Earlier this month, I went to a brand new show at The Stud. It was called “Outrage: Enemy of the State” and was one part drag show and one part opportunity for local politicians and activists to say a few words. Even though I’m not exactly a politician — more of a strange mutant mixture of activist and loudmouth — they were kind enough to ask me to be involved.
Standing in the main room that night, underneath the tinsel and colored lighting, between walls that had seen so much San Francisco history, I remembered why I fell in love with The City in the first place. This kind of thing tends to happen in long-term relationships: You find yourself sick and tired of the other person’s bullshit or the ways they’ve let you down, and then out of nowhere, the curtain drops and — boom! — all the reasons you love them come rushing back.
There we were — some queer, some straight, some dressed in drag, some dressed in button-down shirts — all doing the most San Francisco thing ever: using performance as a means of political discourse.
The theme of the night was “Marking the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the event that ushered in this weird, creepy new Era of Perpetual War,” so the presentations alternated between drag performances with political undertones and speeches/readings from local politicos.
Preston Picus, who is running as an independent against U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, talked about his experience being in Manhattan on 9/11. Jane Kim, who is running for state Senate, talked about how wrong it is that, since 1980, California has built 22 prisons but only one University of California and just three California State Universities. Amy Farah Weiss talked about the anti-imperialism movement from the 1890s. And I read Hunter S. Thompson’s eerily precise prediction that 9/11 would cause an era of unending war.
Mixed in between all of this were drag performances by U-Phoria (Peter Griggs), Profundity, KaiKai Bee Michaels, Bruja, Cherry Anomaly (Crystal Virgo Why) and Palace Of Trash. Lysol Tony-Romeo was the emcee of the night and also put the whole thing together.
It was weird, queer, beautiful and utterly San Francisco. And there was no better place for it to go down than The Stud.
While The Stud has been one of the most culturally relevant underground spots in San Francisco for more than 50 years, it hasn’t been immune from feeling The City’s recent tumult. Earlier this year, it was announced that The Stud was being sold because the rent had been jacked up to $9,000 a month. There was an earthquake of fear throughout the community; people worried that The Stud would be closed down forever.
Luckily, a collection of nightlife enthusiasts and activists got together under the banner of #SaveOurStud and formed a 15-person co-op to purchase the club. Last I heard, they’d secured the money and are now in the final stages of negotiation. Besides being a storied queer bar with famous drag shows, The Stud has now come to symbolize the idea that if we organize and think creatively, we might just be able to save the best parts of The City after all.
It’s true that this isn’t quite the San Francisco that many of us fell in love with, but the heart and the ethos of The City still manages to shine through when you least expect it. And sometimes that just happens to be at a divey political drag show covered in lipstick, glitter and so much love.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.9/11Broke Ass CityBroke-Ass StuartSan FranciscoStuart SchuffmanThe Stud