The San Francisco Agenda was Passport’s first pop up blog, and we hope you enjoyed all the great people and places we discovered and shared with you. By inviting writers and photographers from around the world to contribute to our Pop Up Blogs, we hope to provide you with an insider’s knowledge of the people and places that make each city we visit unique and exciting.
Each of the blog postings from the San Francisco Agenda are archived here to help you plan your visits to wonderful the City by the Bay. A big thank you to Jim Gladstone for his amazing reviews and interviews.
BTW: What city would you like us to feature in our next Pop Up Blog? Let us know.
All the best from Team Passport!
Described in The New Yorker as “The greatest cabaret artist of vs generation” by Hilton Als, Tony-nominated performance artist Justin Vivian Bond is best known as Kiki of ‘Kiki and Herb,’ and as one of the stars of John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. Bond appears this Friday through Sunday night (October 12-14) at the Rrazz Room, singing, joshing and premiering excerpts from vs new solo show, Mx America.
While currently residing in New York, Bond lived in San Francisco for many years and remains a frequent visitor to the city. We asked v to share some favorite haunts and hangouts in SF.
What’s your favorite cultural institution to spend time at in the city?
There are few places in the world that mean more to me than The Castro Theatre. Long before I gave concerts or appeared in films there I sat in the audience and was introduced to the great directors of queer cinema: Derek Jarman, Tom Kalin, Sally Potter, Marlon Riggs among so many others and I also got the thrill of experiencing many classic films I’d been dying to see on the big screen for the first time. The Frameline Film Festival and the magical events produced by Marc Huestis are just a few of the mind-expanding traditions that continue to draw me. I’m not even going to go into the times I’ve been all nervous, excited and amped up with desire while on a date at the Castro. I love that the Castro Theater remains what it was created to be -a dream palace.
What’s your favorite view in the city?
I love the view from Buena Vista Park when the fog starts rolling in. I used to live near the park and the trees, the smell and the slight chill that comes in at twilight on a fall afternoon is wildly romantic. It let’s you know why San Francisco has inspired so much poetry.
Where is shopping central for you?
I’ve bought some of the best clothes I’ve ever owned at thrift shops on Valencia. My girlfriends and I used to spend hours trying on clothes to buy by the pound at Clothes Contact. I don’t think they sell them by the pound anymore but I still always manage to find something there. I wore a red dress from there in my video for “American Wedding”.
Name one thing a visitor shouldn’t miss eating in San Francisco?
I get sick cravings for the el pastor tacos at El Toro on Valencia but I love the burritos at Pancho Villa on 16th for old times sake. I used to live on those when I was appearing in Kate Bornstein’s Hidden: A Gender at Theater Rhinoceros. I was playing a 19th century French hermaphrodite named Herculine Barbin and my co-stars would marvel that I would go onstage with an entire burrito in my stomach. I don’t think I could do that now.
Cocktail spot of choice?
I married the Lesbian Elvis Impersonator Elvis Herselvis over 20 years ago in SF and she always likes to take me to the Tonga Room. I prefer something a little more understated but hey, what can I say, I’m putty in the hands of an excellent kisser.
You’ve got $50 or more per person to spend for a meal, where would you choose?
I like eating at Foreign Cinema on Mission St. It’s a great place to meet up with old friends while I’m in town. I usually stay with my friend, the San Francisco based artist Deniece Laws, who lives in the Mission and we can have a nice cocktail or two and stumble home in our heels.
So now you’ve got less than $15 per person to spend for a meal. Where will it be?
On a beautiful day there is nothing more fun that body watching in Dolores Park so go to It’s Tops grocery store, grab some fixings and have a picnic. It’s cheap and you might even find some free love!
What would you tell a visitor that they absolutely must do while in San Francisco which they probably wouldn’t find in a guidebook?
SEE LIVE PERFORMANCE! There are so many wonderful performers living in San Francisco: from singers like Veronica Klaus, Leigh Crow, and Connie Champagne to performance troups like The Thrillpeddlers, brilliant poets and writers presented by The Radar Readers Series and lots of really wonderful up-and-coming young artists just beginning to find their voices.
I’ve been more than a little surprised to see lots and lots of discounted tickets popping up on online bargain websites for the American Conservatory Theater’s production of The Normal Heart. Last year, A.C.T.’s lighthearted Tales of the City was a tough ticket, and its run was extended multiple times. But this season’s gay-themed mainstage production appears to be lacking buzz. As playwright Larry Kramer might say (or scream): Shame!
Kramer’s scorching 1985 autobiographical drama about the early days of AIDS in New York is a ferociously emotional and political work of theater that was “ripped from the headlines” when first produced and today might be called “ripped from the history books.” The play helped catalyze and amplify community anger over the dismissal of the burgeoning epidemic by government and the medical institutions, and begin to move our country forward toward saner policy. The Normal Heart proved that art can make a difference in American society.
The production at A.C.T., directed by George C. Wolfe, won last year’s Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Currently in preview performances, it officially opens next Wednesday.
Do San Franciscans feel The Normal Heart will bring back too many difficult memories? In the face of Prop 8, Mitt Romney, and rising presence of AIDS among younger generations, are today’s gay men so ready to bury our heads and ignore the still urgent messages of this landmark piece of political art? Here’s a fascinating interview with Kramer, conducted in conjunction with the play’sopening in New York last year.
Man up, San Francisco, and support this important production.
Amidst a Bay Area bar scene often flawed by overhype and overcrowding, on of my favorite ways to pass a Sunday morning is a visit to Zeitgeist. The Mission stalwart’s biker bar decor and rowdy, crowded late night scene cede to a calming quiet with sleepy-eyed early shift bartenders, and lemony sun spilling across the patio beer garden. Doors open at 9am, and until 11 or so, you and your crew can pretty much have the place to yourself.
You don’t have a wait to play game after game of pool at the red-felted table. The click of cues and the echoing roll of successfully sunken balls provide a meditative percussion, a sweet simple sound to start a day of lazy leisure.
And that crimson cloth constantly reminds you to order up another tall, tangy, justifiably celebrated Zeitgeist Bloody Mary. An awakening kick of pickle juice, a scold of grated of horseradish and a side-salad’s worth of briny vegetable garnishes make it seem sufficiently virtuous for pre-noon imbibing.
The history of the gay rights movement in the Bay Area and throughout the state of California will be explored on a special docent led tour at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) on Friday, September 28 at 7 p.m. A selection of artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection will be spotlighted in a program that will trace from the early 20th Century to today, touching upon the emergence of sexual identity politics, the overlap of gay liberation with the hippie and beatnik movements, the rise of Harvey Milk and the LGBT community as a political force, and the current drive for gay marriage equality. The tour is included with admission, only $6 after 5pm.
Dedicated to the art, history, and culture of our state, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), is often overshadowed by San Francisco’s powerhouse DeYoung, MOMA, Academy of Sciences and other museums. But—in addition to permanent collections focused art, history, and nature as seen through a distinctively Californian lens—OMCA steadfastly mounts some of the Bay Area’s most intriguing temporaryexhibitions and special programs, such as this month’s LGBT tour.
Come early on tour night to check out the recently extended The 1968 Exhibit, which spotlights that watershed year of Vietnam, the assasinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, feminist protests at the Miss America pageant, Black Power demonstrations at the Olympics, and more.
Throughout 2012, OMCA has presented shows at once provocative and crowd-pleasing, including a retrospective of internationally acclaimed Oakland graphic novelist and cartoonist Daniel Clowes; an eye-popping, mindbending collection of social justice posters; and a installation featuring thematically interwoven video interviews of 1500 black men throughout the United States.
There’s more to come in 2013…so keep posted on their programs and make sure that OMCA gets out from under your radar.
For a couple years now, the Off the Grid organization has been choreographing regularly scheduled al fresco food courts, handling the logistics and licenses required to have three-to-eight food trucks corralled in a core urban location for a few hours of lunch or dinner time revelry, creating steady income streams for mobile food entrepreneurs and bringing a sense of camaraderie to local communities. Their online calendar provides info on where and when you’re guaranteed to find eclectic meals on wheels every day of the week.
But, now, the next stage of street food evolution has arrived: There’s no need to check a calendar to get your grub on at the SOMA StrEatfood Park. Opened this summer in a heavily trafficked area South of Market, the brainchild of Carlos Muela—proprietor of first-rate Mission tapas bar Esperpento—has turned a vacant lot into a festive hub of eclectic, modestly priced eats every day of the week—at lunch and dinner. It’s also about to become a major nexus of weekend nightlife, with a third shift of trucks now taking over on Friday and Saturday nights from Midnight to 4 am. From Vietnamese bahn mi, to pulled pork mac and cheese, to burritos, to chicken schnitzel, to falafel, to fresh baked cookies, this is a cornucopia on macadam.
As many as 10 trucks a shift set up camp around StrEatfood’s clever, barn-like covered seating area complete with big screen TVs playing local sporting events, heat lamps for the cooler weather, and—this being San Francisco—free WiFi access. And—drum roll please—there are public restrooms.
The StrEatfood Park also also has outdoor seating, with clustered plantings that make it feel less like a vacant lot than an urban garden. At night, strings of tiny lights give the venue an carnival air as tail lights whiz by on the freeway above and giant billboards loom overhead. There’s a gritty, urban magic to the place that’s likely to turn it into a regular spot on the itinerary of more adventurous tourists.
The Agenda is a big advocate of seeing movies on a big screen, surrounded by a crowd of friends and strangers connected by laughter, suspense, pathos, and excitement. Sure, the ability to watch Mark Ruffalo while sprawled on your couch in nothing but boxers and a blankie is a benefit to home viewing, but we spend so much solo screen time these days that the communal experience of film in a theater is well-worth hanging on to.
But the economics can feel tough to justify: Up to $12 a ticket (never mind popcorn and parking) at many SF theaters makes regular moviegoing a hard pill to swallow. For goodness’ sake, its only five bucks or so to rent a film and squeeze a whole gang of skivvy-clad Mark Ruffalo fans onto your comfy loveseat (Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a massive afghan).
Enter compromise, in the form of the SF MovieBears, a group of furry, film-loving fellows who—out of pure sociability and movie love—organize weekly group movie nights which allow members of the general public (regardless of physique, hirsuteness, and gender) to purchase discount tickets (usually $8) to screenings of first run films. You just reserve online, show up at the theater to get your ticket, and enjoy. You can even sit wherever you want, although introducing yourself and sitting with other MovieBear participants offers a great opportunity for making new friends with at least one (movies) and quite possibly two (bears) common interests.
Among upcoming outings are:
—Keep the Lights On, the much buzzed about film about a gay relationship sullied by drug abuse
—End of Watch, with Jake Gyllenhall as a cop
Check out th SF Movie Bears website to learn about their other social events, including nights at the theater, karaoke parties, hiking excursions, and more.
Last week, we took our own Agenda advice and checked out John Epperson performing as his alter ego Lypskinka…who was in turn performing as one of her many alter egos, Joan Crawford. The Passion of the Crawford is a rich, sly salute to one of the great gay icons, in which Epperson recreates an interview with the legend in her later years, disappearing into character while flawlessly lip-syncing to a recording of the actual event. Lip-syncing the spoken word requires a level of precision beyond what’s required to mouth along to pop songs, but Epperson is so technically on point that one actually forgets that he isn’t speaking—this is no drag show, its a display of extraordinary acting and remarkable physical discipline.
While post-modern drag is all the rage here in San Francisco, the evening had me feeling a tinge of mournfulness for studious exercises in camp and diva worship like Epperson’s. My partner and I—both in our mid-40s—were among the youngest gay men in the audience. Even as The New Normal takes to the airwaves and new norms begin to elevate society as a whole, one senses that a certain reverence for the gay past is beginning to wane. “Gay history” has really only been a topic of study for the past half century or so, yet—reflecting other ageist ways of our tribe—cultural touchstones that go back more than a few decades are starting to be treated like “gay ancient history.”
Are there any twentysomething gay boys who will carry the torch for Joan Crawford? Seems like Lady Gaga is already over for most of them.
So, if you’re over 35, here’s your assignment: Be a Daddy Dearest.School a twink! Treat a young friend to The Passion of the Crawford,—which continues through this Sunday at The Rrazz Room, lend them some classic movie DVDs (How quaint…haven’t you heard of streaming?), take them to task!
And for you discerning gentlemen who recognize timeless classics and have no inclination to ever brush them aside, come share your good taste with John Epperson, himself, making a rare public appearance in trousers, and at the piano, for a one night cabaret performance of “An Evening with Lypsinka’s Maid” on Monday night, September 17, at the Rrazz. Expect songs, stories, and appropriate deference to our distant 20th century past.
More drag delights? Check out a local star in and out of character, here.
San Francisco Cocktail Week gets underway next Monday, with a spirited series of events, from lectures to tastings to tours. Highlights include The Best of the West— a showcase of signature drinks from top mixologists in SF, Las Vegas, Portland, LA, Reno, Seattle, and Sacramento—and a prison-themed closing party at St. George Spirits in Alameda with $5 shuttle bus service to and from the Ferry Building in SF, so no one need go to the clink on a DUI.
As our own toast to to the festivities, the Agenda is happy to share 3 Cheers— a few of our favorite spots to imbibe in the Bay Area:
1) Oakland’s District is is blessed with the genius of Spirits Director Caterina Mirabelli, a master of unexpected pairings. Go for the “Ryes to the Occasion” flight of whiskeys, carefully matched with selections from chef Bob Cina’s house made charcuterie offerings and take your palate into an unexpected realm of adventure.
2) One tends to think of Italian restaurants as unlikely locales for great bar programs, but Locanda in the Mission belies that assumption. Our favorite is the Helen di Montenegro, a smoothly balanced blend of tequila, amaro, agave, grapefruit and lime that’s none-too-sweet and awakens the palate for the heartier flavors of the Roman-style cuisine (Try the fettucini with rabit sugo and chicory).
3) A few times a year, I drop into Specs, conveniently located across the street from City Lights Books, with which it shares an air of San Francisco bohemia. This dark, bric-a-brac barnacled booze cave opened back in 1968 and never seems to change. Its not so much a time capsule as a capsule of timelessness. You can count on the presence of a taxidermied armadillo, a handful of pickled patrons, and the blessed absence of a television—which fosters conversations among strangers. Order straightforwardly: a Guinness, a shot of Jack, or a martini. And a plastic basket of cheese and crackers.
Video from Cocktail Week 2010, after the jump
“San Francisco was my ship’s home port when I was an Officer in the U.S. Navy, from 1952 to 1955,” says David Leddick, writer, performer, bon vivant, and editor of Gorgeous Gallery, a gobstopping (or gob-inducing, as the case may be) new coffee table volume of homoerotic art—much of which is too explicit to be shown on this blog.
The moment I saw the statue of The Thinker by Rodin in front of the Legion of Honor Museum, I was immediately elevated into another realm of thinking and feeling. San Francisco always was, and still is, an important force in bringing European art and what it means to the United States. I lived in San Francisco again in 1959 when I studied dance with the San Francisco Ballet. The Legion of Honor Museum, along with a lot of other San Francisco influences, sophisticated me in a very brief period of time.”
We asked Leddick—who now lives in Miami, but is still a frequent visitor to the Bay Area—to muse upon his strongest San Francisco memories…
- “I remember climbing the stairs in Coit Tower, with its Art Deco murals (I also love the 1930s murals at the Beach Chalet in Golden Gate Park). On one wall of the tower is a man reaching for a volume among the many books painted there. The volume is by Oscar Wilde. If you can find it, note the books it’s wedged between. Here, gayness, period magic and the exhilaration of the view at the top mix for a one-of-a-kind experience.”
- “On my meditation chest at home I have a fat bronze puppy imported from Japan. I found it at Gump’s some years back when I was on location doing a TV commercial in San Francisco [Leddick worked in advertising]. Such wonderful taste in the selection of Asian objects can be found at Gump’s. A store like no other in the United States.”
- “The Top of The Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel is pure glamour. A great room, a vertiginous and remarkable view, swell looking people. I love to have a cocktail there, and then later, wander through the lobby of the Fairmount Hotel, just across the street. It was decorated by Dorothy Draper back in the 1940s. What a beauty. What a fantastic carpet!”