Having for some time indulged in the culpable pleasures of white trash worshipped at joints like "Stinky's Peep Show" and "Speedy's Wig City" -- loud rock 'n' roll, Velveeta cheese, beer guts, stained undershirts, country-and-western songs, childbearing hips, and American-made cars that don't have to pass smog tests -- it began to dawn on me that the trailer park has come into vogue, and there are few lower milieus in which a Night Crawler might feel at home. This caused several weeks of wormy rumination and nocturnal frustration. Then it came to me, like the delicate blush of an Oklahoma virgin trapped in the Power Exchange: Even though Polly Esther's has a party bus, San Francisco will not cease to plumb the depths of poor taste in search of merriment; there will always be some compulsive iconoclast mining gems from cultural refuse left behind by thinner-skinned thrill-seekers.
"French culture has been the brunt of American jokes for a long time," says insurgent Francophile Pink Frankenstein. "Really, you can't even mention the French without people rolling their eyes and making faces. It's so low in the scheme of things that the only way it can go is up."
Armed with the "every way is up" theory, Frankenstein has joined forces with fellow KALX DJ California Kid (a man whose diversionary prowess has been well-established by the groovy surf parties he co-produces with Tiki News). Together, they created "Bardot A Go Go," a Franco-friendly night of international pop where the focus is short skirts, tall boots, and French y-y -- a musical movement from the '60s that irrevocably paired singing stars like Paul Anka and Nancy Holloway with the descriptive phrase "Coca-Cola."
"I got into French music when I saw Dr. Zhivago as a child," says Frankenstein, tracing his peculiar passion. "The theme was written by Maurice Jarre and it haunted me for months. Then I saw Grand Prix, and when my aunt passed away she left me an album by Maurice Chevalier. I really liked that. Françoise Hardy also made quite an impression."
Like it or not, nearly anyone at "Bardot A Go Go" (held at the Cocodrie) can tell you that Françoise Hardy sang the theme song in Grand Prix. Many of them can also tell you that Jacques Dutronc released four self-titled albums, and his parody of Antoine is often mistaken for the real thing. (For future Francophiles: The latest French-speaking "sensation" stateside, April March, is named for Dutronc's greatest album, and her best song is a cover of a tune written by Serge Gainsbourg and sung by France Gall.)
"People at 'Bardot A Go Go' go crazy for Jacques Dutronc and Francoise Hardy," says Frankenstein, whose Web site, Castle Pink Frankenstein (www.frankenstein.com), has long offered extensive pages on both, as well as info on folks like Gainsbourg and Nino Ferrer. "French music is the last unexplored frontier for American pop culture. We're at least three years behind the Japanese."
Above the dance floor, several colorful cutouts of comic-book sounds -- VLAM! BOING! BLOP! -- punctuate the bouncy steps favored below. Onstage, two go-go girls in psychedelic bikinis gyrate in front of a morphing backwash of liquid lights. The unmistakable silhouette of Brigitte Bardot greets folks near the front door, which is screened by a curtain of tinsel and a strobe light. A row of women with little black dresses and cigarette holders stand against the back wall, trying to look aloof and indifferent, but the atmosphere is too much. The music is carbonated, contagious, and infinitely danceable, and the floor is packed with young women in hip-huggers and miniskirts being circled by boys in tight white pants, multicolored polyester shirts, and navy blue suits with gold chains.
"You can tell the French from the Americans," jokes California Kid. "The French kind of look good wearing silly clothes."
There are a number of people speaking French in the crowd, or capable of it -- like Tinder Records' Sandrine DiRienzo, who has shown up in hopes of booking the Paris Combo for the spring "Bardot" -- but there are far more people faking French.
"Wee, wee, I am zee one for you, mademoiselle," croons a young winking gent in a green silk necktie as he passes a perfect honey-colored beehive. The woman laughs and tells her friend how thrilled she is the bartender was rude: "It's just like really being there."
"In Europe, they call it easy listening, or library music," says Laureano, one of the three DJs from "Cinema Du Sound" who recently created the "Leisure Lounge" at Club Deluxe, a night of fizzy European tunes that includes Jean Jacques Perrey, Maurice Pop, Hugo Montenegro, and Ennio Morricone. It's an eclectic crowd for the Deluxe -- mods, swing kids, jazzheads, hip-hop DJs, and a striking woman who looks not unlike Nico. Strange scholastic videos and training tapes from the '60s flash on the screens and walls overhead as a group of girls gets up to do a silky rendition of the Jerk.
"It's the European answer to R&B," continues Laureano, whose ardor for strange imports got him into spinning records to support his habit. "Some of this music was actually created for commercials, but because it's from Europe it has a certain cachet."
To meet growing demand, "Bardot A Go Go" and "Leisure Lounge" are planning joint ventures that may bring larger-than-expected vivacity to "Carnaby Street Cave Stomp" -- a three-day "Bardot"-style celebration of Nancy Sinatra, with a movie retrospective and a live show with Miss Boots. There are also plans for a "Casino Royale Party" done in conjunction with a new Burt Bacharach band founded by the frontman from Baby Snufkin. Meanwhile, "Leisure Lounge" DJ Flint 67 and "Bardot A Go Go" DJ Alec have started "Prive," an invitation-only party that dips into '60s pop with an emphasis on Italian soundtracks.
Even so, there are loud complaints outside Cocodrie that there just isn't enough European pop or tinsel in this town.
"Futurism is making a comeback," says California Kid. "We're going back to the mood of 1966, at the height of the space program when fashion and music had an ultramodern feel."
"It's very crisp and sparkling," says Denise Shalo as she steps into the night air, adjusting her silver minidress. "Tres soigne, non?"
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By Silke Tudor
Published:In the Jan. 27 Night Crawler column, we mistakenly idenitified the French musical movement ye-ye as yu-yu. We regret the error, are embarrassed, and blame it on Kenneth Starr.