2019 and early-2020 will see the Tenderloin Museum putting on a months-long series of exhibitions and happenings centered around Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, each installment doubling as both a love letter to the queer nighttime staple and serving as deep dive into the area’s rich, impactful drag culture.
Aunt Charlie's Lounge—which has operated under that name since the mid-1990s—is locally famous for its unironic drag showstoppers. The inaugural exhibit in the series saw lauded photographer Tim Snyder showcase a wide array of cartoon-ish portraits of the Grand Ducal Council.
This past Thursday (August 1st), the museum opened the first solo exhibit by Aunt Charlie's Lounge-frequent James Hosking, "Beautiful by Night: Photographs of Aunt Charlie’s Lounge.” Spurred by the passing of the late Vicki Marlane, who passed away in 2011, Hosking documented the put-on-fantasies and at-home lives of the club's Hot Boxxx Girls: Donna Persona, Olivia Heart, and College LeGrande.
Hosking took special consideration to document all the many facets of each performer, capturing each queen’s heel-strutting numbers to their more candid, raw, introspective moments that delve into topics like aging int LGBTQ+ community and the laborious tedium that goes in hand with transforming into a gender-bending avatar.
The exhibit shares a name with a documentary short that Hosking made in 2014.
"I fell in love with the [perfomers'] diversity… all the various ages, races, and etcetera," Hosking said to Hoodline on his exhibit, going further as to say his work is a reflection of the neighborhood's steeped diversity. "The photos are in various formats and stocks, from flamboyant color to high-grain black-and-white," he adds.
The eighth program in the series will feature the stills from Darwin Bell, who, too, was recently named the “Best Street Photographer” by SF Weekly. In his aptly named collection, “Hot Boxxx Girls,” Bell’s work takes specific focus on the queens “befriending and befamily-ing” the effusive, vivacious crowds that flood Aunt Charlie's every weekend to see the girls embody (and exude) a transfixing level of confidence and self-acceptance.
But, in the interim, the Tenderloin Museum will also screen The Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria this coming Thursday, August 8th. A cinematic telling of the 1966 riot by transgender prostitutes that took place a late-night cafeteria in San Francisco, the film’s reception takes place at 6:30pm, with a 7pm–9pm screening, which will include an appearance by University of Arizona's Director of the Institute for LGBT Studie, Susan Stryker, following shortly after.
To see a full schedule of the museum's happenings focused on Aunt Charlie's Lounge and the Tenderloin's drag culture, visit their Facebook Events page.
Photo: Sharon McCutcheon, via Unsplash