Insider tips: J. Conrad Frank
Welcome to a special “Double Take” Edition of Insider Tips.
About three years ago, I was enjoying a Saturday lunch at the late lamented Blue restaurant in the Castro when I glanced across the room and spotted a tall lanky fellow with a handsome profile that struck me familiar. I racked my brain trying to figure out where I recognized him from before finally catching his eye and asking him where he worked, assuming I’d seen him at some shop, bar, or cafe I frequented.
“I’m a performer,” he said, introducing himself as Conrad. In that moment, it all clicked—I’d seen his face for weeks, made-up and bewigged, in advertisements for a Christmas show he was performing as his drag persona, the Countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy. What a strange—and slightly embarrassing—sensation it was, to realize that I’d not been able to break through my perceptual gender wall to recognize Frank’s striking, singular face out of female context.
Well, Frank—who’s performed male roles in local productions of The Temperamentals and Sweeney Todd over the past year as well as doing regular gigs as Katya—is taking gender-blending one step further as the first drag headliner at San Francisco’s Penthouse Club, in a special Divas! Cabaret Brunch on Sunday, September 16. The club—regularly packed with conventioneers and other afficionadoes of authentic boobage—advertises with the slogan: “Where the magazine comes to life.” Well, next Sunday, we can amend that to “Where the magazine comes to life…for those of us who read the Forum column with a cockeyed perspective.”
What’s your favorite SF cultural institution and why?
Take in a picture from the “Golden Age” of Hollywood or a cult classic at the historic Castro Theater. For live entertainment, The Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko offers amazing talent in an intimate setting.
What’s the best spot in the city to take in a view?
Nothing beats the top of Tank Hill on a sunny clear afternoon. With views from bridge to bridge and beyond, this hidden gem is a stunningly quiet and romantic place, perfect for a picnic and a few bottles of Champagne.
What are your favorite shopping spots?
Be a true San Franciscan and hit Gumps (just off Union Square), one of San Francisco’s last local department stores.
Dining and drinking tips…after the jump
What would you tell a visitor are SF’s true “must eats”?
The Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad at Zuni will change your life….
Where do you recommend for cocktail hour?
Martuni’s, the last Great PIANO BAR in SF!! They poor a stiff, reasonably priced cocktail. The best nights are…Sunday and Monday nights! The crowd is mixed and the energy is fantastic–and who does not love a piano bar?
If you had $50 or more per person to spend for a dinner out, where would you choose, and why?
For a special night out try NOPA. The drinks are delish, the menu innovative and somehow familiar, and the vibe is edgy and fresh…not to mention there are some very attractive bartenders….just saying.
And what if you had less than $15 per person?
La Cumbre in the Mission is my favorite spot for an authentic and delicious burrito.
What would you recommend that visitors to SF should definitely check out that they’d be unlikely to find in a guidebook?