Many in the local cabaret community are going to shed some tears as a longtime fixture in their world, Veronica Klaus, takes her leave of the city she loves to build her very own Cafe Klaus in a small town in upstate New York. Cafe Klaus has long been the nickname for Klaus's Hayes Valley apartment, where she has entertained friends for many years and even rents out her services for intimate catered dinners for six. Now, she says, she's going to get to wed her passions for food and singing in a former Lutheran church in Sharon Springs, New York, a former spa town with a year-round population of 547, a gay mayor, and, just maybe, some major potential for a bohemian rebirth.
Klaus has lived in SF for three decades now and been a regular performer at Martuni's, Cafe du Nord, Great American Music Hall, the Rrazz Room, Enrico’s, and more. "I've given as much as possible to the city over these years," she writes on a GoFundMe page where she's raising money for her ambitious project, "yet I find myself drawn to a place where I can really let Cafe Klaus shine, using my own particular talents for making delicious food, entertaining with live music and creating a unique, elegant and warm atmosphere!"
The former church is going to need a fair amount of work to become the venue she wants it to be, as she tells the Chronicle's Leah Garchik. It's going to need a well, a septic tank, new heating, plumbing, lighting, and a commercial kitchen, but Klaus hopes to be able host nightly events there with music and food from spring to summer, and with the help of 100 of her friends and fans, she's raised about a tenth of the money she needs.
A decade ago, Klaus did an autobiographical one-woman show at Theatre Rhinoceros in the Mission titled "Family Jewels: The Making of Veronica Klaus," which told the frank tale of her sexual reassignment surgery and the literal "making" of the woman she became, which began when she first started taking hormones in 1989.
At the time, she explained to a wide-eyed Chronicle reporter some of the complexities of being trans, just the country was having more of a national discussion of trans identity following the release of the film Transamerica. "I don't feel that it's anybody else's job to teach me who to be," she said at the time. "You know, everybody has a mixture of elements of masculine and feminine... and it was not ever my goal to eliminate one or the other. If you're modifying your behavior to suit someone else's expectations of what a man or woman is, then who are you living for? It's more about being comfortable with yourself."
She now says that Cafe Klaus in Sharon Springs, New York will be "a continuation of what I started here in San Francisco." And, she adds, "It gives me great pleasure to host visitors. ... Bringing a bit of the San Francisco spirit, as a trans woman, to [upstate] New York would bring me such joy."