-- from "Warm San Francisco Night" by the Animals
To my relief, finding the berth for the S.S. Trannyshack proves easier than getting an eyeful of ass at the Folsom Street Fair. Three lofty queens stand in front of the pier under a streetlight like a trio of misguided polystyrene sirens. Their role, they say, is unintentional, but they are nonetheless alluring: Strands of their synthetic, fluorescent hair glimmer in the lamplight and flutter around their faces like cotton candy caught in a hot airstream, and their pastel evening gowns whip against their knobby knees in the salty wind. It's a sight for bleeding eyes.
"Oooh, goody!" exclaims one as a pod of would-be sailors in uniform approaches. "Look, seeemen!"
The sailors chuckle, one of them drawing on charm school with a nod of his head and tip of his hat, before his crew rounds the corner of a nearby building and is engulfed by the awaiting absurdity: folks in ball gowns, peacoats, bikinis, tutus, wet suits, leisure suits, swimming goggles, tiaras, flip-flops, fishnets (some with fish inside), hot pants, aerated pants, duct pants, lobster pincers, tank tops, sequins, and everything in between and out of left field.
"Ahhh, my people," says Audra Angeli-Morse, a third-generation San Franciscan, hustling down the gangplank amid the crush of the primped, preened, and pumped.
According to an earlier missive from our formidable hostess, Heklina, the sailing of the fourth annual S.S. Trannyshack does not honor tranny-time, which might account for the absence of some regular "Trannyshack" faces as the ship pushes off at 10 p.m. and heads into the bay. Still, there is no lack of inspired ferocity aboard. By the time the captain of our vessel begins his safety announcements, a process he must repeat because DJ Pinky Ring is already deep into the spin cycle (not because we all have dicks in our ears, as Seattle resident Graham Hayes suggests), the bar staff is looking worse for wear, and the top deck is awash with jeu d'esprit: insightful fashion analysis, impromptu lap dances, shoe envy and theft, and reunion make-out sessions. Despite the twinkling starscape and the resounding pleasure of watching the San Francisco skyline unfurl on a clear autumn night, the upper decks empty faster than a sack of seed punctured by a loose underwire bra when the floor show is announced.
On the boat or off, the show is the reason to attend "Trannyshack."
On the first deck, which is actually too low for most trannies to safely wear heels, dykes, fags, and hags are, literally, swinging from the rafters, and the walls are sweating with pheromones.
"Is it just me, or do you get drunker on a boat?" asks a man in camo capris and silver pumps.
"It's just the anticipation," says his companion as the "Muppet Show Theme" begins to play over the loudspeaker, causing a noticeable surge of exhilaration in the crowd.
After a brief announcement by Heklina, the intro to the Animals' "Warm San Francisco Night" heralds the opening number -- a rhapsodic medley with a civic pride theme, including the Go-Go's "This Town" and the schoolhouse classic "San Francisco" -- performed by Miss Chocolate, "Trannyshack"'s historically bashful ticket taker, who is accompanied by two faux queens dressed as the San Francisco twins Vivian and Marian Brown.
The next number, a slapstick lip-sync of Heart's "Crazy on You" starring Heklina (with the much-battered Suppositori Spelling and Eva Lynn Side as backup), is cut short by a power failure that happily sends Heklina into a razor-wire temper tantrum. This is something of a boon for the audience; her rage elicits such delightful commands as "Get the fuck off my microphone, bitch!" and "Can you put the spotlight on my face, not on my cunt? The spotlight you have in your hand. The one that is pointing at my pussy. Raise it for Christ's sake!" And, my personal favorite, "He's too nelly, but I ate his ass anyway."
A rim job is, in fact, the only thing that promises to put Heklina back in seafaring spirits. Thankfully there is a willing sailor aboard, and, after Heklina has publicly sampled his proffered posterior, she seems more herself. It's not surprising. Heklina is known for requiring such emergency prophylactic measures. What is surprising is Renttecca's virulent treatment of Me First & the Gimme Gimmes' rendition of "Natural Woman," which concludes with Renttecca's face buried in the vagina of a real live girl.
"She did it," says Joshua Grannell, the alter ego of Peaches Christ. "You could see the look in her eye after she was finished. It was like, 'What the fuck?' She actually shocked herself."
"What would the S.S. Trannyshack be without a seafood buffet?" offers Heklina, already working on the segue. "Speaking of fish ... the next performer is one of our favorite faux queens of all time ... Trixxie Carr."
The show -- including Putanesca's brilliant, overstuffed, gacked-out version of Tina Turner; an inadvertent guest appearance by the art-damaged Squeaky Blonde, looking like the Creature From the Glamour Lagoon, during Vinsantos' touching tribute to Antony & the Johnsons; and a disturbing Flipper impression performed by Buttlicka while holding her false teeth in a glass and wearing flippers, goggles, an armor-plated breastplate, and a fishing net -- ends all too early, albeit with time enough to catch last call at the bar before docking.
On deck, Heklina and Grannell coo over the swelling belly of Crickett Bardot, who is no longer dressed as one of the Brown sisters.
"The baby's first photo shoot is next week," announces Bardot, "but we aren't going to find out the sex. Either way, it'll be a tranny, so what does it matter?"