“Whenever I’m back in San Francisco, I love to shake my parts at [popular drag-and-dancing extravaganza] Trannyshack,” notes Justin Vivian Bond, when a recent conversation turns to the blow-up over the use of the terms tranny and she-male on RuPaul’s Drag Race. “I don’t have any problem with the word.”
“People are very invested in binary assignments of a single gender. Most people think that you should want to be male or female. But a lot don’t. I’m one of them. It’s been an ongoing struggle to name that space between the two genders, so I don’t want any words that people have claimed for themselves to be eradicated.”
“But,” Bond adds, “I’m glad the debate has been happening, because whatever side I happen to be on, it leads to valuable discussion and makes people think. I ran into RuPaul at the premiere of Hedwig on Broadway right after the episode was pulled from the air, and I thanked him for stirring it up.”
Bond is, in fact, back in San Francisco this pre-Pride weekend to shake parts, croon tunes and crack wise in a debut engagement at Feinstein’s at the Nikko. For San Franciscans its a relatively rare opportunity to get up close and personal with Bond in one of the city’s most intimate venues (at under 200 seats, Feinstein’s jewel box cabaret is approximately five times smaller than the Great American Music Hall and Castro Theater, where Bond has played in past forays to the Bay).
“I always have so much fun here, because this is the city where I feel like I have the most true friends; the people I’d be happy to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving with. The show I’m doing this weekend, Love Is Crazy, was actually born when I was in San Francisco about a year ago doing some benefits. I was in my hotel room, fiddling with my iPod and I just started to take a look at all the different songs with the word ‘love’ in the title.”
Bond first showcased the results of his research this past Valentine’s Day weekend as a special concert event in Paris, threading a cockeyed collection of tunes together with bittersweet autobiographical anecdotes and barbed commentary.
While spending time in the city, Bond can often be found passing time people-watching on the patio at Cafe Flore in the Castro.
“I’m not a super nostalgic person, but I do like to sit there and breathe and take in everything that’s gone on in my life and in the world since I first moved to San Francisco back in 1985 (Bond now calls New York home base). “This city certainly has its difficulties, but for us queer people, it certainly isn’t as terrifying as it was in the 80s and early 90s.”
After heading back east for much of the summer to host and curate a cabaret series on the Bard College campus (The handpicked acts include Molly Ringwald’s jazz combo, Amanda Palmer, and comedic musicians The Xanadudes), Bond will return to California to headline the Luscious Queer Music Festival at Saratoga Springs in late August.
Love is Crazy
Saturday and Sunday, June 21-22.
Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 7 p.m.