Bartab » Nightlife

On the Town :: Sisters & Celebrations

by Donna Sachet
Saturday Aug 12, 2017

One of the newest nightspots to open in San Francisco had snuck under our radar until a recent invitation from man-about-town Michael Daniels. If you remember and miss those leisurely nights and that scrumptious food at the legendary Leticias's, then come experience Leticia Luna's latest iteration called Calle 11 at the corner of 11th and Folsom. Yes, that's the historic location of the notorious FeBe's leather bar.

We'd watched the long months of construction, wondering what might lie within. Last Thursday we saw for ourselves three levels of welcoming space, dazzlingly lit and beautifully appointed, including a rooftop open-air deck.

The fundraiser for Human Rights Campaign featured Country music singer Ty Herndon, and what a performer he is! His powerful pitch-perfect voice and sexy yet boyish demeanor won over those attending, including Alexis Miranda, Marlena, Gary Virginia, Les Natali, Larry Metzger, Gene Bidwell, and Jouke Lanning. Watch Calle 11 for exciting new developments and enticing new events.

Once a year, the Empresses of San Francisco unite around their Reigning Empress for a joint fundraiser; that took place last Saturday afternoon. Tied to one of Patty McGroin's successful monthly DollHouse events, more than a dozen Empresses gathered at the Midnight Sun at 4PM to perform for the adoring public.

Tasty Jello shots, raffle tickets offering multiple prizes, and generous tips to the entertainers resulted in over $1000 raised to support the various charitable activities of the Empresses of San Francisco. Especially touching was a moment of silence called by the Reigning Empress Mercedez Munro for Absolute Empress XIX Remy Martin, who died last week after an extended illness.

Her consistent commitment to strict financial controls, respect for accurate records and historical precedent, and generous personal support of each reign will have lasting impact on this over 50-year old organization. As is the unspoken tradition after most Empress gatherings, upon the completion of the fundraiser, attendees were seen creating amusing mayhem throughout the Castro.

We don't normally report on private parties, open only to specifically invited guests, but occasionally, such an event garners coverage simply due to its splendor; such is the case with the 60th birthday party of James Holloway later Saturday night.

The community art gallery Art Saves Lives, which fronts the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Pharmacy on Castro Street, hosted the event, thanks to the cooperation and generosity of Thomasina DeMaio, who basically runs the space. Guests entered through gossamer sheaths of yellow chiffon draped from the wood beams overhead, greeted by Gypsy Love, Joanie Juster, and the birthday boy himself.

Inside, evocative art pieces still adorned the walls, but a center stage had been constructed for the evening's program, featuring Deana Dawn, Gary Virginia, and this irrepressible columnist. Themed after the Japanese concept of Kanreki, a symbolic completion of a 60-year cycle and return to youthful joy and freedom, touches of Japanese decor and stark floral arrangements unified the room.

Delicious food from SF Catering and drinks served by bartender Mike Ruble completed the picture. Nearly 100 guests, representing the several chapters of James' life, included The Honorable Mark Leno, Cleve Jones, Chris Carnes, Gretchen Fleischman, Damon Holzum & Justin Schneider, Jack Garcia, Hector Crawford & Ralph Hibbs, Rick LeBlanc, John Newmeyer, Julian Marshburn, Lu Conrad, Charles Sanderson, Matt McClelland & Ken Ferraris, Mike Proctor & Eric Bernier, Philip Ruth, Tom Taylor & Jerome Goldstein, Richard Sablatura, and members of his immediate family.

The peak of the night was a carefully scripted life synopsis delivered by James with strategically placed musical inserts, revealing to all assembled a life lived large, a spirit overflowing with generosity, and a heart full of gratitude. Only a birthday caked topped with 60 candles could follow that!

Sisters in Shanghai

And finally, the Castro Theatre hosted the world premiere of the film Stilettos Over Shanghai, documenting the groundbreaking visit of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the Gay Pride Celebration in Shanghai, China, a few of years ago.

In keeping with the significance of the film and the occasion, a pink shag carpet greeted guests for the VIP reception at 6PM, where gaggles of San Francisco's LGBTQ Community gathered in anticipation.

Among them were media sponsor Bay Area Reporter's Publisher Michael Yamashita, the Reigning Emperor Nic Hunter & Reigning Empress Mercedez Munro, Grand Duchess Migitte Nielsen, Mark Rhoades, Gary Virginia, Pollo Del Mar, Ryan Scott, Race Bannon, Queen Dilly Dally, Cicero Braganca, Kylie Minono, Juanita MORE!, BeBe Sweetbriar, Russ Lorensen, Alex U. Inn, Linda Lee, Mutha Chucka, and too many Sisters to name.

As a matter of fact, who wasn't there? We were thrilled to meet Seth Rosenberg, a successful venture capitalist and straight ally recently featured by Carolyne Zinko in the SF Chronicle as a new and important supporter of the SF chapter of the Rainbow Railroad, one of the beneficiaries of the event.

The program began with an appropriate standing ovation for Sister Roma, largely responsible for getting the capacity crowd to attend, and the filmmaker herself, Monet Allard-Wilcox, both beaming with pride and blushing with humility.

Other speakers included The Honorable Mark Leno and Tom Ammiano, Melanie Nathan, and Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia, Board Chair of Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM), the other beneficiary of the night.

One of the most moving speakers, added very late to the program, was Natalie Ray, a recent immigrant from Russia who is continuing her drag career here in San Francisco. Her story made the unimaginable stories coming to us out of Chechnya very real.

Right before the curtains parted for the film, Honey Mahogany was sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in a brief surprise ceremony and then performed a moving musical number.

All we can say about Stilettos Over Shanghai is: See this film! It documents so accurately this historic visit to the world's most populous country by one of the world's bravest and most unapologetic groups, championing civil rights while encouraging joy and acceptance wherever they go.

Amazingly, the Sisters were spared any openly negative experiences and were welcomed as colorful ambassadors, although they learned firsthand how hard it is for local organizers to produce events, plan gatherings, and unify the LGBTQ Community. The film encompasses injustices throughout the world while reminding us of the amazing progress we have made locally and in the United States. In interviews with Sisters after the trip, many share their awareness of the enormous amount of work that remains to be done.

The next time you see a Sister volunteering at an event, congratulate them on this amazing documentary and thank them for their ongoing, vital efforts. And get to know more about ORAM and the Rainbow Railroad and support their efforts around the world.

Upcoming Events

Lots of events lie right around the corner, including one of our very favorites, Help is on the Way XXIII, Puttin'on the Glitz, Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation's annual gala concert on Sunday, August 20, at Herbst Theater. The stars will be out and Meals on Wheels San Francisco and Positive Resource Center are the beneficiaries.

Dan Nicoletta returns to San Francisco for a book-signing on Thursday, August 24 at Koret Auditorium in the Main Library at 6PM. His beautifully bound book, LGBT San Francisco, is packed with evocative photos and memories and you need to have a copy. Juanita MORE! will host the after-party at the Green Room of the War Memorial Building.

One of the must-attend annual events is GAPA Runway XXIX, Slayy-vatar, The Legend of GAPA, Saturday, August 26, starting at 7PM, at Herbst Theater on Van Ness. Here's an event with exciting competition, excellent entertainment, and a who's who crowd of San Francisco's LGBT Community in attendance. Emcees Mr. GAPA 2013 Sir Whitney Queers and Miss GAPA 2012 Jezebel Patel promise you a night you won't forget!

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit


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