RADAR Helps You Out: More Ways To Procrastinate/Enjoy Beautiful Art From Home

How’s that homework/stuff you’re supposed to be doing for your job looking? You should really stop all that productivity and come watch RADAR’s August reading series because it’s now on YouTube! Don’t worry, you’ve got the rest of the night to do work/school related things. This will only take about an hour, plus you get to feel some things that aren’t task related panic.

 

Here’s the thing about Jamie: she’s amazing. Make yourself a cup of tea, bust out that old foot bath thing you never use and have yourself some bliss listening to her words.

 

Finish that tea before you commence this video, because Kate is so funny you will definitely pee it out.  Also includes sporadic feels.

 

 

Do you have any idea what a tintype portrait is? Neither did I. But they’re fascinating and so is Kari’s creative process in general, check it out.

 

Go hide your credit card. Do it. Do it now, because there is some possibility that you are like me and will use your designated taco money to purchase Ariel’s book somewhere on the internet immediately after seeing her perform.

 

Now go out into the world a creatively stimulated human and do those things you’ve been needing to do/maybe go to sleep and just do it in the morning.

Lenelle Moïse’s & Haiti Glass Come to SF Sept 16!

RADAR & City Lights Books present a most excellent book party for Lenelle Moïse’s Haiti Glass on September 16, 2014 at City Lights Books (261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco) at 7pm. This book is part of the City Lights Sister Spit imprint! Now you have one more book you should most definitely read before summer officially ends. The time is now! Start reading it.

Here are some reasons why:

Haiti Glass, the debut book from award-winning playwright Lenelle Moïse offers an unflinching look at Haitian-American identity, disaster, desire, and death-defying love. In her debut collection of verse and prose, Moïse moves deftly between memories of growing up as a Haitian immigrant in the suburbs of Boston, to bearing witness to brutality and catastrophe, to intellectual, playful explorations of pop culture enigmas like Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Whether it is the presence of a skinhead on the subway, a newspaper account of unthinkable atrocity, or the “noose loosened to necklace” of desire, the cut of Haiti Glass lays bare a world of resistance and survival, mourning and lust, need and process, triumph and prayer.

“Lenelle Moïse brings fierce passion.”—New York Times

“Piercing, covering territory both intimate & political . . . vivid & powerful.” —Curve Magazine

“See Moïse push stories from her mouth like it might save your life.”—The Root

Haiti Glass Book Trailer from Lenelle Moise on Vimeo.

Lenelle Moïse is an award-winning poet, playwright, essayist, and internationally touring performance artist who creates jazz-infused, hip-hop bred, politicized texts about identity, memory, and magic. Her poems and essays are featured in several anthologies, including: Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution and We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists. Her writing has also been published in the Utne Reader, Make/Shift, Left Turn, and numerous other magazines and journals. A current Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow, her plays Womb-Words, Thirsting, Ache What Make, Expatriate, Matermorphosis, Purple, and Cornered in the Dark have been produced across the country. She lives in Northampton, MA where she was the 2010-2012 Poet Laureate. This is her long-awaited first book, and she is available for interview.

Myriam’s One-I’d Arts and Literature Column: LGB(iennial)TQIAETC PART 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In last week’s review of LA-area biennials, I proposed the hashtag notallstraightpeople.

Let’s resurrect it.

Don’t get all #notallstraightpeople on me when my review of the Hammer’s 2014 biennial, MADE IN LA, begins and ends not in the main galleries, but with its AIDsy show-within-a-show: AMID VOLUPTUOUS CALM. This petite mise-en-abîme, which feels segregated since its tucked into the diverticulitis of gallery 5, contains ghosts.

Walls painted a dark, necrotizing fasciitis green warn you that you’re entering haunted territory. The late Tony Greene’s baroque pin-ups intermittently materialize along the hue. Meanwhile, a fabulous Cousin ITT hunkers down in the corner. 

Meet Millie Wilson’s DAYTONA DEATH ANGEL. Confession: Hair art mesmerizes me, especially when I know that the hair belongs to someone dead. Wilson’s piece makes us want to give it offerings, bottles of high-end hair conditioner, promises of Brazilian blowouts. We put our ears to it to see if we can hear the ticking of a bomb because it looks so much like the wig Debbie Harry’s HAIRSPRAY character, Velma Von Tussle, uses to smuggle explosives into the pageant. I want the similarity to be intentional.

This gargantuan hairpiece honors every drag queen ever stomped by jackboots, every drag queen who’s had to steal her makeup, every drag queen with thick shoulders and thicker stubble, every drag queen who’s been murdered and a murderer. Ever hear of Dorian Corey? His is a real A ROSE FOR EMILY kind of story but picture it with queer people of color, sequins, and set in the closets of New York.

Next to the blonde hangs Monica Majoli’s UNTITLED (Bathtub OrGY).

Sticky shadows are at play here, and the recipient of so many fluids basks in such ecstasy that he might be dead. His face wears that died-of-ecstasy look, the feeling, not the drug, and UNTITLED’s lone penis makes eye contact with me. Only its tip is visible. The figure whose johnson locks eyes with mine wears a black mask, which begs the question: am I seeing his real face? Which face is which? Who’s really doing the talking here?

Okay, despite Tony Greene’s sumptuousness and Majoli’s Rembrandtian tones and Wilson’s follicular decadence, its a flippin’ fish that slays me.

This fish gives me theoretical flashbacks, and I know why: Jack Halberstam’s THE QUEER ART OF FAILURE. This scaly loser is kin to the QUEER ART OF FAILURE’S coverbird.

The fish and bird belong to a series of paintings of seemingly dead or lonely objects that achieve nothing. YOU SHOULDN’T DO THAT, YOUR FACE WILL STATY THAT WAY posits a raw oyster against a serengeti of dumb space. WELL IT DIDN’T JUST GET UP AND WALK AWAY depicts a rogue ben wah ball against scarlet. The dead bird painting has an awesome name that reminds me of childhood: I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT.

About Bamber, Halberstam writes: “[Her] horizons remind us that possibility and disappointment often live side by side.” That’s so the case with this would-be fish stick. It leapt to its dry death in reverse of a Kate Chopin novel.

Shots of Ron Athey’s performances, Bob Flanagan stuff, and copies of INFECTED FAGGOT PERSPECTIVES, a zine, haunt the space, too, but the thing I pause in front of for a super long while, having a quasi-religious experience with, is SLEEPING BEAUTY #1.

Resin paper-weight bolo ties holding globs of HIV-positive blood sleep in a log terrarium atop sand and wood. While I’ve admitted to my interest in hair art, blood art tends to seem a bit gauche to me. However, I see nothing gauche about HIV-positive blood art. SLEEPING BEAUTY #1 taps into a Victorian scientific vein, it evokes that era when white people went wild with taxonomies, shoving bones and bodies in museums. Nowadays, we deride such aesthetics as “steam punk.” Anyhow, this log, where a perverse squirrel hoards oddities, forces me to think about my cousin, the first homosexual I knew. The pretty red in that resin did him in, not a cold.

Jennifer Moon, Harry Dodge, the Frimkesses, Kim Fisher, and AL. Steiner’s work don’t haunt AMID VOLUPTUOUS CALM but they are must-sees if you’re into geoligical feminism, bastardized ceramics, occult sausagery, parties in eggs, and inanity. The show is up till September 7th.

Reasons To Stay At Home on Your Couch: RADAR’s June Reading Series Is Now On Youtube!

Or maybe you live somewhere not in the bay and weren’t able to attend, either way, you can stay home in your PJ’s (or maybe slack off at work if you’re sort of productive) and watch some radicle people share their art with RADAR and others.

Achy Obejas‘s video may include feelings, be warned.

 

Martin Sorrondeguy‘s video is so funny you may actually start to feel stomach muscles doing things.

 

Julian Talamantez Brolaski gives a short list of banned poetry words such as aperture. Warning: you may start to consider your own usage of such words.

Have fun spending the next hour on your couch and remember, stretching is also good.

Myriam’s One-I’d Arts and Literature Column: LGB(iennial)TQIAETC PART I

If it wasn’t for queers, this planet would be a total hole. And before anybody gets all #notallstraightpeople on me, save it. Queers are responsible for nuance, elegance, and prophetic ingenuity. We are the Thomas Alva Edidaughters of creativity’s ecosystem. That said, let’s look at what kind of spaghetti squash queers are bringing to the sur la tables of LA’s two current biennials. (Get it? Two biennials? I twotally went to two on porpoise)

Okay, so the first biennial I checked out was not the bigger of LA’s two, the one down in Westwood, at the Hammer Museum. I began, instead, by heading to a place where you can get shot in the eye for giving birth to your own sister: CHINATOWN.

BTW: Roman Polanski, you’re still gross. 

Chinatown’s Coagula Curatorial, an exhibitchion space which has hosted solo shows by the likes of Karen Finley and Gronk, is putting on what will hopefully become a local and transnational tradition: QUEER BIENNIAL. Conceptual pop artist Rubén Esparza curated QUEER BIENNIAL I and it’ll be running till July 26 at 974 Chung King Road, 90012, not 90210.

If you’re not full of contradictions, you’re full of shit.”
– Rubén Esparza

Before really interacting with the art body composing QUEER BIENNIAL I, I ran to Coagula’s bathroom to excrete. As I baptized, a pink light bulb turned the restroom vulvular. I took the omnipresent warm color as a private omen. QUEER BIENNIAL I would celebrate our private parts.

Backtracking into the exhibit, I shared a private moment with Mel Odom’s AL PARKER JESUS.

This work comes as a triptych. Middle Al Parker Jesus evokes the Shroud of Turin while Al Parker Jesuses split in halves flank their central divinity, hanging like butterfly wings plucked off a bug by some fay bully. Odom used Al Parker as his muse for Ecce Homo and if you’re unfamiliar with gay porn, Parker worked as a performer in the genre and eventually got eaten by AIDS. Since Parker lived to forty, he outlived the Ultimate Hebrew Homo by about seven years.

TJ, my similarly sexed life partner, got kind of caught up in the racial and sexual drama of Rick Castro’s WHITE CHOLO, while I got caught up in the ambiguous eros of Castro’s BODY ART.

Yeah, BODY ART depicts a hot naked guy come hithering while exposing his junk but he’s got those fun stripes. Are they meant to make him seem imprisoned or zebraesque, just a member of the herd? Is there a racial metaphor wedged into one of those cracks? I don’t know, but whatever the stripes are meant to do, they overtly and sexily otherize him. Also, there’s something Keith Haringish about BODY ART. I kept thinking yeah, basically this is a Keith Haring painting turned into an organic wet dream in the reverse of what happens in a-ha’s TAKE ON ME video.

ALSO, fun fact about Rick Castro: Joel Peter-Witkin bought him his first automatic camera.

Usually, I shy away from crochet, but Ben Cuevas’ knit work slurped me closer.

CUNT ENVY belongs to Cuevas’ series #Tweetables which will be (they’re still being made) composed of text-panels of 140 characters or less created by a knitting machine (that doesn’t even sound real. It sounds like when you’re like SHE’S A MACHINE! A CLEANING MACHINE! Or THAT KID, HE’S AN EATING MACHINE! Or, OH, WHO, MY DYKE GRANDPA? ZE’S A QUEER KNITTING MACHINE!) The series merges the infinite field of internet memeology with the soft arts, and if there was ever any phrase that needed to be rendered in white yarn contrasted against fuchsia, its this one. Go ahead, envy the clam. If a clam could tweet, it would tweet with a knitted feel. CUNT ENVY tempts with its softness, you want to feel it, finger it, I want to curl up under CUNT ENVY, use it as my afghan while I’m on my couch watching romance films, Charlize Theron’s MONSTER. I can’t. Also, I don’t even have cunt envy. I already have one. So there. But I totally appreciate the sentiment.

Against the wall perpendicular to BODY ART, some of Esparza’s conceptual pop art pieces were hanging out. One, a mock political sign with, I guess, my sexual orientation on it, bore a footprint, which pretty much sums up that orientation when you’re in high school in the 90s.

Also, the footprint appeared to have been made by someone wearing comfortable shoes, so, perhaps, the footprint came from my own kind, making this poster a meta-reflective piece on self-esteem. Jk. I don’t think that was the point but I take private joy in imagining Esparza crafting a piece with an epidemic of lesbian low self-esteem in mind.

The work of Mexican-born Alonso Tapia-Benitez drew me in with its pink.

Pinks do that to me, maybe because of my…CUNT APPRECIATION? Tapia-Benitez’s multimedia stitched collage, UNTITLED, of two faceless beauties (how can you make somebody faceless a beauty? Through genius) made me ask were these boys, were these girls, who cares? They were beautiful and peculiar, which is usually all that matters. Also, their laps grew gardens. Sustainable laps for a greener tomorrow.

In the corner, by the DYKE sign, an installation piece, STICKS AND STONES, by Lili Lakich, frankensteined. Standing in front of this pseudorobot, this pseudodroid, THIS NUMBER 5 IS ALIVE! covered in rainbow slurs, the viewer sees herself reflected through a green screen. While I dig Lakich’s gassier pieces (she’s known for her works in neon), I appreciated the opportunity to interact with this superficially evil hater.

One word the entity seemed to be missing, though, in its mini-pantheon of no no words, was tranny. I wondered if someone had convinced the robot that this was the current n word of rainbow slurs, and I whispered to the robot, “Just say it.” I saw my head in the green screen that is the creature’s head, I was it, and I could see my lips mouthing, Just say it, but the robot wouldn’t speak the T word.

I moved past SLURI (that’s what I’d name the robot) and onto the next wall where there was MORE LILI LAKICH! YAY! (She has a total of three pieces in the show).

Of course, the neon thing is Lakich’s. Its eponymously named for its slogan and the piece’s A blinks in out and of existence, leaving traces of its semiotic self as the light temporarily dies. Angela Gleason’s Fruit of Thy Womb hangs near the sign, ready to be grabbed by an CatHOlic slut on her way to sue Hobby Lobby. Its not a necklace, its a rosary, and I really like art that combines beauty and pharmaceuticals, and had my parents ever found certain things I kept in my jewelry box, I could’ve argued BUT ITS ART! if I’d been able to reference Gleason’s oeuvre. Of course, I only kept aspirin in my jewelry box and aspirin would make a beautiful rosary. “And then God NSAID ‘Let there be light! LET THERE BE LILI LAKICH!” Gleason has actually crafted an entire collection of rosaries made out of fascinating {s}crap–blood, earplugs, political pins, erasers, and the erasers are the most delicate, little prayers that could truly come in handy during the SAT. Lastly, as far as what I’m gonna choose to yap about, is Scooter LaForge’s SUNSET, an oil painting which depicts a young ginger spending time with himself on the shores of some body of fresh water. SUNSET has haunted me because there is something really innocent about it in spite of everything that prudes would probably say you shouldn’t find it innocent for.

I can’t talk about everything at QUEER BIENNIAL I cause that’d just be stupid. Go see it. Bi Bi!

And please tune in next week to get HAMMERed.

Tom Cho Talks Wild Transformation & Tom of Finland

Tuesday we made an internet date with Tom Cho, author of Look Who’s Morphing, and discussed everything from RADAR’s Wandering Moon event this Saturday to his love of Tom of Finland.

 

Photo by Owen Leong

Radar: What will you be reading at Wandering Moon?

Tom: I’ll be reading a selection of pieces from my collection of fictions Look Who’s Morphing. The book was originally published in my home country of Australia and it’s recently been released in North America by Arsenal Pulp Press. In the course of the book, the protagonist, along with some other characters, goes through some surprising transformations, morphing into figures from film, TV, music, comics, porn flicks and more.

Transformation seems an apt theme for a full moon reading, right?

Radar: Have you ever read outdoors as part of a full moon reading before? If yes, when? If no, does the idea utterly thrill you?

Tom: No.

And yes!

Radar: What are 1 or 2 themes that feature prominently in your work?

Tom: One theme is: wild transformation.

(There’s a second theme too, which I’ll get to in a moment.)

Radar: What is your relationship to metaphors?

Tom: To make a metaphor, you must discover a similarity between two dissimilar things. This is what Sallie McFague talks about in her book Metaphorical Theology.

In my work, I love to draw surprising connections between seemingly remote and disparate concerns (which is the second theme in my work), so I feel like there’s a strong metaphorical impulse that runs through all of my writing.

Radar: If you could describe your writing style in 10 words or less how would you describe it?

Tom: My Australian publisher once said: “Tom is more thorough in the pursuit of implication than any writer I know”. In saying that, he used 14 words to describe my work, but I think he got it right, so we’ll pardon him for being so verbose.

Radar: What’s your favorite place to get dinner or drinks where you live?

Tom: I’ve been travelling for the last year and half so I don’t have a fixed address. However, I very recently arrived in LA so I need to ask your blog readers: What’s your favourite place to get dinner or drinks in LA?

Radar: Describe the room you’re in right now.

Tom: I’m staying at the Tom of Finland Foundation and my bedroom here (which is where I am now) is actually Tom’s bedroom. So I’m surrounded by Tom of Finland artwork, and his clothing and ephemera. In short, I’m in fanboy heaven.

Photo by Owen Leong

Tom Cho’s collection of fictions, Look Who’s Morphing, was published to acclaim in Australia and was shortlisted for various literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Studied in Australia, USA, Switzerland, UK, Canada and elsewhere, Look Who’s Morphing was recently released for North America and Europe by Arsenal Pulp Press. Tom also has 70 publications of fiction pieces in literary journals and anthologies, and has received various arts grants and artist residencies. He is currently writing a novel about the meaning of life. Visit his website at tomcho.com

Baruch Porras-Hernandez on Taco Trucks, Mermen & The Lack of POC in Game of Thrones

Virgie Tovar, Radar’s Managing Director, is OBSESSED with Baruch Porras-Hernandez. Read their convo below. Baruch will be reading on July 8 for the Radar Reading Series at the San Francisco Public Library, 6-8pm. Click here to view the Facebook event page.

Virgie:  So whatchya reading on the 8th?

Baruch: You know, unless I’m asked for requests (which I do take actually, well, nothing is guaranteed, but I do take suggestions) I normally bring three sets to choose from. I gauge how the audience is feeling and right before I go on stage I make a gut decision.

Virgie: Talk about 1 or 2 or 3 themes that are really salient in your work.

Baruch: Mermen, Taco Trucks, my brother, Mexico, sex, and bodies. I feel we are so freaking rough on our bodies, and I often feel like I fail to fully express that in my work, so it is a constant work in progress. I like exploring the timelessness of the gay queer homo, I try to play with images of Adam and Steve, to gay cavemen being frozen in time while having sex in a cave. The first bar to have gay men weep in it, to gay guys searching for love in futuristic post-apocalyptic fallen cities. I also like writing about Frida Kahlo and donuts.

Virgie: OMG I love taco trucks and Frida and donuts! So, we share a similar interest in the discussion of bodies in our work. Bodies feature prominently in your poetry. Can you talk about why and how.

Baruch: I feel our bodies are such powerful and yet absurd things. We are so rough on our bodies, it angers me that we’ve spent so many centuries shaming, hiding, destroying them – especially the female identified body. Inspired by some of my hero writer/performers like Sonya Rene Taylor and Denise Jolly, I began to explore my own relationship with my body and that sparked Notes From My BackFat. Instead of hating my body I decided to have a conversation with it, turns out all my parts had something to say, those voices have helped me love myself more.

Virgie: Actually Michelle and I were on the bus yesterday after getting a massive sandwich at Molinari’s and I asked her what she’d want to ask you and here’s what she said: how has being part of open mic culture influenced your writing?

Baruch: A lot. So many snobby asshat writers scoff at even the thought of an open mic. Usually those people’s writing will put an audience to sleep. I know that criticism stems from fear in the weakness in their work, but open mic culture keeps you on your toes. Sometimes I go to an open mic just to read something new, raw, and I seek a nurturing open mic audience for that. Sometimes I go to test myself as a performer, so I go to the open mics where the audiences need more for you to wow them, and if I end up bombing or putting them to sleep, I know I gotta go home and work harder. I do have to state though, that I’ve done the work to find a place where I only let the audience or open mic audience influence my work so much, or half way, I guess what I’m trying to say is, being part of open mic culture has greatly influenced how I work on my writing, but I feel I’ve done a pretty good job and not letting it affect my writing.  

Virgie: Favorite artisanal dessert?

Baruch: I will wrestle a wolf for some fancy tiramisu. And I will punch a wolf in the face for a well made mango mousse. Just kidding, I would never harm a majestic creature, unless they’re like a big human silver daddy that identifies as a wolf when doing sex fantasy play and he asks me politely to punch him in the face, then I would, then let him watch me eat some mousse.

I’m a sucker for good plain old-fashioned cheesecake with some bitter black coffee.

My mother used to make me a lime ice cream cheesecake dessert every year for my birthday. One day I pissed her off and she swore to never make it again. She has kept her word for the past 13 years, and I miss it extremely. I mean it was an out of this world dessert that she came up with herself, so epic, that when I visited with my cousin who I hadn’t seen in 20 years she said, “does your mom still make that lime dessert she made up? I still remember it, it is the most delicious memory I have of our childhood in Mexico.” She was crushed when I told her my mother no longer made it. Never disappoint a Mexican woman.

Virgie:  OMG I totally would have said tiramisu too! Also, agree re: disappointing Mexican women. OK, if an actor were going to play you in your biopic who would it be and why?

Baruch: He’d have to gain like 60 pounds but, Demian Bichir! The why part – I honestly have never seen a Latino actor who looks like me in Hollywood. He is the Mexican actor that comes the closest, he’d have to grow a thicker beard, and eat a lot of donuts, but with a belly and more meat on his bones, he’d look like me, I think.

Damien Bichir

Virgie:  Damien’s pretty hot but you’re hotter. Speaking of.. I’m currently obsessed with not only you but also Game of Thrones. It took a while to get over some of the betrayal and all the brutal and gratuitous torture, but now I can totally eat nachos while I watch it. Thoughts on Game of Thrones?

Baruch: Aw, man, here comes confession time, just for you Virgie Tovar, I have never watched more than 4 minutes of Game of Thrones. I’ve tried, so many times, and could not get past 3 minutes, I know everyone is going to hate me for this, but it does not interest me, I thought it would be good to come clean. It’s hard for me to get excited about a show where people of color are completely missing from the main character line up, I mean this show has more dragons than people of color up in them castles. I’m more excited about Michone from Walking Dead. I’m more excited about Adventure Time. I’m more excited about the comic book Saga, yes they are aliens, with horns and wings, but the main characters are aliens with horns and wings that are drawn to look like people of color, (eh, they look like hipster Latinos, but hey, I’LL TAKE HIPSTER LATINOS!). I also have never been able to sit through an episode of MadMen, Girls, and How I Met Your Mother.

Virgie: That’s real. The dragons critique is tres on point. Thanks, Baruch!

Baruch Porras-Hernandez is a writer, performer, and organizer, based in San Francisco. He has performed his writing all over California, and featured at shows in Washington D.C., NYC, and Canada. His poetry appears in Aim for the Head anthology of Zombie Poetry, –Write Bloody Publishing, Divining Divas – Lethe Press, Flicker and Spark Queer Poetry Anthology –Low Brow Press, Tandem – Bicycle Comics Press, Sparkle and Blink -Quiet Lightning Press, and is forth coming in Multiverse, anthology of Superhero Poetry, also with Write Bloody Publishing. For the past 5 years he’s been the curator and head organizer for The San Francisco Queer Open Mic and regularly puts together literary shows and festivals, most recently the ¿Donde Esta Mi Gente? festival of Latino Poetry and Spoken Word. He has been a resident artist at the spoken word program at the Banff Center in Alberta Canada, and the A.I.R. Program at The Garage, a Space for Performance Art, in San Francisco. He was born in Toluca, Mexico and grew up in Albany, California. baruchporrashernandez.wordpress.org

 

 

Alex Dimitrov on Cigarettes, Orgasms, Dating SF & Serial Killers

Alex will be reading at the upcoming July Radar Reading Series at the San Francisco Public Library on Tuesday, July 8, 6-8pm. We interviewed him on life, literature and clichés.

Radar: What would you say are the 1 or 2 most prevalent themes in your writing?

Alex: Why we have lives as opposed to nothing and American life specifically.

Radar: Favorite thing about New York & favorite thing about San Francisco?

Alex: New York: that it will never be your boyfriend.

San Francisco: that it wants to be your boyfriend.

Radar: Artist/author you love right now?

Alex: Ana Mendieta. But I’ve always loved her. Lately, I can’t stop thinking about a show I saw of hers in London late last year. Specifically some postcards she wrote to friends that were presented alongside artworks from different stages of her career. I’ve always loved the work but hearing her voice in those postcards was special. It made me love her more because I recognized who she was. I think she’s underrated. If you’re reading this go look her up now. It’s real work with a lot of heart and blood in it. No bullshit.

Ana Mendieta

Radar: What are you going to read from on the 8th?

Alex: Poems from the new book I’m working on. San Francisco has been real good to me. The first time I came here Kevin Killian threw a party for me and invited all the poets. I had never even met him, or anybody here. This was in 2011 and before I published a book. And then last year my first book had just come out and I came to read and gave one of my favorite readings at 851. So I have a special place in my heart for San Francisco. And California in general.

Radar: What are you reading right now?

Alex: A lot of articles and press clippings on American serial killers from the 1970s and 80s, maybe some 60s. Various things on JFK, Jr. All of these are subjects I’m also writing and thinking about. The last book I finished was Joan Didion’s Where I Was From. Speaking of California…

Radar: Most beloved cliche?

Alex: The expression “if looks could kill.”

Radar: Thing that helps you focus when you absolutely need to get something done?

Alex: An orgasm or a cigarette. But I don’t have a lot of sex or smoke really. I guess I’m pretty focused regardless. One could always be more focused so I bum cigarettes from my friends.

Radar: Last thing that brought you to tears or made you laugh uncontrollably?

Alex: I cried the other night listening to a recording of Janis Joplin performing “Cry Baby” live in Toronto, in 1970. She has this line, in this monologue she gives in the middle of the song, addressed to one of her lovers, and she says “One day you’re going to wake up in Casablanca, or one of those fancy places honey, and you’re going to be freezing to death.” She just got it. She got the real because she was the real. Why would you want to be around anything else? When I’m dead I want to go exactly where Janis Joplin and Ana Mendieta went. I want to hang out with those kinds of people.

Alex Dimitrov is the author of American Boys (2012) and Begging for It (2013). In 2014 he launched Night Call, a multimedia poetry project through which he read poems to strangers in bed and online. Dimitrov is also the founder of Wilde Boys, a queer poetry salon in New York City. His poems have been published in PoetryThe Yale Review, Kenyon ReviewSlatePoetry DailyTin HouseBoston Review, and the American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize in 2011. He is the Content Editor at the Academy of American Poets and teaches creative writing at Rutgers University.

Eileen Writes About Step Back (+So Many Photos!)

 

Eileen (Radar’s intern), Michelle and Dashiell before the tour

We here at Radar were super curious about what exactly a 19 year old queer Mills undergrad from New York thought of and learned from our June 21 event Step Back: A Walking & Reading Tour of Queer Old North Beach. So we asked our intern, Eileen (read more about her and her favorite pizza.. maybe nachos.. toppings at the end of this blog). The walk was led by historian, Nan Boyd, and at each stop we got a lil history and a reading or performance from one of Radar’s favs: Kat Marie Yoas, Raquel Gutierrez, LOL McFiercen, Rhiannon Argo, Lil Miss Hot Mess, Mason J and Maryam Rostami. Over 100 people showed up and we filled the streets of North Beach with the sound of raucous history nerdery, sequined gowns and neon.

Text & (most) Photos by Eileen Sochias

If you didn’t attend RADAR’s Step Back event this Saturday, you might be a bad homo. It was like those “historic” class trips you took in eighth grade except that it was actually entertaining and not in Philadelphia. Also the people on the walking tour were actually excited, probably because the tour didn’t bore you to tears (and there were no duck boats). So maybe more along the lines of some touristy event except there were at least a few native San Franciscans in the group so we weren’t Americans-in-Paris kind of obnoxious. The performers were what made the event more than just another historic tour; there was everything from drag queens to a hilarious comedian and even a stripper (first stripper experience by the way). If I didn’t have such crippling social anxiety I would say it was the only way I would have wanted to spend my Saturday.

However, a hundred people squashed into a bar in the city is one step down from standing-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff kind of terrifying for me, even if most of the people were queer and attractive. But stepping outside your box is good for you, or something. Kat Marie Yoas (who performed “The Lesbian’s Guide to Self Care”) hit the nail on the head when in describing Californians she pointed out that the second thing you’re asked around here after “what’s your name?” is “what’s your sign?” and usually with a more intense curiosity. I always thought this was kind of funny; the South has Baptists, and California has the Zodiac. It was performers like these that made the tour a perfect blend of queer history and modern representations of the fruitions of this history.

Things I learned:

-SF claims itself home of the first GoGo dancing. (Haha what? people have been moving naked since the dawn of time.)

-The first gay bar in SF was started in the 30’s.

-Lots of cops were paid off to keep gay bars in business.

-These bars were a place for queer visibility.

-Eye of the tiger (the actual Survivor video, not the Rocky one) was filmed around the streets of where we were in North Beach.

In all seriousness, it was an amazing thing to hear about history that I actually identify with. To an extent, you can identify with any history in that all of it is human, but where you can claim the history of a people is an interesting topic to ponder. I am certainly not native to San Francisco, but I am queer and to be able to hear about the history that led up to me being there at that exact moment, listening to this specific group of people talk and share ideas was special. It was a very respectful and interactive reflection upon San Francisco’s role in queer history (queer women’s history in particular) and will probably serve in stark contrast to the pride events I will be embarking upon this weekend.

The 110 people takeover of North Beach!

Raquel Gutierrez performs at Specs, formerly the Twelve Adler
Nan Alamilla Boyd, historian and author of Wide Open Town, leads our tour
Kat Marie Yoas
Rhiannon Argo, author of Girls I’ve Run Away With, reads on the stage of Garden of Eden – the former site of lesbian bar in the 1940s
Lil Miss Hot Mess performs at Hole in the Wall Coffee

Meet Eileen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eileen feels really weird about writing about herself in third person. She currently attends Mills College and is going into her second year. She is interested in words, speaking them, singing them, writing them and reading them, she can even read a few in French. She is anxious most of the time and would almost always like to be eating nachos. She is also from New York. She is also wondering if this is what a bio looks like.

Three favorite pizza toppings:

-Cheese   -Guacamole  -Jalapeños… On second thought, I am describing nachos.

Historian Nan Alamilla Boyd & the Gay Ghosts of Queer Old North Beach

Nan Boyd will lead the Radar event Step Back: A Walking Tour of Queer Old North Beach on June 21, 2014

 

We caught up with Nan Alamilla Boyd, author of Wide Open Town and our resident historian for the June 21 event Step Back: A Walking & Reading Tour of Queer Old North Beach, at the airport as she was heading to DC. She was invited to participate in a convening of 12 historians, hosted by the Department of the Interior and National Parks Service, to talk about the possibility of establishing LGBT landmarks through the National Parks Service. #Exciting! She said that as she’s prepared for this meeting, queer old North Beach hasn’t been far from her mind:

“Historic queer north beach is a space that has been completely forgotten about. When you think about San Francisco’s queer history you think about the Castro, maybe you think about Valencia because of Michelle Tea’s book, and maybe if you have a good historical memory you think about Polk Street. But most people have no idea that North Beach has such really vibrant queer history. This tour enables us as a collectivity to think of queer history in a much more complex fashion because North Beach was always understood to be an Italian neighborhood or a tourist neighborhood or the place where the Beat Movement happened but there was quite a bit of queer history there.”

What Nan’s excited about…

“There were these 2 bars that were open in the early 1950s that were connected by a back stairwell. They were called Tommy’s Place and the Twelve Adler and now it’s a strip club and Specs around the corner. Now they’re two separate bars and the stairwell is closed off. I’m excited about going inside what used to be Tommy’s Place (where femmes used to prostitute upstairs while their butch pimps played pool downstairs). As a historian who’s studied these places and whose thought about them a lot – the meaning of their interior and the kind of community that happened in there and the sort of social environment that evolved in those spaces - I’m just really curious and excited about them. I’ve never seen their interior. Seeing the interior is really exciting.”

Sexuality, vaudeville, tourism & Freud…

“North Beach was a tourist space; it was a space where sexualized entertainment was permissible. It was also a liminal space where queer space evolved – at the border of Chinatown and North Beach, which were both cultural enclaves but also tourist spaces where the notions of what was proper or normal were stretched. And there was a commoditized sexualized tourist culture in both Chinatown and North Beach. So the environment was ripe for the emergence of queer culture and communities. They started with gender transgressive entertainment, like male and female impersonator shows. These were holdouts from late 19th century/early 20th century vaudeville. Vaudeville was a form of popular American entertainment that wasn’t really understood to be queer, but in the early 20th century those forms of entertainment were queered by sexology and Freudian theory.”

And then came the repeal of Prohibition…

“With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 there was this opportunity for people to make money from the sale and consumption of alcohol again. One way this happened in North Beach was through staging these queered versions of old Vaudeville female impersonator shows. This male impersonator show at Mona’s evolved and caught on and was super popular. It was through this bending – or queering – of a holdout from Vaudeville entertainment style that we had this emergence of a nascent queer culture. From these commoditized tourist spaces more ‘authentic’ queer spaces began to emerge.”

One of the stops on our walking tour is…

“The Paper Doll, super popular in the early 1950s, was a little bit off the beaten path. It was far enough away from the commercial strip that it was much more of a cultural enclave. It was a queer bar for queer people first rather than a queer bar for tourists first. Alongside the tourist culture were these more community based spaces like Paper Doll through which a cultural community evolved and eventually solidified. I argue in my book, Wide Open Town, that in these community spaces there began to evolve a political awareness. It took place inside bars rather than in formal spaces where other movements were convening. That these communities were forming at bars – where everyday people hang out – indicates the populist roots of queer culture, rather than seeing the politicization of queer culture through some elite enterprise. This process was really democratic, cut across class, and was really gender transgressive as well. It wasn’t that clean, gender-appropriate movement that emerged in the 1950s. I think the roots of San Francisco’s strong queer political movement is in these truly queer and gender transgressive populist spaces, which at that time were the bars of North Beach.”

Join RADAR on Saturday, June 21, 2014, 4pm (PROMPTLY) at City Lights Books – 261 Columbus Avenue in San Francisco as we reclaim queer space and salute the gay ghosts of North Beach on a walking tour that explores the neighborhood’s queer history. Nan Alamilla Boyd, author of Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965, leads the way, revealing the secret histories of today’s local businesses and painting a picture of a place once swinging with lesbian and trans nightlife. Featuring special pop-up performances by Lil Miss Hot Mess, Kat Marie Yoas, Maryam Rostami, Mason J, Miss Rahni, Rhiannon Argo and Raquel Gutierrez. For more information please click HERE! Remember to wear comfy shoes & bring water!

 

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