All's hopping on the Western front
by Roberto Friedman
Servicemen, Cockettes, tales from deepest Hollywood and the coalmines: it was a hopping full week for Out There. Let's start with last Wednesday night, when we attended the grand opening of the newly remodeled Masonic auditorium up on Nob Hill. The art deco palace has undergone a $7 million renovation, and is now a proper showcase for the four-story mosaic mural in its lobby by the late gay artist Emile Norman. The building's facade features a Norman war memorial sculpture as well, a frieze of four 12-foot-high figures representing the four branches of the armed forces. In addition, 40 San Francisco scene photos by gay SF artist Ron Henggeler, and historic photos from his collection of vintage images, were chosen to decorate the Masonic's walls. The photos are printed 40 x 60 inches on aluminum, and present a fitting tribute to our City by the Bay.
The Masonic bash was first-class deluxe. We were given access not only to the grand lobby and refurbished auditorium, but also to the backstage area, dressing rooms and new VIP party space known as the California room, with its windows overlooking Nob Hill. A few tours of duty over by the open bar, then it was time for us to scoot down the hill to the theatre district for the opening of ACT's season, genius clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner in Old Hats, reviewed in this issue.
Friday night we met up with friends in Golden Gate Park to attend A Tribute to the Cockettes, an art-social event at the de Young Museum in conjunction with the exhibit Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay. The festivities included a "piano bar" session in which director Russell Blackwood led his Thrillpeddlers troupers, including original members of the Cockettes, in recreations of scenes and songs from such legendary Cockettes vehicles as Pearls over Shanghai, Hot Greeks, Vice Palace, and Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma. Cabaret luminaries Veronica Klaus and Katya Smirnoff-Skyy also sat in, with Scrumbly Koldewyn accompanying on piano. Then The Cockettes co-director David Weissman presented rare Cockettes film clips, including from the 1971 classic, Tricia's Wedding.
Saturday night found us back in the neighborhood as we went to The Marsh in the Mission for opening night of Semi-Famous: Hollywood Hell Tales from the Middle, the new one-man show from the talented performer Don Reed (East 14th, Can You Dig It?). Reed tells tales from Tinseltown, including from his gig as warm-up act for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (best guest: Tom Cruise ; worst guest: Courtney Love ); anecdotes featuring Ike Turner , Lenny Kravitz and others; and the hilarious story of being hit on by Little Richard at the NBC commissary, who said: "You little slice of chocolate handsomeness!" Mostly, it's Reed's sheer charisma, storytelling skill and animated stage presence that captivate. He's a genius onstage. (Through Oct. 19. Info: themarsh.org.)
The new film Pride, opening at the Sundance Kabuki and Landmark Embarcadero in SF on Fri., Sept. 26, is inspired by a true story. Per the promo: "It's the summer of 1984, [the evil] Margaret Thatcher is in power, and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers' families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person. As the strike drags on, the two groups discover that standing together makes for the strongest union of all."
Pride was directed by Matthew Warchus (God of Carnage), written by Stephen Beresford, and stars Bill Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Imelda Staunton (Maleficent), Dominic West (The Hour), Paddy Considine (Submarine), and Andrew Scott (Sherlock). Although not mentioned in the film itself, as a result of the gay activists' efforts in support of the strike, the miners union got the Labor Party to support adoption of gay rights legislation in Britain. England moved forward.
Passing on 'Cellar'
When the off-Broadway hit Buyer & Cellar played SF recently, some theatergoers were left wondering what Barbra Streisand would think of the play, set in the shopping mall Babs built in the basement of her Malibu manse to house her collectibles. Now, thanks to an interview in last Sunday's NY Times Style section, we know that "Ms. Streisand didn't see it. 'How could I go see a play that's about my basement, and my stuff?' she said. 'I would be so self-conscious.'
"Plus, there were a couple of zingers in it about her son, Jason, and that upset her. 'I could have almost stood it about me, but when it was about my son, I didn't think we should go,' she said." A shame: she missed a good play that treated her and Jason respectfully and with true affection.
It's been real
It's always fun to thumb through Reality Shock!, an annual collection of strange-but-true stuff from the people who run the Ripley's Believe It or Not! franchise. We found ourselves engrossed by its fashion pages.
For example, here's their version of Roadkill Fashion : "Fashion designer Jess Eaton from Brighton, England, created a range of wedding clothes from roadkill, including a bridal cape made from swans' feathers. She also made a necklace out of human bones after sourcing a ribcage from a university medical department." That last trinket is rather creepy.
Or consider their item on the Hair Coat : "British firm Arla commissioned the creation of a coat made entirely from men's chest hair. It took designers 200 hours to weave together about one million strands of hair. The limited-edition coat went on sale for $4,000." But how many hirsute gents were sheared for that one coat? Inquiring minds want to know.