Legendary Queer Party, Tubesteak Connection, has a Virtual Sweet 16 Celebration
The year 2004 seems especially far away nowadays. The first tech boom had just come to an inevitable crash a few years before and then crashes of actual visceral devastation happened in September of 2001. The energy in the city had been knocked down to an erratic strobe for many – the dual illusion of prosperity and security founded on economic and nationalistic hubris alone had been vaporized.
And like those films portraying the primordial epic at the dawn of time, little bits of life began to scurry about. Scrappier, furrier stuff that seemed far more adept at survival than the bloated, overgrown reptiles that preceded them. The City had a seemingly renewed sense of who it was and had been before. Albeit nowhere near past decades, the cost of living seemed to dip to a somewhat less-exclusive level for a second, and all around little vestiges of art and nightlife flickered.
I suppose, in retrospect, it’s unsurprising that one of these flames popped up in one of the scrappiest dives in The City. In a part of town where queer bars were dropping like flies, Aunt Charlie’s Lounge had shown remarkable staying power. It had been buttressed by some of the very pioneers who made the neighborhood queer in the first place, in the forms of its patrons, and the Hot Boxx Girls Revue every weekend. It was on the appropriately desolate Thursday night slot, however, that an exaltation to the former glory of the bathhouse beat appeared, its cantor a latter day DJ ascetic named Bus Station John, replete with flowing beard. Almost immediately acolytes thronged to this wayside chapel lit by the glow of red acetate scotch-taped to televisions cycling vintage beefcake, to partake in the midnight monk’s disco agape, the Tubesteak Connection.
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Reams of print and paper have been devoted to Bus Station John’s paean to the bathhouse disco and how it helped bring a renewed interest and devotion to a lost culture that had been robbed from an entire generation. The culture of a generation that had itself been robbed of life.
La mode is fickle, however, and times change. For some the deep cuts don’t hold as much resonance. The space is worn, the technical aspects not as refined as other venues. The inability to use your hand-held device too much to bear. In a city that has more than ramped up past it’s dot-com levels of exclusivity, immediate gratification and excess, there is always something else going on one swipe away.
And yet, the Tubesteak Connection holds vigil still, at the tender age of 16. Sixteen years, at least for this writer, of hazy, dimly-lit nights saturated in Joe’s chimney glasses of volatile proof; of embraces and kisses; of sweat and funk; of loves- some great, some painful, some sweet and fleeting; all set to the beat of hundreds of artists who live again every Thursday within the porn-papered mirrors and Christmas lights on the corner of Turk and Taylor.
Now, nature and circumstance have played us a wild card, and we suddenly find ourselves in a period of uncertainty and anxiety once more. Again in a daily contemplation on the aftermath of hubris. We can swipe, we can log on, but venture out into the beautiful night only at our own peril.
It’s hard to conceive of what our world will look like a year, months, or weeks from now, much less tomorrow. For many of us, a quick duck into Thursday night darkness sounds like the most welcome relief. For the time being, however, Aunt Charlie has shuttered her doors for all her children’s good, but Bus Station John is providing a 16th anniversary playlist nonetheless. The release of taking a spin on that gin-soaked carpet while basking under pink neon must wait another day. In the meantime we can pour our own high balls and meditate on the tracks our elders survived to, and tomorrow might just be a little better.
Tubesteak Connection (Virtual) 16th Anniversary
50% of donations go to the San Francisco Night Ministry in lieu of IRL cover
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