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Yass? Nooooooo - By pkane - December 7, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Yass? Nooooooo

(Courtesy Photo)

Mission Local reported on Tuesday that deputy U.S. marshals served Farina Pizza with eviction notices, meaning it’s closed for good. If you’re wondering what’s going to replace that restaurant on the prime corner of 18th and Valencia streets, don’t forget that the original Farina across 18th Street that also shuttered a few months ago because of unpaid wages. It’s still there, lying vacant. Two dead Farinas, belly up and empty. No more handkerchief pasta with pesto looking like a plate of used condoms dyed green.

Except for nope, nuh-uh. The Guardian reports that the Farina space will reopen in 2018 as an LGBT social club that describes itself as a “headquarters and hangout for a new generation of queer people.” Monthly memberships are $50-$300, but the real money is coming from Founders Fund, whose co-founder and co-funder is notorious homosexual supervillain and venture-capitalist overlord, Peter Thiel. That’s the same Trump-supporting, Gawker-destroying Peter Thiel who wants to incorporate the blood of young people to stay alive for maybe all eternity and who formerly advocated building free-floating libertarian Oceanias on the seven seas, beholden to no one but the free market itself.

Additionally, the club is called Yass, after the drag-ball term that’s become an all-purpose Facebook exclamation for anything gay guys like. (As a social-media cliche, it’s second only to writing “Noooooooo!!!!!” when a D-list celeb dies.) Cultural appropriation, definitely, but it’s also another example of corporate types raiding the slang pantry for something that’s already past its sell-by date.

A rendering of Yass’ rooftop. Note the “YASS” cold cathode sign. (Yass)

(There’s also a town in New South Wales, Australia called Yass. It has a newspaper called the Yass Tribune. I dare you to read one headline without giggling a little. Start with “Yemtsov Wows Yass Music Club.” Or “Yass Community
Carols Move to Soldiers’ Memorial Hall.” See? I win; you lose. However, I also spent 20 minutes of the afternoon in a Yass K-hole, so I lose, too.)

But back to the Thiel-Trump thing. At some point, people with lots of money who want to do things that the rest of us see are going to have to accept that the taint of Donald Trump is both ineradicable and infinitely transferable. When you shake hands with 45, everyone who later shakes hands with you absorbs the evil and becomes a target. Sound harsh? Well, you know what’s harsher is accelerating deportations to destroy families, messing with transgender people’s lives to rile up the mouth-breathers, and wreaking havoc in the Middle East. (These are all things that the Trump administration pressed forward with only this week.)

And Thiel is a strong Trump backer, which you think would dim his luster as a queer in good standing. Or, as the Guardian quotes former Sup. David Campos, “When a gay man essentially becomes a tool of someone who is prosecuting people, that gay man needs to be called out.”

Not that this is entirely surprising, but it’s proof that queer culture is as capable of allying itself with the same nexus of destruction that is simultaneously busy eradicating it from across San Francisco. I’m also strongly put off by Yass’ description of itself as a home for a “new generation.” Not to read too much into two little words, but it feels deceptive and revealing all at once. It could simply refer to people who feel like there isn’t room for them in present-day San Francisco LGBT culture — read: places that aren’t alcohol-centric — which would be actually be welcome. But it probably just means wealthier people, because, well, it almost always does. And what about the existing generations? 

There’s another angle to all this, and I’ll be blunt about it: Misogyny within the gay community is very real. In a 2009 essay, Thiel basically said that women’s suffrage in 1920 is where it all started to go wrong for democracy. I don’t mean to say that Yass — which, again, is many months from opening — is going to be some dumb no-chicks-allowed treehouse like the social clubs of yore. But we know what Mr. Moneybags thinks about women. So when you want to open a pricey club with elitist overtones and on the same street as the Women’s Building, you could at least telegraph to everybody that you’re aware of the optics. Because as literally every single thing in this world falls to shit and the LGBT community leans on one another to get through it all, you could at least be shrewd enough to avoid jumping into bed with the tech asshole who’s buddies with the Head Asshole

Yass’ 25-year-old founder and CEO Brian Tran — because hangouts need CEOs, right? — didn’t seem to anticipate much possibility of backlash. He told the Guardian that Cyan Banister, not Thiel, is the Founders Fund partner who’s financing Yass, which feels like a dodge since Thiel is the enterprise’s public face. Then he added this:

“My commitment is to serving the queer community and their needs. And that is separate from what individuals at Founders Fund believe,” he said, adding that although Thiel is a “controversial figure”, “I don’t know what his real intentions are, and it’s hard to make a judgment … Undeniably, he has made a large impact in our economy.”

Let me translate that one: “Yeah, lots of people really hate the guy who owns the company where my money is coming from. But I’ve decided not to stare too hard, ’cause he sure is rich!”

And regarding the hyper-gentrifying vibe that something like Yass brings, Tran basically foreclosed any possibility that such an endeavor would even play a role, because, “Gentrification has already happened … We’re not exacerbating that.” In other words, the Mission is now so gentrified and displacement so total, that it’s basically become a clean slate. To its credit, the Guardian got activist and drag performer Honey Mahogany to respond: “It seems like giving people who already have a leg up, more of a leg up.”

Oh, well. But there’s still one answered question to all of this: What do you think will go into Farina Pizza? A showroom for Uber air taxis? Nah, probably a fast-casual place with salad.