m talking about? He’s at almost every street fair, hopping around like Jiffy Pop, cute as a Great Grape Ape. You know spring’s really arrived when you see him making the scene on the sidewalk, a violaceous blur, all velutinous and shit. I’ve had a super boy crush on him for years now. We once connected briefly at Queer Pride when I was Gaydor the Cockodile, but it would never work, I realized. A furry Grapeasaurus and a drunken, gay green reptile — the time had not yet come for our illicit kind of love. Sigh.
Still, my heart beats faster when I see his head spins zagging down the pavement, and I’m wishing that he’ll send me all atwitter at the upcoming How Weird Street Faire. Not that it’ll be easy to spot him, mind. The joint’s a jungle of fabulous freaks, and that’s just how we like it. In all its fur-suited, stilt-walking, fire-twirling, rave-a-licious glory, the How Weird’s in its seventh year as the kickoff of San Francisco’s outdoor festival season, but this year seems to be the first it has appeared on so many party folks’ radar screens. There are a couple good reasons for that.
The first is that How Weird was always a kind of stealth fair, dedicated to both the underground psy-trance scene and the techno-hippie notion of global peace through half-naked dancing. The joy of it was that one minute you’d be strolling through SoMa on the way to a beer bust, when — blam! — there’d be several blocks of booming Goa beats and shirtless gyrators waving glow sticks in the daytime. It was like you stepped through a quasi-magical doorway into the mid-’90s. The fair didn’t promote itself much, which made it seem spontaneous and comfy. This year it’s stepped up its outreach efforts and expanded its offerings, with seven stages of local floor-thumpers manning the tables and a Mermayd Parade up Market Street featuring art cars, wacky "mobile works of a naughtical nature" (i.e., pirate ship floats), and some sort of undelineated May Day celebration of the spring equinox. Don’t quote me, but I’m guessing it’ll somehow involve nude pixies.
The second reason is that many folks affect being allergic to such things. "What is it supposed to be, some sort of daffy collision of Burning Man and the Renaissance Faire?" they wonder, retching into their lattes. Well, kind of. The guy behind it all is indeed Brad Olsen, he of the legendary, way-back-when Consortium of Collective Consciousness parties and a prime Burning Man mover. His organization, Peace Tours, is dedicated to "achieving world peace through technology, community, and connectedness," which, as mentioned above, pretty much plays to woowoo shamanism type. (The fair even has booths selling "peace pizza." I shit you not.) And, of course, all medieval jouster wannabes are welcome — as are their jangly jester caps.
But the time for trendy uppitiness about such things has passed. There are no big clubs in the city left where you can get down with thousands of freaks anymore, and the millennial explosion of street protests has keyed more people in to the power, if not exactly the purpose, of vibing with crowds who share their general intentions. As the drag queen said, it’s all about expression. And these days (has it really come to this?) any expression of hope and peace — especially if there’s beer available — is very greatly appreciated.
So please, purple fuzzy boy, if you’re reading this — please come down to the How Weird Street Faire. After all, it’s spring. We need you. SFBG
How Weird Street Fair
May 7, noon–8 p.m.
12th Street and South Van Ness, SF
$10 donation, $5 with costume, free for kids
SUPER EGO Hi, sexy. I’m a bored robot. I’m doin’ the strobe-lit worm on linoleum irony. I’m freakin’ worn poses in the mirror of YouTube. Klink klank klunk. Drink drank drunk.
Yesterday morning I had a Technicolor waking dream. I was flipping through the Gospel of Judas, standing outside Trendy Hair Fixin’s on Seventh and Howard at 6 a.m. under a sky that looked like God shit his underpants. The ice-blue veins of the overpasses crisscrossed in the distance, the distance you feel when you realize your absent-eyed friends are all television addicts. (Not you, though. No, never you.) I was shivering wet in my "Bitch or Slut?" spray-painted halter top, Leslie and the Lys’ "Gem Sweater" rocking my knockoff iPod. It was cold, but if I layered on even one spare shred of poly blend, my Bang Bus implants would be partially obscured, and then what krunkhed mens would want me? I’d be childless forever.
Suddenly, my nueva amiga Frankenchick coughed up a pair of fake eyelashes and gasped, "When I was a little kid, I use to own a frog named Sweet Squares!"
It’s so boring reading other people’s dreams. But, of course, it wasn’t a dream. It seemed, just then, my life. And more important, my nightlife. When it feels like your whole being’s been dunked once too much in the reborn-again media stream, there are only two ways out: You can either blow up or get down. Drop the cooler-than-thou attitude completely, or go all in and get extreme.
DJ Jefrodisiac’s our homegrown version of NYC club whiz Larry Tee, and his wild nights are our closest energy-equivalent to the world’s reigning name-drop weekly, Misshapes, in Manhattan. Of course, Jefro’s been eating postirony for breakfast since way before Misshapes tossed up its hectic brand of antiposeur-poseur Corn Pops (cf. his long-running Frisco Disco, at Arrow Bar, every Saturday), but no one takes our club scene seriously. We’re too dang "out-there." Like most top jocks today, he’s less a turntablist than a mood meddler; his clubs may draw in more literal-minded people with one-off Bloc Party B-side remixes but just as quickly drive them out for a smoke with Eric Prydez’s "Call on Me" (an endless, cheery loop of Steve Winwood wailing "Valerie" … eek). The folks who say "fuck it" and stay on the dance floor, anyway, win.
Blow Up, at Rickshaw Stop, is his best joint yet, and every third Friday he and table partner Emily Betty whip their fan base into an antitaste frenzy with records from the outer bins up front and outré sex acts on the side. (What is it with all the het-porn lesbo action at clubs these days? I love it.) If some see the supertight, dressed-to-the-tens crowd as impossible snobs, they don’t get it — it’s rising above by screwing it all. User-friendly nihilism on a MySpace Mountain level. It’s Blow Up’s first anniversary this week, and the guests are apocalypto-emblematic: LA street-whore rapper Mickey Avalon, London’s shambolic DJ teeth-kickers Queens of Noize, the Star Eyes of Syrup Girls from NYC, and our very own Richie Panic. Too cool for school? Nah. This is school.
And then there’s something completely different. Blow Up’s the go-all-in, but also this weekend’s let-it-all-out. Believe it or not, square dancing just got fierce. Seriously. Pimping itself as a "thriving, boisterous DIY alternative to the queer bar and circuit scenes" (thank you!), the San Francisco Queer Contra Dance may just be the perfect antidote for today’s style-fatigued clubbers. At the very least, it’s a return to what we loved about going out in the first place: meeting up with like-minded strangers at someplace new (a church, even) to dance new dances to music you can’t hear anywhere else — attitude free. Contra dancing’s a venerable form of folk dancing, all whirling skirts and changing partners and whatnot, and while it may seem goofy — well, look what you’re wearing, hot stuff. Everything’s goofy right now, and in this case it’s also sweet. The monthly event has taken off (even organizer Robert Riley has been shocked by the unbridled turnout), and Saturday marks its second anniversary. Dances will be taught, punch will be imbibed, and new friends will be made. Kilts and Mohawks encouraged. All bored robots welcome.
Blow Up’s One-Year Anniversary
10 p.m.–2 a.m.
155 Fell, SF
SF Queer Contra Dance Second Anniversary
United Methodist Church
1268 Sanchez, SF
$10 sliding scale
"You sound like such an old fogey when you go on about ‘the club kids.’ And how you do go on," hissed a perfectly middle-aged acquaintance sporting a ginormous fun-fur cap with big floppy ears sewn on. Oof. It was bad enough I was frittering my nightlife away at yet another no-host-bar art opening while half my friends were at the GayVN Awards (the "Oscars of gay porn") in LA, another bunch were rocking out at South by Southwest in Austin, and the rest were sunning their itchy waxes in Miami at the Winter Music Conference. But old fogey? What the heck’s a fogey? Isn’t it a talking rooster?
My first fightin’ instinct was to read the poor queer back so far she’d need a history book just to take a shit. "And you use Raid for hair spray, byotch," leapt to my quivering lips. But my yawp was too stuffed full of free hors d’oeuvres to get barbaric, and besides, she had a little point.
Mmm … this Belgian endive–smoked crab salad canapé is delicious.
Whether owing to political parallels, restless scene malaise, or just a primal yearning for glamour, the kids who scraped their way into Bush I–era seminotoriety using only the power of platforms and a killer makeup kit have somehow staged a resurgence. (Whatever else it was, the last decade of club life was decidedly unglamorous. Big pants, little purses, and sideways haircuts on everyone is not glamorous, peeps.) So many sort of famous freaks are squeaking out of the woodwork, it’s like Night of the Living Drugged or something.
"We’re baaack!" squeals the outright leader of SF’s club kid renaissance, Astroboy Jim. "If you’re gonna bring ’80s music back, you better make room for the club kids with it." Already his Endup monthly Revolutionary has shipped in the likes of Lady Miss Kier, Amanda Le Pore, Cazwell, Corey Sleazemore, and Tommy Sunshine (that licentious LA messy-mess with a bullhorn, Alexis Arquette, predictably flaked), and it certainly helps that his resident DJ is old-skool Manhattan heartthrob Keoki, who — owing to a 1993 Club USA Tour incident involving two seven-foot-tall drag queens, an unmarked white van, and a supermarket snack tray — will always be known affectionately to me as "baloney fingers." Don’t ask.
But it isn’t all tired-smile retread — Astroboy’s made room for supastars of a more modern ilk as well. This weekend’s Revolutionary is cohosted by Jeffree Star, a mesmerizing creature who owes his outsize fame wholly to the Internet, specifically MySpace. Microsoft can make you famous! With five million profile views a month, this "living mannequin" is second only to that other fabulous fame-for-fame’s-sake strumpet Tila Tequila, featured this month on the cover of one-handed frat-boy mag Stuff, who clocks in at eight million. Many of you are raising your whoop-de-do eyebrows right now. Would that Jeffree had eyebrows left to raise with you! He’s a gorgeous little sprite, and already his fame’s had a dark side. A couple weeks ago some haters hacked into his profile and spewed violently sickening homophobic bit barf all over it, forcing Jeffree to alert the FBI and pull a Salman Rushdie, hiding out at an undisclosed location. She’s wanted! SF is the only safe place for Jeffree’s curiously immobile face, it seems.
Also at Revolutionary this week, red-hot ‘twixt-vixen Miss Guy, best known for fronting gender-thrash legends the Toilet Boys (and backing everybody else), will rock the wobbly tables, providing a vital link from late-’80s VIP hoo-ha through late-’90s nihilistic indoor pyrotechnics to the virtual fabulism of the present. Viva los kidz, because we sure as hell ain’t going away yet. *
With Jeffree Star and DJs Miss Guy and Keoki, Sat/1
First Saturdays, 10 p.m.–6 a.m.
401 Sixth St., SF
$20 ($15 before midnight)
EVER SINCE THAT fateful day on the family farm when our stud calf Beauregard threw me from his back and rammed me several times against a large oak, giving me one heck of a concussion, I knew I was destined to become a leather queen. I was only 11 at the time, and the options were few for actual experience, but dammit — if I couldn’t have the sex, then at least I’d have the outfits. “And what are you?” my innocent neighbors would ask when they opened their doors at Halloween. “I’m Freddie Mercury!” I’d reply with a wiggle of my little homemade chaps (Hefty bags and duct tape) for emphasis. And then they’d give me candy.
Nowadays everyone’s got to have at least one kinky fetish on their sexual resume — thanks, Madonna — yet often the men, women, and “other” of that twisted tribe known as the Leather Community still get a bad rap, especially among young gay club patrons. Part of this is fear, of course: Doesn’t all that pain hurt a little? And part of it is shame: The leather generation that came of age in the ’70s and ’80s has had to shoulder not just the burdens of age and rejection, but also a ridiculous cross between jealousy for living through the hedonistic homo heyday and blame for AIDS. And then, of course, there’s the primal terror of turning into one of those old men with cottage-cheese buttocks and a basketball belly who strut around the Eagle wearing nothing but rainbow flip-flops and a leash.
Oh sure, we’ll let them take us home and spank us on weeknights, but when we see them at the disco, we just shudder and throw shade.
In response, it seems, the leather queens closed ranks. No longer feeling welcome, they became a kind of secret society in the ’90s. Once-omnipresent social institutions like the Imperial Court of San Francisco and the Rainbow Motorcycle Club went underground ��� and, sadly, saw their profiles dwindle. Tight-knit contingents like Mama’s Family and the Men of Discipline sprang up, with their unique rituals and dress codes, shunning the clubs in favor of charity Golden Gate potlucks, cabaret fundraisers, and converted-garage play parties promoting safe-sex awareness. (Leatherfolk are all about the benefits, these days.) The sash circuit moved to the suburbs. Half the community morphed into bears. Even the dawn of the Internet connection only increased the generation gap.
But as the first Arab American leather hip-hop disco clubkid muppet queer San Francisco Drummer Boy 2001 (runner-up), I feel it’s my deep responsibility and honorable duty to reprazent my peeps in the hide. If there’s one thing my leather dad (love you, Ray) taught me, it’s respect, and if there’s another, it’s how to keep from passing out after hanging upside-down for 40 minutes. It’s time for all this nonsense to stop. This year may have seen three more local leather haunts — Loading Dock, My Place, and Club Rendez-Vous — close to become upscale, straight-type martini lounges; the baths are still outlawed; and creepy tweekers have invaded the sex clubs; but the leather lifestyle is still brilliant and vital, bouncing back up through the queer underground and swelling its ranks with curious alternaqueers and radical faeries, who fetishize being open-minded.
Today, the only places the whole queer community can come together regularly are our precious few leather bars. Daddy’s, Aunt Charlie’s, Marlena’s, and The Eagle have all undergone recent renaissances, fueled by a combo of renegade young promoters, indulgent owners, and a healthy new lust for the underground. Where else can beef and chicken meet? Not to mention old punks, baby dykes, hustlers, drag queens, bull daggers, grandpas, gymbots, ex-clones, Aberzombies, club kids, A-gays, bikers, circuit boiz, transgendered hotties, Log Cabin Republicans, and the odd closeted TV anchorman. It seems the more the mainstream media bleaches out our filthy abominations, the more we return to our fruitful past, when lust was the glue that held us together, and abomination was a kind of gang handshake. We may be more diverse than ever, but leather’s still our common ground.
Daddy’s. Daily, 9 a.m.-2 a.m., 440 Castro, SF. (415) 621-8732, www.daddysbar.com.
Marlena’s. Mon.-Fri., 3 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-2 a.m., 488 Hayes, SF. (415) 864-6672.
Aunt Charlie’s. Mon.-Fri., noon-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-2 a.m., 133 Turk, SF. (415) 441-2922, www.auntcharlieslounge.com.
The Eagle Tavern. Daily, noon-2 a.m., 398 12th St., SF. (415) 626-0880, www.sfeagle.com.
E-mail Marke B. at email@example.com.