Reviving a Classic

The Golden Cadillac was invented in the 1970’s. David and I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. We’ d order them anywhere we’d go but, considering the places we went, only a handful could make them.

The Alta Plaza on Fillmore and the Lion Pub on Sacramento could be counted on for a good Caddie. It was a crap shoot anywhere else. Still there was a sport to ordering them even if it did end in a blank stare from the bartender.

They were so creamy, delicious and smooth. One could easily become five. And the accompanying hangovers the next morning were some of the deadliest ever.

They’ve since fallen out of favor and have laid dormant for decades. I’ve been trying to bring them back and order them on many festive cold or hot weather occasions. Last week in a trendy south of Market restaurant I asked for one and the barkeep didn’t know what Galliano was.

So I’m often forced to travel with my own supplies as I did yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a simple recipe: 2 parts Galliano, 1 part Creme de Cacao, 3 parts cream. And a whole lot of love.

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The complete saga, From the Beginning

Gimme Danger Little Stranger

My first drag age 6. I was pissed I didn't get to be Zorro. Until I learned I got to wear make-up. I never looked back.
My first drag, age 6. I was pissed I didn’t get to be Zorro. Until I learned I got to wear make-up. I never looked back.

The Halloween night I won the contest at the ‘N Touch I stumbled home at 2 a.m. I could hear my roommate snoring so I tiptoed down the hall to my room.

I was half undressed when I heard someone stirring. This cute little Aussie boy opened my door wearing just underwear and a smile. Apparently roomie had passed out mid-coitus and Down Under had been left unfulfilled. We started making out and fell into bed.

As I pulled off the rest of my clothes he said, “leave the pantyhose on.”

I said, “nah, I’m not really into that.”

He immediately asked, “can I wear them?”

I said, “sure.” A good time was had by all.

Attitudes toward drag were changing. Ten years before I had started out innocently enough as an androgynous waif trying to look like Mick. It shocked the Indiana locals. That look was augmented when my friends and I began to mock old school drag.

The older queens’ goal in drag was to pass. My generation’s was to challenge. Old school gays were often filled with self loathing and seemed to accept that violence was a necessary evil in or out of drag. My friends and I were having none of that.

One of my all-time favorites. We put my hair up into an impromptu French roll for Mark's birthday.
One of my all-time favorites. We put my hair up into an impromptu French roll for Mark’s birthday.

There were always stories of gay men being beaten up and, in particular, a carload of drag queens being shot at coming out of the Waffle House late one night. (Bloomington is 20 miles from the home of Indiana’s KKK.)

I was assaulted one afternoon just walking down the street. Wearing appropriate (for me) mid-day attire, a car of frat boys sped by calling me names and hurling a pumpkin at me. I was too quick, they missed.

What had been shocking in Bloomington was not so much in San Francisco. Charles Pierce, Goldie Glitter and the Cockettes had the local population somewhat inured. In the mid-70s drag’s new antagonist became the gay community itself.

As the gay rights movement became more middle class there was a feeling that male femininity needed to be purged from the image. Drag queens gave gay people a bad name.

The faux-butch lumberjack look became the antidote to the queeny hair dresser stereotype. This hyper-masculine uniform looked good. Until the guy opened his mouth.

One last drag, 1995. Backstage at the Rococo Club waiting to get dressed.
The last drag, 1995. Backstage at the Rococo Club waiting to get dressed.

In 1976 I was invited to an A-list party in Pacific Heights for someone leaving to study at the Comedie Francaise. It was going to be a pretentious and boring affair which I didn’t want to attend.  The dress code would be strictly Macy’s Lifestyle.

But I was friends of the host and had no choice.  I hadn’t planned on drag but at the last-minute I decided to act out and slapped on eyeliner,  some Red Red, a wig and a dress. I was a disheveled but appealing  mess. My signature look.

My arrival was like Scarlet at Miss Melly’s birthday, the entire room was in stunned silence. This was not the place for that.

In a kill or be killed moment I spotted a friend at the far end of the room. I calmly walked towards him ignoring all the eyes that were on me. Ernie greeted me with a big bear hug. Slowly the party warmed up again.

An hour later the ice had melted in the room and in the bourbon. A drunk hunk in his Castro flannel shirt, hiking boots and handlebar moustache cornered me. With a sense of urgency he asked, “What size are those heels? A 10? I think I can fit into them.”

My party for the Library's Gay & Lesbian Center raised $5,000.
My party for the Library’s Gay & Lesbian Center raised $5,000.

Five years after that I was in the Midnight Sun talking to this cute kid 10 years younger than me. He was so excited, he’d just come up with a drag name and was getting ready to dress up for the first time. Drag had become an accepted gay rite of passage.

I held a few drag parties in the 80’s but AIDS took its toll on my mailing list. And my closest friends. I had done best when I was someone’s muse but, truth be told, I was never quite sure what I was doing. It wasn’t as much fun on my own.

The torch had been passed to RuPaul’s generation. Miss Paul took that flame and turned it into an oil rig fire.

Today I love watching Drag Race and queens like Alaska Thunderfuck (who I adore and want to marry. Or at least boink.) I wasn’t as accomplished as they are at producing a look but I’m satisfied with what I did.

I did drag when drag was dangerous.

Next: Reviving a Classic
Previous: Life of Giving Thanks
The complete saga, From the Beginning

 

Life of Giving Thanks

Well, “life” may be an overstatement. I can only remember having one Thanksgiving dinner in this apartment. It was in the late 80’s.

My focus that year was on the centerpiece. I felt the traditional cornucopia was in dire need of updating. Who wants a bunch of fruit and gourds on the table that are just going to rot and be thrown out?  Miniature airline cordials were much more practical. And popular. There wasn’t one left at the end of the evening.

There is that picture of Jeffrey and me cooking in this kitchen back in the 70’s. Which doesn’t necessarily mean the Thanksgiving dinner was here. It means there was a holiday and we had an excuse to dress up and take photos.


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Previous: Feliz dia veinteidos de Noviembre!
The complete saga, From the Beginning

Oogie Oogie Oogie

Jeffrey was going through his depression era decor phase as evidenced in the zen-like serenity of our kitchen.
Jeffrey was going through his depression era decor phase as evidenced in the zen-like serenity of our kitchen.

When Jeffrey and I first lived in this apartment we were very good friends with David, Muni and Dalia who lived behind us. We shared the same back landing so our kitchen doors were always open and there was constant traffic between the units.  When they moved out, the landlord’s cousin moved in. The Chins occupied four of the seven units and the back doors were always locked.

Above me was an older grumpy guy who went fishing early in the mornings. He could never manage more than a harumph for a hello. The other unit upstairs was a 60-year-old leather queen. Our relationship started off nice enough but then he started yelling at us for playing our music too loud. Things were tense after that.

As for loud music, the real culprit was the landlord’s brother who lived below us. When he got drunk, which could be any day at any hour, it would be nonstop “Get Down! Boogie Oogie Oogie!” Constantly repeated, it was so loud they could hear it in Milpitas. Sometimes it would be playing faintly then he’d suddenly crank it for “Boogie oogie oogie” before turning it down again.

Babysitting Dalia. The things that child saw....
Babysitting Dalia. The things that child saw….

When the Chins sold in the late 80’s only leather guy and me remained. New tenants occupied the other five units and there started to be turnover. By the mid-nineties the line-up had pretty much solidified and units rarely switched hands.

Everyone in the building was nice and we were all friendly but I started to pull back. I was getting sucked into the miasma of the corporate world and my few hours at home were my only refuge.

Then Biff moved in, he was so young and so cute. If it had been 20 years before I would have tried to pounce but all I could think was “leave the poor kid alone. Don’t shit where you eat.” The last thing I wanted was to create an uncomfortable situation for him, constantly avoiding the lecherous old neighbor whose drool was spotting the lobby carpet.

I kept my distance. I was polite and friendly but we never said much more than hello, hows it going. The more steely my reserve became the deeper I dug the hole. It might have been perceived as rudeness or arrogance.

It didn’t help that one Sunday when I was reading in bed his shades were cracked and I could see various moving parts of TWO naked young ‘uns jostling about.  It made my defenses even stronger. (I now wonder what the neighbors saw of me all those years in the window wells.)

The early days of our open door policy. David, per usual, in various states of undress.
The early days of our open door policy. David, per usual, in various states of undress.

All of us respected each other’s privacy so it was easy to go a couple of months without seeing one another. When I’d run into Biff after an absence we appeared to be following many of the same trends. He would have bleached hair and I would have bleached hair. He’d grown a beard, I had grown a beard. He had a zero crop, I had one too. We were on the same path independently of each other, kindred spirits.

Last fall when we had inklings the building was about to be sold the privacy mechanisms came tumbling down. All the tenants were talking to one another. We got together a few times to strategize and commiserate over cocktails. Biff and his partner were so warm and open. It felt comfortable to hang with them. Even their dog liked me.

We sat around laughing like we’d known each other for years. Which we had except we hadn’t. I felt like such a fool for squandering the opportunity to make a friend.

Next: Feliz dia veinteidos de Noviembre!
Previous: Helping the More Fortunate
The complete saga, From the Beginning

Helping the More Fortunate

Daryl's Mother doing her part for the greatest generation. She could never understand why we loved this photo so much.
Daryl’s Mother doing her part for the greatest generation. She could never understand why we loved this photo so much.

Christmas is a time for thinking of others including my friends Daryl and David in Palm Springs. They have over 1500 ornaments and about 250 garlands to put on their tree(s). All by Christopher Rothko. Actually it’s Radko but their works cost about the same.

I’m living proof that age is just an accumulation of things. This eviction process has me thinking about the stuff I’ve bought over the decades and how to dispose of what is no longer needed. Someone suggested selling it in a Palm Springs antique mall.

So I visited my friends to scout out the storage situation. I happened upon them at their busiest time of year, decorating for the Holidays.

It truly is a huge undertaking for them. Weeks  of ornament hanging, garland strewing and clip-on clipping. But the results are spectacular.

I did my part by helping to empty 31 of the 67 storage boxes in the dinning room. There were as many full ones still in the garage when I left.

I will be forwarding a copy of this post to the Betty Ford Center just down the street from them. I think Betty needs to develop new treatment protocols for this recently discovered affliction.

***

The Last Temptation of Me

Life, Afterlife and Lowlife

Gravesite Photo Shoot

In 1976 Jim published the final edition of White Arms Magazine devoted completely to me. It was called the B-Centennial Issue.

We decided it needed some photos featuring gravesite drama so I packed up a bunch of friends and we headed to this fabulous cemetery in Oakland. An afternoon of bereavement hilarity followed.

Grandmother used to take me to antique auctions when I was a kid and at one there was this beautiful 19th Century silk crepe widow’s veil. I asked her to buy it for me because it reminded me of the assassination. During the photo shoot I held it in place with a black beret–just like Jackie.

 

 

***

The Jackie Obsession

 

When You’re a Boy

The low spark of high heeled boys. My red platforms, 1972.
The low spark of high heeled boys. My red platforms.

I miss Joan. I was in Chicago today and saw the Bowie Is  show. My life flashed before me in the form of red grease paint over shaved eyebrows. If Miss Rivers was still doing Fashion Police I’m sure she’d feature me on “Who Wore it Best?” Or at the very least “Bitch Stole My Look.”

I loved seeing the costumes up close, especially the shoes. One pair of platforms were very similar to ones I’d had,  4″ high navy and white with pierced pinpoints. They resembled spectator pumps.

I liked his plain black flamenco boots. They had not been restored and you could see flaked leather around the bottoms. It reminded my of how hard platforms were to maintain. They were always scuffed up from being kicked in bars. Or in my case, being drug through gutters.

Life is a pop of the cherry. At the St. Regis trying to crash Mick's Birthday, July 1972.
Life is a pop of the cherry. At the St. Regis trying to crash Mick’s Birthday, July 1972.

There were a few too many handwritten notes and lyric sketches for my taste in the exhibit, things you can see in a book and don’t need to visit a museum for. But the audio grounded the whole thing.

I’m used to typical museum technology of typing “21” into the headset when you were at exhibit 21. “Bowie Is” had wifi earphones. You’d be listening to Changes then take a few steps and you’d hear Heroes.  Back and forth, the music kept up with you.

The song that surprised me most was Boys Keep Swinging. I had forgotten about it but have always loved it. And Bowie nailed the drag in the video, so disaffected with a hint of manliness.

Of the many things I walked away with from the museum, including Terryworld from the gift shop, I kept thinking of the short BBC clip when he was 17. He was group spokesman leading a rebellion of the long hairs. Apparently things had gotten so bad for these boys they’d even been referred to as “darling.”  Davey Jones’ hubris was impressive. Such conviction for something so silly.

Keith Richards always said that Bowie was just posing. Which I thought too except that his music has always affected me. Therein lies the rub.

 

Bowie Is

B ‘R

Next: Life, Afterlife and Lowlife
Previous: Life of Outrage, Life of Beauty
The complete saga, From the Beginning

Life of Outrage, Life of Beauty

The evil genius
The evil genius

Brian was a co-owner of Hot Stuff on Polk Street, a vintage clothing store. He was also an aspiring women’s designer.

In the Fall of 1979 someone came into the store to post a flyer for the Outrageous Beauty Contest to be held at the Fab Mab. Brian loved money more than anything and immediately set his eyes on the prize. That’s when our mutual friend Kathy told him to call me.

For ten days straight we got together evenings to hash out our routines. The night before the competition we met with the producer/director to preview our outfits and skits.

The guy lived in a Berkeley, commune-like setting and looked like Stephen Hawking. He was in a wheel chair and communicated with a pointer attached to his forehead he used with a letter board on his tray. His acolytes were so attuned to what he wanted, they usually knew what he meant after just a few letters.

The women he lived with were absolutely devoted to him and there was a heavy sexual vibe to it all. Some worked in the strip clubs on Broadway next to the Fab Mab. Most of the other entrants in the beauty contest worked in those clubs too. Brian and I were the only men competing..

I don’t remember all the areas of competition but one involved Brian doing a Julia Child impression assembling ingredients and preparing a sauce. He finally called for his assistant and I appeared layered in spaghetti. I was supposed to be completely covered in the pasta but in our haste to assemble it backstage it wouldn’t all stick.  The crowd loved it anyway, especially when Julia dumped the Putanesca all over me.

In another segment we appeared in Brian’s original designs made from Hefty trash bags. I played the Hallelujah Chorus on a little toy piano while wearing a Bishop’s mitre. He improvised singing God knows what.

For the finale we used nasty tripe from Safeway that had been doctored with food coloring to look like brain matter. We attached it to his forehead then he laid on a catafalque as JFK. I appeared as Jackie in the pink suit and recited poignant passages from the Inaugural Address. We won the contest and our triumph was documented in the Examiner.

We had so much fun working together I was a little surprised in the days immediately following when he became distant. He wasn’t rude about it, he just wasn’t sentimental. He was ready to move on to the next money-making opportunity, whatever that might be.

I wasn’t about to let him get away with that shit. I forced myself on him and within a couple of weeks we were inseparable. We remained close friends until he died in 1991.

 

 

***

The Jackie Obsession

Pride Before the Fall

Pushing Mr. Sarah in the '79 Parade a month after he was beaten in the White Night Police Riot. After several brain surgeries, 4 weeks in General and my skilled handling of the chair, he started to recover.
Pushing Mr. Sarah in the ’79 Parade a month after he was beaten in the White Night Police Riot. After several brain surgeries, 4 weeks in General and my skilled handling of his chair, he slowly started to recover.

No self-respecting gay San Franciscan participates in the City’s vast grab for tourist dollars called the Pride Parade. Fortunately for the Visitors Bureau there are still enough self loathers left to lend it a somewhat local feel.

Back in the day it was a street party where you’d run into lots of people you knew being silly and stupid.  You would do bad things like get drunk on a Sunday afternoon and eat those awful barbecued turkey legs because it was the only food around. Once fortified you could go on to do other bad things.

Then the parade became a destination vacation for millions of gays from around the world. It got to the point where you’d be lucky to run into one person you knew.

The parade started going downhill for locals in the late 70’s. My favorite all time float was a truck towing a Mercury Cougar. On top of the car were punks with sledge hammers completely demolishing it during the course of the parade. On the side they’d spray painted “No Assimilation!” I doubt if their entry would pass muster with today’s Committee.  The folks from Omaha just wouldn’t understand.

This year on Pride day I made plans to go with my friend Leigh. I love hanging with her because she has zero tolerance for the banal. I’ve been at the theatre with her where we’ve realized after 15 minutes the play was a dud and she’s turned on a dime, “we’re out of here.” None of this “respect the artist” or “we paid good money for these seats” crap. That Sunday we decided to go down to the Civic Center to check out the scene.

After a late start we hooked up on Polk at 3:00 and walked towards the action. I was astonished that the event which was huge years ago had gotten even bigger. It used to be a stretch to say that a million people attended, million might now be plural. It was claustrophobic but fascinating. So many young people in their underwear, so many old people in items they should not be wearing in public. We watched the dancers a bit, goofed on the odd balls, but basically just tried to stay in visual contact as we fought through the crowd on our way to Zuni.

Some questioned the extent of Mr. Sarah's recovery when he painted his living room fuschia. Eve Ning called it "hematosis red."
Some questioned the extent of Mr. Sarah’s recovery when he painted his living room fuschia. Eve Ning called it “hematosis red.”

The last time I went to Zuni on Pride we sat down and had a late lunch. Not a chance this year. Apparently a decade or two ago it turned into a (mostly) Lesbian hangout on the day of days. It was one huge bar scene spilling out into the street and side alley. Cars detoured into the center of Market to bypass the people but Muni had to sit there and lay on the horns  so they could turn right on to Haight.

Getting up to the bar was impossible but Leigh, in her inimitable way, had our Margaritas in no time. They were so potent we decided to have a second. After a couple sips it was time to leave, we walked up Franklin Street drinks in hand. I did 60’s poses on how to hold a cocktail while she worried we were going to be busted. The fates were with us and the cops otherwise occupied. We avoided the drunk tank.

The carnival spirit of the day made me rethink my animosity towards Pride. I would never begrudge anyone for having such a good time. Still, something about it just doesn’t smell right.

As Mayor Ed Lee, Ron Conway and the real estate developers destroy the fabric of gay life in San Francisco, the City still puts on a good party. But that party benefits City coffers not the gays and lesbians who live here and who are being forced out in droves.

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