San Francisco, on the other hand, is a magnet school for freaks. The freak flag flies with reassuring consistency here, and there is a critical mass of people who support the outrageous, outlandish or simply outre. And that is why they get to have nice things, like Trannyshack.
Briefly, Trannyshack is a weekly drag event held at a shithole gay bar (the kind I like to bitch about in Detroit) called The Stud located in the South of Market area of SF. Started by Heklina in 1996, the show is known for its cutting-edge performances and departure from regular ball-gown diva lip synch drag. I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia entry here, and watching this YouTube video with clips from an evening at The Stud. After twelve years, Heklina decided to put Trannyshack to rest with a huge Trannyshack Kiss Off party this past Saturday night.
It is a testament to the gay community in San Francisco that what was a popular, but fringe, event managed to pull a crowd of ... 1000? 1500? I mean, when was the last time anyone saw 1000 homos in one place in Detroit? And this was pretty solid gay, not an excessive amount of straight girl filler. And like 10% were in some kind of drag. It was, needless to say, thrilling.
What's your count?
It would be a waste of time for me to try and describe in detail every act in this tremendous evening, so I'll show you what I can. I took some crappy video clips with my cell phone, and since the show was a "best of Trannyshack" there are some original performances you can watch on YouTube.
Hoku Mama Swamp opened with a Queen Elizabeth number about absolute power corrupting absolutely (or whatever) to Abba's "Lay All Your Love on Me," with "Love is a Battlefield" Pat Benetar breakout choreography and a crowd-pleasing Madonna MTV Awards "Vogue" traveling posse of fabulous.
Raya Light provided a dramatic morality tale about the victimation, exploitation and ultimate empowerment of women (well, that's what I got from it) with a reprise of her Miss Trannyshack-winning Kate Bush/Kelly Clarkson number (original here).
Lady Miss Kier from Deee-Lite was there. And oh my. I mean, I'm by no means the inguenue I was in 1992, but then I didn't make my name prancing around in Pucci bodysuits either. Get a new stylist at the very least, Tammy Faye!
Why don't we, why don't we, whyyyy don't we whyyyy don't we ... change our look?
The House of More! (Juanita More! and Glamamore) performed the Flower Duet in dresses made entirely from paper. A flawless number.
Kimo performed "Ten Years of Madonna in Ten Minutes" (original peformance here) which was clever and fun, but the subsequent performance was one of two that really drove home the over-the-top nature of Trannyshack.
Kiddie performed a powerful rendition of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain" that was pretty straightforward, focused on perfect make-up and lip synch ... until the hooded monk figures appeared to heat up pieces of metal with a blowtorch and BRAND HER BACK WITH THEM! And she didn't flinch! Unbelievable. This branding had the crowd's rapt attention - maybe Detroit Renaissance should consider something like this instead of a new slogan the next time around. (See a clip from Saturday here, and the entire original amazing performance here.)
Well, fortunately Lady Bunny was in town to lighten things up after that, and she did some of her patented routine (an example from Trannyshack earlier this year here). She is one fucked up bitch.
And then Fauxnique, a biological woman who is also a drag performer and Miss Trannyshack title winner (I told you Trannyshack was progressive) peformed a really beautiful number en pointe to Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life." I don't have my video editing software here on vacation but I put my clips together in a playlist, because I thought for those of you who like this stuff it was really worth getting a taste. Just really really great!
Justin Bond, famous as Kiki from Kiki & Herb in NYC, was on hand also, although sadly his brand of torch/vamp/camp singing didn't really translate well to the venue. I guess you have to be in row seven with him screaming at you to really fully enjoy it. But what came next definitely qualified as the most fucked up drag anything I've ever seen in my entire drag-loving life.
A queen named Precious Moments was up next and peformed "Gloria" by Patti Smith. Spinning on a communion rail with her dress hiked up (and showing the goods - click on the picture below for the very NSFW view of that) she was eventually banged by altar boys, priests, the pope, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ on the cross. And then the number ended with her flouncing across the stage and someone coming over and shoving a buttplug up her butt. For real.
Precious Moments indeed.
Click picture for the other view. You won't be sorry.
Or actually, maybe you will.
Did you know that Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters got her start in the SF Trannyshack scene? Me neither, but it's true. She was another celeb on hand to bid farewell, and she had lots of cute boys in her number too. Bravo.
Can someone get me the boy with the glasses?
The final performer of the night was Putanesca, who did a very dramatic performance to a Siouxsie Sioux number in the greatest drag gown since the last time I claimed something was the greatest drag gown. Really gorgeous, "gothic beauty of the highest order." Watch the original fabulous performance here.
And then ... and then that was it. Heklina came out to bid farewell ... not forever, but for now. And after proclaiming she didn't want to end Trannyshack in a predictable way, she burst into a performance of "I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" by Jennifer Holiday. And through the course of the song she was joined by throngs of drag queens on stage. You really don't need to see more than these 15 seconds to know how overwrought that was.
"Well, I guess we could do something predictable after all."
I loves me some good drag, and this was just the thing to get me back on the gay track. An inspiring evening and undoubtedly one of the high points of this summer!