Bah humbuggery in high heels
by Roberto Friedman
At the Out There desk, we have put away our white shoes. It's after Labor Day, after all. But it's beginning to look a lot like you-know-what, so it's time to do a Dawn Davenport and unearth those cha-cha heels. So speaking of seasonal heels, OT is the first to report that hot off the heels of winning this year's Ru Paul's Drag Race, celebutante Bianca Del Rio will be bringing some hell-aday cheer to the Castro Theatre on Friday, Dec. 19, at 8 p.m.
The big show is billed as An Evening with Bianca Del Rio: The Rolodex of Hate Tour (The Christmas Edition). The beloved Bianca, recently seen on the last episode of In Bed with Joan Rivers, promises to put the ho back in ho, ho, ho – as if it has ever gone away. Some might like their Christmas sweet, but we're told that Bianca prefers it sour and on the rocks. Bah humbuggery! The night of rio-tous comedy and festive fun will be femceed by the inimitable Peaches Christ, putting the Christ back in Christmas. Opening for Bianca will be the sin-sational Sasha Soprano, who is also producing the event in association with the Castro's own little elf, impresario Marc Huestis. Tickets are on sale at comedyinthecastro.eventbrite.com, and a significant early-bird special is in effect until Sept. 30. Act now, the show should sell out in a snap and enliven the season at the Castro.
And just as a reminder, next Monday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., the Castro Theatre is hosting A Celebration of Arturo Galster, a star-studded memorial for the beloved San Francisco performer and bon vivant. Admission is free, and folks are encouraged to arrive early. Arturo will be missed.
The Paying Guests (Riverhead) is three-time Man Booker Prize finalist Sarah Waters' just-released novel set in post-Edwardian Britain. Out There dove right into Waters' fictional world, and finished the book in just a few sittings.
Frances Wray lives with her mother in a big old house in a leafy London neighborhood. In debt after WWI, and with all the family's menfolk lost, they resort to taking in boarders to make ends meet, members of the "clerk class," young marrieds Leonard and Lilian Barber. Their staid household will never be the same. The Barbers are all business up-front, but all party in the back.
Frances is not your typical spinster. She has an irregular past, having had a passionate same-sex affair with a bohemian woman that she's long since put behind her. But soon her feelings for Lilian transcend their landlady/tenant relationship; she makes a "Sapphic declaration"; and many illicit sexual encounters ensue, all furtive and under threat of discovery. Suspense builds – will the lesbian lovers be caught out? – until a climactic act of violence up-ends everybody's world. "Two months before, she had been ready to turn her back on her mother, to walk away from the house. But that had been for something, hadn't it? That had been for Lilian, for love; not for this chaos of bad luck and blunder."
Waters is one of Britain's pre-eminent authors of modern Gothic fiction (The Night Watch, The Little Stranger ). A domestic drama gives way to a crime of a passion, then a police procedural and a convincing recreation of the early-20th-century British criminal justice system, as embodied by the Old Bailey. On top of all this, the fact that the author is a lesbian is delicious icing on the literary cake. Once begun, this 566-page novel was hard to put down. It has the pacing of a thriller, and the atmosphere, period setting and class-consciousness of truly informed historical fiction.