Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Bestie Talents


Bartenders, performers and extra talented people

Some of our favorite Bestie-winning people, photographed at Oasis, include (left to right) Donna Sachet, Alex U. Inn, Jason Brock, Connie Champagne, Marga Gomez, and 'Edina and Patsy' of Absolutely Fabulous(Terry McLaughlin and Christian Heppinstall). photo: Georg Lester
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Beyond the bars and the booze, it's the people who make our nightlife scene vibrant, funny, sexy and sometimes, a little bit shocking. Here are our favorite folks who make things fun.

Best Host/MC - Donna Sachet

Runners up: Peaches Christ, Heklina

From Imperial Court ceremonies to countless fundraisers, Donna Sachet is true nightlife royalty. A stalwart supporter of LGBT and AIDS/HIV fundraisers, Sachet is known for her dry wit and savvy when helming the microphone at everything from a star-studded gala to a cruisy beer bust.

"What an honor to receive this recognition along with some of my favorite performers, producers, and generally people who make San Francisco a better place to live," said Sachet. "Isn't it nice for a change to celebrate what's great about the City, instead of regretting all that has been lost or is in jeopardy?"

Known for her trademark red dresses, Sachet said, "I'm so grateful to be asked to participate in this way in a great variety of events. While there are probably 10 or 12 annual events I have done every year for quite a while, I continue to enjoy the challenge of new events. What can I bring to that party? Who is the group, what is the cause, and what is my unique contribution?"

Among her contributions are as adept grasp of the notable attendees at events, documented every other week in this publication for more than a decade.

"Each year, I look back on nearly 100 events I have hosted or emceed at least some part of, and it's nice to be recognized for that work."

With her busy schedule, Sachet has had to send regrets for some events.

"You wouldn't believe some of the events I am asked to host/emcee, but I rarely say no right away, and sometimes that leads to some of the most interesting experiences. Years ago, I emceed the final night and awards dinner of the International Convention of Forensic Pathologists and I was warmly received, adding some much needed humor and whimsy to an otherwise overly serious event."

Asked how we can be as fabulous as the noted Ms. Sachet, said replied, "My advice; try new things and expand your talents, exposure, and experience."

Best Bartender Erick Lopez (center)
at The Edge. Photo: Gareth Gooch

Best Bartender - Erick Lopez, The Edge

Runners up: Steve Dalton, SF Eagle; Andy Anderson, 440 Castro

The adorable Erick Lopez wins Best Bartender for the second time. Lopez is also the creator and impetus behind the Bestie-nominated Code, the Castro's most successful leather and kink event, a monthly party created with the intention of bringing leather back to the Castro.

Best Cabaret Performer (Drag or Trans) - Honey Mahogany

Runners up: Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, Veronica Klaus

It's easy to spot Honey Mahogany in a bar or nightclub. The tall, beautiful event host, singer, actor and RuPaul's Drag Race contestant was voted by our readers at the Bestie-winning Best Drag or Trans Nightlife Performer, for a lot of reasons.

Whether performing solo and singing live, in TV shows (Looking), camping it up in the latest Peaches Christ spectacle, or in the popular Star Trek parody as Lt. Uhura, the skilled performer knows how to take –and share– the stage.

Read our interview with Mahogany here.

Best Comic (Male) - Nick Leonard

Runners up: Justin Lucas, Jesus U. Betta Work, Yuri Kagan

When he's not making us laugh in his stand-up shows, Best Male Comic Nick Leonard doubles as drag persona Ginorma Desmond in numerous campy nightclub shows. Look for him on the line-up at several upcoming comedy shows.

Connie Champagne

Best Cabaret Performer (Female) - Connie Champagne

Runners up: Paula West, Leanna Borghesi

Well-known for her roles portraying Judy Garland, Connie Champagne first appeared as the legendary star in the Off-Broadway production of Christmas With The Crawfords. New York Times critic Neil Genzlinger described her performance as "a subtle masterpiece of parody and homage."

Champagne has performed at the Empire Plush Room, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and many other venues. Her next project is Landmark Musicals' upcoming West Coast debut of The Boy From Oz.

Veronica Klaus
photo: Jose A. Guzman-Colon

Best Band/Musician - Veronica Klaus

Runners up: Double Duchess, Pepperspray

A 2015 Bestie-winning singer, Veronica Klaus has been performing in San Francisco for more than two decades. Her 2014 one-woman show Family Jewels played to sold out audiences at Theater Rhinoceros and she has appeared in several independent films.

Klaus' 1997 debut CD was "mostly more R&B-modeled pop, which I wrote," she said. The CD was nominated for a GLAMA Award for Best Female Artist. 2007's Live at the Lodge was recorded at the Regency Center's third floor lounge. Something Cool, recorded in 2012 over three days, also became the source material for Klaus' fourth CD.

Klaus' classy jazz and cabaret act, often with the Tammy L. Hall trio, has been performed at a number of San Francisco's nightspots, including Enrico's, Café Du Nord and Club 181. Her recent album, the Peggy Lee songbook Lee á la V, was also performed live at Feinstein's at the Nikko in 2014.

Marga Gomez

Best Comic (Female or Trans) - Marga Gomez

Runners up: Karen Ripley, Lisa Geduldig

With a twelfth solo show underway, and recent workshops shows selling out, the ever-popular Marga Gomez has been a local favorite since her early days performing at the Valencia Rose and Josie's Juice Joint, among other venues nationwide.

"Winning the Bestie this year was very cool because I didn't campaign for it like I usually do," said Gomez. "I just drew upon the old adage, 'Let go and let Gay God.'

Gomez also remains gracious with her fellow nominees. "I hope the Besties process encourages your readers to check out all the nominated LGBT comics. They are excellent."

She thanked her fans as well. "I've engineered a 30-year career in comedy outside of the mainstream, and I've been really fortunate to have the support of the LGBT community here in the Bay Area."

Mainstream success is a tough nut to crack, but her appeal in stand-up and theatre continues to grow.

"I stayed away from typical comedy clubs because I thought they wouldn't get me," said Gomez. "Then in March, I headlined a night at the San Francisco Punch Line and it really was a game changer for me. It was a mixed crowd, a full house and I had a blast. They asked me back and we are looking at something in the fall."

Gomez will perform her new solo show Latin Standards April 16 and 17 at the Douglas Morrison Theater in Hayward as part of the One For All Theater Festival.

"It's my twelfth solo show, and it's about my father who was comedian and producer and the reason I am a comedian and dabble in producing."

Gomez has been workshopping the show this year at a few local venues. "I can't wait to bring it to a fancy theater in Hayward," she said. "The last time I was in Hayward, I played a gay bar."

Los Angeles fans can see her recent hit solo show, Pound, at the Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles for two nights.

"I'll probably continue pursuing stand-up and solo plays but making people laugh either way."

Jason Brock
photo: Jose A. Guzman Colon

Best Cabaret Performer (Male) - Jason Brock

Runners up: Joe Wicht, Brian Kent

From that first broadcast of the talent show X Factor, Jason Brock made his mark as a fun, openly gay singer and a powerhouse vocalist. After enduring the reality show exposure, he traveled, performed and then settled back in the Bay Area, where he's costarred as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Boxcar Theatre, as a demented flower girl in Taylor Mac's The Lily’s Revenge at the Magic Theatre, and "Peachy Gale" in Peaches Christ's The Wizard of Odd at the Castro Theatre. Brock has also frequently performed solo and shared cabaret shows at Martuni's.

"I'm really blown away that the readers chose me this year," said Brock. "This is really a huge honor and makes me love San Francisco even more. My thanks to everyone who voted, from the bottom of my heart."

Brock's latest cabaret night at Martuni's, The TV Theme Song show, presents jaunty new versions of the themes from Full House, The Nanny, Family Guy, Family Ties, The Brady Bunch, Cheers, The Jeffersons, and many more.

"Nikki Arias is doing a couple solos and a few duets with me," said Brock. "Both she and Dee Spencer (who has her weekly show at Beaux on Thursdays now) will be singing backup, too. Dee will be on piano, of course, and we'll also be recording the show! I love these songs and can't wait to share them."

photo: Gareth Gooch

Best Faux Queen - Fauxnique

Runners up: Alotta Boutté, Ferosha Titties

Qualitative honors for artists are often subjective, but Monique Jenkinson's unique style of performance and drag as Fauxnique in theatres, museums and nightclubs have made her our readers' favorite faux, for real.

"I don't really think of these things so much as 'winning' or 'losing' or 'best,'" said Jenkinson. "I certainly appreciate my wonderful audience and fan base who nominated me for this win. Recognition comes in so many shapes and sizes, and this is a very sweet way to be recognized."

Jenkinson performed her recent show, The F Word, at Oasis and at venues in Europe and New York City. When asked about her local drag inspirations, Jenkinson gave shout-outs to "Glamamore! Juanita More! Jordan L’Moore! Miss Gina La Divina, Precious Moments, Putanesca, Ana Matronic," to name a few.

Alex U. Inn

Best Drag King - Alex U. Inn

Runners up: Leigh Crow, Kit Tapata

Alex U. Inn, Founder of Momma's Boyz and Kingdom!, is a rapping/beat-boxing artivist fighting hard for Black Name Rights on Facebook. His costar Mailman delivers the vocals of an angel, and the duo have been instrumental in ensuring music survives in the school districts.

The only drag king house in San Francisco, Kingdom!, and together for 12 years, these hot studs always deliver an amazing show, with high energy live vocals and mashups of old school hip hop and R&B classics.

Their Drag King House has quickly become a popular ensemble who have performed at successful fundraisers for several community services, raising $8,000 in the past few months. Kingdom! Also creates a safe space for new kings and other performers to hone the art of kinging.

"I'd like to thank our community for voting for me and to give mad respect to the other Kings in this category. I feel blessed and extremely honored. Winning a Bestie will heighten the awareness of Drag Kings."

Inn mentioned how further outreach will be a plus, post-Besties.

"The award will also help boost the ability to give more funding to our community services and encourage new kings to perform, particularly, Kings of Color. In return, other drag king shows in the Bay Area will benefit from Kingdom!'s success. For instance, the annual SF Drag King Contest may go from four contestants to many. I'm very grateful to be part of the art of kinging living on!"

Upcoming performances include a full drag king concert with student performers April 28 at Saint Mary's College, and in May at the Austin International Drag Festival, Brick & Mortar Music Hall (May 12), Kings in Shorts at the Roxie Theatre, a Pride party June 16, and in July, new shows at SoMa's Beatbox.

Peaches Christ

Best Drag Queen - Peaches Christ

Runners up: Donna Sachet, D'Arcy Drollinger, Sister Roma

She's not just a drag queen. She's a multimedia empire. As Peaches Christ, the surprisingly reserved Joshua Grannell has created campy film tributes to sold-out audiences at the Castro Theatre, the most infamous being the hilarious annual Showgirls tribute. His 2010 film directorial debut All About Evil remains a new camp classic.

"I'm thrilled to have won a Bestie award for Best Drag Queen," said Grannell. "I know that our city is chockfull of incredible queens, and I'm one of many who could have easily won this award. I'm really flattered."

Variety is a spice of Grannell/Christ's numerous shows, which are far from limited to nightclub gigs.

"I'm glad to see so many collaborators are also fellow winners like the California Academy of Sciences, where I co-produce Halloween Nightlife every year."

Dozens of yards-high wigs later, Grannell reflected on his growth as a drag artist and producer.

"I never imagined when I started doing drag in San Francisco that I'd jump from gritty, sticky-floored nightclubs to performing in museums and at the San Francisco Symphony, or find a new home at the Castro Theatre for our movie events," he said. "It feels very proper and fancy sometimes, which is why I'll always still appreciate a sticky-floored bar with a nasty backroom as a place to workshop a new comedy bit or song."

Linda Lee, (center) our choice for Best Fan, at the recent Vaudevillians show at Oasis.

Special Bestie:

Best Fan - Linda Lee

We didn't have this on the ballots, but our favorite fan is Linda Lee, the retired postal worker who attends more nightlife and cultural events than anyone we know. Despite dealing with arthritis, and living in Hayward, she gets out and about in San Francisco with an infectious enthusiasm.

Always cheerful and supportive, she's also quite the prolific photographer of local personalities. Thanks for being a super fan, Linda!

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