PUBLISHED IN PREVIOUS TRANNY GUIDES
by Miss Bob'
San Francisco is a great
town for transgenders. There’s protection under the law,
helping professionals, support services, social groups,
bars, events, films, pageants, drag shows, theatre and
performance art. Natives call it "The City." There’s a
genial air of acceptance. The transgender scene is large
and evolving. I doubt anyone knows everything that’s going
on. Everyone who contributed information to this article
said, "I’m sure there’s more." So, I assure you,
more drag in San Francisco then this queen could uncover,
so I’m bound to be missing
wonderful events and turning friends in enemies through
the sin of omission.
been wearing drag on the streets of San Francisco since
I attended a Cockettes show on Halloween, 1971. I’ve cross-dressed
at the opera, theatre, street fairs, restaurants, bars
and when receiving tenure from the City College Board
of Trustees, which got my photo on the cover of the campus
So, if you’re visiting
San Francisco remember that the City has laws and regulations
on the books that protect gender expression, but they
won’t save you from poor judgement.
San Francisco divides itself
into neighbourhoods. They’re listed in tourist guides
and marked on maps.
there really is a "Gay Mecca," I guess it’s the CASTRO.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
I won’t call drag common
place in the Castro, but you can buy neon wigs and rhinestone
tiaras at CLIFF’S, the local variety store.
POLK and TENDERLOIN are the older gay neighbourhoods.
The Polk used to be a bit more up-scale. The Tenderloin
OF THE MARKET and the MISSION
are working class areas with clusters of trendy bars and
shops, though these seem be overwhelming South of Market
real estate recently.
HAIGHT and NORTH BEACH
are the old bohemian neighbourhoods. The Haight was home
to hippies in the 1960’s and the beats hung out in North
Beach a decade earlier. Both neighbourhoods are fun to
shop or walk around in and worth a visit, but you won’t
find many drag events in either.
and revellers are sometimes disappointed when they consider
the number of things to do in San Francisco. "Oh, we liked
San Francisco, just fine," they say, "It’s just that there
was so much more of, well, more of EVERYTHING in London."
In place of London you could substitute New York, Paris
or Rome it doesn’t matter. San Franciscans find the comparison
flattering. Of course there’s more in those cities, they’re
ten times larger. More even.
San Francisco’s population
is about 800,000. That’s just a few thousand souls more
than Jacksonville, Florida and smaller than either Indianapolis
or San Jose San Francisco’s Silicone Valley neighbour
55 miles to the south. On a per capital basis, San Francisco’s
nightlife is probably equal to any city’s in the world,
but that doesn’t mean it has more drag bars than Tokyo.
Sources of Information:
article is full of web sites you can visit from anywhere.
It seems that every bar, club and queen has a web site.
There are two sites that act as information clearing houses.
They’re very grass roots and are done with more heart
than budget, which makes them both loveable and frustrating
at the same time.
http://madkats.com/, is "about Drag, both Kings and Queens…Art,
Music and bands: Madkats has always been about photography."
Not all the bands are drag bands, "but they sure are cute,
fun and just plain good music." The site is in transition,
though they describe their future in optimistic terms.
lists "queer things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area."
Their Transgender Portal, www.kithology.com/transgender,
is the most comprehensive listing of transgender fun spots
and resources I’ve seen. The site works fairly well, too.
But there are some messages on the site that made it sound
like they, too, may be heading for a transition, too.
you get to town there are several newspaper you’ll want.
are most easily available at gay bars, magazine shops
and cafes in the Castro, Polk and Tenderloin neighbourhoods.
There are even metal racks on street corners. They’re
short for Bay Area Reporter, is a 30-year-old GLBT weekly
with a section of event listings you shouldn’t miss. It
comes out on Wednesdays. In every other issue they feature
transgender activist Gwen Smith’s column of cogent political
and social insight, "Transmissions," www.gwensmith.com.
FRANCISCO BAY TIMES. Is also weekly. It’s queerer
than the B.A.R. and has a more radical perspective on
everything. Sister Dana Van Iquity covers the trans beat
with wit and journalistic grace. Beside event listings,
there’s a "Trans" section in the Personals. Check out
their "Transgenders" Resource Guide, too. It usually lists
about 20 meetings of groups like Transgender Parents,
Transgender Law Centre, Transmen’s Alliance Against Racism
and the TG, TS, Etc, Prayer Group.
www.sfspectrum.org, is the Castro’s free neighbourhood
monthly. It has two transgender columnists. Empress Chablis’
required "Keepin’ Up with the Courts" lists recent and
up-coming doings of the Imperial Court, which is celebrating
40 years of service to the community in 2005. The advice
column, "Dear Diva," by Queer TV reporter Dear Diva, dispenses
plugs for events as well as pearls of wisdom and unapologetically
progressive political commentary after she’s finished
counselling the confused.
is a glossy bar mag that appears about twice a month.
It’s much more gay than trans. But don’t miss "Vis à V,"
a column by transgender diva Veronica Klaus. Veronica
covers the drag scene. A local cabaret legend herself,
she highlights events by her talented friends.
GUARDIAN and SF WEEKLY
are two mainstream entertainment weeklies,
Remember that "mainstream" is a relative term. The mainstream
in San Francisco is the radical fringe in Oklahoma. Occasionally
they cover tranny events. But if you’re looking to date
"a girl with something extra," you’ll find ads for lonely,
horny, fully functional ts’s and tv’s tucked in the back
of these papers right between the escort services and
Weekly & Monthly Events
These are on going, regularly
scheduled events. I’ve usually listed them by venue, though
not always. Most are drag shows or theme nights at gay
bars. Call ahead. Things do change, especially in the
world of drag shows.
SF Nightly, 201 – 9 St
@ Howard, San Francisco, CA 94103, South of Market Tel:
415-255-2742, www.asiasf.com. This is a lucky combination
of a 3-Star Cal-Asian restaurant with colourful, strong
drinks and pretty young Asian drag queens waiting tables
and entertaining between courses. About once an hour boys
in slinky silk dresses dance on the Chinese-red runway
above the bar. The club refers to them as "gender illusionists."
AsiaSF is popular with tourists. It’s also the venue of
choice for many local bachelorette parties. Reservations
are suggested. Seating in the restaurant is timed. If
you plan your seating wisely it is sometimes possible
to see two shows. There’s a downstairs room, if you want
to dance the night away.
CHARLIE’S LOUNGE Weekends at least, 10 PM,
133 Turk near Taylor, San Francisco, CA 94102, Tenderloin,
Tel: 415-441 2922, www.auntcharlieslounge.com. There is
a "sleazy drag show" every Friday and Saturday night.
There’s no stage. The humour is low and earthy. The shows
are vibrant and professional without being polished. There’s
a raw honesty about the place and the performers are captivating.
Aunt Charlie’s is home to drag scene luminaries Vicki
Marlene, Grand Marshal of the 2003 Gay Day Parade and
reigning Grand Duchess Donna Rae.
RENDE-VOUS Every Friday,
11 PM and midnight, 1312 Polk, San Francisco, CA 94109
Polk Gulch, Tel: 415-673-7934. Drag Assault, hosted by
Empress Cockatielia, has been running for about six years.
Though Cockatielia is one glamourous queen, she says the
shows are, "not only glamour. They’re edgy and progressive.
They’re fun, comedy drag."
Nearly nightly. 1081 Post near Polk, San Francisco, CA
94109, Polk Gulch. Tel: 415-474-3482, www.divassf.com.
Diva’s clientele is mostly young transsexuals and their
admirers. This bar is their club house and display window.
Their skirts are the shortest in town. The club has three
floors. The second floor is for dancing and the walls
are lined with mirrors. I swear some queens go there to
watch themselves wiggle. Shows are on the first floor.
Tuesday is talent night with Tianna De Ville. Wednesday
is Bad SchoolGirl Night. Divas’ Darlins perform every
Thursday at 10 PM and Alexis Miranda MC’s the show every
Friday and Saturday.
NOCHE Nearly nightly,
3079 – 16 St near Valencia, San Francisco, CA 94103, Mission
Tel: 415-861-5757. This is the proud home of San Francisco’s
Latin drag scene with virtually continuous lip-syncing
almost every night. Right now Las Fantasticas, Trans-International
and Queens of the Night are performing in repertory and
the stage is only dark on Fridays. Esta Noche also presents
the annual Miss and Mr. Latino Contest in June.
ENDERS 1st Tuesday, 8:30 PM, Cherry Bar, 917
Folsom Street @ 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, South
of Market www.genderenders.com. This features transgendered/intersexed/genderqueer
artists, plus a queer performance open mic and "community
bulletin board." The audience is encouraged to bring announcements,
music, spoken word, stand-up comedy or performance art
to the events.
2nd Sunday, 500 Castro St. @ 18
St, San Francisco, CA 94114 Tel: 415-431-4278. Harvey’s
is a bar and restaurant in the heart of the Castro. It’s
named for Harvey Milk. They’re very drag friendly and
there’s usually a drag show. Right now the show is "Nice
and Nasty" with Empress Chablis as Nice and Snatch, the
Leather Empress as Nasty, www.snatchsf.com.
Weekends, 488 Hayes near Octavia, San Francisco, CA 94102,
Tel: 415-964-6672. This bar is the unofficial clubhouse
of the San Francisco Imperial Court. Marlena herself is
the 23rd Empress of San Francisco and 3rd Empress of San
Mateo. There’s a charming exhibit of SF Court memorabilia
on the walls. Drag is at home at Marlena’s. You’re likely
to see some dazzlingly bedecked queen no matter what day
or time you arrive. There are lip-synch shows on Fridays
and Saturdays. Faux Girls, MC’d by the scintillating Victoria
Secret, is every second and fourth weekend. This show
is a nightlife staple with a roomful of appreciative regulars.
Performers include Nikki Starr, who can walk on water
in heels as far as I’m concerned. She used to perform
at the world famous Finocchio’s, a showroom that presented
female impersonators "at the same location" in North Beach
from 1936 - 1999. Victoria is a real community builder.
She has two sites for the drag curious: one for her fabulous
Fauxgirls, www.fauxgirls.com. The other covers the doings
of five acts Fauxgirls, Diva’s, Aunt Charlie’s Lounge
and Club Rende-Vous, www.sfdrag.com.
Every Tuesday, The Stud, 399 - 9
St @ Harrison, San Francisco, CA 94103, South of Market.
www.heklina.com. This is San Francisco’s more consistently
on-the-edge drag club. Hostess and founder Heklina’s formula
is to bring in the talent push the envelope and pack the
club. Anybody can have a Cher Night or a Dating Game (they’ve
done both). But how many would have a David Lynch Tribute
Night or a Hookers Night featuring a Biggest Load Contest.
They’ve had drag queen in black face and been picket by
the more humourless guardians of political correctness.
Many performers use their own voices, though lip-synch
is the norm all over town. Tranny Shack is also the venue
most likely to present out-of-town drag celebrities, like
Varla Jean Merman or Lady Bunny of Wigstock fame. Even
Miss Chocolate, the "door whore" (do’ ho’) who stamps
your wrist as you enter, is a nightlife institution. This
is my kind of drag show, imaginative and under rehearsed.
Every 2nd Wednesday, 7 – 10 PM, Quetzal Internet Cafe,
1234 Polk, between Sutter and Bush, San Francisco, CA
94109 Polk Gultch. www.transbay.org. The main goal of
TransBay is to help build the SF Bay Area TG community.
They do it two ways. First are their website’s resource
guide, social calendar and interactive bulletin boards.
Second is the monthly get-together in Polk Gultch. More
transgender women probably live in the Polk and the adjacent
Tenderloin than in any other areas of the City. Quetzal
Internet Cafe provides "a casual environment where people
can let down their hair, so to speak and just have a good
time. There is no group hierarchy-just people sipping
cappuccinos and talking about everything from physics
to dancing to entomology." They welcome all respectful
people. TransBay,stresses "is not ‘pick up centre’… We
don't want folks to needlessly have to worry about individuals
looking for a ‘hot time.’ There will be fun, and probably
a touch or flirting here and there -- but if you’re looking
to meet your next lover, try somewhere else, please."
Every 4th Thursday, Makeout Room,
3225 – 22 St between Mission and Valencia, San Francisco,
CA 94110, Mission. www.glamarama.com. This is a novelty,
a beauty salon producing a theme night. Have your make-up
and facials at the club. Have your wig restyled. Queer
to the core, Glamarama, the salon, enjoys a special place
in San Francisco’s flaming firmament. Several of the stylists
and employees are drag or queer theatre luminaries including
Johnnie Kat, owner Deena Davenport and Princess Kennedy
of tranny-rock band Pepperspray, www.peppersprayband.com.
Deena used to do my hair, when I had hair now I take my
wigs, if I wear wigs. 417 Van Ness, between 15 & 16 St,
Francisco 8-day Leather
Pride Week and reportedly the largest one-day
event in California, a celebration SM, BD with over 200,000
in attendance. Always the last Sunday in September, South
of Market on Folsom Street between 7th and 12th Streets.
STREET FAIR -www.castrostreetfair.org. Always
the first Sunday of October, one week after the Folsom
Street Fair. MISS & MR. GAY SAN FRANCISCO - www.impcourt.org
OF REMEMBRANCE - www.rememberingourdead.org
Gwen Smith started the "Remembering Our Dead" website
to honour, murdered, Rita Hester and held a candlelight
vigil in 1999. Since then, the event has grown to encompass
memorials in dozens more cities across the world. The
march to the SF GLBT Community Center begins 6:30pm the
second thursday in November at Harvey Milk Plaza (Castro
COURT INVESTITURE - www.impcourt.org
MISS TRANNYSHACK CONTEST –
TRANNY FEST - www.trannyfest.com.
This is a bi-annual, four-day “extravaganza of performances;
panels and parties climaxing in a marathon film festival
showcasing cutting-edge films and videos on the sweet
complexity, diversity, and sex appeal of lives lived on
the gender continuum." The next one is Nov. '05. Besides
producing events, Tranny Fest co-director Shawna Virago
is front woman for the band Deadly Nightshade Family,
WITH THE CRAWFORDS Artful Circle Theatre, www.actsf.com.
This is the "Mommie Dearest" drag musical that has run
10 seasons in San Francisco and three in New York. There
have been productions in Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland
with productions planned for Omaha & Wichita. It’s presented
at Theatre Rhinoceros, the oldest GLBT theatre company
in America. Artful Circle Theatre are inspired by classic
Broadway musicals and Hollywood movies. Everyone sings
in their own voices - no lip-syncing! The production values
are on a par with local professional theatres and their
sense of camp is much more refined. Other 2005 productions
include "Acid Housewife: Six Trailers of Separation" and
"Andrews Sisters Hollywood Canteen." You haven’t really
seen a drag show until you hear three drag queens sing
the Andrews Sisters live or see Judy Garland impersonated
by Connie Champagne, the sine qua non of drag queens trapped
in women’s body, www.conniechampagne.com.
RHINOCEROS, www.therhino.org also has a season
of shows. Many include gender issues and you’ll see all
flavours of gender impersonation during their season.
They presented the world premiere of Kate Bornstein’s
"Strangers in Paradox" in 2003.