The Best of the Gays: Entertainment and Nightlife
Great DJs either command or serve, said Robbie Martin, voted in the Bay Area Reporter’s Best of the Gays poll for the second consecutive year.
"I try to do both," he said. "The ideal is to play great music at the perfect times, mixed seamlessly."
He said that can be challenging, as crowds and tastes are often unpredictable.
Martin, 37, is going to slow things down for himself, he said, and will be cutting back on his gigs, though it won’t be a retirement, as he alluded to in a Folsom Street Events email last month.
"But then to get word of this award just three days after my retirement performance, I decided to hold off and continue to share my gift with the SF club community," Martin told the B.A.R. in an email.
Martin, who is gay, has been DJing for 22 years.
"I started DJing at WBRH in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the age of 15," he said. "I played big band and classic rock."
He became self-taught on the art of beatmatching in the production studio of the station, he added.
"I took on a few small clubs in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but got my big break at the Bourbon Pub/Parade Dance Club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans in 1995."
Martin was the resident DJ there on and off for six years when he wasn’t at Louisiana State University pursuing his bachelor’s degree.
He moved to San Francisco in 2005 and the party scene hasn’t been the same. Martin has DJed all over the Bay Area, often for nonprofit fundraisers. Gigs have included the Pride main state in 2010, Beatbox, Industry, Ruby Skye, Club Universe Reunion, the EndUp, 1015 Folsom, the Lookout, Stallion, the White Horse, Club Eight, and Steamworks.
Technology has made it easy for the average person to become an overnight DJ, Martin said, but there’s more to it than that.
"When someone can mix the music without the technology you have a DJ who is a master at his/her craft," he said.
Asked to name a favorite DJ, Martin demurred.
"I could list a dozen DJs whom I admire, both alive and passed on, but in doing so I would fail to mention others who I love just as much but for different reasons," he said. "I will say I have been most influenced by DJ Max Rodriguez, resident DJ at Splash NYC. He was the first pro to take me seriously and acknowledge my potential."
As for his favorite gig? Martin said two stand out.
"I have two all-time favorite performances. The first was Lundi-Gras at the Bourbon Pub/Parade Dance Club in 1995," he said. "It was the first time I played for a packed house and really got to shine."
Equally memorable, he said, was the recent Red Meat party.
"It fell on St. Patrick’s Day and I announced it as my retirement performance the week prior. I sometimes struggle to stay competitive, and this is a very competitive industry. And when I am competing against people whom I love it can be quite challenging to stay fired up, as I am not extremely competitive by nature."
Martin thanked voters for the award.
"I am humbled by all who have voted for me," he said. "Although I will remain resident for Folsom Street Events’ quarterly Red Meat parties at Beatbox and Steamworks Baths in Berkeley, I am clearing space for the universe to reveal my next passion."
Best Movie Theater, Best Rep Film House
Nothing says classic movie palace like the grand art deco facade of the Castro Theatre. It is a symbol of San Francisco’s gay neighborhood, with the sign and marquee appearing as supporting roles in many a protest photo or gay rights celebration. More than just a backdrop, however, the theater today shows classic films and special first run presentations. The popular mighty Wurlitzer is played nightly, signaling the program will soon start.
A registered landmark with the city of San Francisco (number 100), the theater was built in 1922 and is currently owned by the Nasser family. This year the Castro Theatre celebrates its 90th anniversary.
The Castro Theatre is known for its diverse programming, including classic movies, foreign films, and unusual art house releases. It also plays host to various film festivals, such as Frameline, the LGBT film fest in June. Gays and their friends go all out for special runs, like the recent Sing Along Wizard of Oz, wearing elaborate costumes as they belt out "Over the Rainbow," made famous in the film by Judy Garland, herself a gay icon.
Sing-a-longs, film premieres, and special shows are part of the magic. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco, (415) 621-6120. www.castrotheatre.com
Best Theater Company
New Conservatory Theatre Center
This theater company is on the cutting edge as it champions innovative, high quality productions and educational theater experiences for youth, artists, and the queer and allied communities to effect personal and societal growth, enlightenment and change. Artistic Director Ed Decker was ecstatic to win this category for the second consecutive year. "A terrific honor," he said. "Perhaps this means that our vision of theater is a community event and a way to build community is actually succeeding! I am also proud that NCTC is a place where the queer and allied community can gather to share its stories." Look for this year’s Pride Season plays. New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, (415) 861-8972. http://www.nctcsf.org
Best Dance Company
San Francsico Ballet
The bodies are beautiful and so is the dancing. As America’s oldest professional ballet company and one of the three largest ballet companies in the U.S., San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic "firsts" since its founding in 1933. It performed the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first production of Coppelia choreographed by an American choreographer. SF Ballet currently presents more than 100 performances a year locally, nationally, and abroad. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson for 25 years, the company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world.
Coming up: April 12-18 the SF Ballet will present Balanchine Masterworks, showcasing three of George Balanchine’s greatest works, plus a full range of lectures and events (http://www.sfballet.org/balanchine). April 27-May 6 the company will present the classic story ballet Don Quixote, featuring all-new scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Martin Pakledinaz. San Francisco Ballet, 455 Franklin Street, San Francisco, (415) 865-2000. www.sfballet.org
Best Art Gallery
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Founded in 1935, SFMOMA was the first museum on the West Coast devoted to modern and contemporary art. The museum’s current home, a dynamic, iconic building, opened in 1995. SFMOMA is currently developing a major expansion to accommodate the ongoing growth of the museum’s programs and to showcase the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection of contemporary art. The museum always has thought-provoking exhibitions on view. SFMOMA, 151 3rd Street, San Francisco, (415) 357-4000. www.sfmoma.org
de Young Museum
A new entry in the Best of the Gays, the de Young, designed by Herzog and de Meuron and located in Golden Gate Park, is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and among the nation’s most visited art museums. The museum showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international contemporary art, textiles, and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific, and Africa.
In the coming year, the de Young will feature such exhibitions as the internationally acclaimed "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk" (now through August) and a magnificent display of modern and contemporary photography in "Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection" to "Nureyev: A Life in Dance" and the West Coast’s long awaited arrival of "Girl with a Pearl earring: Dutch Paintings from Mauritshuis." de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, (415) 750-3600. http://deyoung.famsf.org/
Best Dance Club
The dance club in the heart of the Castro is the gayborhood’s most popular video/music entertainment and dancing. The dance floor features a state-of-the-art EAW-powered sound system and colorful dance floor lighting with, of course, the mirrored disco ball. The front lounge area is a great place to meet people, hang out, or enjoy music videos. Badlands, 4121 18th Street, San Francisco, (415) 626-9320. www.sfbadlands.com
Best After Hours Club
Long a favorite after the bars have closed, the dancing never stops on the weekends at the EndUp. Friday nights start with Fever and keep going Sundays with the T Dance in the mornings, Sunday School in the afternoons, and Sunday Sessions at night. The club boasts a great outdoor patio for when you need to take a break from the dance floor. The EndUp, 401 6th Street (at Harrison), San Francisco, (415) 646-0999. www.theendup.com
Best Club for Men
This South of Market bar is a favorite among the leather crowd and hosts the popular Bare Chest Calendar contests, as well as other regular events. Powerhouse, 1347 Folsom Street, San Francisco, (415) 552-8689. http://www.powerhouse-sf.com
Best Club for Women
The Lexington Club
Established in 1997, the Lexington Club is celebrating its 15th year in 2012. A new entry to Best of the Gays, the Lexington bills itself as "your friendly neighborhood dyke bar." Fridays feature Bad Girl Cocktail Hour from 9 to 10 p.m. The Lexington Club, 3464 19th Street, San Francisco, (415) 863-2052. www.lexingtonclub.com
Best Club for Transgender People
This nightclub and bar caters to transgender people and their allies, and was the first to do so. Owner Steve Berkey and manager Alexis Miranda have the longest-running drag show in California. The club started as the Motherlode in 1988 on Larkin Street and has been operating as Diva’s for 13 years. Diva’s, 1081 Post Street, San Francisco, (415) 474-3482. www.divassf.com
Best Drag Act
What can we say? The iconic Donna Sachet is everywhere, often lending her considerable talents to help raise funds for numerous LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations. She always has a smile and a friendly "hello" for her legions of fans. For the last several years, Sachet has been the society columnist for the B.A.R; her Out on the Town column appears every other week. She is in her ninth year as a co-announcer for the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and in her sixth year doing "Sunday’s A Drag," her popular show at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room that attracts locals and tourists alike. In 2009 she was the first drag performer to sing the national anthem for the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. www.donnasachet.com
This San Francisco original got her gay comedy start in the city years ago and has been a mainstay ever since. She has been featured on Logo, HBO, and Showtime. Gomez currently produces and hosts the queer-friendly "Comedy Bodega" every Thursday at Esta Noche in the Mission. www.margagomez.com