It's Dolores Park. Under a line of trees, at the foot of a grassy slope friends used to call "Flesh Beach," a large barbecue emits the summery smell of charcoal-roasted meats. Two drag queens in chef hats, sequins, and enormous gold sunglasses absent-mindedly flip burgers and greet newcomers with appropriately jaded histrionics. A small kiddie pool, a pile of pink hula hoops, and some candy-colored frisbees are nearby, and a tangible feeling of excitement is in the air. This is the fourth annual Dyke and Drag Queen Decathlon, and emotions are running high.
Team manager Marge Schotts looks over her gold glasses at the playing field below, and dismisses my question about sporting odds with a throaty chuckle.
"The dykes never win, honey," she says tugging on the matronly gray wig that sits under her chef's hat. "The drag queens have won three years in a row."
Three incredibly tan, incredibly muscular, well-tucked drag queens in matching activewear and Swedish-blond wigs sashay over to the sign-up table to peruse their options: Potato-sack race, water-balloon toss, egg-and-spoon race, crab-walk relay, tug-o-war, biggest bubble blow, swivel-hips hula, and pie-eating contest. The "Swedes" chuckle and playfully smack each other's rippling biceps, scribbling their names down on the appropriate forms. They are joined by a few women in cutoff bluejeans and loose-fitting T-shirts who also write down their names. The blond drag queens smile encouragingly.
"Swedish volleyball team," says an onlooker ominously. "Ringers."
The grassy slope begins to fill with supporters and fans. Schotts circulates with a tray of lattes while more drag queens assemble on the field below -- some of them looking suspiciously like bears in wigs -- and two rows of frisbees are set up as boundary lines.
"Where are all the dykes?" shouts Uomi, Schotts' chef-hatted cohort in the alternative sport syndicate. The dykes emerge from the crowd, team up, and climb into potato sacks alongside their bewigged adversaries. And they're off! Hop, hop, hopping across the field. A few of the women stumble and fall, drawing falsely sympathetic commentaries from Uomi and giving the drag queens time to stop and wiggle their fannies for the crowd. The hopping fervor of Swedish bombshell Inga causes one of her breasts to explode, sending birdseed flying several feet in all directions; still, the drag queens have it. (The faulty falsie is easily replaced with a water balloon.)
The egg-and-spoon relay is won by Lorena Bob-Ette, Surely Would, and Freak-Ella, a stalwartly heterosexual man pinch-hitting for the drag queens. The crab walk proves a strenuous ordeal, with dykes and drag queens collapsing in equal measure, and one horrifying queen going by the name Tasty Tuna butt-scooting across the finish line. And still the drag queens have it. Accusations of biased score-keeping begin to circulate within the crowd, but two cheerleaders -- the lithesome Thalo Bleu and her pompon-toting sister, Ivy Drip -- offer titillating distraction. The tug-o-war, apparently "the only event the dykes won last year," prompts renewed vigor on the part of the dyke team, now going by the moniker Peep Peep Biker Chicks. A large knotted rope and the kiddie pool filled with water are brought out to the field. With the help of a handsome pit bull dog, and a heartfelt cheer -- "Gimme a D-Y-K-E! What's that spell? Go Dykes!" -- the dykes make small change of the drag queens and all their bronzed brawn, pulling Inga and Tuna headlong into the pool. With all the mascara involved, it's not a pretty sight. The balloon toss proves problematic for the drag queens ("Long nails and overextended rubbers do not mix," someone confides), but man-handed Bob-Ette and het-boy Freak-Ella win out.
Then, it's time for the hula-hoop contest. Demoralized and distraught, the dyke team comes up one player short. It's a potential tragedy. Noticing a gaggle of dot-commers watching the decathlon from a secure distance, and feeling the stir of a call to arms in my San Francisco heart, I strip myself of keys, wallet, and belt, and stumble onto the field, praying for primordial memory and childhood hips. The field is a twirling kaleidoscope of pink and white candy stripes. I try not to look at my opponents or the crowd, focusing all my attention on the quiet swish of the tiny ball spinning in the ring around my hips. Competitors begin to drop. Finally it is down to me, one dyke, and cheerleader Bleu with her thin hips and sure swivel. The dyke murmurs something about getting tired; Bleu gives me a look that says, "I can keep this up all night if I have to, honey." Uomi orders us to walk, while hula-hooping. I close my eyes and take a few tentative steps. It's a point for the dyke team.
If you didn't know, there are few things more horrifying than being on the receiving end of an icy stare from a defeated drag queen cheerleader.
Thankfully, the bubble-blowing contest offers a distraction when, despite the lesbian "aversion to blowing," dyke Bee Babs Bubble produces a chewing gum orb of prodigious proportion, a talent she says she owes to a childhood encounter with Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors' bubble gum ice cream. The pie-eating contest is also an upset when the drag queens prove swallowing is as important as lapping.
And the trophy goes to the drag queens, again. With the perfunctory warning that the award be guarded because the dykes always try to steal it at the end of the day.
All geared up and ready for games, I approach the Fillmore for Ian Brennan's annual Live Nude Bands benefit. A sign on the door, warning that the show is adult in nature and those offended should ask for their money back before entering, is promising. Inside, a floor-to-ceiling projection of Harvey Keitel doing what Harvey Keitel does best -- get naked -- helps fulfill the promise. But that's just the beginning.
Onstage, Donald Reynolds, the lead singer of 3 Day Stubble, drops his tighty whities during his band's final song. This revelation is disconcerting for a number of reasons:
1) Only the headlining band -- that is, the ultimate loser of several games of tug-o-war and a spelling bee -- is expected to disrobe;
2) Reynolds' rod-and-tackle is all taped back; and
3) I looked close enough to notice.
The Hi-Fives, hunky lads all, have already performed, but there is still high hope for nakedness during the rest of the evening. The Gun & Doll Show, having stomped the Marginal Prophets during tug-o-war, perform a set filled with racy military maneuvers resulting in the three long-haired dolls of the band stripping off their mechanic's overalls to reveal tight red bodices and miniskirts, but it is the gents in the band who give us the full monty, revealing certain attributes that rightly complement their musical prowess. Tribe 8, having smoked Essence and her band on the rope, get topless (of course) and reveal strap-on dildos with varying degrees of girth that must be sucked by some little "straight boy" in the house. Even the faux-castration of a "sexual predator" does nothing to dampen the spirits of the flesh-hungry crowd, from which several men loudly proclaim their admiration for lesbians.
To put it lightly, the atmosphere is charged.
"I didn't think everyone would get naked," squeals Shale Heath, a 23-year-old superfan of Marginal Prophets frontman Keith Knight. "Do you think Keith Knight will get naked even if they don't headline? Do you think?" I think.
But not before a spell-off between Storm, Essence, and White Trash Debutantes frontwoman(?) Ginger Coyote. Hostess, poetess, and sassy gal about town Beth Lisick starts the test rounds with some "rawk slang." Storm easily navigates "gimme"; Coyote misspells "c'mon," opting, according to Lisick, for the lesser-used Quiet Riot spelling of the word; and Essence triumphs with "ho." Then, it's on to deliberately misspelled band names: Storm aptly spells Lynyrd Skynyrd, Coyote narrowly misses Def Leppard, and Essence flubs Boyz II Men, in what many people in the audience call an obvious throw. "Phlegm" and "vacuum" finally undo Essence and Ginger, respectively, making Storm the winner, much to the chagrin of the same guys in the crowd who "love lesbians" and want to "see Storm's tits."
The Prophets, after a jubilant set seriously augmented by the acrobatic skills of percussionist Stark Raving Brad, give Shale Heath a lot more than she bargained for, while Storm, stripping down to pasties and a flowery G-string, offers a bit less. After another strenuous game of tug-o-war between the White Trash Debutantes and Essence's "natural fiber" crew, Essence proves to be the only female performer in the house willing to show that "nothing gets between her and her music." Which leaves only the White Trash Debutantes, who, thankfully, don't take the headlining slot at Live Nude Bands to heart, remaining clothed through their set.
No one is disappointed.
The games played, the music heard, everyone stumbles into the cool San Francisco night air, sweaty and sated, triumphant one and all in the city they call home.
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