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Night Crawler 

Wednesday, Dec 4 1996
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For a little over a year, the proprietors of the Werepad, a movie-theater-slash-art-slash-work-space, have been throwing open their doors each Wednesday night for cocktails, music, and proper movie viewing. For the numerous eccentrics, musicians, filmmakers, artists, and cybergeeks who have been converging on the premises, it's been a hoot, but as of Wednesday, Dec. 4, Massacre at Central Hi, the Werepad's low-rent film production team, will be shutting the movie house doors and converting the theater into sets needed for their upcoming film project, Planet Manson. But before they go, "Night Crawler" wants a peek.

The Werepad is a large, gray warehouse located in the Indian Basin area -- completely nondescript except for: a stencil of the Werepad mascot, Leroy, on the door; a small group of people sitting on the curb outside, taking care of a dark-haired girl desperately trying to hold back something noxious; a small, homeless man who keeps trying to sneak a glimpse through a crack in the door without actually touching anything; and the smoke and reddish light seeping through that crack.

The homeless man scuttles quietly out of the way as I approach. The door swings open without any pressure at all. No one is standing at the entrance to take money or names. In fact, even though the Werepad is a movie house and home and studio of several people, admission is free and anyone and everyone is apparently welcome. Nonexclusive and not a moneymaker. It's enough to make a weaker capitalist mind implode.

The space inside feels three or four times the building's size. Cavernous ceilings seem to stretch for miles. Stuffed animals the size of small horses leer from the rafters. Endless lofts glow with odd hues of light. A camel sways, suspended by fishing line. A chandelier of traffic cones burns like a vibrant constellation in safety orange. Nooks overflow with puffy chairs and candy-colored benches. There are sculptures and paintings and functional pieces of art. Faux candles with blowless flames flicker from every surface. Globes of red, blue, and green light illuminate each and every alcove. The snow-white expanse of the movie screen fills one pristine wall.

Upon entering, the first thing I notice to my right is a spacious kitchen separated from the rest of the room by reams of brightly colored gauze. The floor is a sea of black and white checkers and the cabinet doors are tastefully covered in leopard skin. At the sink, a pretty young woman dressed exactly as Wednesday Addams of The Addams Family stands daintily washing oversize martini glasses that make her hands look like those of a child. She finishes her chore, loads up on fresh stemware, and pushes past me with a sweet-voiced "Excuse me" and not a further look. To my left, a collection of bleary-eyed gents sit sipping clear alcohol from tall, elegant glasses. They give me an unconcerned once-over before blowing a cloud of smoke in my general direction and continuing with their animated conversation.

In an alcove under the second loft, a small wet bar is the center of activity. Illuminated tiki dolls keep watch over the Werepad regular who is serving as bartender-of-the-moment. "Wednesday" refurbishes glasses as needed and guests throw crisp dollar bills into a large free-will donation bowl each time they pick up another gin. Onstage, Werepad founder Jacques Boyreau has tuned his guitar and dedicated his opening set to Mark Lenard, who played Spock's father on Star Trek and recently passed away at the age of 68. The crowd murmurs in consolation.

"I sold all my sleep to the devil for ultimate power," a blond man giggles nervously as he passes a couple smoking fragrant herb out of an ornate, wooden pipe. "I just crossed out the word 'soul' and wrote 'sleep.' Pretty good, huh?"

The couple regard him with slight bemusement. "Poor boy," sighs one of the women. "He's trying too hard."

Scott Moffett, the second of three Werepad founders, makes his rounds, chatting with the people he knows and meeting those he does not. Standing directly across from a 2-foot-tall glowing penguin, he seems to radiate equestrian nobility, but that may only be a trick played by his plush dress jacket and accompanying ascot.

"Recently, we held a salon," sniffs Moffett. "We took all of our art down and allowed other people to cover the walls. Most of everything you see was brought here." I feel inclined to ooh and aah over the tinfoil that completely covers the rafters and ceiling above the bar, but Moffett excuses himself to play theremin for Dimebag Child, the musical collaboration of the Werepad directors. As they take the stage, a bright, full-color "KER-ACKK!" streaks across the film screen above. Marvel Comics' Mighty Thor bursts into life. The crowd smiles and many people move forward to take up the theater-style seating in the front of the house. Unusually high picture quality finds me disappointed that all I have to look forward to is Jacqueline Bisset's 1968 debut in The Sweet Ride. I crave features that I missed earlier in the year such as King Kong and Superfly, but Massacre at Central Hi is quick to assure the movie-loving fringes of San Francisco: Spring will bring another Werepad season with over 200 movies at their collective disposal.

"It will be a gala reopening!" promises Boyreau.

Send comments, quips, and tips to crawler@sfweekly.com.

By Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor

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