Thursday, September 23, 2010
Three Queer Cultural Events in Three Hours: A San Francisco Artgasm
Three uniquely San Francisco queer events happened in three hours on Wednesday Sept. 15. The Radar Reading Series, the Fringe Festival, and Smack Dab all presented events for large crowds, with special appeal for LGBT audiences. It was an artgasm and a pleasure for people who feel deprived of public culture that has creative intellect.
The first event of the evening was an unusually rich literary happening at the San Francisco Main Library. Hostess Michelle Tea has presented her Radar Reading Series for over six years, and she has conquered one of the major obstacles of audience participation by bribing questions out of the throng with gourmet cookies during the Q&A. Pungent chocolate confections from Tartine Bakery were an immediate lure for interaction. Eileen Myles, Larry-bob Roberts, Gina Gold, and V. Vale were the featured authors, and each had a revelatory form of work that drew the audience into the moment while they read.
Eileen Myles is considered a cult figure of fiction and non-fiction works. Her book “The Importance of Being Iceland” delves into that country’s art, poetry, and not-so-hidden queer identity. She was on a book tour and the audience was happy that she could be in San Francisco.
Larry-bob Roberts introduced his new book “The International Homosexual Conspiracy” which is a collection of his rants and raves about our bizarre modern culture and clever LGBT adaptations to it. It is bound to be waved from pulpits at rapturous, fundamentalist tent shows. Yoko Ono fans and Björk crazies were shredded during his presentation and Judy Garland worshippers were degraded.
Gina Gold is a controversial improv performer who has few boundaries about her personal sex life and her stripping career. Who knew that guys wearing just sneakers and Nixon masks pleasure themselves while watching the dancers perform?
V. Vale tried writing but he discovered that interviewing is his forte. He screened a couple unusual face-to-face encounters for the library audience, including one with a lesbian body-modification pioneer.
For the second event of the evening, a couple dozen curious people gathered at the new plaza at 17th and Market Street in the Castro to see Ryan Hayes perform his one-man show "Boys Together Clinging: The Gay Poetry of Walt Whitman." Academics in the audience were electrified — here was the physical manifestation of Whitman in his twenties, shouting out his homoerotic "Calamus" poems 150 years after they were written. Hayes jumped up on a footlocker to wildly gesture and then ambled into the crowd to hold the hand of a young man and speak emotionally of men joining together while eye-locking his new fan. His show was one of the better parts of the San Francisco Fringe Festival.
The final cultural event was the monthly Smack Dab open mic at Magnet, with Oakland author Marvin K. White as the featured performer. White is an arts event coordinator and former member of Pomo Afro Homos, the breakthrough queer African-American stage show. White read stridently from his work, increasing the tempo and cadence of his voice with a climax of his popular poem “I Want to Make Black History With You” which is a manifestation of two black men complementing and bonding on an extremely intense level. He received loud sustained applause and it was the perfect finale to a bountiful night.