One of the true charms of the San Francisco nightlife scene has been the proliferation of long-running fun-filled club nights that are more like special events than mere dates on a calendar. A handful of them have been running on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis at one or more venues for over a decade — or two. They include the (mostly) 1980s discotheque New Wave City (23 years in action), the drag extravaganza Mother (launched 20 years ago as Trannyshack), the BDSM-themed Bondage a Go-Go (23 years of dancing and consenting play), the Goth- and industrial-rock-oriented Death Guild (still not ready for the mausoleum after 23 years), the wacky burlesque of the Hubba Hubba Revue (10 years of bump ’n’ grind), and my personal favorite, the nationally and internationally franchised mash-up party Bootie (13 years of mixing and matching old and new tunes).
So it’s with considerable pleasure that I became aware of a new, underground variety show/spectacle building momentum in San Francisco — a city that no longer seems inclined to foster such arty, funky happenings. The extravaganza of note is called Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret, created and hosted by Ms. Robichaud. She’s an antic, flamboyant, powerfully voiced (and delightfully nubile) singer (and hard-rockin’ Top 10 finalist on NBC-TV’s The Voice) who knocked me out when I saw her perform in Los Angeles as a member of the First Church of the Sacred Silversexual — the coolest and most creative David Bowie tribute band in the land. Kat’s rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” mashed with Bowie’s “China Girl” was revelatory, hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-my-neck stuff. Now, she’s produced Misfit Cabaret at the historic, once-dilapidated, now-restored Great Star Theater, the former Chinatown showcase for a parade of Hong Kong martial arts flicks, among other movie treats.
Kat, who leads a pretty fantastic glam-rock band called the Darling Misfits, brings a dark Vaudeville-meets-Weimar vibe to the Cabaret, with music, fancy dress, circus acrobatics, magic, comedy, a little bit of the ol’ burly-q — and the force of her own queen-sized personality and roof-raising pipes. After a sold-out two-night engagement last month, it would be a pity to not have more Misfit mischief on a regular basis. It could be the Beach Blanket Babylon of the 21st Century. Meanwhile, we still have a choice of perennials to enjoy, even if a few of them have moved from their original locales.
Dressed in black, wearing ankh charms around their necks, heavy on the black eyeliner and lipstick, lovers of Bauhaus, The Cult, and the Sisters of Mercy continue to convene for Death Guild on Monday nights at the DNA. Mash-up fanatics crowd the DNA for Bootie every Saturday night, and revel in the D.J. ministrations of the event’s founder partners Adrian & the Mysterious D and their visiting colleagues from all over the planet. There are timely themes. Bootie’s recent David Bowie tribute night (preceded by one held in SoCal at Bootie L.A.) was both celebrative and moving. Plus, once or twice a month, there’s live music from the house band Smash-Up Derby with Adrian on vocals alongside fellow singers Mimi Ferrari, Trixxie Carr, and even Kat Robichaud
The transgressive hilarity never ceases on Saturdays at the Oasis when the culturally astute, often political and invariably funny Mother — established and hosted by the bawdy, tireless and brutally witty Heklina (a.k.a. Stefan Grygelko), presents the cream of local and national drag queens addressing a different sort of topic or musical inspiration each week. If you haven’t seen someone do a dead-on Cher impersonation, using a walker and lip-syncing “If I Could Turn Back Time” with age-lines penciled on her face, you’re missing out.
MAKING THE ROUNDS
There are more of these recurrent gatherings in the San Francisco area. The Hubba Hubba folks do it (heh) on both sides of the bay — monthly in San Francisco at (where else?) the DNA and every Monday at the Uptown in Oakland. The Cat Club in SoMa is a veritable nexus, presenting Bondage a Go-Go weekly and New Wave City monthly, as well as Class of ’84, Club Gossip, Strangelove, Boogie Nights, and more.
As for what I find on my Los Angeles rounds, there are evergreen equivalents to my San Francisco haunts: Los Angeles’s own Bootie at the Echoplex, as well as the Regent; the fetish-lovers’ number-one Hollywood hangout, Bar Sinister at Boardner’s; and the nerd-tastic, burlesque troupe Devil’s Playground whose elaborate pop-culture-wise diversions are mounted at the Dragonfly. And whereas Incredibly Strange Wrestling — San Francisco’s mix of rock bands and Mexican Lucha Libre — is but a memory, Los Angeles continues to be home to one of the most amazing entertainment bargains imaginable, Lucha Va-Voom. This intersection of masked wrestling and striptease dancers, with blow-by-blow color commentary from a rotating team of top-shelf comedians, generally happens at the Mayan theater on holidays like Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, and is worth the wait. If ever there were a party that demanded repeat attendance, it’s Lucha Va-Voom.