Christopher Caen: San Francisco’s drag queens, please meet our real queens

As we roll down our wet and miserable mountain of winter and head toward summer, they are appearing again. Blinking against the light as they emerge bleary-eyed from their sleep and appear on our streets again. Yes, indeed, it's tourist season again. Of course, the care and feeding of this constituency is of constant concern to the locals, and none so much as our own Harry Denton. Deeply concerned that our visitors from faraway lands were not getting enough of the San Francisco experience, he set out on Wednesday with a limousine and four drag queens to visit 23 hotels and rectify the situation.

OK, so I embellished a bit. Harry and his posse were actually visiting the concierges of those hotels to let them know about his new “Sunday's a Drag” brunch starting this Sunday at his place at the top of the Sir Francis Drake. Good food, good entertainment, and bad lip-synching, and the only falling mascara will be from the ice sculptures. Somewhere the ghost of Joe Finocchio is smiling because the girls are back. Sort of.

In other dining news, the crew at the Holy Grail reports in that Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet Laureate and 1995 Nobel Prize winner for Literature, swung by their establishment. He was in town to do a lecture on art and politics and was lunching with a party that included the Irish consul and was joined by Frank Jordan.

If Seamus is still in town he would probably like to swing by the Hotel Des Arts this evening as another of their wild and wooly art exhibits explodes off the launch pad. This time it is an amazing set of rock and roll photography, from well-known shots of the famous, such as Jim Morrison, to more obscure photos. Forty years of rock history, hundreds of photographs and you are only a hop and a skip from the bar at Le Central.

This weekend is also the citywide sidewalk sale to benefit small businesses across the city. The Mayor's Office is engineering this worthy effort, but I always like the small, odd stories myself. Under One Roof, a local effort that supports several nonprofits through their store found themselves with 25 pallets of free product to sell courtesy of Magenta Inc. Given that it was too much for their little storefront, they got Herth Real Estate to donate an empty spot on Castro Street. Only when Under One Roof's Mike Marshall looked at the address did it hit him. It is 575 Castro St., the site of Supervisor Harvey Milk's original camera store. But wait, there is even more coincidence in all this. Mike started Under One Roof at what is now Cats Restaurant. Which was the location of Milk's second camera store. Quick, someone cue Rod Serling.

If you are so inclined, you can swing by Mike's place and buy a birthday present for Catherine Agnes Growney. She will be turning 105 years old on May 30, and was born at Third and Thema in 1901. Apparently, longevity runs in the genes because her sister lived to 102 years old. I am now in possession of a great photograph of her in her Sunday-best bonnet standing with her friends and family at the corner of 16th and Bryant. They are still living in a tent waiting for a house to be built for them after the earthquake. The children have those determined smiles that let you know that in them the spirit of The City would be rediscovered and reborn. She now lives in the Excelsior with her sister, Leona. Maybe one of these Sundays they will find their way downtown and Denton's drag queens can meet a real queen of San Francisco.

And finally Lee Ruttenberg, Irregular, Los Angeles Division, checks in with the following. You know you are a Republican when you agree that a) Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of Hillary Clinton; b) if condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex; c) being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host (then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery); and d) revealing the phone records of the White House is bad, but revealing the phone records of millions of Americans is good.

On this last matter, Stanford's Jonathan David Farley wrote a very interesting article earlier this week that basically refutes the math behind all those recorded phone conversations. Turns out that if you record a whole bunch of phone calls and then do what's called “graph theory,” you get notoriously unreliable data and dubious value in fighting terrorism. In fact, graph theory went off a cliff when they tried analyzing phone calls in the Enron trial. So, although the bad news is our civil liberties are being run over, the good news is that it serves no purpose. Reminds me of an old joke: We may be lost, but we are making great time! Have a great weekend and pay no attention to the other person on your phone.

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Methamphetamines (Sophia Valdes/SF Weekly)
New search launched for meth sobering center site

Pandemic put project on pause but gave health officials time to plan a better facility

Hasti Jafari Jozani quarantines at her brother's San Francisco home after obtaining several clearances to study at San Francisco State University. (Photo courtesy Siavash Jafari Jozani)
Sanctions, visas, and the pandemic: One Iranian student’s bumpy path to SF State

Changing immigration rules and travel restrictions leave some overseas students in limbo

Woody LaBounty, left, and David Gallagher started the Western Neighborhoods Project which has a Balboa Street office housing historical items and comprehensive website dedicated to the history of The City’s West side. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Outside Lands podcast delves into West side’s quirky past

History buffs Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher have been sharing fun stories about the Richmond and Sunset since 1998

Allison Zilnek and her younger daughter Marlow add Ibram X. Kendi’s “Antiracist Baby” to their Little Free Library in Walnut Creek. (Courtesy of Allison Zilnek)
The hunt for little free libraries is alleviating the pandemic doldrums

By Amelia Williams Bay City News Foundation Some people collect stamps. Some… Continue reading

Most Read