Trannyshack Reno or Bustier

An extreme road trip that's never just a drag

"Tell them how to get to the show in Reno!" George implores Peaches.

"I did, but I think they literally have to ask their parents," she says.


One tranny smashes a bottle of Absolut vodka onto the floor of the Cal Neva Hotel, unintentionally signaling the group's arrival to hotel staff. After checking in, Roberts and George catch a ride to Visions, the nightclub where the "Trannyshack" show is to be held.

Peaches takes roll call in Auburn.
Paolo Vescia
Peaches takes roll call in Auburn.
Peaches takes roll call in Auburn.
Paolo Vescia
Peaches takes roll call in Auburn.

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It's a cavernous, dark gay bar on the outskirts of town; it reeks of cigarettes, and a few grizzled men are playing video poker in the middle of the afternoon on screens embedded in the bar. In back of a small stage made of unstable-looking planks of mismatched plywood is a crudely painted mural of the New York City skyline, perhaps an attempt to add a bit of urbane sophistication to the run-down roadhouse. Roberts fumbles in the DJ booth trying to figure out Visions' primitive sound system. He curses, as George gets drunk.

"I'm terrified of performing," says George. She loves music, and she can read a crowd. But she hates being up in front of one. When she started DJing around San Francisco, she adopted the moniker "Mysterious D" and hid behind big dark glasses. When she and Roberts DJ tonight after the show, Roberts will furiously try to make sure everything is technically perfect, his hands on the pitch shifter knobs, slowing down the last song to sync up with the beats of the next. George just does "the whole cliché rock star thing": gets drunk and feels the vibe of the crowd. If the music makes her "go wooo!" she figures, then it'll make the crowd "go wooo!"

But tonight, there is more pressure than when she DJs; she'll be lip-syncing with Roberts and el Diablo to an electroclash song called "Sex That I Need" by a seriously raunchy female duo named Avenue D. George has been in "Trannyshack" numbers only a couple of times, and always in a bit role. She drinks her beer quickly, nervously.

"Sex That I Need," which guest-features a gay male rapper named Cazwell, describes the rough sex the male character likes to engage in with his partners, while the two Avenue D girls egg him on with their own pornographic ghetto fantasies. Appropriately enough, considering the occasion, the song could be seen as either shallow and shocking for the sake of being shallow and shocking, or empowering in its grotesque profanity. The three friends think it's hilarious.

George, Roberts, and el Diablo learned the lyrics separately, then met at el Diablo's apartment in the Tenderloin for a single run-through. George and el Diablo tried to work out some choreography, but keeping up with the rapid-fire rap lyrics of the song while trying to execute synchronized dance moves was simply too challenging. Instead, they decided that they'd just move to the beat of the music; whoever was "singing" would move forward, and the others would move back. George has been praying she won't bomb.

After heading back to the Cal Neva, where they change into the pink-and-black-striped shirts they'll wear for the act, George and Roberts hook up with el Diablo and Marlin for a meal consisting entirely of booze. Then they return to Visions.

The crowd is noisy, drunk, and ready to party. Trannies sprawl on the floor in front of the makeshift stage, and one woman sits in the arms of her partner, jamming her tongue down her throat. The show is typical "Trannyshack": high-concept, with a down-and-dirty style. It opens with a performer named Queen Size doing a lip-sync to Bananarama's "Venus"; she's clothed in a nude bodysuit, the tendrils of a long blond wig clutched over her private parts, and she stands between two fans of pink fabric, constructed to look like two halves of a clamshell.

A tranny from Reno in big acrylic platform shoes falls on her face during a disco version of the Bryan Adams hit "Heaven," causing Heklina to crack afterward, "Her new name is Anna Bender."

Finally, el Diablo, dressed as the male counterpart to the "girls" in the song in a wife beater and black-and-white-striped pirate pants, takes the stage. George and Roberts are behind him. The hip hop beat of "Sex That I Need" begins, and George moves center stage. She mouths the opening words, "The Latin explosion ain't new to me, I've been into foreskin since puberty." She shakes her hips and points her finger at the audience, tough-girl style. "I want an uncut Latino with a libido the size of Reno, Nevada, to bang me till my bladder splatters. A dick fatter than a beer can ..."

There's an uncomfortable moment in which George forgets the words, but she comes back in for the finish, "... and then he eats my ass like he eats rice and beans, until the plate's clean. You know what I mean?"

"Yes I DO," mouths el Diablo, strutting to center stage. "Just the other day I got a blow job from a ho job, with no job ...." Roberts and George nuzzle up to either side of el Diablo for the chorus, caressing him with their striped arms as they lip-sync, "This is the kind of man that I want. This is the kind of sex that I need." Then Roberts comes in on the high-voiced girl's part, sassily shaking his dreads.

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