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The True San Francisco Experience

Visiting San Francisco mid-week is a good excuse to take a nap after an early dinner and set your alarm for the witching hour. Every Tuesday, starting at midnight, the mischief unfolds at the Stud Bar, located in a no-man’s land area of South of Market (SOMA) on Harrison at 9th, with the antics of Trannyshack. Trannyshack is the creation of one of our truly hallowed local characters, Helkina (

Heklina and her crew of revolving friends turn The Stud upside-down with their potty-mouthed humor and drag demonics. The shows are generally themed and the format is much like today’s "reality" TV where each performer attempts to outdo the previous stage-hog by using props, music, lewd gestures and audience mortification to their best advantage. Trannyshack goes for a couple of hours, then the doors close at 3am.

If performance art is your thing, the Hypnodrome ( is a great little theater, also located in this region of SOMA (575 10th St. between Bryant and Division). Russell Blackwood runs a theater troupe called The Thrillpeddlers, which always feature kinky, twisted humor themes. During the month of “Shocktober” there is even a bank of “tingler” seats that generate a little electrical charge at the most terrifying moments of the show. Russell recommends Basil, a local restaurant located at 7th and Folsom. “Good food that’ll stay down,” he jests.

There are three excellent watering holes in this area of the city, which was originally where the leather SMBD community settled. The Eagle (, at the corner of 12th and Harrison, is a leather bar of great fame and fundraising. Its indoor-outdoor playground has a fire pit and two bar stations, a pool table, ATM and other amenities. On Sunday afternoons there is always a crowded, cruisy beer bust, and at other times it’s just nice to take in the smell of spicy hide. Check their site for events throughout the week.

The Lone Star ( has a more burly western kick to it. A hit since it first opened in 1994, the Lone Star is the "Home of Bears, Bikers and Mayhem"; it is very possibly the best-known Bear bar in the country and a must-do for any visiting Bear. Weekends feature their Beverage Benefits, both Saturday and Sunday. The outdoor patio usually attracts a very busy crowd, especially weekends.

Just a trott away is the Powerhouse ( This is where the lucky get lucky. Any guy who tells you he goes to the Powerhouse for the beer also buys Playgirl for the articles. Located at the intersection of Leather and Bondage (okay, the corner of Folsom and Dore), this club has a reputation for attracting men who like to look and…well, use your imagination.
Most weekends, the place is packed with leathermen, gym boys, men in uniform and enough muscles, tattoos, piercings, buzz cuts, smoldering looks and roving hands to fulfill every fantasy in your playbook -- and create a few fresh ones. House DJs, a pool table and pinball machines provide some relief from the sexual tension, cranked high by black-and-blue movies on video screens and bartenders with macho swagger.

So whether you end your night at Trannyshack, smeared with black lipstick, or locked and loaded at the Powerhouse, you can see that SOMA has a little bit of something for everyone.