"It's all about style, honey," says 28-year-old Duane Mans, half-kidding. "Of course, I'm happy to award extra credit for technique." The operatic interlude gives way to more common fare -- ABBA, Chris Isaak, Liza Minnelli, Patsy Cline. All of which acts as a scattered prelude for tonight's event, "Daddy Whore Church," a "Father's Day" benefit for Duran Ruiz -- a mother newly released from jail, who cannot receive government aid for her child under current federal law -- and Father C. River Sims, an openly gay priest of the Evangelical Anglican Church, whose "ministry of presence" and oath of voluntary poverty keeps him in the heart of Polk Gulch and the Tenderloin, administering supplies and understanding to the young sex workers who live and work there.
"Male prostitutes are among the most neglected groups in our community," says Sims in a no-bullshit Missouri drawl that belies his firsthand experience here. "San Francisco is still the gay mecca. Gay pride is the norm here, so kids come to escape the oppression of their hometown[s], but there are a lot of other serious issues at hand."
Large rainbow banners line the street, dangling from lampposts in anticipation of the upcoming Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Weekend; smaller flags hang inside, over the bar, among blow-up pink flamingos and colorful tropical fish. "Who decided that tawdry color scheme should represent queers?" asks Mans. "When I see that, all I can think about is Marin County hippies and prepubescent girls with unicorn posters."
Lorna Doom, a slender tranny in thigh-high boots and a white leopard stole, slinks by with her bare-chested slave Bruce. They join the eye-catching gathering on the patio, where a white-haired gentleman sits naked, casually eating watermelon, and a dandy named Daddy Whorebuck$ in a multihued tux asks strangers to stroke the moose tied around his waist.
Lena McConnell, the endearing 29-year-old Mint cocktail waitress, steps up to the microphone to sing "Begin the Beguine" by Ella Fitzgerald, which KJ Franklin Lim Liao will record for her father in Washington. "Happy Father's Day," says McConnell with a warm smile that is met by near silence. "OK, anyway."
"My father's very conservative," says 33-year-old Guy Fish, a charming student of animal behavior with a shy singing voice. "But I sent him a Father's Day card that thanked him for supporting me in my choices, even though he doesn't particularly approve of them."
"My father called me today to wish me a happy birthday," says Madame Superior Tallulah Breadwinner, a flashy gal in tight blue pants and a breast-enhancing brassiere who organized today's shindig at the Mint. "He's 70 and may be getting a little senile, but he's very open-minded. He does a lot of community work, volunteering for hospice and the California Youth Authority."
"My dad threw me out," says a willowy lesbian-identified transsexual with curly hair named Barbara Coast, "and the first people I met were whores! It was actually the greatest thing my father ever did for me. My life has been 100 percent better since I stopped having contact with my family."
As night falls bingo cards are passed out to the capacity crowd -- an eclectic mix of clean-cut, Sunday-night Mint regulars, "escorts," outreach volunteers, and everyday freak magnets. Sister Reyna Terror and Sister Kitty Catalyst from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence announce the beginning of "Butt Plug Bingo," which employs pictures "of items used for sex or violence" instead of the more traditional numerical digits used for calling bingo.
"B-Martini!" shouts Sister Reyna.
"O-Mud Flap Girl!" shouts Sister Kitty.
"I-Chicken-Faced Boy Chasing Insects?"
"N-Vicious High Heel Shoe!"
Appropriately, the first winner is greeted by a rousing chorus of "... and Bingo was his name-o." Then, it's back to business. The Sisters are asked to perform a cleansing ritual for a problem Tallulah Breadwinner recently had with one of her johns. The "Trick-a-Moan-Us Ritual," as it is called, involves a condom, a rubber chicken stuffed with edible goo, and a pair of tinfoil angel wings. In the end, the chicken is quite clean, but it doesn't get that way before several Mint regulars slip out through the side exit. It's their loss.
Drag king Hans Uber Easy soon sings a staggering rendition of "Calendar Girl," complete with pelvic thrusts and suggestive Teutonic gibberish; Daddy Whorebuck$ deep-throats a few flaming rods; Barbara Coast shows off her new tits to the tune of "Ziggy Stardust"; and Betty Bubbles strips down to Band-Aids and a G-string, giving the suddenly bashful KJ a ringside view steamy enough to fog his glasses. By the time the Sisters offer "communion" -- cheap vodka sucked from a huge nipple and mood-altering Rice Krispies Treats -- the remaining crowd is more than willing to be blessed. Generous gifts of condoms and lube are passed out along with impulsive embraces, and KJ Franklin performs "Dancing Queen" with Betty Bubbles. "That was a good warm-up for next weekend," says one member of a trim Castro couple, stepping into the night air. "A little weird, but, hey, what isn't?"
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By Silke Tudor