Parties without borders - Page 4

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


"I love gay people, but I love money more," tall, scruffy Matt Mikesell of Bearracuda ( deadpanned over the phone. "And yes, world domination is the goal." Four years ago, he began Bearracuda -- now twice monthly at Deco Lounge -- as "a place for big, hot, hairy gay guys to dance somewhere that was attitude-free, but could still get crazy." To his surprise, the simple-sounding concept quickly filled a niche and exploded. Bearracuda parties were soon established in L.A., Portland, Seattle, and New Orleans. ("I try to be at every one I can, and I exert total control over the DJ selection, the flyers, and the look.") In the near future, Sydney, Auckland, Vancouver, Atlanta, and Orlando will see their own Bearracudas, and Mikesell is even taking over the famed Lazy Bear Weekend in Guerneville this summer, temporarily replacing it with his own party, called Bear Market (

Having worked with Trannyshack and Bootie, Mikesell knows that expansion beyond the West Coast isn't profitable, especially when he charges less than $10 cover. "Frankly, I was astounded at how much more they're willing to pay in Auckland and Sydney, so I'm trying it out," he says. "Plus, more parties mean I'm still fresh meat."

But what he's exporting may be invaluable. No diss on the resilient, light-hearted Bearracuda, but bear parties are old news here, and have even gone through several evolutions. Yet bears in other cities aren't as spoiled as ours. "Portland has, like, some little shack out in the country for them," Mikesell says. Originally meant to buck the tanned-and-toned body fascism of the gay scene, bear culture was developed in Northern California and honed in SF, so Bearracuda is actually repping a local, sexually subversive commodity to the world.

Matt Mikesell. Photo by Jeffery Cross

It doesn't stop there with the exporting of San Francisco values. "We were booked in straight clubs. We were booked in gay clubs. Outrageous trannies and total bros showed up." Adrian said of the Bootie tour. "People didn't know what to expect from our descriptions, since there are so few mixed parties outside of SF. And then, of course, there's us. They saw D, they saw me, and sometimes they couldn't figure it all out." Adrian and D. were legally married six years ago (at Burning Man, natch), but still maintain an openly queer, and, in Adrian's case, androgynous status. "People got a little bit of an education about San Francisco-style sexualities on that tour."

Heklina sums it up nicely: "We were doing Trannyshack L.A. last year, and this queen from there got up on stage with a bunch of guys in yellow raincoats. I think she did a Whitney Houston number or something. Anyway, at the climax, the guys stood above her and started pissing all over her. I went up to her afterward and said, 'That was amazing, dear! But you know, it's been done before. Years before. In San Francisco.' I probably shouldn't have said that."


Excellent story on Ava Berlin and Jeffrey Paradise, an awesome team.

Berlin's photography is remarkably unique and very insightful - her shots reflect the vibrancy of the moment - whether it is a scene, an event, or an individual. She captures the image with realistic frankness and yet a sublime sensitiveness pervades the overall photograph.

Jeffrey Paradise, a creative and an avant garde artist has a knack for introducing through music the unusual, the unpredictable, and for sparking the natural element in all of us that unleashes a flood of emotional vibes, whereby dancing becomes the ultimate encounter with samadhi.


Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2010 @ 12:59 am

I don't know that I've ever seen a bigger pair of posers. Their party vibe and alter egos are so insincere. "Ava" and Jeffrey prove that popular parties are more about business than musicality. They're about pushing fads, not new sounds.

I thought SF had more taste and was more discriminating. If these two are the best and brightest of the Bay Area club, dance, and music scene, I think it's time to move.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

Anonymous "Guest" --

I've spent a lot of time with Ava and Jeffrey, and they're very genuine and dedicated to creating a space for young people to have fun to a very well-curated, specific-yet-broad sound. This article was about the more business side of nightlife, and the successful and motivated people who are representing SF worldwide, so maybe you were looking for something else that isn't here?

Also, if you don't like something, you can start your own! That's the nightlife magic.

Posted by marke on Jun. 16, 2010 @ 6:29 am

Couldn't agree more. It's just a hub for hipsters with trust fund money trying to be part of a scene that they think is at the forefront of musical progress. Unfortunately, it's not that. It's more about selling an image as a large business transaction with it's fair share of coke (is that where they get 'blow' in the title?), underage wannabes and novice DJs. The name is definitely fitting-- a construction of it's blown-out-of-proportion-image-outlined-with-Columbian-snow. Blown Up, or Blown Over?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

What the fuck is with Bearracuda's " I like gay people, but I love money more" utter bullshit. Throw a gay party for the sex, to rage, to brag, to diss, or for the free coke! But, just for money seems a tad tacky and exploiting. And does he reinvest that cash into the bear community? Subsidized nipple piercings lately? Go into finance or slumlording and leave the parties to purist.

Posted by Wolf on Jun. 15, 2010 @ 8:18 am

Mike has that kind of understated humor -- refreshing with all the hype that usually flies. Sorry if that didn't come through in the article.

Posted by marke on Jun. 15, 2010 @ 9:21 am

These two are the biggest jerkoffs around. "Ava" Berlin, what's your name this week?, is such a phony and a snob. I'm sad for the youth of San Francisco.

Posted by GuestAdam on Jun. 23, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

I met Ava recently in NY and I find her to be exactly what she 'advertises".. some one who has taken control of the part of the industry that influences and inspires her most. whether or not you call it business or not.. Ava has created a person from within her self that she shares with the world. When I met her I didn't know her from a whole in the wall and I thought she was completely wonderful... even though our environment gave her every reason to fake a persona with me...she didn't she was very sincere and beautiful. (jr)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

Ever hear of the movie Blow Up? I'm pretty sure that's where the name comes from. Ava and Jeff are very cool people, not snobby at all, very inclusive!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 22, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

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