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