Juanita More!'s Pride Party
June 24, 2012
Better than: Hanging out at Civic Center?
We were standing on the corner of Franklin and Turk, waiting for the light to turn, when I overheard someone dispensing this nugget of bad advice, "Oh honey, you don't need to buy coke, just look around on the street for a lost baggie." I tried to see who was about to contract hepatitis, but there were so many people around that it was hard to tell. A fully loaded Honda Civic blitzed the yellow with hi-nrg trance blaring. One of the backseat passengers mooned us, giving off the impression that the music was somehow coming from his ass. Frankly, from where we were standing, Pride was kind of a shit show.
That wouldn't last for long, however, as we were on our way to the Phoenix Hotel for the first half of Juanita More's annual Pride party. Now in its eighth year, her poolside celebration is a landmark event that always seems to attract a more sophisticated crowd than the Love Parade-esque chaos of Civic Center.
The sun shone brightly, casting a starfilter-tinged light on the Phoenix Hotel's retro motor lodge decor. Synthetic palm fronds waved in the air, and I found myself with a drink in hand standing near the pool. Some girls in bikinis did lazy laps from one side to the other while the rest watched, careful to keep their cocktail-filled plastic cups above water. A base crowd of men in varying states of undress (many with bowties and immaculately sculpted hair) milled about while the pavement wobbled to the beat. An impressive speaker installation in the corner provided heavy wattage for Stay Gold DJs Pink Lightning and Rapid Fire.
"Now the drag queens are showing up. You know they're always late -- a girl's gotta do her makeup, ya know?" said a friend I was with. Large, often colorful wigs began to float above the throng. More herself made an early appearance, moving around the party seemingly greeting everyone inside. Her single-minded devotion to this event can be felt in the atmosphere on offer -- a familial energy where most everyone seemed to be able to relate through their shared connection to the host. A shirtless man in a 10-gallon hat and psychedelic bandana walked by and obscured my view. The music stopped and the drums began.
One of the highlights of More's pride parties in the past has always been her inclusion of the Cougar Cadet Corps Drumline. And, as usual, the Alameda-based youth group didn't disappoint. The booming rat-a-tat of synchronized snares caught the attention of the entire party. Echoing ricochets bounced off the wall, creating a subtle flanging effect. They broke into a group dance and the cymbals started going off with a loud crash. Exchanging solos, they traded highlighted moments bathed in applause. Before long, Juanita had joined the fray, dancing with the tom player as he locked his body and did robotically precise footwork just on the edge of the water.
After an extended finale, the drums were soon replaced by the steady metronome of the speakers. It was almost five, and it was clear that some had already decided to switch gears and move to Jones, a second venue reserved by More that would stay open well past the Phoenix Hotel's relatively conservative curfew of 6 p.m.
Then we were out on the corner of Geary and Jones, looking for a secret doorway next to the Gaylord Suites. The line outside made finding it easy enough, and we found ourselves staring down a hallway that might as well have been the entrance to some mythical casbah. However, such perceptions vanished as I walked down the corridor and realized that an entire wall was made up of windows occupied by gawkers dining at Millenium next door.
Soon we found ourselves on top of an upstairs mezzanine looking down at the packed area below. Jones is a unique venue: it's somewhere between an upscale cocktail bar, manicured public park, and a loungey disco. It's huge, with multiple bars inside and a large outdoor area that sits on a roof only one story above street level. It's surrounded on three sides by tall apartment/hotel complexes, creating the feeling (not unlike a parklet) that the venue is out of place in its environs. Filling this space was almost the entire crowd from the Phoenix, plus what must have been many more.
DJ Kim Ann Foxman from New York was on deck playing a selection of uptempo house to a field of adoring dancers. Subtly moving into harder territory, she played KiNK's "Existence." The acoustic sensor connected to the club's four robotic disco lights picked out the piano hits and began shooting colored blobs on the walls. Similarly, Lost Angeles, the female-fronted dance troupe from L.A., got on a pedestal and began throwing off slippery dance moves. Their hands in the air, the two girls threw their arms around in vogue-ish style. A crowd of dancers formed around them and others tried their best to compete, but mostly to no avail.
Waving goodbye to the diners in Millenium, we walked outside. Across the street I saw someone stumbling towards O'Farrell wearing a shirt that read, "I WANT TO BUY DRUGS." We flagged a cab and left.