As I affirm in this week's Super Ego clubs column, I adore the weekly Some Thing drag party every Friday at the Stud -- and now it's turning two years old. The special Some Thing confluence of onstage shoestring razzle-dazzle, challenging themes, uninhibited embrace of drag diversity, afterhours dancing to braintickling tunes, DIY genius Haute Gloo's craft table, and hot-hot crowd has strengthened the city's club scene, although to many it still remains a secret.
I'm fine with keeping this wonderfully successful event just between you and me, but why? Joy like this should be shared. And I already made out with you anyway.
In anticipation of Some Thing's big fourth anniversary party this Fri/13, I conversated over email with the ever-lovely -- and Best of the Bay-winning -- proprietors, Glamamore, VivvyAnne Forevermore, and DJ down-E, about the current nightlife scene, the challenges of runnning a weekly party in this economic climate, and the future of alternative drag performance. (And in the spirit of the fourth anniversary theme -- duet and group numbers -- Glama and down-E responded together to some questions).
SFBG Some Thing is generally credited with bringing an appreciation for unabashed dramatic theatricality, classic show showbiz, and old school drag iconography -- plus an artistic approach to contemporary pop -- to a new generation (or two). What do you think of the drag scene in general right now, and what are your hopes for the future of this kind of performance?
GLAMAMORE Let's see... The drag scene right now... Broad and amusing. For the future Glama hopes that they change, challenge, grow, adapt, and adopt.
DJ DOWN-E My hope is that the drag scene continues to provide things that surprise me.
VIVVYANNE FOREVERMORE The drag scene is too broad and constantly shifting to really pin down. I agree with down-E I hope that the style of drag performance in sf continues to surprise me. I'm constantly inspired by the new baby queens and also my peers and elders. I'm really into the super art moments that are mixing it up on stage with the classic sequin gown moments. Seeing folks like Gina LaDavina talking with newbies like DIAmanda Kallas or Charity Buckets backstage warms my heart There's been a lovely crossover between the performance art world and drag world at SOME THING with folks like Phillip Huang or Jorge Rodolfo Jr. performing, and even Martha T. Lipton/Evan Johnson. I hope it continues.
SFBG You've been doing Some Thing for like 200 years now ;) How do you keep it fresh, and what are some of the challenges you face in terms of operating a smaller party in this economic and cultural climate?
GLAMADOWN-E more than anything, we're determined to have fun at our party. That keeps it fresh for us. The challenge for us is keeping the harmony between all the different kinds of people we work with. That is integral to keeping it fun. Also, we don't just bring drag queens together. The fun starts when you walk into the room with the craft table manned by Haute Gloo, and continues late into the night with dancing by the best djs from San Francisco and all over the world. It is important to have a place in the city where people can go dancing after hours. It is the definition of nightlife.
VVFM: To be honest the economic climate hasn't affected us much. We started with a tiny party (Tiara Sensation, which ran on Mondays at the Stud for several years) that catered to the weirdos, freaks, DJs, drag queens, and hardcore nightlifers, those might be considered our challenging times, we were on a Monday night. But some of the best performances came out of those moments when therewere more folks in our cast then on the dance floor. There's a magic that can happen when folks don't have enough, or think they don't have enough, they make worlds out of cardboard, their lipsynchs are better because they don't have the lettuce to buy that new wig. The worse the economy gets the more inspired I am to make a space for everyone -- EVERYONE -- to come together and celebrate. It's really about inspiring ourselves and each other. I feel that the weirder and more outlandish we get the more permission we are all granted to be different/ourselves, thusly less defined by our "haves" or our dollars. Also to echo my partners, it's about FUN for us. So the weirder the world gets the more things we have to have fun with.
SFBG I want to ask about the concept of "alternative" vs. "mainstream," especially now that "trash drag" has gone bigtime and punkish drag tribute nights sell out large venues. Some Thing non-ironically embraces everything from current top 40 to obscure showtunes (although I'm still waiting for a killer '90s Belgian techno number). And yet, even as it breaks down the boundary between underground and mainstream, the party retains an alternaqueer context. Do you have any thoughts about that? Is there such a thing as alternative vs mainstream when it comes to drag anymore? Or is it all just a matter of quality and sincerity?
GLAMADOWN-E I like how much variety (a pu pu platter) there is in characters in our world--drag or otherwise. I like how a kid who has only performed once or twice in his/her/their life can get on the same stage as Nikki Starr or a Gina La Divina or a Phatima or Fauxnique who has been performing for decades. I love how it can go from a lip sync to a live song to a burlesque dance to a performance art piece in the course of a single show. And I love that how all the performers get along backstage.
VVFM Thank you for calling us alternaqueer. I think alternatve and mainstream exist on a continuum, and they are not mutually exclusive. Our "job" as performers in the nightlife or as drag queens is often to reframe larger things happening in the world or in our neighborhoods or in pop music (or maybe our jobs are to be just entertaining), so doing a pop song doesn't make you a mainstream queen, and doing a Dead Kennedys song doesn't make you underground, it's all context and all tools. There is what we see on Rupaul's Drag Race ... but there's so much variety even in those queens. It's exciting.
SFBG What special things do you have planned for the anniversary -- and for the future? What about individually for the future, as in personal projects?
GLAMADOWN-E For the anniversary, we're asking everybody to do a duet or group number. It makes all of these disparate performers work together. Creating a party that we can get excited about before during and after is important. Coming up we have our annual Some Are Camp retreat. A weekend chock full of cool wet drag under the hot sun. We're also looking at taking a little Some Thing worldwide in the near future. Glama is celebrating doing 30 years of drag this year with a retrospective produced with Juanita More. Down-E is always helping artists learn how to make a living doing their art.
VVFM I have an artist in residence at CounterPULSE showing in March, and I'm also working on the Work MORE! tour for next fall.
SFBG Can I ask about the division of labor? Who does what? And do you claw each others's eyes out like sisters? Because none of those seams ever show.
GLAMADOWN-E There's never any actual clawing. The three of us mostly just entertain each other. Half of our weekly meetings are spent giggling at each others dumb jokes. We each have our own roles, but all of us are involved in every decision of the party.
VVFM While we do have distinct roles, those roles are fluid, and as much as there are hard core tasks (ie flyer design, booking talent) there's also alot of intuitive work too, like feeling out the best theme, or the right cast. Sometimes it takes us a few ridiculous hours of laughter to get the names right for each theme. It's fun.
SFBG I feel that Some Thing's rise has coincided with and abetted a new kind of sophistication in Bay Area nightlife that reflects the flow of social information and diversification of taste. People don't justlike one easy kind of thing anymore, and they expect entertainment and a crowd that is open to all kinds of things. Some Things. What other parties do you admire and what are some of your general thoughts about nightlife now?
GLAMADOWN-E I enjoy that in San Francisco you can go out on any night of the week to a party put together by thoughtful creative people who want you to have a good time. From Vienetta Discotheque to High Fantasy to Oh!, Stay Gold, Mary Go Round, Booty Call to Tubesteak Connection, Dial Up, Cheap, I Love Cochina Tonga's, Red Hots Burlesque, Trannyshack, the Hot Boxxx Girls, Go Bang, Dark Room, Beat Pig, Hard French, Love Will Fix It, It's Five O'clock Somewhere, Ice Cream Queens, and Honey Soundsystem. Yes, we go out every single night. But we're always looking for more fun clubs.
VVFM How democratic of my cohorts to list all these parties. I personally have a sweet spot for High Fantasy because I bartend there (Tuesday nights at Aunt Charlie's Lounge), but they are doing some really silly brokedown high camp drag there. The nightlife is exciting. There's alot of creativity flowing and it feels alot like family without much competiting (in the parties listed above). It's nice to have each promoters phone number on speed dial, we really like collaborating with folks. It's fun to book our friends and other promoters and DJs, and instead of homogenizing the "scene" it seems to be diversifying and enhancing it.
SFBG Finally, how the hell do you corral like 20 queens every week to perform?
GLAMADOWN-E That's the magic. We do it with pokers and branding irons.
VVFM Have you heard of the phrase "hearding cats"? It's like that but they have heels and false eyelashes.
SOME THING SECOND ANNIVERSARY
Fri/13 (party every Friday), 10 p.m.-late, $7
The Stud, 399 9th St., SF.