Night Crawler

Even if there's no such thing as a free lunch, last week reaffirmed that some of the best things in life are free. In the spirit of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Freedom Day Parade, which is always the premier entertainment event of the summer, everyone wanted to give something away. Complete strangers doled out music, condoms, breath mints, club passes, beer, and, er, a number of other things. Later that day, nightclubs dished out an array of freebies, the Ab Fab promotion at 1015 Folsom the cream of the crop with an array of T-shirts, baseball hats, books, temporary tattoos, and even a gay cruise up for the taking.

But the free-dom started the preceding Thursday, at the Esquivel listening appreciation party at Bimbo's 365 Club. Admission was gratis for the swank cocktail shindig, which was a treat in itself considering Bimbo's usual concert prices, but there was more: munchies, red and yellow Esquivel swizzle sticks, and copies of the Esquivel anthology Songs From a Sparkling Planet, as well as a bounty of unintended booty.

Bimbo's was decked out in Esquivel memorabilia, with a life-size cutout of the Mexican astro-lounge performer posted at the entrance to the ballroom, posters and record sleeves plastered on every available surface, disembodied Esquivel heads smiling down from pillars and walls, and even a blowup of Esquivel's original 1965 Bimbo's contract displayed at the front door (three shows a day, seven days a week, for four weeks to the tune of just under six grand — now, that's one hard-working guy).

Ultimately, the temptation was too much for the nattily dressed cocktail nation crowd. The plundering was subtle at first, a couple of small posters and records delicately peeled from their backdrops, a prized swizzle stick “misplaced” by a less-than-vigilant martini sipper. But as the booze flowed and the night wore on, the guests became more audacious in their plundering. “I want that head,” breathed a satin-clad vixen as she slinked across the room, yanked one of the floating faces from a doorway, and slipped it under her jacket. Soon, a frenzy of thievery erupted. One cheeky fan escorted the now-decapitated Esquivel cutout to a waiting getaway car. His friend had the head, someone assured me. Though Bimbo's was thoroughly de-Esquivelized, warm feelings still abounded, even on the part of owner Michael Cerchiai, who had opened his doors for free out of sheer love of the “Madcap Mexican.”

The following night, Enrique, San Francisco's queens of '70s camp, continued the stream of good-natured giveaways. Despite dead microphones and failing amps, emotions ran high at the Transmission Theater as the costume-clad (looked like chickens) band passed out Enrique paraphernalia between kitschy song-and-dance numbers. Devotees received canned Enrique vegetables, Enrique drink coasters, erotic Enrique poetry samplers, and, for one lucky fan, the pice de rŽsistance: an Enrique picture clock with Enrique heads pasted on the bodies of little animals. The vegetables recipient seemed as equally pleased as the clock winner. After all, it was the thought that counted.

Some things, however, are well worth paying for. Maybe Tribe 8 didn't give any trinkets away that same night, but no one left empty-handed, metaphorically speaking. Jumping onstage with un-bra-dled dykecore energy, Tribe 8 pounded out its sex-positive message in patented punk style. As usual, bare-chested Lynn Breedlove was accompanied by a visual circus, balloon-toting lipstick lesbians and hard-bodied gay dancers cavorting with the band. They all danced and rubbed against one another as boot-clad women stagedived only to be caught by pierced men who carried them away to safety. The energy in the room was exuberant and respectful, very different from the testosterone-driven blood baths I experienced as a teen — that's one of the distinguishing features of queercore. Next up, Pansy Division earned its weight in gold, bringing the crowd to a fevered pitch with a set obviously fine-tuned by the trio's long tour with Green Day. In the end, the tired, sweaty masses were perfectly primed for the freedom weekend ahead, slipping into the cool night air with smiling faces and steam rising from their flesh.

By Silke Tudor

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