Parties without borders - Page 3

In the age of social media, San Francisco's wildest clubs (and shrewdest promoters) are taking over the world

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FEEL THE BURN

Extending your party brand can have its pitfalls, as the colossally coiffed Heklina of celebrated trash-drag party Trannyshack (www.trannyshack.com) has found. Whereas Bootie has so far only had to "politely remind people that we exist" to keep them from poaching its concept, Heklina's been caught in a litigious nightmare. "Everyone loves Trannyshack — so much that they've tried to steal the Trannyshack name all over the world. I could pass the bar with all I know about copyright law now," she told me.

Before it ceased its weekly operations at the Stud after 12 years (it still holds occasional, gleefully packed "tribute nights" at DNA Lounge), Trannyshack's indelible blend of retro tunes and fluid-filled drag performances had reached London, New York, L.A., Seattle, Portland, Waikiki, Santa Fe, and New Orleans. The raucous annual Trannyshack Reno bus trip, now a decade old, pioneered the exportation of freaky San Francisco fun to an often-stunned outer world. "I love that people love us, but Trannyshack is what I do, and I need to protect the name," said Heklina. "Because who knows what I'll want to do in the future? It's only natural to want to broaden our audience. But I've found in far-off places like London and New York, where I can't check on everything in person, the concept gets watered down. Queens outside of San Francisco just don't get it. I've had to shut them down.

Heklina. Photo by Jeffery Cross

"Trannyshack as a whole is harder to franchise, too," Heklina said, "because it's about the show. If you want a Trannyshack, you have to fly at least five queens out and put us up. We don't just send a DJ. That's why I stick to the West Coast now. I only really make money that way — I can just load everyone in a van and drive out, not have to spend all week, and actually get paid. In fact, I have a great deal in Portland right now. I host a monthly "Miss Thing" contest. I just go up there myself, but mentor the local queens who'll be competing beforehand — how to put a performance concept together, what lighting they'll need. I control them remotely through the Internet," she laughed.

 

KA-CHING? KA-CHING

Now let's talk about money. To some, throwing a party elsewhere may sound as easy as connecting with the right people, finding a venue, and posting a Facebook invite. (It's not, of course.) But does expansion make fiduciary sense? Shrewd business gal Heklina has actually shrunk and reconcentrated her brand to better capitalize. The Blow Up kids usually settle for standard DJ and travel fees — 18-plus crowds don't bring in much bar money to split. Adrian and D know from personal experience that it can take years for a Bootie party to establish itself and become profitable, so they're currently engaged in a kind of vast seed-growth investment project. ("The real reward, way beyond money," D told me, echoing the other promoters, "is seeing our vision, something created in a studio apartment in San Francisco from pure passion and our own imagination, exist in another place, in a totally different culture, but it being the same.")

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