Massacre Under the Redwoods

Country spookiness, movies, and the Texas Tranny Two-Step made Guerneville the place to be, pre-Halloween

"Sorry Mar," says Peaches, tossing the head into the gasping crowd.

She's tickled with the Russian River turnout for "Midnight Mass," and she lets us know before introducing tonight's feature, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Within moments, the dark, creepy clearing feels as homey as the Bridge Theatre, which under Peaches' tutelage feels as homey as your crazy (but gorgeous) aunt's living room. She convinces a group of volunteers to jump up and learn the Texas Tranny Two-Step. Putanesca and Martiny emerge from the woods to demonstrate the dance. Vinsantos emerges to judge.

"Swing your chain saw 'round and 'round!" calls Peaches as the costumed revelers careen across uneven ground. The winners, of course, get nothing but Landmark Theatre passes and a "Peaches Loves You" T-shirt, longtime staples of "Midnight Mass," but they are terribly pleased.

As the spotlight is extinguished, the prologue for one of the most disturbing movies ever made scrolls across the screen, warning of the dire incidents that occurred in a small Texas town several decades ago. The crowd settles into fretful silence under the trees.

Slowly, morning comes and goes, and the camp rises and makes its bleary way to the sun deck for "Puta's Poolside Pumpkin Slaughter." Putanesca arrives poolside in a sapphire-sequined ice skating outfit suitable for a Busby Berkeley routine. For $5, she says, you get a pumpkin and a pumpkin carving knife and a little Puta pep talk. It's a lazy, warm afternoon suffused by icy margaritas, unexpected bikinis, and bouncy new wave music. By day's end, a bizarre legion of jack-o'-lanterns leers across the pool. Putanesca, Peaches, and Vinsantos jump in for the judging; Vinsantos' heels float to the surface.

Gayest Pumpkin: Dorothy and Toto in silhouette.

Sexiest Pumpkin: a small hairy creation sucking on its own stalk.

Scariest Pumpkin: a vomiting disaster called Peaches.

Best in Show: a glitter-lipped, drag queen pumpkin that smokes real cigarettes.

Everyone wins wet Landmark passes. Hurrah!

At 8:30 p.m., the "Massacre" crowd appears in the gloaming dressed as drag queens, faeries, monsters, mashers, vampires, clowns, rednecks, and (this year's popular favorite) Amish farmers to follow Vinsantos through town on her "Guerneville Queer Bar Crawl." First stop: a haunted "sex club" at the Xen Resort and Spa.

"I can guarantee, there ain't nothing going on in there," says Vinsantos through her signature sad-clown lips and amplified bullhorn.

Indeed, but for some bales of hay, a dentist's chair, and a lot of black plastic bags, the haunted house is empty. The local sports bar, Mc T's Bullpen, proves more frightening.

"I must be in the Twilight Zone," says a toothless old-timer as we sidle up to the bar. "The Twilight Zone, I tell you."

Another toothless gent chases a plump, drunken woman around the pool table as she shouts, "I don't want to talk to you. You can call me a bitch, but you can't call me a ho!"

Vinsantos is amused until a local guitar-picker begins to sound-check. On to the Eagle, and then the Rainbow and "Club Fab."

The stage show opens and closes with songs by Siouxsie Sioux -- Peaches performing "Dazzle" amongst twirling fire and fluttering confetti, and Suppositori Spellingperforming an absolutely flawless rendition of "Face to Face" -- but tranny horror is what I'm really after. As the screen goes dark, we are treated to three new films: Putanesca's Drop Dead Tranny, a tale of grisly murder on the tranny pageant circuit; Peaches' Nightmare on Castro Street, in which an alcoholic drag queen named Squeeky Blondetakes on the role of Freddy Krueger and exposes the real-life foibles of every drag queen in San Francisco; and Vinsantos' 33, a disturbing look at an aging queen. While all the movies are sprinkled lavishly with black humor and Karo syrup, 33 is by far the most genuinely disturbing.

Shot in black and white, with a style reminiscent of, and on par with, Carnival of Souls, 33 tells the tale of an eerie stage performer who, approaching an unkind age, decides to take matters into her own hands -- first, through home surgery, then through bathing in the blood of children. While I know none of the kids was harmed during the making of 33(in fact, Vinsantos' own son appears as a victim knocked off his bicycle), it is chilling. On the walk home through the tiny town of Guerneville, I am haunted by the young faces and tormented by 33's original score. The terror is made more complete when I return to my cabin to find a missing-child flier pinned to the door. I am pretty sure I recognize the face.

Happy Halloween.

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