Caitlin Donohue

No need to drop names: Freak City is the Internet’s IRL cultural center


STREET SEEN I like LA because outfits don’t have to be as functional. In San Francisco, you’re always worrying about whether you’ll flash someone disembarking from your single-speed, about what exactly is going to happen to those white platform sandals inside the Montgomery Street BART station. Oh lord, sandals in San Francisco?

In Los Angeles, you can wear whatever the hell you want. After all (just to be SF-bitchy about it), they don’t dance down there, they certainly don’t walk, and you probably won’t broach the waterline at the beach, so the gold braid on your swimsuit? Appropriate, necessary. (Just take it off when you go in the pool.) In Los Angeles, you are allowed to dress like you are at the white-hot center of the hip universe, free of earthly fetters. Buy the dress in midriff.

And in this year of 2013 AD, Freak City is the place to shop for one’s interstellar journey. 

Freak City hosts Rye Rye concerts. Also, it’s a clothing store. 

If you can find it. This is not a store that deals much with walk-in traffic. Located in a dilapidated old department store on Hollywood Boulevard amid stripper stores and concrete stars, a few blocks from a combination health food store-spa where one can buy raw juice and a B12 injection in a single high-powered errand, Freak City encourages the art of the shopping appointment.

After spotting the Day-Glo-tagged interiors in the latest Gucci Mane-Wiz Khalifa spot directed by Video God, we were thrilled to bits when FC co-owner Justin Time responded in the affirmative to our Sunday morning voicemail pleas. 

Soon enough, he was leading us past FC’s Internet-famous club space to the chainlink fence that marked the start of the retail area. 

“I think that was in a Miley video.” 

Full-length fleece hoodie dresses, digital garden wear, frenetic usage of charm bracelet motif. These are the markings of LA Rap!, the in-house Freak City brand designed by Time’s co-owner and partner-in-crime Vally Girl. She sits at the cash register answering our questions politely in front of a short white mock turtleneck dress bedazzled by a hundred plastic toys hanging on the chain-link. She tells us Queen Cyrus picked it up for a video not too long ago.

You get used to those throwaway references to pop culture domination here — the marijuana leaf lab coat you’re crusing on the LA Rap! website is shown modeled by Lady Tragik, sitting on a car hood with a “GURL” beanie-wearing Kreayshawn. The list of in-house performers in the Freak City club is long: Rye Rye, Mykki Blanco, Peaches, M.I.A.

Vally has styled Nicki Minaj on tour. Diplo told Mix Mag back in 2011 that the ramshackle department store, retrofitted with troll doll-decorated fitting rooms and terrifying mannequins that loom over us on our Sunday afternoon visit, was his favorite club in the world.

Freak City is a cultural center for the Internet generation — check the ski masks emblazoned with the arcing wi-fi symbol above the eyesockets that, retailing at $100 a pop, probably show up in more Tumblr feeds than closets.  

Things I cruised at Freak City: a lime green, tightly-knit shirt with strips of mesh an inch wide down the center, side seams, and breastbone. A deadstock purple ‘90s swimsuit, again with mesh where mesh should not be, and duh gold braid. I bought some cross-strap white platform sandals, which have against the odds insinuated themselves in my San Francisco wardrobe. 

Later, I hit up Vally Girl YEP ON THE INTERNET to figure out how hype that hot comes about. 

San Francisco Bay Guardian Tell me how Freak City got started.

Vally Girl It all started when this lil’ school girl met this street boy … fast-forward three years — after living in Hollyhood, playing warehouse shows, throwing underground parties, making artwork and creating a line — to Justin convincing me to go in on a commercial space in East Hollywood off Melrose, which was found accidentally and was offered to us with no credit check due to the poor economy and we set up shop.

We threw a few events there and the space served as our store, gallery, and music studio.

Our psycho neighbor next door hated us for rehearsing for our shows, for beatboxing, rapping, and playing our 808. He “hated hip hop.” How Freak City actually got it’s name is pretty random … Justin wanted to do a party with his friend, and had doodled the logo “Freak City” (which was one of the first of our logos) on a Post-It note that I had seen. At the time we were calling our space the Lipstick Gallery, but when I saw the Post-It note, a light bulb went on, and I announced to everyone, “why don’t we call this place Freak City?” We all agreed and ran with it.  

SFBG What was in your building before you guys? It’s so creepy.

VG This is the third location that we’ve been in, which is also the creepiest. This place was an old department store-fashion graveyard. It was full of old merchandise, alien-like mannequins, men’s ’90s fancy suits and silk shirts, Calvin Klein fixtures, cross-colors displays, tons of Timberlands, and really, really baggy Phat Farm jeans and Ralph Lauren ads. There was also a bunch of tacky club girl and quinceanera dresses. 

SFBG Had you two collaborated on past projects?

VG Our first collaboration was music, our bedroom band The Keyishe. We also worked on art together and painted a few murals. One was with Raven Simone for an orphanage. Then we started the clothing line LA Rap! We also started working on music videos together, music production, set design, and art direction.   

SFBG Describe the Freak City aesthetic. What artists or brands do you see as part of the same school of style?

VG Freak City is Ghetto Tech Hood Couture, bridging the past, present, and future of the underground. There are freaks all around the world, no need to drop names 🙂 

SFBG Please tell me about shooting the Gucci Mane video in the Freak City space.

VG Naked video vixens, a lot of body paint, Ferraris, black lights, and blunts … It was fun, Gucci showed us a lot of love. He was freestyling over some Freak City beats and chilling with his posse. Even his girl copped some custom pieces from the shop. The director Video God is the homie, so it was all love that night. 

SFBG What other kinds of events have you used the space for?

VG We hosted a Fader magazine party with Lil B, had Peaches perform here, Egyptian Lover live, Limelight movie screening, tons of other underground nights, and some baller birthday parties. 

SFBG Who would you want to dress who you haven’t yet?

VG I’d actually like to design some pieces for Bjork. 

Freak City 6363 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. To schedule a shopping appointment email

To twerk at the symphony: Tipping on the tightrope with Janelle Monae


There was a moment at Janelle Monae’s show at the SF Symphony last night when it looked as if the diorama of world-class musicians behind the diminutive person in black-and-white striped shoes, pompadour, and endless progression of tailored tuxedo jackets was a natural growth. If the trombone-and-oboe look isn’t an every day occurance for Monae, she did not let on as the final moments of Prince’s “Take Me With You” surged around her. The andro-android turned her back to the audience and almost subconsciously, began waving her arms, a sudden conductor. 

And then by the end of the next song the entire spangly gown crowd was on their pave-jeweled feet, twerking in the aisle. Maybe Monae can’t always have a back-up symphony, but the Symphony should always have a Monae in front of it.

“I’ve never seen that before,” said a friend whose been to “over a dozen” shows at Davies Symphony Hall. The crucial moment when floor-length dresses with complicated back straps found themselves navigating approximations of Monae’s duck-footed pops and jazz hands, came about three quarters of the way through the show, after her covers of the tender “Smile” (originally an instrumental in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, eventually sung by Nat King Cole in 1954), the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”, “Goldfinger”, and her own concotions: “Peach Tree Blues”, “Sincerely, Jane”.

“I did not quite feel comfortable with myself as a young woman,” the famously androgynously attired Monae announced to the crowd. The song that followed, she said, was meant to assist anyone feeling similarly unhinged. “For everybody out there who has ever felt weak, this song is for you.” 

She launched into a one-two of her singles “Cold War” and “Tightrope”, and we went there. Had the elder statespeople, the rich blonde stunners, the swath of young, well-turnt, and apparently rich (considering the ticket price for the show, which was a fundraiser gala for the Symphony’s impressive public school programming), the tightly-curled man who secured his ginger locks with what I swear was a black tie scrunchie, ever felt out of place? “You better know what you’re fighting for,” Monae hollered, thrillingly. You could feel the crowd feeling their own, each, personal fight, even if it was just their plans to breach the VIP lounge at the post-show open bar reception across the street at City Hall. 

She ran into the crowd? She dropped her new single featuring Erykah Badu in an absolutly inevitable encore? She wins the day. On Monday, Monae takes the show to Chicago’s Symphony, a stand-in for an ailing Queen Aretha Franklin. I doubt the Windy City will be disappointed, and I hope it wears its dancing scrunchie. 

FYI, the show was one in a series of concerts at which the Symphony is featuring guest artists from varying genres — Rufus Wainwright is coming up June 9, will he get the crowds rolling ass in the aisles too?

Googlass: Gatecrashing Google I/O


It would be foolish to turn down the offer of cost-free Billy Idol on a Wednesday night, but I could have remembered that I live in San Francisco and high profile rock ‘n’ roll will like as not, come served with a side of goober. 

This is to say, that I went to the Google I/O developer’s conference last night. The buffet’s waffle fries were not great and I heard the mini-chicken pot pies were worse, but I did get a chance to watch DJ Steve Aoki give shout-outs to “technooooology!”, allowing a techie or two who promised to get him a Google bus to clamber on stage and flop about next to his set-up.

Through a complicated and unexplained series of events, my date at Dave’s with a man who owns a VW van turned into a trip to the Moscone Center for what I would later learn was a $900 opportunity to hear about Big Goog’s new answer to Spotify in the yearly conference’s three-hour keynote speech.

Sadly, our posse got there too late to see Idol (Rolling Stone was on time.) But we managed to catch Aoki’s triumphant remixes of Kid Cudi and Kendrik Lamar, and the bitter end of the after-hours portion of the conference, which Google characterized thusly:

Google I/O After Hours will be a hyper-visual, heart pounding journey, providing hands-on interactive experiences and sophisticated recreation and featuring awe-inspiring technology and live musical performances like no other. We’ve teamed up with the best global visionaries to present to you their dynamic experiments, heightened realities, and magical experiences.

There was a mechanical hand that mimicked its user’s motions (these largely entailed “pointing a gun” at Steve Aoki and vaguely heil-like salutes as I watched), fake living room sets you could digitally manipulate from a touchscreen, light-up lilypads, photobooths, IPA on tap, and food offerings that would have made the house cook at any college fraternity mildly proud (three bean salad!) Many people were wearing Google Glasses. At a concert? 

I was not prepared for all the Burning Man in evidence (did that woman wear those chaps for the entire conference or was that special for Idol?), including this man yes, wearing Google Glasses. He also owns a glowing fur company. “It’s called Electro Fur,” he told me, handing me a card. “So,” I asked politely. “You know it.” Check out his “Elegance” collection, and don’t forget a tail to top it all off. If anyone wants to buy me the $250 furkini top promising “a ridiculous amount of fun”, I’m with it.

Party raft, set sail for white guys!

Introspection abounds, as instructed. What color Google Glasses would be best for me?

Also, peep SFist’s Andrew Dalton, who has a Vine of the Googlass

Woods for you: Best redwood parks for family times, wowwing out-of-towners, quiet reflection


You have no reason not to explore California’s freakishly gorgeous lands now. The treehuggers over at the Redwoods League (who have purchased more than 190,000 acres of the trees for conservation since the group’s inception in 1918) have released their first-ever parent’s guide to the behemoth old-growth beauties. This means day trips sensibly arranged and explained so that even the couch-bound and fresh air-phobic can figure out which woodses are best for them. Which redwood park operates a nursery? A science center? All in the guide, available for the price of your email address.

To aide you even further, Redwoods League director of outreach Jennifer Benito gave us her top picks for redwoods to take the parentals to, the most impressive stands to wow your out-of-towner babes, etc. Click through for the League’s detailed info on visitor centers, trails, and hidden treasures in each of the parks on her list.Here’s Benitos faves:

Best redwoods you can reach by public transit? Muir Woods National Monument, Redwood Regional Park

Secluded spot? I don’t like crowds. Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve

Most accesible spot for parents and other elders? Muir Woods again, and in other parts of California, these places all feature easy access to trees and trails: Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Most wow-worthy stand to impress visitors? Prairie Creek, Jedediah Smith (which has the densest old-growth trees in the state), and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park (eight coastal miles of gorgeous views). 

For even more redwood adventures, check out the League’s ace interactive map, which lets you search by geographic location for your ideal redwood jaunt. The group will release its guide to sequoias in the fall. 

Small Business Awards 2013: Shameless Photography


Y’all chose Shameless as your top small biz of the year, so I’m going to yield the floor for a moment to someone who voted for the photography outfit:

“Shameless is a female-owned and run business that promotes positive body image and self love while creating spectacular pin-up and boudoir images,” wrote one enraptured Bay Guardian reader. “Women (myself included) leave the studio feeling more beautiful and accepting of their bodies.”

Do you yearn for an Etta James glamour shot with tasteful cleavage, frothy updo, rhinestones dangling from your lobes? Perhaps a cheeky pose with your pumps in the air, gingham bikini and a “here comes trouble” gaze? Shameless would love to make those matinee daydreams a reality.

“We approach the photoshoot as an experience rather than just a means to an end,” founder Sophie Spinelle wrote in an email interview with the Bay Guardian. Photographers Spinelle and Carey Lynne are the minds behind the firm, whose aesthetic is firmly situated in high Hollywood glamour, sultry boudoir shots, and coquettish pin-up poses. It’s 1950s sexy, used to express the decidedly more inclusive ideals of beauty we revel in today. Thank goodness — we tend to think when it comes to satin bustiers, the more curves the better.

Spinelle holds that the primary aim of Shameless is to highlight the beauty of all women, regardless of whether the lady has a gap between her inner thighs. “In a culture where people, and feminine people in particular, are bombarded with advertisements designed to create feelings of inadequacy about our faces and bodies, we’re working to create a space where people can feel safe, beautiful, and empowered,” she wrote.

The space in question is a pink fortress of a building tucked away near the Legion of Honor in the Richmond District. Aspiring starlets, it is hard to miss — Spinelle describes it as “a cross between a wedding cake and the hotel that Kim Novak holes up in Vertigo.” Photoshoot packages start at $450, and include hair and makeup overhauls plus a pose-worthy loaner wardrobe.

It’s the stuff dreams are made of, and everyone’s welcome to play. “No model on a billboard nor the business she represents owns the realm of fantasy — we all do,” says Spinelle. 

600 35th Ave., SF. (646) 448-8277,

Small Business Awards 2013: Babette


I cannot help but insert italics into Babette Pinsky quotes, bear with me.

“It didn’t dawn on me that I shouldn’t open a business by myself.”

“It was sort of survival for a really long time.”

“We have to show things the way we want them.”

Perhaps such signs of effusiveness are befitting for one of the Bay’s more experienced purveyors of fashion.

Pinsky started her line of comfortable, elegant items most often worn by town’s over-40 set of museum and travel-inclined doyennes back in 1968. She considers the eponymous line’s signature piece a pleated cream or white button-down shirt.

Her retail locations — there are eight Babette stores across the country with a ninth in the works for the Mid-West, and the company recently launched a thriving e-commerce site — is filled with outfits for “the woman who wants to look good without looking like her daughter,” says Pinsky, sitting for our interview with husband and co-owner of the company Steven in their Union Square shop.

But the Pinskys’ sartorial sense is but one of the reasons we’re honoring them with a Small Business Award. Perhaps just as importantly, the two provide healthcare and 401k’s for all of their 100-plus employees, and have always manufactured their clothes right here in the Bay Area, currently at their Oakland factory.

The two attribute their buoyancy in the fashion industry, in fact, to their local production line. Trade policies like NAFTA, they say, decimated the Bay Area’s fashion industry, once one of San Francisco’s biggest job sources. Their ability to continue producing quality product right here in California, they say, distinguished them from the thousands who lost their jobs over the last few decades.

Now, having survived the worst of times, Babette (the company and its founder) can be a role model company to those who would make beautiful clothes.

“The most rewarding part of this business?” asks Babette (the person this time, over a pair of round glasses that go nicely with those that Steven wears alongside her). “A big part of that is how happy [the clothes] make our customer. I’ll come into one of our stores and a woman will tell me ‘you’ve changed my life!’ I’m a clothing designer! It’s just clothes.”

361 Sutter, SF. (415) 837-1442,

Small Business Awards 2013: La Victoria Bakery


When Jaime Maldonado’s dad Gabriel opened the family’s corner bakery in 1951, it was the only Latino-owned business on 24th Street. In the years since, the story of La Victoria and its famous pan dulce has become, more or less, the story of the Mission District.

That’s never been more true than today, when the bakery’s plate glass windows are filled with Mexican classics, but also dulce de leche scones, Mexican chocolate brownies, and prickly pear beignets that reflect the neighborhoods changing palate — in addition to the conchitas, elotittos, and maranitos that made the place a favorite.

Soon, La Victoria will include a full-service restaurant that Jaime tells the Guardian will “skip over the burrito phase and to straight to original La Victoria. It’ll be the food your grandma would cook for special occasions.”

Few businesses have been able to surf the Mission’s changing demographics like La Victoria. The Maldonados found a way to thrive amid racial slurs in the ’50s. The restaurant became a gathering place and haven for Mexicans when the blocks became carved up along the gang lines delineating close-knit immigrant communities, and a training ground for bakers who brought La Victoria’s recipes to panaderias across the neighborhood. In the ’70s, the fern-filled restaurant in the back room was a habitué for SF’s movers-and-shakers — Dianne Feinstein and Cesar Chavez were known to grab tables.

Hippies, Brazilians, and Argentineans were added to La Victoria’s clientele over the years. In 1992, when Jaime took the reins from his aging pop, he was ready to make the business adjustments needed to keep La Victoria relevant. That meant focusing on the joint’s strengths — no more groceries, less reliance on wholesale business.

Maldonado survived the “cherry bomb in an ant farm,” as he refers to the late ’90s dot-com boom, and the business slowdown after 9/11. He made the kitchen available for rent, and has since attracted an impressive list of alumni through his work with Soul Cocina’s Roger Feely: Hapa SF, Sour Flour, Wholesome Bakery, Venga Empanadas. La Victoria started hosting pop-up dinners, and now looks forward to expanding into different kinds of Latin coffee drinks, and a full sit-down menu.

All in keeping with La Victoria’s Mission to connect with the ‘hood’s new techie residents, stay true to the neighborhood’s history, and connect with the “hybrid kids,” as Maldonado dubs his generation of Latinos who grew up in SF’s foodie scene, but can still appreciate a traditional Mission burrito.

“This corner is dying for someone to stand up and say ‘I’m going to show you how,'” he says. “And we’re going to do that — with Latin flair.”

2937 24th St., SF. (415) 642-7120,

Small Business Awards 2013: Mothership HackerMoms


It should be no surprise that here in the veritable center of the tech universe, we hear the word “hackerspace” and flash on a roomful of programmers, busily coding the building blocks of our Internet universe.

But a group of East Bay women have taken the term’s original meaning (as codified by Germany’s Chaos Communication Club in the 1990s) and applied the concept of open community lab to the experience of professional mamas.

“A hackerspace is not an office,” says Sho Sho Smith, co-founder of HackerMoms. “It’s a blank canvas. When you walk into it, it becomes the thing you want it to be.”

For freelance writer Smith and co-founder, film set decorator Karen Agresti, who opened their 1,000 square foot space in April 2012, HackerMoms was to be a place for self-employed mothers to come for community, to share inspiration, to help each other achieve professional and artistic dreams.

Today, about 25 women and a handful of men contribute to the space, where they hold social media workshops, teach each other about mom-specific workplace ergonomic issues, sell their art — many of the HackerMoms once had tech careers and now are “makers,” and bring families together for kids’ “mini-maker” classes and BBQ hang-out sessions. Members include spoken word artists, graphic designers, animators, software engineers, and nonprofit workers.

If you go, stuff bills into the mannequin wearing the vintage lace bra — that’d be where the group collects donations towards keeping the space running.

The space, Smith says, is an important hub for women who might otherwise feel isolated at home with the kids and their work.

“What binds our membership is less our income, or social status, or color, or sexual orientation,” says Smith. “It’s an attitude where you must create or die. That is a core characteristic of a hacker mom.”

3288 Adeline, Berk. (415) 295-0742,

No justice, no piece


SEX Speaking as a media professional who has been subject the past month to her PR push for this year’s Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival (Sat/18-May 26), let me tell you that Carol “Scarlet Harlot” Leigh will stop at nothing to raise awareness about sex worker’s rights.

But she has a lot to talk about. The festival’s eighth incarnation is one of the biggest yet, featuring films curated by Laure McElroy, member of POOR Magazine’s board of directors, and “Whore’s Bath”, a spa day for sex workers (Sun/19) that was the brain child of Leigh’s co-organizer Erica Fabulous. Film screenings (including a mini-film fest May 25 at the Roxie), panel discussions, empowerment workshops, and performance events abound.

Poster illustration for this year’s festival by Finley Coyl

Leigh says the festival, inspired in part by the sex worker events organized by India’s Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, is meant as a repository for the formidable creative output by members of the world’s oldest profession, but also as a bid for greater visibility for sex workers.

“I look around me and see lots of people with so much to be proud of in their skills, talents, wisdom, persistence, and generosity,” says Leigh.


“Whorecast” Live! Sat/18, 8pm, $10-50 sliding scale. Center for Sex and Culture, 3149 Mission, SF. Ira Glass may have effectively barred sex activist Siouxsie Q from calling her sex worker podcast “This American Whore”, but under its current moniker the show is just as smart and sparkling. In this live edition, our host interviews queer porn stars James Darling, Courtney Trouble, and more.

“Oral Services” Thu/16, 7pm, $5-20 sliding scale. Center for Sex and Culture, 3149 Mission, SF. Author of vaunted sex work novel Sub Rosa Amber Lynn will use her ginger locks to seduce you into acquiescence at this night of spoken word — the fest’s first ever — by sexy pros. She’s joined onstage by Brontez Purnell, Rhiannon Argo, Juba Kalamka, and other authors who’ve turned a trick or two thousand on their life’s path.

Take a ride with Mariko Passion May 24

Whorrific Popcorn Theatre Bus May 24, 7pm cabaret $15, 9:30pm bus $30, both $35-50. Meet at Center for Sex and Culture, 3149 Mission, SF. “We did decide not to be too wild, so there is no sex on the bus, because Mariko’s dad will be there,” clarifies Leigh about this performance cabaret followed by a three-hour mystery tour around the city hosted by Mariko Passion (whose one-woman Modern Day Asian Sex Slavery: The Musical played the festival back in 2011.) “Well, maybe a little lap dancing would be okay.” We can tell you that after this evening, you’ll be a lot more familiar with the local habitués of SF sex workers, and perhaps someone’s lap.

4 reasons that spending $150 on Janelle Monae tickets is not 100 percent ridiculous


1. Her Thu/16 show is at the symphony It is! The show is at Davies Symphony Hall and features actual symphony musicians playing actual orchestral arrangements to back up android-andro chic Ms. Monae, whose set will include material from her new album even. She’s dropping through the Chicago Symphony later this month as a last-minute stand-in for Aretha Franklin, so you can go to her SF gig and chortle about the Windy City getting our original orchestral arrangement sloppy seconds. This will be a wonderful chance to see the Symphony dames approximate Rocky Horror Picture Show, if Thursday night’s fashion scene is anything like this episode of 106th and Park:

2. It’s a fundraiser Your million dollars are going towards teaching childrens how to play musical instruments. The SF Symphony’s Adventures in Music program reaches all 23,000 kidlets on the 91 SF Unified School District campuses, and exposes them to in-school concerts, musical curriculum, and private concerts at Davies Symphony Hall. Elementary school kids in SF get to go through five years of Adventures in Music programming, and the program also does professional development offerings for teachers and administrators. 

3. Alcohol, mingling Few concerts you will attend this year figure pre-and-post-parties into the ticket prices, but there you are — the Symphony has you covered. Get to the venue at 7pm and you will dive politely into a carefully meted vat of sparkling wine in the well-lit, curving foyer wonderland of Davies Symphony Hall. After the concert, all will reconvene across the street at City Hall to talk about how wonderful everything was during yet another cocktail hour. 

4. Monae’s new single with Erykah Badu You’ve heard this, right? Not guaranteeing that it’ll be performed on Thursday with the full compliment of world-class musicians, but we have heard that Fat Belly Bella has been creeping around the Bay recently, performing at the Bonobo show at the Warfield earlier this month. Manifest it, friends. The video is genius: 

Janelle Monae at SF Symphony

Thu/16, 7pm reception, 8pm show, $150-340

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF

(415) 864-6000

Pick-up bball legends tell the tale of the game outside


We’re talking about basketball, NYC pick-up announcer legend Bobbitio “Kool Bob Love” and I, but our conversation is hardly hinging on the Warriors-Spurs match-up or LeBron James’ shot at MVP this year. Rather, we’re discussing the power of the men and women ballers on the playground — a culture that Garcia and French filmmaker Kevin Couliau painstakingly documented for their film Doin’ it in the Park, which begins its Bay Area run at the Clay Theatre on Thu/16. 

“There wouldn’t be an NBA without pick-up basketball,” Garcia tells me in the voice made famous by his narration of countless pick-up tournaments, his pioneering ESPN feature on sneaker culture, and his turn as the New York Knicks’ first Latino broadcast team member. “Our culture and movement has informed every level of organized basketball. It’s informed even hip-hop fashion — all the iconic sneakers have taken their cues from pick up basketball.”

Pick-up powerhouse Niki Avery takes it to the boys in a shot from Doin’ it in the Park

Given the subject matter, the DIY style in which the duo shot Doin’ It was fitting. “I was sleeping on Bobbito’s couch,” while filming the movie, says Couliau, checking in via phone from France. The videographer grew up on the ball courts of his homeland, and learned about NYC’s thriving basketball scene — the metropolitan area is home to no less than 700 outside courts — through the Internet. Small wonder that the Frenchman eventually wound up in the Big Apple documenting the game in the gorgeously shot music video for rapper Red Cafe’s “Heart & Soul of New York City”.

Garcia caught wind of the short and proposed a feature-length project that turned into Doin’ it in the Park. To shoot the film, the duo traveled (“90 percent by bike,” says Bobbito) to 180 borough courts.

The film lands candid commentary that assesses playground ball going back decades from court legends like James “Fly” Williams, takes viewers to the court at the Rikers Island jail complex, investigates court-side style (be careful where you wear your NBA jersey, let’s just say), talks to women who’ve found their home under hoop like Niki “the Model” Avery, and documents game from all kinds of players.

Garcia says diversity in age, race, and social standing on court is a trademark of pick-up ball. To illustrate his point, he tells me about a game he ran in which his teammates were, “a Wall Street banker, a priest, and two homeless dudes. Where are you going to find that variety engaging in physical activity anywhere?”

Doin’ it in the Park, Garcia says, is one the most important projects he’s worked on — which is saying something. The man created Bounce Magazine, the first magazine devoted to the art of pick-up. He’s the voice on the NBA Street and NBA 2K videogames, written for Vibe, has turned guest roles in Summer of Sam and Above the Rim. His half-time commentary at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks was a crowd favorite. His hip-hop radio show with Stretch Armstrong in the early ’90s was called the best ever and gave airtime to an unsigned Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. 

Garcia says that pick-up courts in New York dispell the notion that young people eschew sports for smart phones these days. If you’re gotten your fill for the day of Stephan Curry’s three-point percentage, one of this week’s Bay Area screenings of Doin’ It would be a fresh look at the streetside passion for b-ball. 

“It’s hard to say who are the [current pick-up] stars,” says Garcia. “If I go to Staten Island and destroy everybody, it’s not going to show up on ESPN. There’s a lot of great players, but most of them aren’t really known.”

Doin’ it in the Park Bay Area screenings

SF premiere and Q&A:

Thu/16, 8pm, $10-15

Clay Theatre

2261 Fillmore, SF


Thu/16, 10pm-2am, free

Social Study

1795 Geary, SF

Fri/17 screening and reception, 7pm; Sat/18, 3:30pm; Mon/20-May 22, 9:15pm; $8-10

New Parkway Theater

474 24th St., Oakl

Hot sexy events: Aliens, etc.


You will have to excuse the few weeks that your sexy events column has taken off — our Day-Glo phalanges have been so atwitter over tonight’s extraterrestial sexuality event that every thing else has just seemed… of this planet, shall we say. Check out my interview in this week’s newspaper with Strange Attractors co-editor Suzie Silver, by the way, for talk of sensual delights outside the Earthly realm, including beings comprised mostly of scrotal tissue — and head over to Center for Sex and Culture to see the video and performance lineup of UFO couplings that Silver has put together.

Still, the sex culture train rolls on. Here’s so more hot-and-heavy happenings around the Bay this week: 

“Ask a Ho: Question the Real Professionals”

Gonna go ahead and say that we’d be a lot healthier about sex as a society if we let the pros talk a little more loudly about the subject. Apparently Oakland sex shop Feelmore510 feels the same way — Shannon Williams of the Sex Worker Outreach Project facilitates this Q&A journey into the lives of the pros. Bring your best queries, because you gotta think that these folks are gonna be a lot less squeamish about answering your questions about sex than say, Dr. Phil or your “cool” roommate.

Tue/14, 7-8:30pm, $5. Feelmore510, 1703 Telegraph, Oakl.

Perverts Put Out spring fling

Unthaw, it’s almost summer goddamn it. But the PPO crew is taking you through the rites of spring tonight, with dirty readings by the Guardian’s own Sex-Positive Parent Airial Clark, Jen Cross, horehound stillpoint, Virgie Tovar, and more, hosted by the fingers-in-everything Dr. Carol Queen. 

Sat/11, 8pm, $10-25. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF.

“How To Create An Effective Online Profile – And How To Write Messages That Will Get Good Responses”

If you’re anything like us, you spend more time scoping people’s online ramblings and photo albums than you do IRL cruising. Lesson: you should probably shape up your online profiles if you want to get laid with minimal footwork, ‘Net junkies. Today’s workshop with M. Christian is a class on how to get sexy through words, pics, and clicks. Attend to learn how to be cute-not-creepy with your online come ons, and some Internet etiquette so you’re not FLAMING when all your online paramour desires is sweet, soft pings. 

Tue/14, 7-10pm, $20. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF.

“Spanking, Paddling & Pinching: An Introduction to the Sensual Side of Pain”

Does rough play get you all hot and bothered, but you’re still hesitant to jump into BDSM without a little primer first? Good thing you live in San Francisco, because you’re welcome to come down to Good Vibrations for this one-off class taught by kink expert Pepper on safety rules, safe places on the body to apply impact, and the psychological underpinnings of sexy pain. 

Tue/14, 6:30-8:30pm, $20-25. Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk, SF.

Dirty dialect in a small town: A trip to the Boonville Beer Fest


I thought that the booming voice yelling across the backyard of Anderson Valley Brewing Company, hosts of the vaunted Boonville Beer Festival, would be bearing tidings of “shut the hell up and go to sleep.” After all, it was 1am and many of the pros camping in the shady glen designated for brewers had a long day of pouring stouts and ambers in the hot sun ahead at the May 4 festival. 

But I had misjudged the staying power of bearded and hop-obsessed hippiefolk.

“I want to hear some partying!” concluded the voice. We beckoned the rambling brewer who’d dropped by our camp to pour another finger of barleywine, double-checked our Ibuprofen cache, and kept one blurry eye on the 24-year old apple farmer talking about oral sex in Boontling, Boonville’s appealingly vulgar indigenous dialect, by the campfire. I heard later accounts of brewers staying up all night communing with toads in the creek that lined the back edge of the Anderson Valley Brewery’s makeshift campgrounds. 

Boonville is no refined urban pourfest. “This is the beer festival you have to go to,” confirmed a crew member of Concord’s Black Diamond Brewing. If you enjoy sweeping mountain landscapes, 90 degree heat, and beer from across the state, you will agree. Boontville is epic, one-day setting for the 60-some breweries on tap each year.


Tips gathered around the campfire the night before the one-day festival: drink slowly, don’t drop your tasting cup, don’t get stuck in the fairground’s horse corral, keep an eye out for the actual indoors bathrooms for a break from the Port-a-Pots. 

I’ll admit I fell back on the stalwart Hell or High Watermelon Wheat ale from the home team 21st Amendment Brewery. I am not an ironclad beer drinker and by my way of thinking, the 90 degree heat that ruled May 11 in Anderson Valley was not ideal for coffee stouts no matter how delicious. Pro drinkers avoided joining in on the standard beer fest hollering that hails a dropped tasting cup, and focused their energies on finding the off-menu small-batch specialties being poured, like Black Diamond’s brandy barrel-aged Grand Cru. 

SF’s thriving microbrew scene was well-represented by Speakeasy, Magnolia, Pacific Brewing Lab. The city kids were joined by scores of breweries from across the state — Sacramento’s Rubicon, San Diego’s Societe, and the coastal Pizza Port were a few of the exciting new brews we tried. 

Beer’s great and all, but Boonville’s small-town trappings made a bright day of beer-drinking a cultural event.

The Anderson Valley Lion’s Club was selling BBQ tri-tip sandwitches for $10 ($12 with veggies.) I’m not big on the mammal-eating, so my boozy friend suggested I ask them for a grilled cheese. Larry Lombard, a Lion of 25 years and self-described “wingnut over in Boonville — that makes me a flyboy,” told me I was SOL on veg-friendly eats at the Lion’s tent. No big deal — proceeds from the festival go to fund the Club’s two college scholarships, given out yearly to local high school students, and judging from the tent’s traffic, they were going to make some academic dreams come true this year.

“This year it looks like it’s going to be good,” Lombard said. “We try just as hard on the bad years as the good years, though.”

Tucked away in the shade, the well-coiffed ladies of Anderson Valley Historical Society were working hard selling water bottles and Boontling dictionaries for donations and fending off the advances of dehydrated gentlemen. 

Boontling in action

“A lot of the stuff has sexual connotations.” (Forgive me, gray-haired angel, for not writing down your name! Blame the Watermelon Wheat.) The ladies and I were discussing Boontling, whose origins are debated. Was it created by the local fishermen, as written in the dimunitive Boontling dictionary I took home, or as the apple farmer told us and I prefer to believe, invented as a code used by the local wenches to throw shade at the city wife some poor Boont man brought home with him? 

At any rate, the verbal language was first officially studied by a California State University-Chico professor named Charles Adams. The dialect is largely referential, meaning most words originate from local landmarks. Maybe your cousin Sandy is a little slutty (this being the example used by the apple farmer) — you’ll sub in the word “Sandy” for “floozy.” The adding on of new words to see if your conversation partner will catch it is referred to as “sharking,” making Boontling a dynamic language. 

Maybe. “I think it’s gonna die,” said the Historical Society expert. “However, there seems to be interest in it now.” Mainly from the media, she said. She directed me to town’s two premier Boontling linguists for more info. She had one the guys’ digits memorized. 

Here are some of my fave words from the Boontling mini-dictionary I copped, entitled A Wee Deek on Boont Harpin’s (A Little Look at Boont Talking). I advise memorizing them and trying not to irritate the locals using them when you make the trip up north for next spring’s fest: 

Apple head: girl friend

Burlapper: (not actually in dictionary, but the ladies of the Historical Society urged me to write it down, “burlapper” being some sort of four-letter word serving as both noun and verb)

Jeekus: donkey or mule

Jimheady: confused; unclear mentally; suffering from a bad hangover

Tidrik: a party

Wilk: a wild cat

Pickem up billies: dirty men’s socks (!?)

Unidentified filthy objects


SEX In an email interview in advance of her Fri/10 appearance at the Center for Sex and Culture, Suzie Silver told me that her interest in alien sex was spawned by a mix of her childhood fascination with Star Trek: The Original Series, NASA’s launch of the Kepler space observatory in 2009, and Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno” short film series on the sensual activities of insects and marine animals. Silver recently co-edited (along with Christopher Kardambikis and Jasdeep Khaira) Strange Attractors, a book-DVD project ( that explores the notions of extraterrestrial sexuality held by 70 artists, writers, and filmmakers. If that doesn’t inspire you to read the rest of this article, I give up on you.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Please explain your fascination with extraterrestrial sexuality.

Suzie Silver Strange Attractors  asks the participants and audience to try to imagine otherworldly and unknowable life-forms and sexualities. We are imagining sexual possibilities beyond gender, beyond genitalia. In my short story “Donkey Show,” one of the things I describe is a live sex show made up of shape shifting platonic solids that can create pleasurable and climactic responses from all audience members. I’m attempting to envision universal ecstasy and orgasm!

SFBG Have you noticed commonalities related in true-life alien sex experiences? 

SB I have read some accounts, mostly online. For the most part I find them rather unimaginative and not very interesting. The focus is usually on penetration. It all seems rather BDSM, which has its appeal, otherwise how to explain the success of all those 50 Shades books? Strange Attractors attempts a polymorphous perversity: sex outside of reproduction, for pleasure, communication, joy, connection, fun, more complicated power dynamics than dominance and submission. We imagine erogenous zones in, on, and outside of every part of the body and mind.

SFBG Which contributions to  Strange Attractors did you find particularly compelling?

SB I find all of the works truly amazing. Works that I’m particularly compelled by include Vanessa Roveto’s extraterrestrial dating profile where the being’s desirable qualities include “a body comprised mostly of healthy scrotal tissue, the ability to mimic my selves, an oral tolerance for liquid hand sanitizer, a traumatic childhood that will work in your erotic favor, and minimal bloating.” In Michael Mallis and Mikey McParlane’s “Love Puddles:” “In the golden fringe of a far off galaxy, an alien planet teems with exotic life. Twiggy creatures rush to an ominous volcano and rub their bodies against its glittering surface, enticing the volcano to awaken and spray its gooey chaos across the furry world.”

Strange Attractors video screening Fri/10, 7-10pm, $5-10 sliding scale. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF.



Tricks and Chickenhawks reading Wed/8, 7:30pm, free. Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF. Sex worker literati — Madison Young, Kitty Stryker, Carol Queen, more — gather to read from a new anthology of sex worker and john experiences.

“How to Create an Effective Online Profile” Tue/14, 7-10pm, $20. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. Hear back from that babe on Scruff, FetLife, or Tinder after taking this one-off seminar.


Calling all Latino photogs: Accion Latina wants your work on a wall


Somehow in the shiny blitz of new restaurants made out of stainless steel, you may have missed the arrival of the Eric Quezada Center for Politics and Culture right in the thick of the Mission. That’d be a shame — the space where the Abandoned Planet bookstore stood until 2010 now hosts some of the most vibrant alternative events in the country. Last time I made it through, it was for a poster show of screenprinted calls for immigration justice. A theater group comprised of Filipina caretakers performed, and in the back you could buy homemade butterfly cookies and sangria.

Speaking of the Quezada Center, if you’re a Latino photographer, you’re in luck — a local non-profit wants to put your snaps up the gallery walls.  

The contest is sponsored by Accion Latina, a local nonprofit intent on empowering the Latino community (the group runs El Tecolote, the well-loved bilingual Mission District newspaper whose editors will judge the shots). The group is looking for photos that capture life here in the Bay for Latinos. Winners will get cash and prizes from local photography contests, and yes, have their shots displayed in an exhibit that will open at the Quezada Center in August. 

All photos must be submitted by the person who took them, taken between March 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013, and not overly digitally manipulated. These are the categories they’re interested in seeing snaps from:

(1) Traditions, rituals, celebrations

(2) Politics, controversy, protests

(3) People, characters, families

(4) Everyday life, people at work, at play, family

(5) Activities representing environmentally friendly concepts.

Full contest rules available here

So SoMa


SEX The tech-y, day lit factory space of high design sex toy manufacturers Crave ( is located at Folsom and Eighth Street, so of course the innovative, pronged vibrator that industrial designer Ti Chang is showing me doubles as a USB storage device.

“I can’t imagine a better city in the United States to do this,” Chang tells me, ushering me past the way-cool 3-D printer, laser engraver, and laser cutter the company uses to build its line of pricey vibrators (besides motors and batteries — difficult to source affordably from this country — the vibes are made and assembled right there in the SoMa space.)

Crave’s full line-up. Please note vibrating nipple clamp lariat necklace (top)

Assembly line. Bottom left, a contraption meant to test the vibes under water pressure

Chang launched the Crave line on Valentine’s Day with business partner Michael Topolovac after a wildly successful crowdfunding venture, accomplished without the help of Kickstarter, which eschews sex-related campaigns. They hosted a “build a vibe” workshop that allowed customers to see just how “safe and lovely it is when these [toys] come together,” she says.

The line is beautiful, made to appeal to women put off by more vulgar devices. The “Duet” vibrator features two prongs meant to surround the clitoris, and can deliver a powerful, silent range of vibrations. It’s USB rechargeable, and its base comes in stainless steel or plated with 24 karat gold, in the case of the model that also houses 16GB of data storage. (“That’s for the uber jet setter,” jokes Chang.)

I can’t remember what this machine does. Shapes metal?

Crave’s resident teddybear

Chang’s designs are so gorgeous you want to show them off — and you can. Crave’s “Foreplay” jewelry line (which is made in China) doubles as accessories. The “Droplet Necklace” is a lariat design featuring two graceful silver weights that can be affixed to your nipples, and set to vibrate.

Titillated? Crave is one of the local businesses hosting a factory tour through SFMade Week — go see how pleasure is built.


May 9, 4-5pm, free

1234 Folsom, SF


“Porn 2.0: Creating Adult Content for Online Consumption” Wed/1, 7pm, $10. Feelmore510, 1703 Telegraph, Oakl. Roxxie Cyber teaches you about the best way to convert that sex tape to rock-hard… dollars.

“I Masturbate” Through May 31. Opening reception: Fri/3, 7-10pm, free. Center for Sex and Culture, 1359 Mission, SF. Down for a gallery show of positively sexy people masturbating? Of course you are! As bonus, photographer Shilo McCabe is willing to wager more displays of this nature are key to improving society’s openness about our sexuality. Now you’re perving with a purpose!

Thong Protest Sat/4, noon-2pm, free. Jane Warner Plaza, Market and Castro, SF. Toe the line of legality at this demonstration against the recent nudity ban, where thongs, jockstraps, socks-on-your-cock are the recommended dress code.

Special occasion eviction


STREET SEEN “My customers are Latin,” says the owner of Latin Bridal Silvia Ferrusquia, entertaining a crowd of mamas, grandmas, and our photographer while we wait for the models for our photoshoot to get their hair and makeup done, and don the massive, fairytale quinceañera dresses and tiaras they bought from her shop for their big days.

“They may not have a lot of money, but they have good taste. There’s nobody that serves this community the way we do.”

Sadly, the community may have to look for other options. After a decade in the Mission Street storefront, Ferrusquia — whose crowded, colorful shop is one of the last of its kind in the neighborhood — has been served an eviction notice.

In the spring of 2012, in the middle of the shop’s busy season, a damaged sewage pipe caused 11 ceiling tiles to fall, ruining close to a hundred of Ferrusquia’s ornate bridal, communion, and quince dresses with foul liquid. She says a representative from Prado Group, her landlord, told her to hold her rent payments until damage could be assessed and reparations made.

“What are we going to do without you?” customer Veronica Ortiz wonders, when she hears of the shop’s predicament. Ortiz was picking up her daughter’s communion dress, with its skirt of carefully-curled tulle roses. Like her sisters and sisters-in-law, Ortiz also bought her wedding dress from Latin Bridal. An extravagant gown inspired by Princess Diana’s famous nuptials, it had 6,000 crystals sewn to it, and a 20-meter train that Ortiz says was mistaken by guests at her hometown wedding in Durango, Mexico for the church aisle’s carpet as she said her vows.

Things went further south for the shop when the Prado representative with which they were communicating was fired. Ferrusquia was told by the company that she had to pay up the three months’ back rent in short order. After the losses sustained while her shop was smattered with sewage, mildew, and subsequent discovery of asbestos during its busy months, she was forced to file for bankruptcy.

After multiple warnings to pay the back rent (which has ballooned to a figure over $25,000 — a number representing six months’ rent that Ferrusquia does not understand and went unexplained by the Prado Group, who declined to comment when contacted for this feature), she was served with a final eviction notice this month. She tells me the building’s other tenants are being pushed out, that the Prado Group would only renew the shoe store next door’s commercial lease for a year and a half, and that she worries for the residential tenants upstairs.

The shop may be gone by the time you read this, if small business advocates are unable to help. At the very least we will have these photos of young customers in the Latin Bridal dresses they wore on the heretofore most important day of their lives — proof positive of Latin Bridal’s importance in a neighborhood that seems to have decided to change. “At least we’ll have gone out big,” says Ferrusquia’s son Eddie, thanking the shoot crew after the lights and curling irons are packed out.

“Don’t worry about anything on your day,” Ferrusquia says in Spanish to one of our customer-models, for whom the shoot is a test drive for her quinceañera next week. “Don’t let anyone rush you! This day will never happen again.” 

Latin Bridal 2631 Mission, SF. (415) 647-4200,


Models: Amaris Tenorio, Brenda Diaz, Michelle Trejo

Art direction: Caitlin Donohue

Photography: Shot in the City

Makeup: Sarina Martinez/

Hair: Vivien Brown/Salon Miel

Assistant: Dick Van Dick


Red-eyed trends: 420 fashion at Dolores Park


For the really sloppy, you had to go to Hippie Hill. All in all, Dolores Park last Saturday looked pretty much the same as any other gloriously warm Saturday in San Francisco. Course, we love a theme.

“Rasta colors” made their appearance in smatterings, as did green pot leaves on tank tops and hella tie-dye. My favorite trend this year? Blankets covered with trays of cheesy bread and chimichangas. 


Betchu though, the Dolo kids didn’t leave the same amount of trash as the multitudes out in Golden Gate Park (to be fair, I wouldn’t spend too much cleaning up either if there had been a guitar-swinging brawl going down.)

You have to appreciate the coordinating stripes on these four. Props to goofy glasses for demonstrating that stoner pride need not entail ill-advised homage to another religious faith 

Blogger Broke Ass Stuart probably wasn’t even stoned — he’s just trying to hype his costume closet

Cute couple #1

Best of the Bay-winning entrepreneur Crista Hill of Hey Cookie! had the only un-medicated baked goods on the block

She gives me hope.

At this point things get a little unfocused. Here’s roaming foodie Rocky Yazzie (front) with his friend inna funny hat

“You gotta scream when you take a photo”

Simply majestic. 

I got sprung on these ladies’ snacks, then I noticed they looked amazing…

… but really, their snacks.

Cute couple #2, the best.