New SoMa Extremity: Stereo Argento at The Stud

Halloween gets especially ghoulish at a drag-and-movie night with plenty of Italo disco.

Normally, when you’re hosting a party, you don’t want your co-host to die. It’s considered impolite of them, the bar risks taking a hit to its health score, and finding a last-minute substitute for their second number can be rather onerous.

But for Meredeath, a drag queen who, along with Jillian Gnarling, puts on Stereo Argento every fifth Friday of the month at The Stud, untimely demises are simply all around. It’s like Cabot Cove, Maine, or wherever Jessica Fletcher may have been traveling to on any given episode of Murder, She Wrote. This has been part of Meredeath’s stage routine ever since she was enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute (under her boy name, Andrew Sheets).

“The very first time I performed, we were doing our end-of-semester variety show,” Sheets says, describing a sort of curse in which “everyone who surrounds themselves around me dies. The light kind of shut off and on, and everyone’s dead around me — and suddenly, I spew a bunch of blood out of my mouth.”

More recently, at a Stereo Argento devoted to the genre of early-2000s European cinema known as the New French Extremity, Sheets was “hung by a hook,” in boy drag.

“I was tortured and died just hanging there, and then the complete Taylor Swift ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ played while people expected I would get up and do some choreo — but that wasn’t the case.”

In any case, months with five Fridays aren’t regular occurrences. (The next one is December, and Friday, Dec. 29 might not be prime scary-movie territory.) So on Tuesday, Oct. 31 — also known by God-fearing mortals as the day when the Cryptkeeper dances with Vampira by the copper-red light of the moon — Stereo Argento takes over the Stud for a double-feature and a drag show.

Meredeath’s on-stage presence is “actually pretty charming.” (Shot in the City Photography)

Meredeath — pronounced closer to “Meredith,” and unrelated to the Evil Twin song of the same spelling — says the party has a very specific aesthetic. For starters, there’s lots of Italo disco, the synth-heavy Europop that’s great to die on a yacht to. But there’s also plenty of what Sheets and Gnarling call “Argento lighting,” which would be highly stylized and moody, with soft blues and pinks.

“It’s pretty specific to the genre, and I thought it was something that would be easy to achieve in a nightlife setting,” Sheets says.

Best known for giallo, the Italian genre of art-schlock horror made during the 1970s and ’80s, the 77-year-old director Dario Argento worked on a number of spaghetti Westerns before turning out erotic, bloody psychological thrillers like Suspiria, Creepers, and Demons. That camp value is important, Sheets says. Normally, Stereo Argento sets up a television installation and screens four or five films without audio, but for Halloween night, they’re forgoing hard-to-watch stuff for things even drunk people with typical 21st-century attention spans can enjoy while milling around: Evil Dead 2 and Tourist Trap.

“We wanted movies you would flip to at 4 a.m. on Halloween night,” Sheets says. “We’re screening the films with chairs and popcorn and stuff, and at 11, the drag show starts.”

Sheets began performing after taking a class at SFAI taught by Joshua Grannell — aka Peaches Christ — that was called “Creating Character.” Rather than rude or insulting, he describes Meredeath’s on-stage demeanor as “actually pretty charming,” a sort of amped-up final girl (as the last woman standing in a horror flick after everyone else has been killed off is referred to).

“She’s gritting her teeth while smiling, because she knows that the stuff she likes — and the stuff I like as Andrew — are really specific,” Sheets says. “We’re hoping that a lot people who come to this party we throw are also as into it, but we also have a feeling that people might have just showed up at the Stud because the Stud is a fun place on a Friday night, and now they have these horror-movie dorks pretty much talking them through something that might make them uncomfortable.”

In other words, Meredeath and Gnarling sound like people who eschewed trick-or-treating at an early age to sit in a dark basement for 14 hours, unnerving their parents.  

“Growing up, I always was watching horror movies,” Sheets says. “Kind of in a reclusive, nerdy way, where it would just be me and my other friends watching a horror-movie marathon. It always comes back to films for me.”

Stereo Argento, Tuesday, Oct. 31, and every fifth Friday of the month, 9 a.m. – 2 a.m., at The Stud, 399 Ninth St. $5-$10,

Check out more stories in our feature on costumes here:

Costumes Beyond Halloween
Increasingly rare stores like Costumes on Haight pride themselves on being open year-round.

The Best Duds in Town
From Daenerys to Daisy Buchanan, A.C.T.’s vast costume rental department has you covered.

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