For most drag aficionados, San Francisco isn’t the city that comes to mind when thinking of the places to catch a typical glamorous show. New York and Los Angeles always top the charts, followed by Chicago and London. When searching for the famous and well-known national queens (hello, RuPaul’s Drag Race!), you may find them here and there, but not everywhere. I’ve looked endlessly through the countless nightclubs’ event listings, hoping to come across a Katya, Aquaria or Alyssa Edwards show with lesser avail than I would have in NYC or LA (to be fair, Aquaria is on tour, Alyssa isn’t, and Katya just began touring).
SF, however, has its own distinct brand of drag, and surprise, surprise, it’s not the stereotypical lip syncing and death dropping we see on television. It’s much more acting and performance-based. And it’s a lot more fierce than it puts out to be.
The city is home to bearded queens complete with glitter, faux queens or drag kings, busted queens, old queens, young queens, more old queens, masculine queens and femme queens.
Creme Fatale is a local faux queen with a very cutesy, Marie Antoinette-themed drag but more artfully made (rhinestones!). Amanda Bang is a local drag queen who does goth-themed special effects makeup that’s to die for. Mahlae Balenciaga is a queen who’s beginning to hit the big leagues, having already cemented her place in SF’s clubs but growing thanks to her part in theater productions.
The two head queens of the city are none other than Heklina and Peaches Christ, who essentially have a monopoly on the SF drag scene. No, I’m just kidding, but sometimes it does feel that way.
Heklina is one of the founders of the Oasis, the city’s prime nightclub and gay bar. You can catch her weekly drag show, “MOTHER” (formerly known as “Trannyshack”). It often features contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and other celebrities such as Bjork, Pink, Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani. It has the wildest drag performances, complete with glitter, song performances and just the right amount of disturbing qualities.
Peaches Christ, on the other hand, regularly has performances at the Castro Theatre, located conveniently in San Francisco’s gay central. She writes and performs in them all.
I had the pleasure of seeing “Steel Dragnolias,” one of Peaches Christ’s many wonderfully crafted shows starring big names such as, well, Peaches Christ, Heklina and Coco Peru. The intimate setting of the Castro Theatre and the many drag references had me cackling in my seat and feeling like I was in it with them.
Other locations for drag shows are The Cafe, The Stud, Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, El Rio and DNA Lounge, among many others. If you ever take a trip to the city, don’t let its drag scene pass you by! It may seem like it’s mild or underground, but if you’re in the right place, you’re in for the ride of your lifetime.