After a Fashion
Stephen goes to San Francisco, hunting for Trannyshack and rolling papers
I Brought My Heart In the nearly 30 years since I lived in San Francisco, very little seems to have changed ... and yet, when I arrived last weekend, it was as if I'd never seen it before. I'd forgotten what a gorgeous city it is, and from our swank hotel perch 29 floors above the city, we overlooked Union Square, the San Francisco Bay, the Transamerica Pyramid, and so many of the other typical SF sights that are so famous. But we wound up at the end of our trip in a faaabulous 1881 Victorian jewel of a mansion owned by our gracious host, Mike Finn: writer, producer, painter, and performer extraordinaire. The house, with its original wallpaper and gaslight fixtures, is located near Alamo Square Park in Hayes Valley. Truly spectacular in its lush appointments, it has appeared in a number of specials on the History Channel, and I slept in the room next to the room Eartha Kitt stayed in during New Faces of 1952. Strolling the historic neighborhood, I, needless to say, displayed rapt attention as Mike pointed out the house of the notorious Zebra killers. Then we turned the corner at Alamo Square Park, and before our eyes was the row of San Francisco's dazzling Painted Ladies. It's the street that the gigantic Brooke Shields steps over in Suddenly Susan and also where Full House was filmed – both of which constitute crimes in my book. Kitty-corner to that was the apartment where Patty Hearst was held before she participated in the robbery of the Hibernia Bank, and we could look across the park and see the turrets of the house that Charles Manson once lived in. But if I thought those crimes were fun, the crimes of beauty and nature perpetrated onstage at the Regency on Saturday night were breathtaking. Back at Mike's, there was electricity between him and his two roommates, Matthew Martin and Metalpatricia, each a stellar performer. Mike and his roommates have been involved with their friend Heklina, who for 12 years has been the force behind the famous Tuesday night party at the Stud, Trannyshack. Choosing to work on larger projects in bigger venues, Heklina is retiring the party and threw something called the Trannyshack Kiss-Off Party to mark its passing. Mike has been the best friend to my brother's girlfriend, Michelle Kosusnik, for a thousand years, and his invitation to this final party was the reason Michelle and I went to SF in the first place. And what a goddamn party it was. The divine Lady Miss Kier headlined (catch her show this Saturday night in Austin at the Cockpit, info at www.xhbt.org) what turned out to be some of the most incredible performance art I've ever seen. Trannyshack is a rock & roll alternative drag show with high-concept performances, some of which are brilliant pieces that have even been performed in museums. The riveting performance by Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters had the outrageously dressed audience in a complete lather, as did the antics of Heklina and Lady Bunny. Further performances included Tony Award nominee Justin Bond; the magnificent Fauxnique, who transforms herself into an exotic butterfly; Kiddie, whose routine included being branded live onstage (along with another performer who had something far more invasive happen to him onstage); and a Madonna impressionist who had every single detail correct in her rapid-fire medley featuring rapid-fire costume changes to illustrate Madge's many incarnations. Truly a night of wonder, shock, and awe ... which set off an extended floating party that took me from one side of town to another, culminating with a delirious round of drinking at the End Up, which opened at 6am (with a $20 cover, but worth every penny), and I finally stumbled to my bed, senseless, sometime later in the afternoon. I did appropriate penance with an extended nap that lasted well into the next afternoon. Finally, I was able to face the prospect of visiting Castro Street and Haight-Ashbury, where I unwittingly became involved in a distressingly lengthy and unpleasant search for a certain kind of rolling paper. There obviously is some city ordinance that requires all business owners in the Haight to sell merchandise emblazoned with marijuana leaves. One of the head shops was even blaring Jimi Hendrix. Like Austin, the more SF changes, the more it stays the same.