Two distinct reactions occurred when dance-pop diva Lady GaGa recently strolled into a San Francisco cafe wearing hot pants, platform heels, a fedora and a see-through top.
The jaws of every male patron hit the floor, while the eyes of their gal pals narrowed to slits.
The girl, who appears tonight at Queen, the “San Francisco Pride Party for Everybody” at Temple nightclub and in Sunday’s main stage Pride Festival performances, can’t help it. She cuts a colorful wake wherever she goes. And she couldn’t care less.
“I really scare myself sometimes — the nerve that I have,” says GaGa, born Stefani Germanotta, a convent-schooled New Yorker who re-imagined herself as an outrageous 1980s disco queen three years ago. She adds, “But I’m a businesswoman, I’m very smart and I came from the depths. I literally clawed my way up.”
That temerity has paid off. GaGa, 22, has a bubbly club hit now, “Just Dance,” and a buoyant debut “The Fame” (on CherryTree/Interscope) coming up in July.
Her originals are delivered live in a campy theatrical package complete with lasers, mirror balls, backup singer and dancers, and lingerielike outfits she designs herself.
But not everyone gets her burlesque style. At last year’s Lollapalooza Festival, she was cited by Chicago police for indecent exposure. Before she got the deal with Interscope, one executive signed her, but was too frightened to meet with her during her three-month stay. Others were equally leery.
“I remember auditioning for one exec, and he said ‘I’ve heard so much about you — apparently you’re the talk of the town!’” says GaGa, who’d held down three jobs while taking any gig that was offered.
She says, “I sat down in his office and played the piano. And afterwards, he just stared at me and said ‘What planet are you from?’ And not in a funny-ha-ha way, either. But I took it as a compliment, because it was so new and different to him that he couldn’t even wrap his brain around it.”
Frustrated, the Robert Plant-influenced artist tried musical theater, but casting directors told her she was too pop. She says, “Then record labels would tell me ‘You’re too theatrical.’ So I just thought ‘Well, why don’t I do both?’”
The singer doesn’t foresee herself crashing like Amy Winehouse, either, having already lived through her drug phase. She says, “My father looked at me on cocaine one day and said ‘You’re screwing up, kid.’ And we never talked about it again, but I was able to stop. The label always gets mad at me for talking about it, saying it’s not proper behavior for a pop star.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Temple; 540 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 11 p.m. today
Note: Lady GaGa also appears at 6 p.m. Sunday on the main stage at the S.F. Pride Festival, Polk and Grove streets, San Francisco.