By Ian S. Port
By Cory Sklar
By Godofredo Vasquez
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By Ian S. Port
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By Christopher Victorio
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Outside the Casanova Lounge Wednesday night three svelte young men in well-cut cream-colored trousers stand under a striped awning while a pretty, slightly sweaty woman sits on the sidewalk gingerly applying powder to her nose. A mixture of music and tinkling glasses bleeds out onto Valencia as the street-side beautician completes her touch-up and her companion steps out into the night air, cigarette smoke and laughter clinging to him like cologne.
"I want to dance some more," he coos, squatting down beside the woman while carefully eyeing the approach of an unshaven corner-store brown-bagger. "You feel up to it?"
"Absolutely," slurs the woman, closing her compact and smoothing her pencil skirt. "I just didn't want to be all shiny, and I couldn't get to the bathroom." Taking a proffered arm, she smiles foggily and pushes her way into the fray, her voice trailing off sweetly before it melts into the general hubbub.
"Did you request Nina for me? I'll dance to Nina Hagen again. You know I will."
At the door, the eye-catching Miss Birdie, decked out in a shimmering silver ensemble with a feathery white hat, greets the crowd from a small podium that is nearly swallowed up by the sea of wheat-beer-sipping patrons. The Casanova, which has been known to feel somewhat cavernous in the past, is tonight delightfully intimate and snug as several hundred well-dressed scenesters toast the one-year anniversary of "Baby Judy's," the weekly DJ event hosted by Deena Davenport and Alvin A Go-Go.
As promised, balloons, clowns, streamers, and go-go dancers abound. A couple of very pale bald clowns lean discreetly against a wall near the entrance, chatting amiably with acquaintances and sipping cocktails. Although a cursory inspection would find their ensembles -- bright baggy suits, face paint, big shoes -- unnotable for clowns, certain details, like a sinister leer of sharp metal dentures or dead-black eyes framed in fluttering false eyelashes, give the funny men a special something.
"I think he's Pennywise," explains a young blond with an eyebrow piercing and a fashionable polyester shirt with large lapels. "You know, the clown from that Stephen King book." He smiles and toasts the ominous clown with a wink.
"There are a lot of artists here," reports Deena, while surveying the small dance floor teeming with the creme de la creme of gay and straight Mission hipster humanity. A brunette in the center of a frolicking dance cluster performs a jubilant ABBA-cum-Muriel's Wedding routine and receives vocal approval from all sides. Kisses and "happy birthday"s are thrown across the turntables while a revolving multicolored lamp washes a Lynch-like colorscape across the dizzying crazy-quilt of zebra stripes and spirals that adorn the DJ booth. Alvin, clad in a green and white polka dotted clown outfit -- of the innocent Disney variety -- joins Deena, in her black sequined corset, fishnets, and birthday hat, at the booth.
"Do you have any old Boy George?" asks a man with horn-rimmed glasses, the expected disappointment barely concealed.
"Oh, sure," smiles Deena without hesitation. Pressing her ear against a pair of headphones, she cues up the next song while Alvin searches for a record in their many crates. Although the evening is a busy one, what with constant interruptions from well-wishers, Alvin and Deena's musical exchanges are fluid, the product of a five-year friendship and a business relationship that began when they were both spinning at Klubstitute.
"It was hard to spin with acts going on all through the night," explains Deena with a warm smile. "The idea [for "Baby Judy's"] came to us one night when we were spinning together at this warehouse party. We had a huge dance floor going and we thought, 'Hey, why not just do our own thing?' "
Their own thing, which caters to a wide variety of pop-music lovers (Siouxsie and the Banshees, OMD, Pizzicato Five, and Enrique being among the bands on heavy rotation), draws a crowd as diverse as the neighborhood in which it resides.
"We both live in the Mission," says Deena. "We wanted a neighborhood Mission bar, and Casanova wanted us. It's really worked out."
After only one year, "Baby Judy's" could not better encapsulate the new Mission chic if it tried. From John, a 61-year-old with snow-white hair who rarely leaves the dance floor, to Fennel, the extremely gaunt playwright-cum-go-go-dancer who resembles a meth-happy Jean Reno, to the hell-clowns, where else can you go where everyone in the room knows who Cibo Matto is and looks good dancing to it?
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