Award-winning jazz and cabaret performer extraordinaire Veronica Klaus will hit the floorboards next week at The Rrazz Room in her latest show, After Dark. In addition to being a noted artist and lush chanteuse, Klaus is also very much what San Francisco is all about and why we adore this place we call home. (She also kills it onstage. Seriously. Go see her. We implore you.) SFist recently asked Klaus to give us Twentysomething. She also chatted with us about her new show at the Rrazz Room, her favorite music, North Beach, and her little dog, too.
SFist: What can we look forward at your upcoming show, "After Dark," at the Rrazz Room?
Veronica Klaus: Look forward to a sophisticated night of jazz and blues from myself and the fantastic Tammy Hall Quartet. We will be casting a spell with a dazzling soiree of nighttime music inspired by the moon and all the secrets it keeps: that line between love and fascination that we all walk,. In addition to Tammy Hall on piano, Daniel Fabricant on bass and Kent Bryson on drums we are thrilled to have Mike Olmos on trumpet for this run lending color and fire to some of my original material and songs like You're My Thrill, My Foolish Heart, and a recounting of It Was A Very Good Year, inspired by the one and only Della Reese!
SF: From your previous show at the Rrazz Room ("Peggy Lee Songbook Tribute") and from your live performances, it's clear that Lee had an influence on your work. Can you tell us some other performers (living or dead) who you enjoy most these days?
VK: Well, there are so many, but some that I keep coming back to are Jimmy Scott, Nancy Wilson, Etta Jones, Big Maybelle, Anita O'Day (especially the late 50s to early 60s period) and Bettye LaVette.
SF: You used to play in North Beach, a neighborhood we adore. Tell us about performing at Enrico's, (may it rest in peace):
VK: I loved Enrico's so much! It was a wonderful place and you never knew who was going to show up--hipsters, Euro-travelers, Carol Doda, Milly the Picture Lady....it wasn't so much performance as lending the soundtrack to a moment of Enrico's history. I'm very grateful to have been there for 2 years.
SF: Your noteworthy designs are also a staple to your live shows, in addition to your voice and humor. Do you still work with noted designer Mr. David (aka David Glamamore) on your outfits?
If so, can you tell us a bit about that collaboration? Absolutely! I have a very specific retro-classic style and have always been obsessed with vintage style but often it is tricky to find things with the right proportions and style. When I met Mr. David in 1992 it opened up a whole new world to me....I finally had someone to work with, to inspire me with his incredible talent and vision. I have some incredible pieces in my archives from David and I'll be wearing a new one at the shows!
SF: We have to know... what is the name of that little dog you carry in your purse?
VK: Her name is Charisse, like Cyd Charisse. I got her on the day she died and she has dancer's legs....
SF: Are there any up and comers in the San Francisco music scene you've noticed as of late?
There's a 10 year old trumpeter that plays on the street outside in Union Square. He is definitely going to be a wonderful musician! He is absolutely driven--and charming. I will keep an eye on him.
SF: Why on earth did you choose to live in San Francisco?
When I graduated college, my boyfriend (we had known each other since third grade) had an older brother, who he adored, who lived in San Francisco. When he wanted to come here, I figured, why not. I fell in love with the city immediately. I love New York but it's hard and San Francisco is the best place to become an old painted lady... gracefully.
SF: Your favorite song of all time, let's have it.
It's a toss-up--Jimmy Scott's "Day By Day" from a 1969 session on a CD called Lost And Found. Sublime. The other is Nancy Wilson's Save Your Love For Me from a recording with Cannonball Adderley in the 60s. Now that I'm thinking about it, Etta Jones' Don't Go To Strangers is in the running too!
SF: And finally, tell us your best and/or worst moment(s) on stage:
VK: The worst was definitely one year at Pride when they put a stage on a side street--on Larkin I think it was--and the buildings around it made the place like a Ford aerodynamic test tunnel. It was freezing to begin with and the winds were howling at gale force. No one was there watching because it was so miserable. I get on stage and raise my arms and practically fly away. Halfway through the song the whole sound system is caught by a stiff wind and goes sailing off the side of the stage....a loud crack followed by silence. A fitting end to a miserable situation.
The best moment is always about 3 songs in when the nerves begin to wear off and you can start to be there and enjoy. It's like meeting a beautiful stranger every time.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. And now, let's take a look at your Twentysomething questions:
1. Introduce yourself in one sentence
A lady with a past and a future, who sings from the heart.
2. Zodiac sign
4. How many years in SF or Bay Area
5. Favorite SF neighborhood
6. Berkeley or Oakland
7. Neighborhood you call home
8. How much do you pay in rent/mortgage
$650 - I've been in the same studio apartment for 24 years.
9. What was your first job
I worked at a little mom-and-pop called "Weller's Meat Market" in Gillespie after school doing the most disgusting job in the world--cleaning out the meat saw--until "the stage" called and we had rehearsals after school for musical. I eagerly took the opportunity to quit. If the meat saw didn't turn me vegan, nothing will.
10. Best sandwich
The salmon sandwiches they have at Ferry Building farmer's market.
11. Great Quake or Loma Prieta
Loma Prieta because I have my own stories to tell. And also because it made Hayes Valley safer, eventually but bringing down the freeway, making property values soar. I got mugged 3 times, pick-pocketed and purse-snatched 6 times from '88 to '91. Not once since.
12. Favorite MUNI line
They all have their own charming habitués... the lady on the 22 that collects bags and bags full of bags and bags and literally screams when her stop is coming....the one this morning on the Geary that was having a meltdown, trying to break down the door because the driver would not let her off between stops.
13. Favorite politician of past or present (you can only pick one)
Sen. Vince Demuzio - My stepmother's niece's husband was a state senator when I was growing up and he was hilarious. He was hilarious. He would ALWAYS be the last one to arrive and shake everyone's hand at the family dinner on Christmas. Not sure what kind of senator he was but he was a real showman!
14. Best TV show of past or present (you can only pick one)
The Dick Cavett Show. He was hilarious in a dry, charming way and had such an absurdist sense when booking guests on his talk show. I mean, youtube the time when he had Gloria Swanson and Janis Joplin sitting across from each other talking about "doing Dick's head." Priceless....
15. Favorite bridge
Golden Gate--although I haven't walked over it in all the years I've been here, it's always exciting to cross it and the Deco design drives me wild.
16. Best restaurant
Da Flora in North Beach. Flora and Mary Beth have the loveliest coziest little Venetian restaurant.... hand-crafted food and old-world ambiance. NO CELL PHONES....me included.
17. SF would be soooo much better if ______
Only more people went to see live music!
18. SF has the greatest _______
Tolerance. People who are considered crazy other places are merely eccentric here.
19. Redheads, y/n
Yes! I'm a redhead myself somewhere under the blonde and gray.
20. Question you'd ask if you were doing this interview:
Where's the party if the power goes out? Answer: My house! I have a player piano, wind-up Victrolas and 18 year-old Scotch.