Broadway star and performer Justin Vivian Bond, who once called San Francisco home before moving to the top of the heap, has covered "The Golden Age Of Hustlers," Bambi Lake's ode to Polk Street scene in the '70s, for years. Now she and a slew of other transgender stars made a full-length video to accompany the searing torch song. And it's glorious.
Lake, for those not in the know, remains a controversial San Francisco legend. A Bay Area native, she was once part of the Cockettes and Angels of Light in the 1970s. Now she's viewed as the type of human being that disgraced start-up figures Peter Shih and Greg Gopman would gleefully and publicly ridicule. She is part of a San Francisco that's eroding/eroded. A canary in the coal mine for, as video director Silas Howard puts it, "certain creative rebels."
Directors Silas Howard and Erin Greenwell used Kickstarter to raise money to make the video, and they just talked to HuffPo about Miss Lake and why this song is so historically critical to the queer/trans community.
The Huffington Post: Why did you decide to recreate this iconic song with Justin Vivian Bond?
Silas Howard: I heard Justin Vivian Bond cover the song years ago and was struck again by the authenticity and poetry of the song and JVB's emotive rendering of it. I knew Bambi Lake, who wrote and originally performed the song, from San Francisco in the mid 90's and was excited to watch a new generation embrace the song with a passion similar to my own. This is a part of our history that often falls off the grid.
Why is this song historically important to the queer/trans community in the modern age?
Howard: I'm obsessed with the idea of queer and trans lineage and how the past and future can live in the same room. Perhaps it's in part due to coming of age in the midst of loss from AIDS, that I feel a kinship to the mentors gone too soon. Though Bambi wrote the song in the early '90s, in a community of "misfit" queers, sex workers, transsexuals, queers and punks, it speaks to a modern time in that many of us still look for places where all parts of ourselves can find home. I'm grateful to Justin Vivian Bond for carrying Bambi Lake's legacy forward, allowing us access to learn from Bambi as a performer and a punk transsexual icon of an older generation, who prevailed and created art that represented an experience of living outside the "mainstream." I think of the music video as a kind of love letter from our past to the next generation.
Greenwell: When we projected the stock footage of Bambi Lake and San Francisco in '80s/early '90s at the video shoot I remember a lot of the cast and crew not in the shot gathering around the monitor and crying. It was this understood sadness around how few and far between we've been seen in art, how much we fight to make art and how grateful we were to be presenting images of ourselves, as far back as Bambi being projected with a current day Justin Vivian Bond. We feel the song honors those before us and emboldens those coming after us to believe in their worth.
Below, watch Vivian Bond in the new video for "Golden Age Of Hustlers"...
...and then check out Bambi Lake perform "Midnight In Manhattan" (Jan. 14 1989 in San Francisco) and, most recently, part of her cabaret show at Amnesia (2013 in San Francisco).