Thanks to a trio of SF drag legends and funding from the recently launched Civic Joy Fund, 100 drag queens, kings, and performers blanketed different neighborhoods on Saturday and Sunday for the first ever "San Francisco Is a Drag."
On December 2 and 3, there were simultaneous street performances on random corners throughout the city between noon and 5 p.m. On Saturday, all the action was in North Beach, Lower and Upper Fillmore, SoMa, Union Square, and Lower Polk. While on Sunday, it was on to the Lower Haight, Upper Haight, Hayes Valley, Mission, and Castro.
The Civic Joy Fund, a collaboration between Levi's heir and mayoral candidate Daniel Lurie and Manny Yekutiel, announced the locations for the pop-up performances, and it was up to fans to hoof it between neighborhoods as the day went on.
The event was organized with help from SF Drag Laureate D'Arcy Drollinger, Honey Mahogany, and Juanita MORE!
Also, a great many passersby were treated to sidewalk drag shows they weren't expecting.
Each location featured a Bluetooth speaker and a trio of performers doing a set, alternating as they would at a regular drag show and doing two or three numbers apiece. And when that neighborhood's hour was up, performances began in another part of town. With around 33 locations each day, each performer did one set each day — and reportedly each was paid $500 per day.
"We really wanted to help change the narrative about San Francisco,” Mahogany said in a statement to the Chronicle. “San Francisco has been going through some hard times, but it’s one of the most special cities in the world, and it’s one of the only places where you could do something like this.”
SFist caught several of the Upper Haight, Mission District, and Castro shows on Sunday, many of which included drag queens and kings strutting into intersections and doing a full circuit of crosswalks during their numbers. And some of the biggest crowds gathered in places like Union Square, Hayes Valley, and the Castro — where the day closed with at least 100 people gathered around the entrance of the Castro Theatre, and another group was just steps away watching numbers outside Hot Cookie, with another group across the street at the Castro Muni station and another at the 17th and Market streetcar turnaround. (The great LeMay, a.k.a. Steven LeMay, performed Sarah Vaughan's version of "The Trolley Song," calling on the streetcar beside her to "clang clang" just as it did just that.)
The Civic Joy Fund has certainly lived up to its name and mission since launching earlier this year. Yakutiel used it to help spearhead a revival of Halloween in the Castro — albeit a bit more subdued than in decades' past, with "activations" and events inside various local businesses. The fund was also tapped to reinstall the lasers up Market Street that were shining during APEC week.
On Saturday, introducing the performance outside Caffe Trieste in North Beach, SF native D'Arcy Drollinger talked about how "special" and "full circle" it felt to come back to the neighborhood where she grew up for this event, as the Chronicle reported.
"Drag is political, in a sense that it is pushing the boundaries of what we think is acceptable," Drollinger said, per the Chronicle. "Yes, we’re entertaining, but I feel like it’s a way of creating social change in real time."
In addition to shining a spotlight on San Francisco's diverse drag scene, "San Francisco Is a Drag" also served as a platform for introducing younger drag performers to new audiences, and reintroducing seasoned professionals like Elsa Touche, Landa Lakes, Dulce de Leche, and Gina LaDivina to young audiences raised on Rupaul's Drag Race.
Juanita MORE! called the event "absolute magic," adding, "100 performers! 400 numbers! 2 days! Each performer got compensated $1000!"
See more photos from North Beach and Union Square on Saturday courtesy of Fred Rowe Foto.