Pop Philosophy

Rocketman in flight

One pill makes you higherI have to admit that Halloween didn't grab me this year like it usually does. Most times, it's my favorite holiday. When else can you give candy to strangers, ogle sexy nuns, or ask if you can borrow someone's merkin? (It's a pubic hair toupee -- don't ask how I know.) This year was different, though. Maybe I was thrown off by the daunting approach of National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.com) or the feeling that San Francisco just isn't as wacky as it used to be; more likely, it was hard to imagine out-frightening real life ghouls such as Osama & Bert or Scary W. Spice. For my dollar, the possibility of opening lethal, anthrax-carrying mail -- or having Dubya in charge of trying to stop it -- is spookier than a house full of Martha Stewart impersonators.

Hoping to inspire a bit of holiday cheer, I hopped on Popcorn Anti Theater's (www.popcornantitheater.com) Halloween-themed bus with a few friends, while wearing a semirecognizable Elton John costume, nervous all the while that someone would make me sing "Crocodile Rock." If you don't know about it already, Popcorn is a mobile performance art party, a traveling tour of oddness, inspiration, and inebriation that takes 40 folks to unspecified Bay Area locations on the last Sunday and Monday of the month. Often, the most entertaining parts of the evenings occur between stops.

For instance, during this bus ride's Balls of the Belle contest (a female-requested retort to the announced Belle of the Ball showcase), Lord Nonesuch gave his all -- or almost all. "I don't even know where to buy underwear like that," mused one costumed cutie as the Lord stripped down to his briefs.

With Young Frankenstein on the telly and the booze flying freely, the bus lurched to our first stop, SomArts Cultural Center and its "Día de la Muertos" exhibit. As we disembarked, a friend asked a Catholic schoolgirl if she had a light. "I only smoke in the bathroom," she said. Inside, giant metallic claws buzzed and contracted above refracted light displays, as singer and flutist Simran Gleason led a trio of dancers through the maze of rooms.

Back on the bus, our fearless leader, Dr. Discount, searched for his misplaced meds. "I cooked up some experimental drugs for you to try, but I lost them," he said in a nervous tone that may or may not have been real. "They're in an ammunition belt, so let me know if you see them."

The Belle of the Ball contest hit full stride after we left SomArts, with Little Red Ridin' Ho staggering up the aisle, followed by Little Ho Peep and UFHo (see a theme here?). The unadorned Deep Blue -- who seemed to have swallowed her costume, along with any available intoxicants -- brought up the rear.

At stop number two, the peculiarity of our adventure began to kick in. After some disorienting freeway driving, we stopped on a quiet residential street, where I marveled at how all the residents of the neighborhood had switched to red light bulbs for the occasion -- until I realized I still had my rose-tinted, star-shaped sunglasses on. Trouping through a vacant, weed-filled lot to our destination, I imagined people glancing out the window to see Crawdaddy snapping his giant claws at UFHo, or Screaming Libido spilling out of her bustier onto Lord Nonesuch.

Finally, we arrived at an underground theater, complete with movie seating and free popcorn. We were treated to short clips from increasingly hokey horror films, as well as the snarky comments of our hosts, Tryntie and Lloyd (from the Devo tribute band Mongoloid).

Back on the bus, several patrons were getting increasingly amorous, while a certain numbskull squadron had taken to chanting, "Boobies! Boobies!" I was starting to wonder if we'd devolved into the frat mentality when a woman took the mike from Dr. Discount and began crooning an off-key version of Nick Cave's ode to vengeance, "The Mercy Seat." Toto, we're not in Phi Betta Pukka anymore.

The next two stops were spectacular, with the accordion-driven Cotton Candy Cabaret singing arch odes to love and evil landlords from atop Twin Peaks, and Yuri Lane playing human beatbox and turntablist beneath a Golden Gate Park underpass.

Eventually we wound back down to the Safeway on 16th and Bryant, the winners of the Belle of the Ball contest sprawled in a pile in the aisle. Eschewing the perfect opportunity to sing "I'm Still Standing," I autographed whiskey bottles instead. As we climbed off the bus for the last time, I sucked in the midnight air, feeling as if I'd been on another planet for a spell, a planet where the only thing worth fighting over was who had the best Alice in Wonderland costume. (The boy did, of course.)

Erase that errata Club Caliente is located in the former Oasis and V/SF building, not in the DV8 space as previously noted ("Paradise, thy name is mud," Pop Philosophy, Oct. 31).

 
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