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Night Crawler 

Wednesday, Oct 15 1997
Under a canopy of imitation palm fronds, 30 men in form-fitting white turtlenecks and black tuxedo pants mouth the words to "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)." Abundant squeals and whistles from the audience cannot distract the chorus from its single-minded artistic appreciation -- that of a gay man's love for ABBA -- but the smiles of the chorus members are large and genuine. They know that they have the crowd eating out of their hands. Lying below the stage, four hunks in supertight short shorts and tattered white T's scissor the air with their muscular legs before wiggling their buttocks like saucy peacocks. This is just a sample of the disco smorgasbord available on ExtrABBAganza, the grin-inducing ABBA tribute album by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.

For this night's party, which celebrates the two-year anniversary of QTV, a locally run queer news-and-entertainment show, a portion of the 200-strong chorus is performing to a prerecorded tape of themselves singing. Their enthusiasm for the project is palpable. They segue into "S.O.S." with well-executed pelvic thrusts that make the elevated Coconut Grove stage seem somewhat, ahem, packed, and then launch into "Waterloo."

The crowd -- among them QTV's "Woman of the Year" recipient Carole Migden, "Man of the Year" recipient Dennis Peron, Supervisor Gavin Newsom, and openly gay, ever-stylish KMEL DJ Foxee Brown -- applauds appreciatively, ignoring, for a moment, the pricey hors d'oeuvres that litter the tabletops before them.

Richard Nikols tries to introduce a touch of high culture to the affair by singing several numbers from The Sound of Music, Miss Saigon, and Les Miserables, but, classy environs and eveningwear aside, the crowd is ready for some Dirty Little Showtunes. Members of that cast -- three queens and three well-built leather boys -- run through a few ludicrous songs (including "Leather Men and Drag Queens Should Be Friends") that parody both factions. At the end of their segment, the cast offers to perform an unrehearsed song based on any chosen show tune (though not Andrew Lloyd Webber because "to parody Webber would be redundant"), any sex act, and any random setting. One very vocal Sister of Perpetual Indulgence has her choice of "enemas and Bangladesh" passed by and the crowd settles on "Climb Every Mountain," 69, and Daddy's house.

"I don't know what makes people think that all fags love disco and musicals," sniffs Duane Sohles, an ultrachic young man with a pencil-thin mustache and a silver shirt. "Not all do. It's so old-school."

Over at the Powerhouse, DJs Alvin A Go Go of "Baby Judy's" and Robeena Diet Biscuit of "Trannyshack" are kicking off their new dance night: "Hormone Hotel." Despite the lack of co-partner Deena Davenport, who is out sick tonight, the nightclub has been adorned with a typical Judy's-style attention to detail. LPs made of colored vinyl hang around the small, dark dance floor; strings of Christmas lights compete with two glowing pinball machines; flowers wrapped in plastic bags dangle from the white butcher paper that hides the Powerhouse's dingy walls; licentious red lights illuminate several corners, including those containing urinals, which apparently don't need doors. As with both Judy's and Trannyshack, the crowd reflects the music: youthful, artistic, and disparate -- punk to exotica to trip hop to new wave to electronica. But, unlike the Casanova, where Judy's used to be held, Folsom Street's Powerhouse has an explicit history that comes with the bar.

"Ooh, the things that I have seen on that patio," says a heavily pierced man with a nicely shaved head and a slightly mocking look in his eye. "It could damage you for life." He smiles and nods to the chains hanging from the ceiling. Even tonight, when the crowd is expected to be a mix of gay boys and girls -- and everything in between -- women are advised to knock on the only bathroom with a closing door.

"The place just gets the best of them," says a long-haired lass as two sheepish-looking boys come slinking out of the toilet. "Girls should knock before entering or get used to the view." Of course, the view outside the bathroom is just as salacious as the view inside. On several large-screen televisions mounted throughout the club, a handsome, clean-shaven young man with rippling pecs pulls on an elbow-length rubber glove and begins to slowly fist his partner with his entire forearm.

Aside from a few lone stragglers, most of the fashionable, queer crowd doesn't pay much attention to the screens. They're too busy talking to each other.

"It's a running joke," says 31-year-old Jeffrey Bollinger, "that we pay five bucks just to see each other again." (Hormone Hotel is actually only $3 and comes with a draft beer.)

"Every time there's a cool club here [at the Powerhouse], the regular, pretty-boy crowd runs screaming. Maybe it's the cover charge that chases them away."

Under one of the red lights Miz Ana Matronic, a stunning woman with heavy eye makeup and a white-blond wig, is lip-syncing the words to Hooverphonic's seductive "2wicky" while stripping down to men's slacks and a clear plastic corset. Hooverphonic segues into The Normal's "Warm Leatherette" and Miz Ana looks like a stylized version of Pris from Blade Runner, sexy and slightly terrifying. The crowd is impressed and claps fiercely.

"We know her from Trannyshack," says a group of boys standing under billowing reams of red cloth. "She's fantastic."

Miz Ana wouldn't be caught dead singing anything that remotely resembles The Sound of Music.

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By Silke Tudor

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