By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
It can still happen: You're strolling around the city on a pleasant spring afternoon, not expecting anything out of the ordinary, proffering cursory salutations to dot-commers walking their dogs when, quite suddenly, you are confronted with a completely unadulterated San Francisco experience. The situation demands more than mere attention; it demands rigorous participation, a willingness to go to any lengths to substantiate your calling San Francisco home, and if your mind is in the right place -- not obsessed with the overdue videotapes left in your overpriced flat, or the puke sprayed across your front stoop by drunken yahoos waiting for their stretch SUV -- you will heed the call. It's your duty, after all, as a San Franciscan.
It's Dolores Park. Under a line of trees, at the foot of a grassy slope friends used to call "Flesh Beach," a large barbecue emits the summery smell of charcoal-roasted meats. Two drag queens in chef hats, sequins, and enormous gold sunglasses absent-mindedly flip burgers and greet newcomers with appropriately jaded histrionics. A small kiddie pool, a pile of pink hula hoops, and some candy-colored frisbees are nearby, and a tangible feeling of excitement is in the air. This is the fourth annual Dyke and Drag Queen Decathlon, and emotions are running high.
Team manager Marge Schotts looks over her gold glasses at the playing field below, and dismisses my question about sporting odds with a throaty chuckle.
"The dykes neverwin, honey," she says tugging on the matronly gray wig that sits under her chef's hat. "The drag queens have won three years in a row."
Three incredibly tan, incredibly muscular, well-tucked drag queens in matching activewear and Swedish-blond wigs sashay over to the sign-up table to peruse their options: Potato-sack race, water-balloon toss, egg-and-spoon race, crab-walk relay, tug-o-war, biggest bubble blow, swivel-hips hula, and pie-eating contest. The "Swedes" chuckle and playfully smack each other's rippling biceps, scribbling their names down on the appropriate forms. They are joined by a few women in cutoff bluejeans and loose-fitting T-shirts who also write down their names. The blond drag queens smile encouragingly.
"Swedish volleyball team," says an onlooker ominously. "Ringers."
The grassy slope begins to fill with supporters and fans. Schotts circulates with a tray of lattes while more drag queens assemble on the field below -- some of them looking suspiciously like bears in wigs -- and two rows of frisbees are set up as boundary lines.
"Where are all the dykes?" shouts Uomi, Schotts' chef-hatted cohort in the alternative sport syndicate. The dykes emerge from the crowd, team up, and climb into potato sacks alongside their bewigged adversaries. And they're off! Hop, hop, hopping across the field. A few of the women stumble and fall, drawing falsely sympathetic commentaries from Uomi and giving the drag queens time to stop and wiggle their fannies for the crowd. The hopping fervor of Swedish bombshell Inga causes one of her breasts to explode, sending birdseed flying several feet in all directions; still, the drag queens have it. (The faulty falsie is easily replaced with a water balloon.)
The egg-and-spoon relay is won by Lorena Bob-Ette, Surely Would, and Freak-Ella, a stalwartly heterosexual man pinch-hitting for the drag queens. The crab walk proves a strenuous ordeal, with dykes and drag queens collapsing in equal measure, and one horrifying queen going by the name Tasty Tuna butt-scooting across the finish line. And still the drag queens have it. Accusations of biased score-keeping begin to circulate within the crowd, but two cheerleaders -- the lithesome Thalo Bleu and her pompon-toting sister, Ivy Drip -- offer titillating distraction. The tug-o-war, apparently "the only event the dykes won last year," prompts renewed vigor on the part of the dyke team, now going by the moniker Peep Peep Biker Chicks. A large knotted rope and the kiddie pool filled with water are brought out to the field. With the help of a handsome pit bull dog, and a heartfelt cheer -- "Gimme a D-Y-K-E! What's that spell? Go Dykes!" -- the dykes make small change of the drag queens and all their bronzed brawn, pulling Inga and Tuna headlong into the pool. With all the mascara involved, it's not a pretty sight. The balloon toss proves problematic for the drag queens ("Long nails and overextended rubbers do not mix," someone confides), but man-handed Bob-Ette and het-boy Freak-Ella win out.
Then, it's time for the hula-hoop contest. Demoralized and distraught, the dyke team comes up one player short. It's a potential tragedy. Noticing a gaggle of dot-commers watching the decathlon from a secure distance, and feeling the stir of a call to arms in my San Francisco heart, I strip myself of keys, wallet, and belt, and stumble onto the field, praying for primordial memory and childhood hips. The field is a twirling kaleidoscope of pink and white candy stripes. I try not to look at my opponents or the crowd, focusing all my attention on the quiet swish of the tiny ball spinning in the ring around my hips. Competitors begin to drop. Finally it is down to me, one dyke, and cheerleader Bleu with her thin hips and sure swivel. The dyke murmurs something about getting tired; Bleu gives me a look that says, "I can keep this up all night if I have to, honey." Uomi orders us to walk, while hula-hooping. I close my eyes and take a few tentative steps. It's a point for the dyke team.