Pillow talk


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The cold air these last weeks has played foul-weather friend to a couple chilling stage stories about serial child killers — one of them is even called Frozen. Both were recently toasts of Broadway too, though only one includes scary little apple men (not to mention the titular figure of a giant fellow made of soft cushions). This latter would be The Pillowman, of course, by Irish wunderkind Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lieutenant of Inishmore), which makes its local debut at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in a very strong, utterly engaging production directed by Les Waters.

The theme of child murders aside, the two plays (which opened on consecutive nights) couldn’t be further apart. In fact, that very theme is a source of dispute and humor in McDonagh’s hilarious, eerie, and strictly macabre comedy set in a gritty police station–cum–torture chamber in an unnamed totalitarian country (the fine set, a simple but highly atmospheric take on old-world contemporary, is by Antje Ellermann, with sharply complimentary lighting by Russell H. Champa). Here a prolific but largely unrecognized writer named Katurian Katurian Katurian (Erik Lochtefeld) — a stubbornly emphatic name that’s like an engine that won’t turn over and maybe a bit sinister too, like the clang of a railway car with no windows — has been hauled in for some very rough questioning following a string of child murders whose gory details mimic the content of several of his generally ghastly stories.

Katurian and older brother Michal (Matthew Maher) — whose mental disability keeps him squarely in the role of Katurian’s charge and whom the police keep initially in a separate room down the hall for some questioning at the hands of a bulldog cop named Ariel (Andy Murray) — find themselves in a ghastly little story of their own, threatened with impending execution should the interrogation, led by the somewhat wry Inspector Tupolski (Tony Amendola), not go in their favor. But then, their backstory is, we learn, already quite ghastly, making the writer’s ghoulish tales seem all the more meaningful as a necessary escape from childhood horrors and the inevitable vehicle of the Katurian brothers’ worming segue into adulthood.

The Pillowman, however, ultimately has nothing to do with the kind of social, psychological, moral, and forensic themes brought up by Frozen playwright Bryony Lavery in her secularizing examination of sin and forgiveness. (Frozen runs through Feb. 11 at the Marin Theatre Company; see stage listings for information and the review). Instead, it has everything to do with the art, the incandescent allure, even the vital necessity of simply telling stories for their own sake. As such, its primary purpose is to grip the audience by the story-hungry throat, a feat it manages expertly and with a dreamlike complexity, merging one story into another.

Life and art come hopelessly entangled here, though just which is imitating which is hard to say. After the wily Tupolski (played by Amendola with wonderful humor and nuance like a Stalinist version of Barney Miller) synopsizes one of Katurian’s bleak parablelike tales, for instance, a self-satisfied Katurian savors it by absently applying the term "somethingesque" to its construction. Sure enough, our own Mr. K’s story is strikingly Kafkaesque, and so is the predicament such tales have landed him in.

These ironies and nuances come over without the least bit of pretension, however. They’re just part of the grimly comic nightmare director Waters and his cast unfold with unflinching panache. As Katurian, Lochtefeld (last seen at the Berkeley Rep in another memorable turn as a tortured writer, in The Glass Menagerie) delivers a cannily offbeat, charismatic performance, convincingly mixing bottomless artistic pride with obsequiousness before authority, sibling angst, and a gently subversive humor. Maher’s deft turn as Michal, meanwhile, is an equally riveting combination of utter ingenuousness and playful mischief.

If storytelling seems to be a double-edged sword and maybe even a sword of Damocles, its "spirit" (to borrow from Katurian’s exquisite final line) emerges immaculate in the end as a kind of joyful seduction by the master storyteller, the playwright himself, whose intoxicating yarns remain a boon for all concerned. *


Extended through March 11, $45–$61

See Web site for dates and times

Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage

2025 Addison, Berk.

(510) 647-2949


Fireworks and smoke



Kenneth Anger and Jean Genet are two greats with outlaw tastes that still taste salty together. So a viewer discovers via a program that marries — for two nights — this pair of master onanists. In compiling the showcase, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts film curator Joel Shepard follows in famous fancy footsteps — none other than Jean Cocteau once showed both Anger’s 1947 Fireworks and Genet’s 1950 Un Chant d’Amour at an event called the Festival of the Damned Film. Presenting a Poetic Film Prize to Anger’s movie, Cocteau said the piece blooms "from that beautiful night from which emerge all true works." Such a poetic evening must have included Cocteau’s own 1930 The Blood of a Poet, because its influence is apparent on Fireworks and Un Chant d’Amour, a pair of vanguard works that arrived roughly two decades in its wake.

Balls-to-the-wall sexuality has never been rendered so tenderly as in Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour, a prison scenario from which video-era gay porn Powertool codes have picked up next to nothing in the way of imagination or humanity. (In terms of love triangles in lockup, the one here is rivaled only by the bond between Leon Isaac Kennedy, cutie Steve Antin, and Raymond Kessler as the one and only Midnight Thud in retrospective-worthy Jamaa Fanaka’s unbelievable Penetentiary III — a TeleFutura stalwart flick that might even improve when dubbed into Spanish.)

The phrase "That’s when I reach for my revolver" might be the chief unspoken thought of Un Chant d’Amour‘s repressed warden figure — that is, when he isn’t reaching for his belt. He wields societal control and loses the pride and the power that come with maintaining a strictly straight sense of self while overseeing — or more often spying on — a pair of inmates. The older prisoner, as bristly and worry furrowed as his cable-knit sweater, lusts for the younger one, a muscular cross between Sal Mineo and the young James Cagney, complete with his thieving sneer. (According to Edmund White’s bio Genet and Jane Giles’s Criminal Desires: Jean Genet and Cinema, both prisoners were Genet’s lovers. In an irony the author-filmmaker must have enjoyed, the younger one, Lucien Sénémaud, to whom Genet dedicated a 1945 poem titled Un Chant d’Amour, missed the birth of his first child due to filming.)

In Screening the Sexes, the too-oft ignored critic Parker Tyler locates the antecedents of Genet’s butch characters in Honoré de Balzac, but Cocteau’s influence on Un Chant d’Amour is apparent as well in areas ranging from the whimsically scrawled title credits to the movie’s hallway-roving voyeurism (a more sexual, less effete echo of the dream passages that are the narrative veins of Blood of a Poet). Genet made Un Chant d’Amour after writing his novels and before the playwright phase of his creative life, and as in his novels, the film’s dominant prison setting, with its hated and celebrated walls, creates (to quote Tyler) "rituals of yearning and vicarious pleasure." Some images — such as blossoms (romantic symbols bequeathed by Cocteau?) furtively tossed from window to window — are heavy-handed. Others are as light as a naturalist answer to romantic expressionism can be, as when tree branches seem to echo prison bars. The most vivid and intoxicating visual has to be the prisoners passing cigarette smoke mouth to mouth via a long straw poked through their cell walls. Smoke gets in their eyes and gets them to undo their flies.

Official stories have it that Genet made Un Chant d’Amour for private collectors, and in veteran high-society petit voleur fashion, often fleeced them with the promise that he was selling the one and only copy. The 26-minute version showing at the YBCA is both more explicit than anything that sprung from Cocteau’s less rugged cinema and more graphic than the censored 15-minute version that has often showcased in underground public circles. (According to Giles, a benefit screening for the SF Mime Troupe in the ’60s was raided by the police.) Just as the character Divine in Genet’s book Our Lady of the Flowers gave John Waters’s greatest star, Harris Glenn Milstead, a stage and screen name, Un Chant d’Amour‘s smoke trails and imprisoned schemes have inspired visions from James Bidgood’s 1971 Pink Narcissus to the "Homo" sequence of Todd Haynes’s 1989 Poison.

Still, these same smoke trails came in the immediate wake of Anger’s Fireworks, and both Giles and Anger claim Genet viewed Fireworks before he began shooting his only movie. Unsurprisingly, the child of a midsummer night’s dream in Hollywood Babylon who partly inspired Un Chant d’Amour had his own copy of the film, but tellingly (according to Bill Landis’s unauthorized bio, Anger), he’d edited out the pastoral romantic passage in Genet’s movie because "it’s two big lummoxes romping." Such a gesture, typical of Anger, shows just how wrong it is to assume Genet’s comparatively masculine aestheticism means he is less sentimental.

Greedily inhaled and ultimately drubbed, the cigarettes of Un Chant d’Amour are a not-so-explosive, if no less effective, très French response to the American climactic phallic firecracker of Anger’s landmark first film and initial installment in the Magick Lantern Cycle. Unlike the SF International Film Fest’s once-in-a-lifetime (I’d love to be proven wrong) presentation of the latter at the Castro Theatre, the YBCA’s program features a rare and new 35mm print of Fireworks. It also includes similar prints of Anger’s exquisite, blue-tinted vision of commedia dell’arte, Rabbit’s Moon (which exists in three versions, dating from 1950, 1971, and 1979); his most famous film (with a pop soundtrack that essentially paved the way for Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, not to mention music videos), 1963’s Scorpio Rising; and his beefcake buff–and–powder puff soft-touch idyll with a pair of dream lovers in a sex garage, 1965’s Kustom Kar Kommandoes.

Viewed together, these movies cover dreamscapes of a length, width, and vividness beyond past and present Hollywood, not to mention a new queer or mall-pandering gay cinema that even in the case of Haynes’s son-of-Genet portion of Poison remains locked in a celluloid closet of positive and negative representation. Anger’s relationship with the gifted Bobby Beausoleil might be an unflattering real-life variation of Genet’s adoration of murderous criminality, but whereas Un Chant d’Amour resembles almost any page from any Genet novel, Anger’s films are a many-splendored sinister parade. For all of his flaws and perhaps even evil foibles, his films are rare, pure visions. "Serious homosexual cinema begins with the underground, forever ahead of the commercial cinema, and setting it goals which, though initially viewed as outrageous, are later absorbed by it," Amos Vogel writes in the recently republished guide Film as a Subversive Art. Many of the films in that tome seem dated today, but in Anger’s case, the forever to which Vogel refers may indeed be eternal. *


Fri/12–Sat/13, 7:30 p.m.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, screening room, SF


(415) 978-2787


A pirate diary


When I got to Mexico City’s main ceremonial drag, where national parades and military marches are flanked by the art nouveau–style Palacio de Bellas Artes and the most striking Sears department store building you will ever see, it had transformed into a full-on tent city: blue tarp, camping tents, and thousands of political cartoons flowed east for half a mile and filled the Zócalo, the city’s vast central plaza. Just a few days before, Mexico’s highest electoral court had confirmed National Action Party (PAN) candidate Felipe Calderón as the country’s next president. His opponent Andreas Manuel López Obrador, who challenged the cleanliness of the election that had him losing by a little more than half a percentage point, had asked that his camped-out supporters stay where they were until they could force a vote-by-vote recount. The recount had been denied, and Calderón was now certain to replace outgoing president Vicente Fox, but López Obrador’s supporters were still there in their virtual city within a city.

And then it was gone. The annual military march on Mexican Independence Day saw to that. In its absence, on other streets all over the capital, another tent city continued to function, one that had been there long before the political mess and will be there long after. It shows up in the morning and gets taken down in the evening nearly every day, and it’s a hugely significant part of Mexico’s economy. In his novel Hombre al Agua, Fabrizio Mejía Madrid describes the miles of blue tarp that are the skin of Mexico City street commerce as the closest thing a landlocked resident can hope for in the way of waterfront property. Pirated movies, albums, and software are absolutely everywhere — you could drown.

According to a study conducted by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the star of the recent movie This Film Is Not Yet Rated, and cited by the Los Angeles Times, in 2005 major studios lost more revenue to Mexican street vendors, $483 million, than to those of any other country on this thieving little planet. You can mark me down as responsible for about $200 of that. In my seven months in Mexico, I went to a grand total of one museum, one cathedral, and zero ancient pyramids. Mostly, I just watched movies. And since — as we all secretly believe or at least suspect — watching movies is better than real life anyway, I ended up doing a lot of it on my return visit, with the friends I somehow found the time and opportunity to meet.

Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger was my first recruit in the great battle between art and intellectual property law. In it Jack Nicholson plays a journalist who switches identities with the black-market arms dealer who’s died in his hotel, kicking off one Sunday drive of a thriller. Surely, there’s no sleepier suspense film. (Antonioni’s Blow-Up doesn’t count, since it’s an artsy fuck you to suspense films, just as Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is a fuck you to artsy fuck yous to suspense films.) Amazingly, though, the pace never dissolves the tension, despite Antonioni’s gallant attempts to try our patience, like introducing love interest Maria Schneider after a full hour of film. A much less successful test of our patience is Nicholson’s bewildered commentary, which does little more than narrate a movie you couldn’t get lost in if you were blindfolded and spun around really fast. I sat through half of it and was rewarded with one semiprecious jewel: Nicholson’s character was wearing the first digital watch ever made, by Tiffany.

After that humble start, the next day I went on a Mexican film–buying binge. Well, I tried to. You’d think the one thing you’d be certain to find in Mexico is Mexican film. You’d be right about half the time, but those are odds I don’t particularly care for. I found Carlos Reygadas’s Battle in Heaven (everywhere, in fact) but not his Japón. I found Alejandro Jodorowsky’s riot-causing Fando y Lis and El Topo (not available on DVD in the United States) but not La Montaña Sagrada. I found Los Olvidados and La Jóven but nothing else by Luis Buñuel, and he was a hard worker in Mexico. Rogelio A. González’s El Esqueleto de la Señora Morales, yes. Carlos Velo’s Cinco de Chocolate y Uno de Fresa, no. And so on. But if you like Vicente Fernández or the masked wrestler Santo, which I’m vaguely ashamed to say I do, god help you if you only have one suitcase.

I also had overwhelming success finding Tin Tan, a Mexican comedian and singer who could be described as sort of like Danny Kaye in a zoot suit. His devotees are as wide-ranging as me and the Beatles. (I recently read that he was supposed to be part of the Sergeant Pepper album cover but suggested that Ringo replace him with a Mexican tree.) By the end of the seven months I spent in Mexico City, the most Spanish I’d learned was a sort of raised-by-wolves level of communication that, though I hoped it came off as charming, made it hard for me to fully understand a movie unless I concentrated like an air traffic controller. Tin Tan was always a comfort because his movies are funny even without translation. My favorite of his movies is El Rey del Barrio, about a man in Mexico City who leads a double life as a poor sweet nobody and a ruthless, flamenco-singing street boss. It costars his brother Ramón Valdéz, from the bafflingly adored El Chavo del Ocho, a ’70s Mexican sitcom in which the titular character is a little kid played by an adult.

Which is lot less annoying and creepy than an adult played by a little kid, as Dakota Fanning’s career has demonstrated. Sadistic revenge fantasies like the Mexico City–set Man on Fire have their place in this world and are hard for me to empirically condemn, but the idea that an already irritable man would take 45 minutes of a movie to avenge Fanning’s death is something I’m just not willing to accept. I can almost never sit through her performances, but we watched this movie at the tail end of a long and drunken night, when civic pride had long since overpowered any vestiges of personal pride. (When Denzel Washington buys a Linda Ronstadt album just blocks away from the spot where we’d bought this very movie, we practically cheered.) The commentary track was sprinkled liberally with Fanning annoyingly and creepily naming people on the set who were great to work with. Why doesn’t the MPAA take a stand against mixing children and commentary tracks?

With Denzel and Dakota out of the way, we moved on to happier territory (at least I did; everyone else had fallen asleep). The Barkleys of Broadway was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’s Technicolor comeback after a 10-year split, and it was the last film they made together. Ira Gershwin’s lyrics are as winning as ever, but his brother was sorely missed. In other sad news, the proud tradition of the fruity character actor had been abandoned with the exclusion of Eric Blore and Eric Blore’s teeth. Oscar Levant’s piano-playing playboy was more than compensation, though (sorry, Blore). The observation, traced to a Frank and Ernest comic strip, that Rogers had to do everything Astaire had to do but backward and in high heels (Backwards in High Heels, a musical about Rogers, comes out next year) might not even be as important as the fact that she could also act circles around the guy, who always delivered his lines like he was about to sneeze.

A couple of days later, in accidental coincidence with Mexican Independence Day, we celebrated with two classics of civil disobedience. The first, The Wild One, was just as unpleasant to watch this time around as the previous time I saw it. No movie has ever given me more desire to smack Marlon Brando’s pouty little face and send him to his room without supper. Ironically, Rambo: First Blood was the perfect complement to the fireworks exploding around us, reminding us that no tyrant, be it the Spanish crown or Brian Dennehy, stands a chance against an organized and pissed-off society — or Rambo. The next morning we watched Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Fascist fuckfest, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, to break our spirits just enough to keep us showing up for work. I was sad to discover the copy I’d bought on Calle Arcos de Belen for 15 pesos didn’t offer English subtitles — luckily, Pasolini’s nod to the Marquis de Sade speaks the international language of eating human feces.

Next up was Lemon Popsicle, which sounds like a hentai film but turned out to be an Israeli Porky’s with dubbed English dialogue such as "I’d say the brunette’s cherry’s been well busted, for sure." Ignoring their parents’ advice not to get involved with shiksas, the horny heroes spend the whole movie trying to gain comprehensive sexual experience with the pretty girls who don’t go too far, the not-so-pretty girls who go farther, and the crabs-ridden prostitute who’ll take ’em to the moon and back. And somewhere along the way they preside over a monumentally homoerotic penis-measuring contest in the locker room. It’s all so Porky’s I was shocked to discover that it came out a full five years earlier, in 1978, spawning eight sequels and the American remake The Last American Virgin. According to Robert O’Keefe from Wales on, Lemon Popsicle is "ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER MADE." Considering the emphatic use of caps and that seven out of seven people found his review useful, I have no choice but to defer to him on the matter.

The last thing I saw in Mexico was Woody Allen’s Scoop, which I watched while flying over the northern part of the country. Allen has to work harder for his jokes these days, so it was rough to see the movie’s occasional bull’s-eye apocalyptically mistranslated. Best example: the character originally says, "I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older I converted to narcissism." This is so quintessentially him that even a translator who spoke no English at all could’ve assembled a more faithful subtitle than "I had Hindu beliefs, but I converted to Christianity." Of the two lines, though, the latter certainly got the bigger laugh out of me — I even woke up the lady in the next seat. In fact, maybe the translator did it on purpose, to give Allen and his movie the little extra push they needed. After all, that’s what the pirated movie industry is all about. People helping people. It’s beautiful, really. Please don’t turn me in. (Jason Shamai)


(1) Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico)

(2) The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania)

(3) Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, US)

(4) Brick (Rian Johnson, US)

(5) Mongolian Ping Pong (Hao Ning, China)

(6) The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry, France/Italy)

(7) Lunacy (Jan Svankmajer, Czech Republic/Slovakia)

(8) United 93 (Paul Greengrass, US/UK/France)

(9) Adam’s Apples (Anders Thomas Jensen, Germany/Denmark)

(10) Duck Season (Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico)

For a longer version of this article, go to the Pixel Vision blog at

The other home of Bay hip-hop


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If you don’t know about the Filthy ’Moe
It’s time I let real game unfold….
Messy Marv, “True to the Game”
I meet Big Rich on the corner of Laguna and Grove streets, near the heart of the Fillmore District according to its traditional boundaries of Van Ness and Fillmore, although the hood actually extends as far west as Divisadero. “Me personally,” the 24-year-old rapper and lifelong ’Moe resident confesses, “I don’t be sticking my head out too much. But I make sure I bring every photo session or interview right here.”
At the moment he’s taping a segment for an upcoming DVD by the Demolition Men, who released his mixtape Block Tested Hood Approved in April. Since then, the former member of the San Quinn–affiliated group Fully Loaded has created a major buzz thanks in part to the snazzy video for “That’s the Business,” his E-A-Ski- and CMT-produced single, which was the Jam of the Week in August on MTV2 and added to straight-up MTV in time for the Oct. 3 release of the Koch full-length Block Tested Hood Approved. (Originally titled Fillmore Rich, the album was renamed to capitalize on the mixtape-generated hype.)
Presented by E-40 and featuring Rich’s dope in-house producer Mal Amazin in addition to heavyweights such as Sean-T, Rick Rock, and Droop-E, BTHA is a deep contribution to the rising tide of Bay Area hip-hop. While Big Rich’s gruff baritone delivery and gritty street tales make his music more mobster than hyphy, the album is not unaffected by the latter style’s up-tempo bounce, helping the movement hold national attention during this season of anticipation before Mistah FAB’s major-label debut on Atlantic. “I don’t necessarily make hyphy music,” Rich says. “But I definitely condone it. As long as the spotlight is on the Bay, I’m cool with it.” Coming near the end of a year that has seen landmark albums from San Quinn, Messy Marv, Will Hen, and fellow Fully Loaded member Bailey — not to mention JT the Bigga Figga’s high-profile tour with Snoop Dogg, which has taken hyphy all the way to Africa — Rich’s solo debut is one more indication of the historic district’s importance to the vitality of local hip-hop and Bay Area culture in general.
The Fillmore is a community under siege, facing external and internal pressures. On the one hand, gentrification — in the form of high-end shops and restaurants serving tourists, Pacific Heights residents, and an increasingly affluent demographic creeping into the area — continues to erode the neighborhood’s edges. “If you grew up in the Fillmore, you can see Pacific Heights has crept down the hill, closer to the ghetto,” says Hen, who as a member of multiregional group the Product (assembled by Houston legend Scarface) moved more than 60,000 copies of its recent “thug conscious” debut, One Hunid (Koch). “Ten years ago there were more boundaries. But the Fillmore’s prime location, and I’m not asleep to this fact. We’re five minutes away from everything in the city. That has to play a role in the way the district is represented in a city that makes so much off tourism. You might not want your city portrayed as gangsta, even though it is.”
Hen has a point. The notion of San Francisco as gangsta is somewhat at odds with the way the city perceives itself. As an Oakland writer, I can attest to this, for even in San Francisco’s progressive artistic and intellectual circles, Oakland is usually understood to be beyond the pale in terms of danger and violence. Yet none of the Oakland rappers I’ve met talk about their hoods in quite the same way Fillmore rappers do, at least when it comes to their personal safety. As Big Rich films his section of the DVD, for example, he remarks on the continual stream of police cruisers circling the block.
“They slowed it down,” he says. “Now they only come every 90 seconds. Right around here is murder central — people be shooting each other every night. By 7 o’clock, we all gotta disperse, unless you want to get caught in the cross fire.” He waves his hands in mock terror. “I ain’t trying to die tonight!”
Though Rich is clowning, his statement is perfectly serious — indiscriminate gunfire among gang members, often in their early teens, makes nocturnal loitering a risky proposition at best. As of September, according to the San Francisco Police Department’s Web site, the Northern Police District, which includes the Fillmore, had the city’s second highest number of murders this year, 11, ceding first place only to the much larger Bayview’s 22. For overall criminal incidents, the Northern District led the city, at more than 10,000 so far.
Though Fillmore rappers might be given to stressing the danger of their hood, insofar as such themes constitute much of hip-hop’s subject matter and they feel the need to refute the city’s nongangsta image, no one I spoke to seemed to be boasting. They sounded sad. Hen, for example, reported that he’d been to three funerals in October, saying, “You hardly have time to mourn for one person before you have to mourn for the next person.” While the SFPD’s Public Affairs Office didn’t return phone calls seeking corroboration, both Rich and Hen indicate the neighborhood is suffering from an alarming amount of black-on-black violence.
“Basically, it’s genocide. We’re going to destroy each other,” Hen says. “It used to be crosstown rivalries rather than in your backyard. Now there’s more of that going on. If you get into it at age 15, the funk is already there. Whoever your crew is funking with, you’re in on it.” The ongoing cycle of drug-related violence — the Fillmore’s chief internal pressure — has only ramped up under the Bush administration’s regressive economic policies. It’s a fact not lost on these rappers: as Rich puts it succinctly on BTHA, “Bush don’t give a fuck about a nigga from the hood.”
“Everybody’s broke. That’s why everybody’s busting each other’s heads,” explains Rich, who lost his older brother to gun violence several years ago. “If you don’t know where your next dollar’s coming from …”
To be sure, the rappers give back to the Fillmore. They support large crews of often otherwise unemployable youth, and Messy Marv, for example, has been known to hand out turkeys for Thanksgiving and bikes for Christmas. But Bay Area rap is only just getting back on its feet, and while the rappers can ameliorate life in the Fillmore’s housing projects, they don’t have the means to dispel the climate of desperation in a hood surrounded by one of the most expensive cities on earth. Moreover, they are acutely aware of the disconnect between their community and the rest of the city, which trades on its cultural cachet.
“It’s like two different worlds,” Hen muses. “You have people sitting outside drinking coffee right in the middle of the killing fields. They’re totally safe, but if I walk over there, I might get shot at. But the neighborhood is too proud for us to be dying at the hands of each other.”
The neighborhood pride Will Hen invokes is palpable among Fillmore rappers. “I get a warm feeling when I’m here,” Messy Marv says. “The killing, you can’t just say that’s Fillmore. That’s everywhere. When you talk about Fillmore, you got to go back to the roots. Fillmore was a warm, jazzy African American place where you could come and dance, drink, have fun, and be you.”
Mess is right on all counts. Lest anyone think I misrepresent Oaktown: the citywide number of murders in Oakland has already topped 120 this year. But my concern here is with the perceived lack of continuity Mess suggests between the culture of the Fillmore then and now. By the early 1940s, the Fillmore had developed into a multicultural neighborhood including the then-largest Japanese population in the United States. In 1942, when FDR sent West Coast citizens of Japanese origin to internment camps, their vacated homes were largely filled by African Americans from the South, attracted by work in the shipyards. While the district had its first black nightclub by 1933, the wartime boom transformed the Fillmore into a major music center.
“In less than a decade, San Francisco’s African American population went from under 5,000 to almost 50,000,” according to Elizabeth Pepin, coauthor of the recent history of Fillmore jazz Harlem of the West (Chronicle). “The sheer increase in number of African Americans in the neighborhood made the music scene explode.”
Though known as a black neighborhood, Pepin says, the Fillmore “was still pretty diverse” and even now retains vestiges of its multicultural history. Japantown persists, though much diminished, and Big Rich himself is half Chinese, making him the second Chinese American rapper of note. “My mother’s parents couldn’t speak a lick of English,” he says. “But she was real urban, real street. I wasn’t brought up in a traditional Chinese family, but I embrace it and I get along with my other side.” Nonetheless, Pepin notes, the massive urban renewal project that destroyed the Fillmore’s iconic jazz scene by the late ’60s effectively curtailed its diversity, as did the introduction of barrackslike public housing projects.
The postwar jazz scene, of course, is the main source of nostalgia tapped by the Fillmore Merchants Association (FMA). Talk of a musical revival refers solely to the establishment of upscale clubs — Yoshi’s, for example, is scheduled to open next year at Fillmore and Eddy — offering music that arguably is no longer organically connected to the neighborhood. In a brief phone interview, Gus Harput, president of the FMA’s Jazz Preservation District, insisted the organization would “love” to open a hip-hop venue, although he sidestepped further inquiries. (Known for its hip-hop shows, Justice League at 628 Divisadero closed around 2003 following a 2001 shooting death at a San Quinn performance and was later replaced by the Independent, which occasionally books rap.) The hood’s hip-hop activity might be too recent and fall outside the bounds of jazz, yet nowhere in the organization’s online Fillmore history ( is there an acknowledgement of the MTV-level rap scene down the street.
Yet the raucous 1949 Fillmore that Jack Kerouac depicts in his 1957 book, On the Road — replete with protohyphy blues shouters like Lampshade bellowing such advice as “Don’t die to go to heaven, start in on Doctor Pepper and end up on whisky!” — sounds less like the area’s simulated jazz revival and more like the community’s present-day hip-hop descendants.
How could it be otherwise? The aesthetics have changed, but the Fillmore’s musical genius has clearly resided in rap since Rappin’ 4Tay debuted on Too $hort’s Life Is … Too $hort (Jive, 1989), producer-MC JT the Bigga Figga brought out the Get Low Playaz, and a teenage San Quinn dropped his classic debut, Don’t Cross Me (Get Low, 1993). While there may not be one definitive Fillmore hip-hop style, given that successful rappers tend to work with successful producers across the Bay regardless of hood, Messy Marv asserts the ’Moe was crucial to the development of the hyphy movement: “JT the Bigga Figga was the first dude who came with the high-energy sound. He was ahead of his time. I’m not taking nothing away from Oakland, Vallejo, or Richmond. I’m just letting you know what I know.”
In many ways the don of the ’Moe, San Quinn — reaffirming his status earlier this year with The Rock (SMC), featuring his own Ski- and CMT-produced smash, “Hell Ya” — could be said to typify a specifically Fillmore rap style, in which the flow is disguised as a strident holler reminiscent of blues shouting. While both Messy Marv and Big Rich share affinities with this delivery, Will Hen, for instance, and Quinn’s brother Bailey — whose Champ Bailey (City Boyz, 2006) yielded the MTV and radio success “U C It” — favor a smoother, more rapid-fire patter.
What is most striking here is that, with the exception of fellow traveler Messy Marv (see sidebar), all of these artists, as well as recent signee to the Game’s Black Wall Street label, Ya Boy, came up in the ’90s on San Quinn’s influential Done Deal Entertainment. Until roughly two years ago, they were all one crew. While working on his upcoming eighth solo album, From a Boy to a Man, for his revamped imprint, Deal Done, Quinn paused for a moment to take justifiable pride in his protégés, who now constitute the Fillmore’s hottest acts.
“I create monsters, know what I’m saying?” Quinn says. “Done Deal feeds off each other; that’s why I’m so proud of Bailey and Rich. We all come out the same house. There’s a real level of excellence, and the world has yet to see it. Right now it seems like we’re separate, but we’re not. We’re just pulling from different angles for the same common goal.”
“We all one,” Quinn concludes, in a statement that could serve as a motto for neighborhood unity. “Fillmoe business is Fillmoe business.” SFBG

Preparing for scary


Nine people were shot during this year’s big Halloween celebration in the Castro, prompting city officials to announce the convening of a task force that will examine the event and its future in San Francisco. Supporters and event planners say such early attention is crucial for a gathering of this magnitude — and that the lack of proper planning contributed to this year’s problems.
Concerns that the event has gotten out of control prompted some Castro residents and Sup. Bevan Dufty to announce in July that they wanted the event cancelled, moved, or drastically scaled back. Instead, the plan was hatched to increase the police presence by 25 percent, adopt a zero tolerance policy for public drinking and other crimes, and end the event at 10:30 p.m., which they announced just days before Halloween.
More than 100,000 people showed up anyway, passing big groups of police clumped at the edges of the event but rarely undergoing even cursory searches for weapons and other contraband as they entered the cordoned area. Just after the music was turned off at the one stage (down from three last year) and police announced, “The party is over,” a conflict between two San Francisco gangs escalated, with someone being hit by a bottle and then someone pulling out a gun and opening fire in retaliation. There were no fatalities, and the shooter escaped.
Other than that one incident, which most attendees weren’t aware of until the next day, the event was pretty tame. More striking and upsetting to most who came was the fact that the event ended just as its numbers were peaking and that the end was reinforced at 11 p.m. by water trucks and street sweepers that cleared the still-large crowd.
Mayor Gavin Newsom seemed to acknowledge the lack of preparation when he told KRON-TV, “We’re not going to wait until the last few months before the event. We’re going to start planning right away.” Nonetheless, both Newsom and Dufty praised the police and the planning efforts, with the mayor telling the Chronicle, “We’d done everything we could imagine doing.”
Yet critics say that if that’s the best city officials can do, we’re in no shape to host other large events, such as the 2016 Summer Olympics, which Newsom is bidding for.
“If San Francisco wants to host the Olympics, it can’t go around telling the world that it can’t keep a party under control one night a year,” Ted Strawser of the SF Party Party told the Guardian. “Halloween is like gay Christmas. It’s a travesty to talk about canceling it.”
Other cities seem to be up to the task. Take New York’s Village Halloween Parade. Twenty-five years ago, when its crowds first topped the 100,000 mark, New York celebration artist Jeanne Fleming began working closely with local residents, schools, community centers, and the police to maintain “a grassroots feel and prepare for future growth.”
Today, the New York Village Halloween Parade is the biggest in the world, a fact organizers actively advertise on their Web site to attract sponsors and fill the city’s coffers with $80 million worth of tourists’ money annually, thanks to two million spectators and 60,000 parade participants.
And while Newsom, Dufty, Police Chief Heather Fong, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, and Sheriff Michael Hennessey deliberate whether the party should continue and how to make it securer if it does, the NYPD hails the Village parade as a valuable public service that makes Halloween safe for New Yorkers.
“Maybe the SFPD needs to talk to the NYPD,” Fleming told the Guardian, noting that the Village parade has changed routes four times over the years in response to merchants’ fears and neighborhood concerns without losing its original identity. “Instead of putting up walls, San Francisco needs to open up its mind.”
That’s what Alix Rosenthal (the domestic partner of Guardian city editor Steven T. Jones) had been urging during her campaign against Dufty for his seat on the Board of Supervisors.
“Bevan Dufty has accused me of playing politics with Halloween, but he should have started working on this plan at least six months ago,” Rosenthal said at a day-after press conference. She believes that more entry points, entrance fees (with higher fees for uncostumed attendees), and a parade leading away from the Castro would be helpful. “Getting out the word that there are going to be changes has to be a huge PR effort.”
Paul Wertheimer of LA-based Crowd Management Strategies told the Guardian that talk of canceling the event is “an understandable reaction if you know you can’t do it right.”
“Organizers often fail to recognize the changing demographics and popularity of events,” Wertheimer said, pointing to the success of New Orleans in managing its Mardi Gras parades despite narrow streets and huge crowds. “You can’t have a hippie, anything-goes mentality. Once an event gets bigger than 3,000 to 5,000 people, it has to be organized and planned with the proper resources, but it can be done, because the techniques and plans are already laid out.”
Wertheimer hopes the SF Halloween task force will assess what worked and what didn’t, take a break, then begin planning no later than six months out. “And merchants’ issues have to be addressed. Merchants are always concerned, but if they can be shown ways they can benefit and be protected from vandalism, they’ll be for it.”
Or as Strawser put it, “We need to put the dollars into better management, not police overtime. Former mayor Willie Brown learned that lesson in 1997 when he tried to cancel Critical Mass. We’re a city that handles the Love Parade, Gay Pride, and Bay to Breakers. To cancel what began as a gay event because of fear of gay bashers and violence would be to give in to the terrorists.” SFBG

One nation under dog


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In Suzan-Lori Parks’s The America Play, the setting is a vast dirt hole — what the piece calls “an exact replica of the Great Hole of History.” You could say it’s still the operative landscape in her 2002 Pulitzer Prize–winning play, Topdog/Underdog, which also takes as a central motif The America Play’s image of a black man dressed as an arcade Abraham Lincoln (there for patrons to shoot in a continual reenactment of the assassination in Ford’s Theatre). Parks now grounds it in a more ostensibly realistic plotline Linc-ing two African American brothers to a deep and sordid past they only partially and fleetingly understand. The hole of history here consists of the squalid apartment shared by Lincoln (Ian Walker) and Booth (David Westley Skillman), named by their father as “some idea of a joke.”
In Parks’s telling, the joke is loaded. The layering of history, it suggests, turns Booth’s inner-city digs downright archaeological. It blends — in subtle and intricate ways — the brothers’ troubled childhood, a history of racism and endemic poverty, and a ruthless culture suffused with fantasies of death and easy money.
Second Wind’s production, ably helmed by director Virginia Reed, is the first one locally since the touring Broadway version came through town. It’s great not only to have the opportunity to see this rich and dramatically powerful work performed again but to see a small company do this demanding piece such justice. (If justice is a word one can draw anywhere near the world of Linc and Booth.) The actors establish an engaging rapport onstage. Skillman is sharp and just vaguely menacing as younger brother Booth, jumpy and less certain than his big brother despite his obsessive ambition to be the three-card monte hustler his now disillusioned brother once was. Walker’s Linc, meanwhile, is a finely tuned combination of resignation, restraint, and irrepressible pride. He first appears in whiteface, wearing the president’s getup, which gives him a steady paycheck and time to think; when his startled kid brother trains a real gun on him, we have a tableau that sets the whole history ball rolling.
True, opening night saw the performances, especially Walker’s, fluctuating slightly in intensity, focus, and rhythm, but that’s only to say an excellent cast will likely prove even stronger as the run continues.
Bay Area playwright Brad Erickson’s new play, The War at Home, comes stitched together with song — religious hymns sung by a cast whose effortless harmonies belie the contested provenance of the play’s allegiances and convictions. It’s an ironic and rhythmically effective counterpoint to the disunion tackled by Erickson’s smart and well-crafted story, which begins with the lovely-sounding but nonetheless physically strained concord of a group portrait around the piano.
Jason (a nicely understated Peter Matthews) is a young gay playwright from the Big Apple who returns home to Charleston, SC, where his father, Bill (Alex Ross), is a popular Baptist minister, to put on a play lambasting the Baptist Church for its bigoted opposition to gay marriage and demonization of homosexuality. As the inevitable uproar gets under way — with his good-natured, well-meaning dad (played with wonderfully convincing sincerity by Ross) caught between his son and his strident, militant church assistant, Danny (Patrick MacKellan) — Jason’s renewed contact with his old lover Reese (Jason Jeremy) raises some hell of its own for him.
Pastor Bill has grown the congregation successfully over the years into a thriving community. Early in the play, he’s overlooking the floor plans for the church’s new Christian Life Center facility (which includes an elaborate gym confoundingly absent showers, he notices). But the growth of the church and Bill’s success as a pastor have come at a price — his own passive complicity in the purging over the years of progressive church leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention (as a Christian who had protested the Vietnam War and fought for civil rights, Bill finds his passivity amounts to a significant compromise). Now his son’s play and life become the catalyst for a confrontation with the right-wing leadership that threatens to end his career as well as break up his marriage to Jason’s serenely oblivious mother (a bottomless well of denial played with perfectly pitched charm by Adrienne Krug).
Having recently married his NYC partner in a legal ceremony in Boston, Jason becomes panicked over his infidelity with Reese, made troubling here by the thought that he may be living up to the hateful stereotypes of the Christian Right and stoking the facile certainties of their intolerant, authoritarian worldview (which to his father’s chagrin Jason labels — with youthful impetuosity perhaps but hardly without cause — “fascist”).
It’s part of the strength of Erickson’s play that it eschews easy answers or stereotypes. Nevertheless, Danny and, to a lesser extent, Reese remain less developed characters than Jason and his parents, whose interactions are some of the play’s most convincing and resonant. Director John Dixon, meanwhile, who shrewdly avoids stereotypes himself, as well as cheap laughs, garners strong performances from a very solid cast. SFBG
Through Nov. 18
Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
Phoenix Theatre
414 Mason, SF
(415) 820-1460
Through Nov. 11
Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
New Conservatory Theatre Center
25 Van Ness, SF
(415) 861-8972

Feeling spooky, yeah yeah


This Halloween’s colors aren’t orange and black — they’re emerald, sapphire, and gold, because ESG is coming to town for the first time. One night after what people in the English village of Hinton St. George call Punkie Night, San Francisco will celebrate Funky Night, as sisters Renee, Marie, and Valerie Scroggins (and Renee’s daughter, Nicole Nicholas, and Valerie’s daughter, Christelle Polite) get everyone feeling moody, amped to tell off no-good lovers, and ready to keep it moving.
Rip it up and start again? That old Orange Juice lyric and new Simon Reynolds book title would have to be twisted to apply to ESG. It’s more like start again after being ripped off in the case of the Scroggins sisters. Sample credits don’t pay their bills, but they’re doing quite fine, thank you, due in part to Soul Jazz, the awesome crate-digging UK label. While Soul Jazz is best known for its archival work, in ESG’s case it’s proven to be just as interested in the group’s current music as in their influential early recordings, such as the oft-sampled instrumental “UFO.” On the eve of ESG’s local visit, I got on the digital horn with Renee, who lives in Georgia these days but still carries her Bronx accent and pride with her wherever she goes.
SFBG: This is our Halloween issue, so I have to ask you about ESG’s cameo appearance in the movie Vampire’s Kiss. What was that whole experience like?
RENEE SCROGGINS: Oh my god, it was fun. I was always a big fan of Nicolas Cage. He had lunch with me. He treated us so well.
SFBG: Is your family into Halloween?
RS: My daughter enjoys going out to costume parties. The best thing about Halloween is putting on a crazy costume and letting loose some inhibitions.
SFBG: Speaking of crazy costumes: ESG played the Paradise Garage. What was that like?
RS: We played there several times, but people always note that we played the closing party. That was a very sad time in ESG’s life, because the Paradise Garage was always very supportive.
SFBG: Did you have many interactions with [Paradise Garage DJ and legend] Larry Levan?
RS: He loved our music, and we loved the fact that he loved our music! When we brought in something new, he would check it out, and if he liked it, he’d give it a spin.
SFBG: Back then, there may have been women in bands, but there weren’t a lot of all-female groups. I’m wondering if it felt like you were confronting barriers or whether it just felt natural because you’re a family band.
RS: We never really thought of ourselves as a female band — we just thought of ourselves as a group of sisters. If I had younger brothers, it would have been a band with them. My mom always taught us, y’know, that we could do anything we want to do. When we wanted instruments, my mom didn’t say, “No, that’s not for girls.” She said, “You want a drum set? Here you go.”
SFBG: Did you ever encounter Klymaxx and Bernadette Cooper or like their records? It seems like they were trying to do a similar thing to ESG in a way, but on the West Coast.
RS: You mean “The Men All Pause”? Two days ago my daughter and I were playing on the radio and we talked about them. I always thought they were trying to say some important things, especially about women and dating.
SFBG: When did you first start to play music?
RS: Oh boy — at eight or nine years old. That was many moons ago [laughs].
SFBG: Do you remember what music you most loved as a kid?
RS: Sure, James Brown! The principle style that ESG writes in is the James Brown school of funk. James Brown would take it to the bridge. When he took it to the bridge, you’d lose your mind — you just wanted to dance, and you never wanted it to end.
I was a big Queen fan, still am, and so are my kids. The B-52’s, Etta James …
SFBG: She’s got family playing with her too — her sons are in her band.
RS: I know. That’s so cool. It’s good to bring the family into something you love so much. I know my daughters and nieces enjoy it.
SFBG: It makes sense that you mention James Brown as an all-time fave, because ESG is sampled almost as much as James Brown in hip-hop.
RS: I read that in a book; it said the most sampled artists were James Brown, George Clinton, and ESG. I was laughing. It wasn’t funny — for real — but it was interesting.
SFBG: Yeah, we have to discuss sampling. A track like Junior Mafia’s “Realms of Junior Mafia” on their Conspiracy album practically samples all of “UFO.” Did Puffy and Biggie pay you for that?
RS: We were paid. Junior Mafia did come to us correct. If you come correct and we’re able to negotiate, I’m happy. But if you take [ESG’s music] and I have to chase you down, and then you argue, I have issues with you.
I’m having this problem less and less, because we have a company and we went after all the people who weren’t paying us.
SFBG: Ultimately, though, you’re not really into sampling as a practice.
RS: I’m not into it all. We write original music — what comes from my heart, what comes from the inside. That’s a good feeling at the end of the day. One of the reasons why I’d stopped writing is that if people weren’t sampling one song by ESG, they were sampling another. I was scared to even put out an instrumental — I’d think, “I don’t want to leave too much loop space because they could snatch it.”
SFBG: I have to ask about “Moody,” because it’s one of my all-time favorite dance tracks. What was it like recording with [producer] Martin Hannett?
RS: I had a lot respect for him. He may have added a little reverb, but he really kept our natural sound. When we go and perform the song, we sound like the record. He didn’t molest or twist the songs or make them sound crazy.
SFBG: Having had so much experience playing live over the years, did you want to go back to that direct approach when recording [2004’s] Step Off and [this year’s] Keep on Moving?
RS: Absolutely. Every time we’re recording we want to be able present the same thing live.
SFBG: You’ve been writing songs at a fast pace these last few years.
RS: I have a lot going on in my life. When my sister Valerie [Scroggins] and I write, we write about things going around us, and I see so much since I’ve moved down to Atlanta. Atlanta reminds me of living in New York. That big-city thing has got me busy again.
I guess I like busyness, being a native New Yorker. Places like Pennsylvania and Virginia were just too quiet for me.
SFBG: What are you liking musically these days?
RS: Right now I’m working on production with some new artists. I listen to hip-hop. I listen to Mary J. Blige — Mary’s another woman who is always getting down and talking about real issues. About five minutes ago I was listening to Ice Cube. I listen to the Killers and Fall Out Boy. My heart is always going to be with whatever’s funky. SFBG
With CSS/Cansei de Ser Sexy and Future Pigeon
Fri/27, 9 p.m.
444 Jessie, SF
(415) 625-8880

SPECIAL: Ghosts of Homoween



When I was a little gurl growing up in Detroit, my ma used to spin an enchanting yarn about her downtown All Hallow’s Eves as a child in the ’50s. “We’d go out trick-or-treating in the early evening, me and your aunts, in our gypsy dresses pieced together from faded handkerchiefs,” she’d intone every year about this time.

“But we’d have to be home by the stroke of dark. That was when the men dressed as women would come out. There would be men dancing with men, women wearing cotton pants and button-down shirts. There would be a lot of screaming and carrying on. We used to watch them through the lacy window coverings in our bedroom, scared into laughing.”

You can imagine what such a tale of gaily marching ghouls and goblins did to an impressionable homosexual like myself. My mind swam with visions of drag queen sugar plums and wild-dyke Roy Rogerses, bell-bottomed sailor suits and sequins dripping from well-groomed mustaches. “Would there be men dressed as the Supremes?” I’d excitedly beg Ma to tell. “Would they do the mashed potato?” Oh, how I would have loved to slip the latch on those lace-veiled portals and join in their spirited parade!

For many a gay back in the day, Halloween was Pride before Pride existed, the one time they had implicit permission to show out in all their invert finery and let loose. Under the code of mid-20th-century gay oppression, the holiday was a fine time for gays to publicly congregate and whoop it up, embodying civilization’s nightmare and driving the children inside. It worked both ways: the gays at least had one high holy day for themselves, which happened to belong to the devil. And the hushed tales of it served to arouse the soon-to-be-overly-curious like me.


Halloween in the Castro began unofficially in the ’80s, when crowds attracted by the exotic window displays at Cliff’s Variety hardware store grew large enough to warrant a street closing. Grandpa Ernie DeBaca, the legendary owner of Cliff’s, drove a flatbed truck and started an annual Halloween kids’ party in the newly emerging gay neighborhood.

Soon, in a symbolic reenactment of Stonewall or the Harvey Milk riots, the gays “took the street” on an annual basis, forcing the cops to give up trying to regulate the party, and the event mushroomed into the wild, potentially dangerous — and gay-diluted — bacchanal of today.

But before the Castro exploded, back in the ’70s, the gays of San Francisco would throw on their best Barbara Stanwyck and hit up Polk Street to let it all hang out, gayngsta-style. Those were the glory days of the bathhouse generation, and whenever I want to project myself back into them, I visit amateur historian Uncle Donald’s Web site, Therein lies an archive of Uncle Donald’s photos of the 1976 Polk Halloween scene, as well as a spotty but fascinating diary of gay Halloween celebrations from the disco era to 2003. It’s a treasure trove of artifacts and impressions — and perhaps an elegy to the seemingly endangered high holy day.

“Back then there were two outfits: drag queen and drag queen’s escort. You either wore a ball gown or black tie,” the husky-voiced 65-year-old says over the phone. “It was such a magical time. I don’t think of Halloween as a gay-only tradition, but there was a glorious, creative spirit, a feeling of freedom and community. It was something special.”


Does that spirit still exist? For years Halloween was the one night us gays didn’t have to be afraid. And now the gays of the Castro want to do away with Halloween because it scares them. Weird. “It’s become a zoo, but it’s great to see the young people still partying,” says Donald when I ask him about Halloween in the Castro today.

But none of my young gay friends like to party in the Castro, and not just because they fear getting bashed by out-of-towners. “There’s no inspiration to be found there. Everyone just wants to dress up as celebrities and stand around. Or else it’s for more uptight gay men to do drag and feel ‘wild,’” says fashion designer Allán Herrera, 23. “Private parties are more fun, but everyone just ends up in the Castro because the alternatives cost $50.”

Hunter Hargraves, 23, a drag performer, agrees. “You can dress up anytime you want in San Francisco, so I think the feeling of Halloween as a gay freedom day no longer applies,” he explains. “I have a lot of respect for what it was, but now it’s just one day among many.” Another friend, Brion, 17, says, “Halloween is for getting fucked up and checking out other high schools.”

So maybe the venerated spirit of Homoween has moved on from the Castro, just like it took flight from Polk Street two decades ago. The question, of course, is “to where”? In an age of gay mainstreaming, when the notion of community has been rapidly decentralized, diffused across a spectrum of tastes and miniagendas, maybe the purpose of a gay high holy day has evaporated into the ethosphere, like real-time cruising or leather bars.

Or maybe it’s just been mischievously internalized. As my 25-year-old roommate said the other day, trying on plaid hot pants and naughty-schoolboy accessories, “For Halloween, I just want to dress like a slut and get laid.”

That sounds plenty gay to me.

SPECIAL: Scary monsters and supercreeps


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Halloween is the season for self-expression in all of its many glorious forms: costumes, music, dance, art, theater, and maybe even a few forms that can’t be classified. Whether you’re a trash-culture junkie or a splatter-movie freak, a pagan ritual follower or a brazen exhibitionist, you’ll definitely find something chilling, somewhere in the Bay Area. Here’s a sampling; for more Halloween and Día de los Muertos events, go to
The Enchanted Forest Cellar, 685 Sutter, SF; 441-5678. 10pm-2am. $5-10. Silly Cil presents the seventh annual Enchanted Forest costume ball; woodland nymphs and mythical creatures are welcome. DJs McD and Scotty Fox rock the forest with hip-hop and ’80s sounds.
Hyatt Regency/98.1 KISS FM Halloween Bash Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero Center, SF; 788-1234. 8 pm. $28.50 advance ($30 door). KISS Radio’s Morris Knight MCs an evening of costumed revelry. DJ Michael Erickson brings the dance mix.
Rock ’n’ Roll Horror Show Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF; 820-3907. 7:30pm. $5-10 donation. Rock out and scream loud for a good cause: proceeds go to the ninth SF Independent Film Festival. A screening of 1987 B-movie Street Trash is followed by the sounds of Sik Luv, Wire Graffiti, Charm School Drop Outs, and Madelia.
SambaDa: Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Exotic Halloween Extravaganza Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF; 552-7788. 10pm. $8-10. Don’t feel like ghosts and goblins and blood and guts? How about samba and bossa nova grooves to keep your feet busy?
Halloween Madness Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln, Alameda; (510) 522-1300. 9pm. Free. Skip Henderson and the Starboard Watch offer hard-drinking sailor songs. Come in costume and get a free rum drink, matey.
Exotic Erotic Ball Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva, SF; 567-2255, 8pm-2am. $69. P-Funker George Clinton, ’80s icon Thomas Dolby, and rapper Too Short are among the musical guests at this no-holds-barred celebration. Put on your sexiest, slinkiest number and admire the antics of trapeze artists, fetish performers, and burlesque show-stoppers, as well as those of the attendees.
Fresh/Halloween T-Dance Ruby Skye, 420 Mason, SF; 6pm-midnight. $20. Sassy, slinky, and sexy costumes abound at this Halloween dance party. DJ Manny Lehman spins.
Dead Rock Star Karaoke Cellar, 685 Sutter, SF; 441-5678. 8pm-2am. Free. Elvises, Jim Morrisons, and Kurt Cobains deliver heartrending renditions of favorite songs.
A Nightmare on Fulton Street Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, SF; 8pm-2am. $5-10. The third annual Holla-ween showcases a rich harvest of fat beats, thanks to the DJ skills of Boozou Bajou.
Scary Halloween Bash 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF; 970-9777. 8pm. $10. All dressed up but not feeling like heading to the Castro? Want to hear a marching band? No, wait, come back. It’s the Extra Action Marching Band, which specialize in baccanalian freak-shows. Sour Mash Jug Band and livehuman leave you grinning beneath that rubber mask.
Art Hell ARTwork SF Gallery, 49 Geary, suite 215, SF; 673-3080. noon-5:30pm. Free. Bay Area artists render darkness, death, and all things devilishly creepy. Sale proceeds go to the San Francisco Artist Resource Center. Also open Thu/26-Sat/28, same hours.
Babble on Halloween Dog Eared Books, 900 Valencia, SF; 282-1901. 8pm. Free. There’s nothing like shivers up the spine to go with cupcakes and wine! Bucky Sinister, Tony Vaguely, and Shawna Virago creep you out with spooky stories and bizarre performances.
A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco’s Lost Cemeteries California Historical Society Library, 678 Mission, SF; 357-1848. 6pm. Free. Trina Lopez’s documentary tells the story of how San Francisco relocated burial grounds in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire — ironically sending some of the city’s settlers on a last journey after death.
Shocktoberfest!! 2006: Laboratory of Hallucinations Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; 377-4202. 8pm. $20. The Thrillpeddlers are back with a gross-out lover’s delight: public execution, surgery, and taxidermy in three tales of unspeakable horror. Also Fri/27-Sat/28, 8pm.
BATS Improv/True Fiction Magazine’s Annual Halloween Show Bayfront Theater, 8350 Fort Mason Center, SF; 8pm. $18 ($15 advance). Madcap improvisational comics of True Fiction Magazine transform audience suggestions into hilariously bizarre pulp fiction–inspired skits. In the spirit of the season, TFM is sure to throw ghoulish horror into the mix. Also Sat/28.
Hallowe’en at Tina’s Café Magnet, 4122 18th St, SF; 581-1600. 9pm. Free. What’s Halloween in San Francisco without any drag? Before you consider the sad possibilities, let Tina’s Café banish those thoughts with a deliciously campy drag queen cabaret show. Mrs. Trauma Flintstone MCs.
Rural Rampage Double Feature Alliance Française de San Francisco, 1345 Bush, SF; 7:30pm. Free. Those midnight movie aficionados at Incredibly Strange Picture Show unreel a shriekingly tasty lineup from the “scary redneck” genre: Two Thousand Maniacs and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
11th Annual Soapbox Pre-Race Party/Halloween Show El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 282-3325. 9pm. $7. What better way is there to get revved up for the Oct. 29 Soapbox Derby in Bernal Heights? With a full evening of good ’n’ greasy garage rock and rockabilly, thanks to the All Time Highs, Teenage Harlets, and the Phenomenauts, this party gets you in touch with your inner speed demon.
Pirate Cat Radio Halloween Bash Li Po Cocktail Lounge, 916 Grant, SF; 8pm. $5. The community radio station presents an evening of crazy rock mayhem with Desperation Squad, the band now famous for getting shot down on TV’s America’s Got Talent! Wealthy Whore Entertainment, the Skoalkans, and Pillows also perform.
Shadow Circus Vaudeville Theatre Kimo’s, 1351 Polk, SF; 9pm. $5. Shadow Circus Creature Theatre hosts a variety show of ukulele riffs, comedy, burlesque, and filthy-mouthed puppets.
Spiral Dance Kezar Pavilion, Golden Gate Park, 755 Stanyan, SF; 6pm. Free. Reclaiming, an international group observing pagan traditions, celebrates its 27th annual Spiral Dance with a magical ritual incorporating installations, drama, and a choral performance.
Flamenco Halloween La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 849-2568, ext. 20. 8:30pm. $15. Flametal brings the evil to flamenco with mastermind Benjamin Woods’s fusion of metal and the saddest music in the world.
Murder Ballads Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 841-0188. 9pm. $8. Murder, misfortune, and love gone really, really wrong — all sung by an impressive array of garage rockers, accordionists, and female folk-metal songstresses. There’s even a duo who specializes in suicide songs! Dress up so no one can recognize you weeping into your beer.
The Elm Street Murders Club Six, 60 Sixth St., SF; 7:30pm. $20. Loosely based on A Nightmare on Elm Street, this multimedia interactive stage show promises heaping helpings of splatter.
The Creature Magic Theatre, building D, Fort Mason Center, SF; 731-4922. 8pm. Free. Reservations required. Black Box Theatre Company gives a single performance before a studio audience of their new podcast adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankensten. This version tells the story from the monster’s point of view.
Independent Exposure 2006: Halloweird Edition 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna, SF; 447-9750. 8pm. $6. Microcinema International assembles a festively creepy collection of short films from around the world, focusing on the spooky, unsettling, and just plain gross.
Bat Boy: The Musical School of the Arts Theater, 555 Portola, SF; 651-4521. 7pm. $20. It’s back: a Halloween preview performance of the trials and tribulations of everyone’s favorite National Enquirer icon, Bat Boy. Camp doesn’t get any better than this.
Cramps Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF; 346-6000. 8pm. $30. Don’t get caught in the goo-goo muck. The Demolition Doll Rods and the Groovie Ghoulies also whip you up into a rock ’n’ roll frenzy.
One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall, 800 Chestnut, SF; 771-7020. 7:30pm. Free. Before the Rolling Stones became some of the richest people on earth, Mick, Keith, and the boys dabbled on the dark side. At a rare screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s One Plus One, you get a chance to see them at the height of their flirtation with evil, performing the still-mesmerizing “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Haunted Haight Walking Tour Begins at Coffee to the People, 1206 Masonic, SF; 863-1416. 7pm. $20. How else can you explain all of those supernatural presences drifting between the smoke shops and shoe stores? Here’s a chance to find out about the more lurid chapters in the neighborhood’s history. Also Sat/28-Tues/31, 7pm.
Boo at the Zoo San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo, SF; 753-7071. 10am-3pm. Free with zoo admission. Costumed kiddies can check out the Haunted Nature Trail and the Creepy Crawly Critters exhibit. Live music, interactive booths, games, and prizes keep little ghosts and goblins delighted.
Children’s Halloween Hootenanny Stanyan and Waller, SF; 11:30am-5pm. Free. The Haight Ashbury Street Fair folks provide children ages 2 to 10 with games, activities, theater, and food. Costumes are encouraged.
Family Halloween Day Randall Museum, 199 Museum, SF; 554-9600. 10am-2pm. Free. Trick-or-treaters play games, carve pumpkins, create creepy crafts, and take part in the costume parade. Jackie Jones amazes with a musical saw and dancing cat; Brian Scott, a magic show.
Hallo-green Party Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason, SF; 561-7752. 10am-2pm. $8. It’s never too early to teach your children about environmentalism. The party includes a costume contest and a chance to bob for organic apples.
House of Toxic Horrors Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason, SF; 561-7752. 10am-2pm and 4-8pm, $8. Ages 9 and older. No, it’s not a Superfund site, but it should be equally educational: the center’s first haunted house addresses the scary world of environmental horror. Sludge and smog lurk behind every corner.
Boo at the Zoo Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links, Oakl; (510) 632-9525. 10am-3pm. Free with zoo admission. Dress up the kids and bring them over to the zoo for scavenger hunts, crafts, rides on the Boo Choo Choo Train, puppet shows, and musical performances. Also Sun/29, 10am-3pm.
Halloween’s True Meaning Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St., SF; 289-2000. 1-3pm, $5-15 sliding scale. Kids are encouraged to come in costume for this afternoon of interactive theater led by Christina Lewis of the Clown School. Enjoy Halloween history, storytelling, role-playing, and face-painting.
Pet Pride Day Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF; 554-9427. 11am-3pm. Free. Dress up your pet in something ridiculous and head down to Golden Gate Park to laugh at all of the other displeased pups! The pet costume contest is always a blast, as is the dog-trick competition.
Haunted Harbor Festival and Parade Jack London Square, Oakl; 1-866-295-9853. 4-8pm. Free. Families can check out live entertainment, games, crafts, activities, and prizes. The extravagantly decked-out boats in the parade are not to be missed.
Rock Paper Scissors’ Annual Street Scare Block Party 23rd Ave. and Telegraph, Oakl; Noon-5pm. Free. Who doesn’t love block parties? The kid-friendly blowout has something for everyone: fortune-telling, craft-making, pumpkin-carving, and all sorts of wacky games and prizes. And barbecue — witches love a good barbecue.
Halloween Heroes Benefit Exploratorium, Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon, SF; (650) 321-4142, 6:30pm. $185 for a parent and child. A benefit for the Exploratorium Children’s Educational Outreach Program and the Junior Giants Baseball Program, this lavish costume party for kids promises to be equally fun for the parents. Many of the exhibits are turned into craft-making and trick-or-treat stations.
Halloween in the Castro Market and Castro, 7pm-midnight. $5 suggested donation. You and 250,000 of your new best friends — reveling in the streets and getting down to thumping beats. Don’t even think of driving to get there, and don’t forget: no drinking in the streets.
Vampire Tour of San Francisco Begins at California and Taylor, SF; (650) 279-1840, 8pm. $20. This isn’t Transylvania, but San Francisco has had its share of vampires. Just ask Mina Harker, your fearless leader, if you dare take this tour.
‘Laughing Bones/ Weeping Hearts’ Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak, Oakl; (510) 238-2200. Wed-Sat, 10am-5pm. $8. Guest curator Carol Marie Garcia has assembled a vibrant collection of installations produced by local artists, schools, and community groups, all celebrating the dead while acknowledging the sorrow of those left behind. Through Dec. 3.
Death and Rebirth Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, 2981 24th St, SF; 334-4091. 7-10pm. Free. Precita Eyes Muralists will be celebrating the work of founder Luis Cervantes with a breathtaking mural exhibit and celebration.
Día De Los Muertos Procession and Outdoor Altar Exhibit 24th St and Bryant, SF; 7pm. Free. Thousands of families, artists, and activists form a procession to honor the dead and celebrate life, ending at the Festival of Altars in Garfield Park, at 26th Street and Harrison. Local artists have created large community altars at the park; the public is invited to bring candles, flowers, and offerings.
Fiesta De Los Huesos’ Gala Opening Reception Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; 643-5001. 6-11pm. $5. Curator Patricia Rodriguez has put together a family-oriented party, with musical performances, mask carving, sugar skull–making, videos, and other tempting creations among the exhibits, altars, and installations. The exhibition opens Oct. 27.
Día De Los Muertos Benefit Concert 2232 MLK, 2232 Martin Luther King Jr., Oakl; 7pm. $8-20 sliding scale. Hosted by the Chiapas Support Committee, this benefit concert features Fuga, los Nadies, la Plebe, and DJ Rico. Early arrivals get free pan dulce and hot chocolate.
Dia De Los Muertos Family Festival Randall Museum, 199 Museum, SF; 554-9681. 1-5pm. $100 and up for family of five. The family event benefits the museum’s Toddler Treehouse and other toddler programs. Arts and crafts, food, and entertainment make this a rewarding educational experience for kids. Attendees learn how to make masks and sugar skulls and to decorate an altar. Los Boleros provide festive entertainment.
Día De Los Muertos Fruitvale Festival International Blvd., between Fruitvale Ave and 41st Ave, Oakl; (510) 535-6940. 10am-5pm. Free. With the theme “love, family, memories,” the Unity Council in Oakland has put together a full day of family celebration. Five stages showcase music and dance performances by local and world-renowned artists. More than 150 exhibitors and nonprofits highlight wares and services. Art and altars are on view, and the Children’s Pavilion promises to be a rewarding educational experience for kids of all ages.
Mole to Die For Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; 643-5001. 7-10pm. $5. Try it all at this mole feeding-frenzy and vote for your favorite.

Keegan McHargue’s opening in NYC


By Mirissa Neff

Better late than never right? Way back on September 21st I checked out the opening of Keegan McHargue’s show The Control Group at Metro Pictures Gallery in Chelsea. The hugely successful opening followed on the heels of Keegan being featured on the cover of the Guardian’s Fall Arts Preview. Here’s the artist with his mom and dad:


It was impossible not to feel SF pride and I think Keegan was happy to see some homefolk in the Big Apple. The entire block was choked with hipsters as several neighboring galleries had openings. Rubbed elbows with Michael Stipe who seemed genuinely interested in the art as opposed to the free wine and cheese.

Roughin’ Justin


SONIC REDUCER Don’t be tripping, sit your sexy back down slowly, and I’ll try to break the news to you gently: Justin Timberlake and I have a history.
OK, it’s not like we sat around in Pampers and OshKosh B’Gosh, playing gastroenterologist with Barbie and GI Joe and gurgling along to “White Lines.” Though I am getting a dose of feverish white-line nostalgia listening to coke-daddy ode “Losing My Way” off dusty Justy’s new Jive album, Speakerboxxx … whoops, I mean FutureSex/LoveSounds. And it’s not as if we met on The Mickey Mouse Club, brawling over mouse ears and bawling about diaper rash and paltry camera time. We don’t go that way back.
But Kimberly discovered Timberly long before a certain sheepish someone made contact with that Jackson scion’s nipple ornament. I first saw el Cueball, as I so lovingly dubbed my mousy darling’s shaved pate, fronting *NSYNC at the Santa Clara County Fair around ’98. You know, back when the strings were still apparent. I was there with a few other geezer peers, measuring the hype on the opening local Filipino American vocal group, when the budding boy banders entered prancing and the 14-year-old girls went positively cuckoo, clutching photos and near weeping with longing as Timberlake and company worked the whistled theme to Welcome Back, Kotter into the encore.
Then I met up with Timby again at the Oakland Arena when the “Justified and Stripped” tour broke away from the rest of the bubblegum boys and strapped on Christina Aguilera. Whatever you think of Aguilera’s dirty-girl front, she certainly displayed pipes and pride live, strutting around like Femlin in a black corset and short pants and belting out “Beautiful.” But that was forgotten when Timberhunk emerged — thin voice or no, the little girls were still going utterly nutzoid. They screamed, freaked, and gaped like ravenous baby birds beneath the catwalk he beatboxed upon. That’s the power of cute, man.
But Just-oh doesn’t want to be just cute anymore, as the cover of FutureSex attests: suited up in a skinny black suit like a baby Reservoir Dog, little buckeroo looks outright pissed, crushing a disco ball beneath his heel. If Justified hasn’t made it perfectly clear, Timberlake wants to be considered a force — artistic, tough-guy, whatev — to be reckoned with. Pity the poor pop-pets — Madonna, Britney, Justy — they all have such an ambivalent relationship with le fickle dance floor. FutureSex reeks of such ambition — as the swinging singles prince offers up a kind of archaic devotion to the album format and a familiar if downbeat trajectory tracing a loverboy’s woozy weave from lust to lovesickness. Witness the first half of the full-length: “FutureSex/LoveSound,” “Sexyback,” “Sexy Ladies.” Either someone’s out of synonyms for doing the doity or someone’s ob-sexed.
Musically kitted out by Timbaland in the Neptunes’ absence, FutureSex is clearly intended to be a kind of Prince-ly, sensual opus, and for having the good taste to imitate the most original funk rock stylists of the ’80s, Timba-lake should be commended. But all the CD images of Timbo smashing disco balls seem out of character, overwrought. To wax crassly, Justin tries to show us he has the balls to both musically embrace Grandmaster Flash, Queen, Lil Jon, and yes, the alpha and omega, libertine and spendthrift couple of ’80s soul, Prince and Michael Jackson, and strike out on his own. Just ignore the slimness of Timberlake’s vanilla soul. It’s barely flavored, not quite iced, with techno, barebacked beats, and retro soul, and despite the disc’s initially fluid, almost mirror-ball-like reflective programming, it opens into a dull middle section that’s broken up only by the frisky groove of “Damn Girl.” It makes you wish Timberlake had the courage of his initial fantasy-fueled single’s conviction. If only this disco baller had left it at FutureSex and Timberlake stuck to his, er, cheesy pistols and the Prince of schwing’s original program.

CALIFONE DREAMING Califone’s Tim Rutili can probably understand the urge to try out new personae. While talking about his new, gorgeous album, Roots and Crowns (Thrill Jockey), the frontperson and soundtrack composer fessed up to believing in past lives — and indeed relying on that knowledge when it came to penning tunes about kittens that see ghosts, lost eyes, and black metal fornication. “The writing process is all about that — just letting things bubble up,” he says from Chicago, where the band is rehearsing. And what does he imagine the members of Califone were in a past life? “Circus clowns.”
The ex–Red Red Meat member doesn’t seem to spook easily. Case in point: the last time Califone played San Francisco, their van was broken into. Treasured gear such as Rutili’s grandfather’s 1917 violin and a custom-made acoustic guitar, which he says was “nicer than my house,” were stolen. “They were nice enough to leave stuff that looked shitty,” he waxes positively. “It was heartbreaking, but in the end it forced us to learn a lot of new tricks, open up our ideas, and gather new things. It really did inform the recording to not have to lean on any of the old stuff.”
The scattered Califone seems to be working out the kinks in its evolution, with Rutili in Los Angeles writing music for film and the rest of the band in Chicago and Valparaiso, Ind. “I see us getting older and becoming more creative,” Rutili muses. And most people just get older and watch more TV. “That doesn’t seem to be happening with us, but it makes it more difficult too. TV is easy — keeping your eyes open and your ear to the ground and trying to remain connected and in touch with creativity is difficult.” SFBG
With Oakley Hall and D.W. Holiday
Tues/10, 9 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455



Oct. 8


Residual Echoes

Besides having one of the sweetest, smokiest names around, Residual Echoes summon a potent mix of sounds: kraut rock, drone, and SST noise, all hammered into relentless grooves. Coming from Santa Cruz like fellow journeyers Comets on Fire, Residual Echoes can do spacey and heavy with equal aplomb, though it’s the louder stuff – Adam Payne’s squalling guitar swimming upstream against the band’s tight Sabbath groove – that will win converts. (Max Goldberg)

With LSD-March and New Rock Syndicate
9 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455


Italian Heritage Festival

In a city as filled with pride as San Francisco, it should come as no surprise to discover that we are host to the nation’s oldest Italian Heritage Festival (formerly the Columbus Day Parade), which celebrates its 138th year today. Belly up to one of the sidewalk cafes lining Columbus Avenue and catch an eyeful of parading I-talians, presided over by this year’s grand marshal, Michael Chiarello of Chiarello Family Vineyards, and graced by the presence of “Queen Isabella” (Daniela Maria Romani) and her royal court. The parade begins from Jefferson at Powell and will end at Washington Square Park. (Nicole Gluckstern)

12:30 p.m.
Columbus Parade: Jefferson at Powell to Columbus at Vallejo, SF
(415) 703-9888



Sept. 29


Scissor Sisters

The Scissor Sisters are a band that’s hard not to love. They call themselves ridiculous names (Ana Matronic, Paddy Boom, Babydaddy, Jake Shears, Del Marquis, Derek G), turned Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” into a funky disco jam, and named their group after the slang for a lesbian sex act. On their new album, Ta Dah, they seem to be drinking deeply from the cup of disco – Barry Gibb would be proud. (Aaron Sankin)

Also Sat/30
With DJ Sammy Jo
8 p.m.
982 Market, SF
(415) 567-2060


Drunk Horse

What do you get when you combine beards, beer, and equine inebriation? Oakland’s beloved stoner rock behemoth Drunk Horse, who have been bringing riff rock to the Bay Area and beyond for 10 years. With equal parts early ZZ Top, Blue Cheer, Yes, and Lynyrd Skynryd, Drunk Horse have helped make music dangerous, satanic, and belligerent again. (Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman)

With Pride Tiger and Apache
9 p.m.
Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell, SF
(415) 861-2011

Twisted logos


CHEAP EATS I wear a jean jacket with Chief Wahoo, the not exactly politically sensitive Cleveland Indians’ logo, embroidered on the back. Not sure what people behind me think of this, but here’s what I’m thinking from inside the jacket: warmth. And meaningfulness, because I embroidered this jacket myself when I was a kid. I was into sports, and I was into embroidery (and needlepoint and macramé). And warmth.
I gave the jacket to my nephew and best bud Tom the Bomb when he grew into it, and then he grew out of it too, and my sister gave it back to me after he died. I put the jacket in my closet, like ashes in an urn, and started losing weight. When I got down to 135, 140, I tried the jacket on and it fit me again, only girlishly! So I wear it and it means some things to me, and probably something else entirely to the people behind me.
Do I care?
Last week I wrote about my voice, and there’s an even bigger challenge looming for me, which doesn’t have anything to do with writing my name in the snow, really, although it kind of does too. It has to do with public restrooms, maybe the bloodiest of all the battlefields where transpeoplepersons conduct business. My therapist wants me to conduct my business in ladies’ rooms, because he’s afraid I’ll get beat up in the men’s room. But I’m afraid I’m just as likely to get beat up in the women’s room, and I’m not so sure which would hurt worse.
So, like a quarterback stepping to the line of scrimmage, I make my read, depending on how I feel, how good I think I’m looking, the likelihood of a blitz, where the hell in the world I am…. Sometimes I go in one, sometimes the other, and sometimes, of course, I hold it in.
So it’s not a question of being uncomfortable. It’s a question of how and where I choose to be uncomfortable. Comfort’s not an option. Unless … and you hate to even hope it out loud, it’s so hopeless, but some places do have unisex bathrooms, the symbol for which — Mr. and Mrs. Public Restroom Figure side-by-side on the same placard on or over the same door — has become as welcome and wonderful to me as the smell of bacon.
So the other day I’m gassing up my pickup truck at a place out on 19th Avenue, and the guy gassing up the pickup truck behind mine, I notice, is wearing a jacket with this exact logo on the back. The man and the woman. The anyone-pees-here logo, one at a time, please. You know the logo, right?
The association, for me — well, immediately it puts me in a happy mood. I’m thinking: I should talk to him if he turns around. Maybe he’s cute. I’m thinking: I wonder what I have in my truck that I could offer to trade this guy for his unisex-bathroom jacket. I would like to wear it when I’m not wearing my Chief Wahoo jean jacket, and this one too will have meaning for me. Beyond warmth.
As I’m getting back in my truck, watching him, the guy does turn around, and the front of his cool jacket says, “Straight Pride.”
My mood changes. What an asshole, I think. With his big fat truck and not exactly politically sensitive jacket. Jerk! And as I put my car in gear and lurch forward there’s a knock on the window. It’s Straight Pride guy, pointing to my roof and smiling and, you know, being kind and all-around human, saying, “Gas cap! Gas cap!” Oops. I get out, thank him profusely, love him again — because why shouldn’t straight people be proud? — and drive away bewildered and confused, like I like to be.
My nephew the Gun, speaking of bewildered and confused, no longer wants to be a stuntman for a living. This is the Bomb’s older brother, and maybe the most sensitive, and therefore smartest, of all my millions of nephews. He’s so sensitive that waitresspeople can’t even see him. Predictably, the Gun now aspires to be an assassin. You see what happens? Ohio + North Carolina = this, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have him out here again for at least a year this time, working for my phenomenal bro, living with my sweet, sweet cuz, and otherwise eating breakfast, talking philosophy, and just generally being recorrupted by the chicken farmer.
Where? My new favorite breakfast joint, of course! Great chicken-fried steak ($9.50). Great hash browns. The “house omelet” has bacon and sausage. Coffeehouse atmosphere, good coffee. It’s … SFBG
Mon., 7 a.m.–6 p.m.; Tues.–Fri., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sat., 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.–3 p.m.
1982 Folsom, SF
(415) 863-0742
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible

The man with the golden guns


ACTION HERO Soft-spoken and dare I say, petite, Tony Jaa hardly looks like the kind of guy who could annihilate a room full of underground pit fighters. Of course, anyone who’s seen Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior knows this appearance is deceiving. The 30-year-old Thai superstar’s latest film, The Protector, features elephants and a one-take sequence of, as Jaa describes it, “me fighting the bad guys from the ground floor to the fourth floor” — but, as in Ong-Bak, there are no CG, wires, or Jaa stunt doubles during the fight scenes. On a recent visit to San Francisco, Jaa paused to discuss his skyrocketing career.
SFBG Your films are famous for their fight scenes. Which comes first, the stunts or the story?
TONY JAA (through interpreter Gilbert Lim, also his manager) It has to be the story first. After the script is done, all the stunt people — my [martial arts] master Panna Rittikrai, the director [Prachya Pinkaew], and me — will sit down and decide what sort of action would fit into each particular scene. Then we try them all out before we actually film them.
SFBG Before Ong-Bak, Muay Thai hadn’t been featured in many films. What makes your way of fighting different?
TJ Muay Thai is something I would really like to show to the rest of the world. With my style of shooting a film — not having a stunt man for myself — it creates a more realistic film for the audience.
SFBG CG effects have come a long way in recent years, so it’s kind of ironic that the future of martial arts, which is what you’ve been called, keeps it so old-school.
TJ I feel that CG is not something to be taken lightly. I’m OK with it, but I feel a sense of pride in doing the stunts. I want my audience to feel amazed by something I did myself.
SFBG Do you plan to do the Jackie Chan thing and make an American movie? In Ong Bak there was that graffiti shout-out to Steven Spielberg …
TJ Yes! [Laughs] It was something the director put in. For the time being, I’m extremely busy with my next film, Ong-Bak 2, which I’ll be directing myself. As to whether I would go to the US [to make a film], when Spielberg calls … [Laughs] I’m just joking! But the time might come when I will make the move.
SFBG Will Ong-Bak 2 be a direct sequel to the first film?
TJ No, it’s actually a period piece. You’ll see me using weapons and showing Thai martial arts styles that will be very new for the cinema.
SFBG OK, I have to ask. If you only had one punch to bring a guy down, where’s the best spot to aim to do the most damage?
TJ [Laughs] A lot of the basis of martial arts, it’s not about hitting the other person, it’s about self-discipline. Although in many parts of our bodies there are weak spots which you could actually hit to knock the person out. But I’m not gonna name them! (Cheryl Eddy)
Opens Fri/8 in Bay Area theaters
See Movie Clock at for showtimes

Ghost story


Dear Andrea:
I was on antidepressants for a year and just came off them recently. It was situational; I have no other psych history. I’ve always fantasized about being submissive but never seriously acted on it. But since I’ve been off the medication, I’ve experienced an intense surge of sexual interest. I’ve developed an online relationship with someone in which I am his sex slave–toy. I’ve just sent him some pictures of me. I’m a professional and my friends and family have no idea.
I feel I’m about to go out of control with this desire. Out of control is bad, but is being a sex slave bad? I need to either find a safe place to act out my cravings or go to counseling. How do women who want to be submissive slaves become so safely? What the hell is wrong with me?
Dear Slave:
In my little subcultural corner over here, not a thing, but I wouldn’t be so sanguine about it if I had evidence that you wished yourself harm or were not, as they say, tall enough to ride this ride. You seem a cautious, even somewhat timid sort of girl though, and while that might hold you back a bit, it’s better to be held back than to hurtle blindly over a cliff.
I know a couple who established a relationship like yours, never intending to meet, let alone fall in love, and last time I heard, they were living on a boat and raising kittens. That’s rare though. More typically, what happens online ought to stay online, if you ask me. I don’t mean online dating; that’s fine, but if you’ve established a master-slave deal with this guy based on nothing but, well, mastery and slavishness, what are the chances you are otherwise compatible?
Keep Mr. Web Master–your Web master as a toy (he’s your toy as much as you’re his) and start from scratch. If you’re not out trolling for scary strangers who could actually hurt you and you’re not being driven so crazy by twisted desire (can’t you see the pulp-style illustration?) that you can’t maintain your respectable, professional standing, you don’t need counseling. You need to read some books (not the pulp kind, the kind they sell at nice sex stores), join an S-M educational group or attend some “munches” (coffee klatches for would-be perverts), and start experimenting with being the sort of sex slave who sheds her collar after a couple hours and goes home and feeds the cat. This sort of program, entered into knowledgeably and pursued in moderation, ought to get you where you want to end up: as a “slave” who commands respect and controls her own destiny. There’s no such thing in real life, but this is hardly real life, and that’s the point.
Dear Andrea:
I’m not-so-recently divorced and starting to think about having sex again. My problem is, whenever I start thinking about sex, it’s memories of what my husband and I did (mostly BDSM) that come to mind, and I just shut right back down because I don’t want to think about him. Do I just need to buy a bunch of random porn and hope I’ll light on something else that arouses me?
Long Dry Spell
Dear Dry:
Not a bad idea, but you don’t have to buy anything. (You really have been gone awhile, haven’t you?) Porn is free for the finding all over the Internet, and you should be able to find representations of not just BDSM scenarios but the exact BDSM scenarios you used to act out with your husband — minus the husband. Looking at or reading some of this stuff may not fully exorcise your husband’s unwelcome ghost — it probably won’t — but it is sure to help. BDSM also, unlike other sexual proclivities, has the advantage of being a spectator sport. If you live in or near or can visit a major metro area — the kind that can support a leather shop or two and has a gay pride parade featuring humans, not golden retrievers, being proudly leash-walked through the center of town — there will be some sort of club or private party circuit where you can see S-M in action. The disadvantage of live display is that the people are unlikely to look as good in leather panties as do the models on the Internet. Plus, you have to be polite to them and ask if you can watch — in short, you have to talk to them. The advantage, of course, is that you do have to talk to them and thus might make a friend or find someone who is neither your husband nor the ghostly afterimage of your husband with whom to do S-M. This is all very hard work, and for the confirmed introvert it (speaking) will never come naturally. But compared to being alone, lonely, haunted, and unable to masturbate, it’s got to be a breeze.



SEPT. 2–4
Art and Soul Oakland Frank Ogawa Plaza and City Center, 14th St and Clay, Oakl; (510) 444-CITY, 11am-6pm. $5. The sixth incarnation of this annual downtown Oakland festival includes dance performances, lots of art to view and purchase, an expanded “Family Fun Zone,” and a notably eclectic musical lineup. Big-name musical performers include New Found Glory, Rickie Lee Jones, Calexico, and the Silversun Pickups.
Sausalito Art Festival Army Corps of Engineers-Bay Model Visitor Center and Marinship Park, Sausalito; (415) 331-3757, Call or check Web site for time. $5-20. The Sausalito waterfront will play host to hundreds of artists’ exhibits, as well as family entertainment and top-notch live music from the likes of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dick Dale, and the Lovemakers.

SEPT. 2–24
Free Shakespeare in the Park Parade ground in the Presidio, SF; (415) 558-0888, Sat, 7:30pm; Sun and Labor Day, 2:30pm. Free. Shakespeare’s The Tempest gets a brilliant rendition under the direction of Kenneth Kelleher on the outdoor stage: families fostering budding lit and theater geeks should take note.

Cowgirlpalooza El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; (415) 282-3325, 4pm. $10. This sure-to-be-twangy evening on el Rio’s patio features music by the most compellingly country-fried female musicians around, including Austin’s the Mother Truckers, 77 el Deora, and Four Year Bender.

Brews on the Bay Jeremiah O’Brien, Pier 45, SF; 12-4:30pm. $8-40. Beer tasting, live music, and food abound at the San Francisco Brewers Guild’s annual on-deck showcase.
911 Power to the Peaceful Festival Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 865-2170, 11am-5pm. Free. This event calling for international human rights and an end to bombing features art and cultural exhibits, as well as performances by Michael Franti and Blackalicious.

SEPT. 9–10
Chocolate Festival Ghirardelli Square, 900 N Point, SF; 12-5pm. Free. An indisputably fun weekend at the square includes chocolate goodness from over 30 restaurant and bakery booths, various activities for kids and families, and a “hands free” Earthquake Sundae Eating Contest.
San Francisco Zinefest CELLspace, 2050 Bryant, SF; (415) 750-0991, 10am-5pm. Free. Appreciate the continuing vitality of the do-it-yourself approach at this two-day event featuring workshops and more than 40 exhibitors.

SEPT. 10
Solano Avenue Stroll Solano between San Pablo and the Alameda, Berkeley and Albany; (510) 527-5358, 10am-6pm. Free. This long-running East Bay block party features a clown-themed parade, art cars, dunk tanks, and assorted artsy offerings of family fun, along with the requisite delicious food and musical entertainment.

SEPT. 16–17
Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival Old Mill Park, Mill Valley; (415) 381-8090, Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $7. Dig this juried show featuring original fine art including jewelry, woodwork, painting, ceramics, and clothing.

SEPT. 17
Arab Cultural Festival County Fair Building, 9th Ave and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF; 10am-7pm. $2-5. Lissa Faker (Do you still remember?) is the theme for this year’s Arab Cultural Festival, featuring a bazaar with jewelry, henna, and Arab cuisine, as well as assorted folk and contemporary musical performances.

SEPT. 23–24
Autumn Moon Festival Grant between California and Broadway and Pacific between Stockton and Kearney, SF; (415) 982-6306, 11am-6pm. Free. At one of Chinatown’s biggest annual gatherings, you can see an acrobatic troupe, martial artists, street vendors, and of course, lots of moon cakes. I like the pineapple the best.

SEPT. 24
Folsom Street Fair Folsom between Seventh St and 12th St, SF; 11am-6pm. Free. The world’s largest leather gathering, coinciding with Leather Pride Week, features a new Leather Women’s Area along with the myriad fetish and rubber booths. Musical performers include My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, the Presets, and Blowoff, Bob Mould’s new collaboration with Richard Morel.

SEPT. 29–OCT. 1
A Taste of Greece Annunciation Cathedral, 245 Valencia, SF; (415) 864-8000, Call or check Web site for time. $5. Annunciation Cathedral’s annual fundraising event is an all-out food festival where you can steep yourself in Greek dishes, wine tasting, and the sounds of Greek Compania.

OCT. 3
Shuck and Swallow Oyster Challenge Ghirardelli Square, West Plaza, 900 North Point, SF; (415) 929-1730. 5pm. Free to watch, $25 per pair to enter. How many oysters can two people scarf down in 10 minutes? Find out as pairs compete at this most joyous of spectacles, and head to the oyster and wine pairing afterward at McCormick and Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant, also in Ghirardelli Square.

OCT. 5–9
Fleet Week Various locations, SF; (650) 599-5057, Cries of “It’s a plane!” and “Now there’s a boat!” shall abound at San Francisco’s impressive annual fleet gathering. Along with ship visits, there’ll be a big air show from the Blue Angels and the F-16 Falcon Demonstration Team.

OCT. 5–15
Mill Valley Film Festival CinéArts at Sequoia, 25 Throckmorton, Mill Valley; 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (925) 866-9559, Call or check Web site for times and prices. Documentaries and features of both the independent and international persuasion get screentime at this festival, the goal of which is insight into the various cultures of filmmaking.

OCT. 6–14
Litquake Various locations, SF; San Francisco’s annual literary maelstrom naturally features Q&As and readings from a gazillion local authors, but also puts on display a staged reading of an Andrew Sean Greer story, music from Jay Farrar and Ray Manzarek, and a storytelling session with Sean Wilsey and his mother, Pat Montandon.

OCT. 12–15
Oktoberfest by the Bay Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; Check Web site for times. $5-15. One of the few places your lederhosen won’t look silly is the biggest Oktoberfest left of Berlin, where the Chico Bavarian Band will accompany German food and a whole lotta beer.

OCT. 28–29
Wonders of Cannabis Festival County Fair Building, 9th Ave and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF; (510) 486-8083, 11am-7pm. $20. Ed Rosenthal, cannabis advocate extraordinaire, presents contests in comedy and joint rolling, cooking demonstrations, two musical stages, and some heavy-duty speakers: Terrence Hallinan, Ross Mirkarimi, Tommy Chong, and interestingly, Rick Steves of the eponymous PBS travel show. SFBG



Aug. 18



The Animal House knockoff, also known as the college movie, is now among the most established and rigid traditions in American filmmaking, as fastidiously ritualistic as a Japanese tea ceremony. Accepted looks you straight in the eye and declares with pride, “I am that movie!” It should be proud. It isn’t half bad. Stay away, though, if the punk from the new Mac commercials (Justin Long) throws you into a violent rage. He’s the hero. (Jason Shamai)

Opens Fri/18 in Bay Area theaters


Dave Alvin

First displaying his formidable chops as a songsmith and guitarist as a member of Southern California’s roots-rock pioneers the Blasters, Dave Alvin has mixed the sounds of country, rockabilly, jump blues, and a wide swath of other influences with his own modern and contemporary edge for more than a quarter century. His newest solo release, West of West: Songs from California Songwriters (Yep Roc), finds Alvin reworking a collection of songs by artists from his home state who have inspired him throughout his career, including Merle Haggard, John Fogerty, and Tom Waits. (Sean McCourt)

With James McMurtry
9 p.m.
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750

Blow up


SONIC REDUCER I’ve lived in the Bay Area for more years than I ever imagined I would back in my nomadic grad student days and devoured my share of quintessentially San Francisco experiences, like parking on the faux median on Valencia and falling drunkenly off an It’s Tops fountain stool round about 3 a.m. after tucking into a few too many down the street at Zeitgeist. But the one must-see post-punk happening I’ve always missed — never at the wrong place at the right time — was Survival Research Laboratories in full-effect performance mode. No wonder — weary of being shut down by the local fuzz and fire officials, founder Mark Pauline told me three years ago that SRL had decided to lavish their monstrous, robotic attentions on tolerant, fire-retardant overseas audiences in Europe and Japan instead — that is, until Aug. 11, when the longtime Potrero Hill area crew unfurled a new three-ring destructo-circus titled Ghostly Scenes of Infernal Desecration at the Zero One festival in San Jose.
I hightailed it down to downtown San Jose to catch the seldom-sighted SRL flash their permits, then proceed to burn it all down. Late for the last media seating, I was told it was all good because SRL were moving very slowly (as slowly and deadly as their ’bots, I presumed) and to please have a survival kit in a brown paper sack: peanut butter crackers, Chips Ahoy!, a moist towelette, a bottle of water, and a pair of earplugs. In the back of the hall, the jumpsuited and helmeted SRL crew strolled merrily around, throwing bottles of water playfully at each other, testing flamethrowers, as we studied the grounds for signs of action. It felt like fishing or bird-watching — only the critters were big hunks of metal and the gods were knowing wiseacres who wear lots of black.
With an ominous turbine wail or two later it began — as a giant inverted foiled cross spun in place like a sacrilegious music box, a giant gold figure with a massive red phallus dropped Styrofoam balls, and a doghouse sheltering Cerebus shuddered. Purple lighting shot out of a towering Tesla coil and a woman beside me started screaming, “Omigod, that’s so cool!” Sorry, we all weren’t that dweebish — although almost everyone in earshot tended to laugh nervously in both fear and amazement as fire poured out of several flamethrowers in our corner and blew toasty gusts against our faces.
If you, er, burn at Black Rock, I guess you could consider this a preview of sorts. At one point, about five machines, including a short, squat teapotlike ’bot, were firing on all cylinders, blaze-wise, and that’s not even counting the V-1, a fire-farting flamethrower-shockwave canon that resembles the butt of a jet fighter. And of course fire without smoke loses a bit of the drama, so roving smoke machines were placed behind large rectangular photo screens depicting a gas station on fire, gap-mouthed kids, etc. And of course the flames started to spread, eating up the gold idols and turning the Lord of Balls into an impressive column of heat. Sparks flew into the sky, robots like the crabby, clutching Inchworm tussled in the center of it all, and the ungodly din of popping, whirring, and grinding sounded for all the world like a construction crew armed with Boeing engines run amok and set to detonate. What other mob would pride itself on creating “the loudest flamethrower in history”?
Me, I had to duck when the loudest machine of all, the shockwave canon, started lobbing rings of air left and right of our heads, taking the leaves off the surrounding trees. In the process of putting together a robot army, SRL created their own scary symphony, their own atonal, noise-drenched Ride of the Valkyries to go along with their future-war enactments. And by the end, even the hausfrauen in the bleachers raved about how they couldn’t tear their eyes away from the smoke- and noise-belching spectacle. In the aftermath, viewers gathered around the barriers like groupies, bickering over which ’bot was their favorite and picking the brains of the SRL-ers. Thank Vulcan, some things were sacred — there were no T-shirts on sale. Those are on the fire-retardant Web site (
TACO LIBRE I suspect it takes either careful SRL-style planning — or its carefree antithesis — to achieve a much-coveted sense of freedom in performance — the latter approach is doubtless embraced by Inca Ore, a.k.a. Eva Saelens, once of Portland, Ore.’s Jackie-O Motherfucker and the Alarmist and of the Bay’s Gang Wizard and Axolotl. She was happily howling at the full moon in Oakland last week with her paramour and collaborator, Lemon Bear, in celebration of their noise–improv–sex magik album, The Birds in the Bushes (5RC, 2006), recorded in a cabin outside Tillamook, Ore. I spoke to the sweet, uncensored Saelens at about midnight, after some enchanted evening spent slow dancing in a parking lot to Mexican radio, finding inspiration in a fish taco, and playing music under the stars.
Saelens, 26, may not completely adore her current O-town abode — “It’s criminal how not affordable it is” — but at least she’s not on tour, as she has been for long periods with Jackie-O, Yellow Swans, and Axolotl. “When I was in Europe, we drove through Provence from Italy to Spain, and we couldn’t even get out to smell the lavender — we were so late,” she said sadly. “Touring is so frustrating — you really have to juice yourself. Even sometimes doing improv, it isn’t easy to bring it, but when you break through it’s like being in another world. Sometimes I’ll try to push an explosion or try to lose my mind, and if you do that on a nightly basis, it’s unreliable and it’s also abusive. You’re pushing your emotions in an athletic way, almost, and sometimes your body refuses to compete.”
For Saelens, it’s now a race to reach a meditative spot with a violin or clarinet — a change from the spooked state of her album. “We played the stove a lot, banged on bottles,” she said. This after Lemon Bear hacked his toe while chopping wood barefoot one morning. “We got sloppy — we were so happy.” SFBG
Tues/22, 8 p.m.
Thee Parkside
1600 17th St., SF
Call for price
(415) 503-0393
Also with Tom Carter (and Ghosting, Bonus, and Axolotl)
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk St.
(415) 923-0923

SF Badpublicity


At a July 21 event recognizing the passage of one full year since the popular Castro bar the Pendulum closed, a group of about 25 concerned citizens, including several City Hall heavyweights, asked why embattled Pendulum owner Les Natali has done nothing with the space for so long.
Sup. Bevan Dufty, who represents the Castro, was nowhere to be seen.
The Pendulum was known in Dufty’s district as a popular spot for African American gay men, and rumors abounded as to why Natali was allowing it to sit empty. Natali, who owns at least $6 million worth of property around the city according to public records, had kept the bar open for over a year after he bought it in 2004, then abruptly shut it down.
Natali has since taken out numerous construction permits for the place, city records show. But progressive supervisors, including Tom Ammiano and Chris Daly along with board candidate Alix Rosenthal (who’s running against Dufty), all showed up for the small rally saying nothing was happening and they wanted to make sure there was somewhere in the Castro for gay black men to go.
Confusion about the status of the Pendulum has been replaced with speculation, due in part to an April 2005 city report that alleged that Natali discriminated against African Americans, Latinos, and women at his establishments, which include the Detour on Market Street and SF Badlands, located just across the street from the Pendulum at 4121 18th St.
At the time, Dufty waved the report and declared that he wouldn’t tolerate business establishments in his district that discriminated against any of their employees or patrons. So where is he now?
“At this point I have a larger objective: that I want to work with Mr. Natali and the broader community so that when the Pendulum reopens, it will be open to all,” Dufty said in a phone interview with the Guardian. “Sometimes I work behind the scenes and sometimes I work out in front,” he responded when asked about his silence on the Pendulum issue. “This time I worked behind the scenes.”
But Calvin Gipson, a past president of the SF Pride Parade Committee and a self-described close friend of Dufty’s, says he doesn’t know how Dufty intends to handle the political powder keg that is Les Natali or how the Castro can again create a new home for gay black men.
“Bevan confuses me,” Gipson said. “He says all of the right things, but he has not put forth a plan.”
The controversy, for its part, has clearly left a fissure in the community.
In the summer of 2004, customers and former employees of other Natali-owned Castro bars alleged to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission that the proprietor systematically attempted to screen out African Americans, Latinos, and women from his venues.
The HRC conducted an investigation and eventually issued a report summarizing the complaints and finding that Badlands had indeed violated the city’s antidiscrimination ordinances. Some Natali critics accepted the report as gospel and declared that it made official rumors about the club impresario that had persisted for years. Dufty and the complainants from Badlands, who eventually formed a group called And Castro for All, demanded that the place be shut down by city and state officials.
The report, however, was technically preliminary, as the HRC now sees it, and the agency chose not to issue its “final determination” after the complainants later worked out a settlement with Natali, according to a letter from HRC director Virginia Harmon obtained by the Guardian last week.
Natali sued the HRC last month to have its findings voided, and that’s what the legalese in Harmon’s July 21 letter appears to attempt to do — without establishing that the claims made in the report are patently untrue.
“The April 26, 2005, finding is no longer operative and does not represent a final legal determination of the HRC director or the commission,” the letter states.
After interviewing several customers and former Badlands and Detour employees, the HRC originally found that Natali’s bars required multiple IDs from some African American customers, selectively applied a dress code, and generally discouraged “non-Badlands customers” — what the complainants insisted meant black folks — from patronizing the bars. According to the report, Natali prohibited VJs from playing hip-hop and mostly hired only “cute, young, white guys.”
Natali eventually asked that the HRC reconsider its findings, which it did. He responded to the allegations by stating that he didn’t want his bars to air music that promoted drug use, violence, or homophobia, and he charged that the claims against him were either outdated or leveled by embittered former employees.
An attorney who helped Natali formulate the response, Stephen Goldstein, said the HRC’s investigation was “superficial and already headed toward a foregone conclusion.”
“They had a certain agenda they wanted to substantiate…. They could have had a more careful study of the events, which didn’t add up to much,” Goldstein said. He said Natali wasn’t given a chance to have his case “aired and tried.” Attempts to reach Natali through his attorneys failed.
Instead of issuing a “final determination,” which would have included an account of Natali’s retort, the HRC encouraged the parties to go into the mediation that eventually led to a settlement. The settlement allowed the HRC to avoid issuing a final conclusion.
After the release of the HRC’s early finding, meanwhile, Dufty had called for Badlands to be shut down and urged the Alcoholic Beverage Commission to take into account the report before determining whether Natali would receive a liquor license transfer for the Pendulum.
After a months-long investigation that included state officials going into Badlands undercover, the ABC chose not to punish Natali.
“After reviewing all the findings of its investigation and the HRC report, the ABC has determined there is not enough evidence to support a license denial in an administrative proceeding,” the agency announced last year.
Nonetheless, queer progressive activists and organizers from the National Black Justice Coalition held protests outside Badlands every week for about four months last summer. After the January settlement, according to local LGBT paper Bay Area Reporter, the parties agreed not to discuss any of the terms publicly, but they did announce to the press that all grievances were handled.
The settlement’s undisclosed terms have obviously left unanswered questions, however, because Natali’s lawsuit against the HRC appeared to reopen wounds and startle nearly everyone. The settlement had presumably meant the complaints were withdrawn, but the HRC had initially denied a request by Natali in April 2005, around the time the report was released, to reconsider its own findings, Natali’s suit insists.
“It just seemed like everything had been put at rest and now it’s all being dredged up again,” said longtime queer activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who went to last summer’s protests. “It just seemed so strange for someone who was trying to put all this behind him.”
Natali’s suit declared he’d been “falsely labeled a racist by San Francisco’s official civil rights agency” and essentially asked that the report’s findings be very clearly and publicly deleted.
But the still-empty Pendulum has allowed criticism of Natali to continue. Another Natali-owned space called the Patio Café has been closed now for years.
“The tone [of the July 21 rally] was that people don’t trust Les Natali, nor do they feel that he has the best interests of the community in mind,” Gipson said. “Being that the Patio has been closed for that long, it’s difficult to trust that Pendulum will be open soon, and it’s difficult to trust that it will be a welcoming place for African Americans.” SFBG
Editor’s note: Alix Rosenthal is the domestic partner of Guardian city editor Steven T. Jones. Jones did not participate in the assigning, writing, or editing of this story.

Pan stanzas


CHEAP EATS After three or four days of sleeping under stars, swimming in rivers, and staring into the fire, I have nothing in me but poetry — so don’t bother looking for any restaurants in this restaurant review.
Here’s one I caught while my brother and friends were fishing for fish. Let’s call it “Water Bug Poem.”
On the American River, in it, up to my gut, watching water bugs. Who said that corn and cows were beautiful to the extent that they were what they were? Water bugs disprove you, existing more fully in their river bottom shadows, perfect circle feet on slapstick-figure bodies, skitting over rocks, mud, rocks. Every now and then a dead one floats by and what’s the difference, under water? I don’t care where, I’ll say it again, in bubbles: You’re beautiful. I have a big straw hat and sunscreen, stand alone, shriveled and shivering, no longer feeling my big white feet beneath me. You know how it is? When all you can do to be warm is piss yourself.
That’s a poem, even though it might not look like one and has urine in it. Come to think of it, damn me, there was a psychiatrist on this camping trip with us, and I forgot to ask her why a chicken farmer in his or her forties would still be fascinated by scatology. Of course she was pretty much stoned the whole time almost, I think, so I don’t know how professional an opinion it would have been.
One e-mailer wonders if I secretly hate my readers. I don’t think so, but I’m willing to wonder anything in the world or even sometimes just outside of it. So…
No, I really don’t think so. Or if I do secretly hate my readers, I secretly love them too, so the two you would think would cancel each other out, right, rather than make me shit on their heads every week in July, year after year? My own uneducated guess, dear reader, is that if there is any secret hatred behind all this, it’s not about you. It’s between me and me — and I promise to try to work that out in therapy next week. Because your point is well-taken: “Life is hard enough on a bad day without getting besieged with the contents of [my] intestines.”
Another possibility is that “shit happens,” and maybe I personally have managed to make my peace with that fact. But that doesn’t mean I have to rub it in everyone else’s face. I could very easily flush, light a match, open a window, exit stage left in a cloud of shame and sheepishness, and find something more universally entertaining to be proud about in print.
Like pee! Just kidding. Farts? Farts are funny to everyone, right? And they always were and always will be? Right? Can we compromise and have a Toot-Toot Pride Month?
I’m still kidding. Sorry. And I do have another poem to tell you. Call it, um, “Someone in the Kitchen,” because someone’s been in mine. Can you tell?
I succeeded in not thinking about you sometimes, actually, in the mountains. Then, winding home on the nearly no-lane road, I started seeing blackberries. Already itchy and pinched, I pulled over and started picking, easily overflowing a tin bowl and cup before it hit me: Dude, you have my pie pan. I want it back.
That there is a true-story poem, and I ate all those blackberries before I got out to the main road, for the record. It’s that black teeth time of year again for me, hooray! Almost drove off the road several times, smiling at myself in the rearview mirror, for kicks. It would have been a very scenic death at least.
Well, once you get to 80 West, you have to drive past Ikeda’s twice, once just outside of Auburn and then again just inside of Davis. I made it past the first but could not resist the second, partly because I needed gas and to pee real bad anyway.
Take the Mace Boulevard exit. And never mind all the produce and other stuff. I think the Auburn one even has burgers. But the important thing about Ikeda’s, if you don’t already know, is the pie. They make the best homemade pies that weren’t made by anyone you know (because someone has his or her pie pan, ahem).
I found a day-old mini peach one for half price ($3.00). It’s like 6 inches across by 2 1/2 inches deep, which is a lot of wonderfulness for, say, two people, or one person twice, if you’re me.
But it’s not a restaurant. SFBG
Daily, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
26295 Mace Blvd., Davis
(530) 750-3379
Takeout only

NOISE: Come in Debasement


Radical queers? Radical sluts? Radical. It’s time to get out for Debasement, “a Radical Queer Social and Slut Dance” and benefit for Arab Queer groups ASWAT and Helem, on Friday, July 14.

Your friendly waitstaff.

They sayeth:

“It’s time to debase Israeli Terror (and maybe even each other) at a radical queer dance party and sultry soiree. DEBASEMENT will happen at De Basement, a dark and sleazy subterranean speakeasy below the Baker’s
Dozen. Enjoy the sizzling sounds of your fave local DJs Gary Fembot (The Clap), Brontez (Gravy Train, Pussyboys) and Reaganomixxx (Pussyboys). Come thirsty, darling, because some of SF’s most babealicious barmaids have
concocted some delectable cocktails and mocktails for your enjoyment. We invite you to dress up, dress down, cruise, network, dance, prance, make out, and make trouble in support of Helem and ASWAT, two queer
organizations whose members have spoken out against the hypocritical World Pride event in Israeli Jerusalem this August. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at 733 Baker St. at McAllister, SF. $5-$25.

You have been warned.



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 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 (, 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
July 22 and every other Saturday
10 p.m.–2 a.m.
500 Castro, SF
(415) 431-4278
10 p.m.–2 a.m.
500 Castro, SF
(415) 431-4278




Sobering up and tucking our rainbow gear safely away for next year, we should reflect on Pride’s flamboyant declarations of unconditional love and acceptance during a time of right-wing political backlash by thinking about the struggles that Bay Area queers are faced with on a daily basis – which are, of course, endless breakups and the makeups that follow. All drama aside, you can be sure that the trio of Colin, Chriso, and Peter is one set of Ex-Boyfriends that you’ll actually be happy to see in a bar with your new honey on your hip, as the boys return with their own special brand of “more-fuckable- than-thou” queer pop rock. (Jenny Miyasaki)

With Music for Animals and Sholi
9:30 p.m.
Cafe du Nord
2170 Market, SF
(415) 861-5016

LaborFest 2006 opening night
Come to the first event of LaborFest 2006, which celebrates laborers through film, art, tours, and talks. This year’s monthlong event focuses on the workers who rebuilt San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, beginning with a reception for “1906/2006 Rebuilding: Then and Now Workers Building the Bay Area,” an exhibit of images from a new collection of photographs of the workers. (Deborah Giattina)

5 p.m.
San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
City Hall, Lower Level
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF
(415) 867-0628