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Annual Trannyshack Pageant in its 11th Year
by Nancy Norstad on Nov 07, 2006
The Trannyshack Show at the Stud Bar every Tuesday night hits a level of hijinks that make us proud to be in the Bluest State, but the volume gets considerably turned up for the annual Miss Trannyshack Pageant. Held at the Regency Theater, the event has turned lavishly prime-time, and the performers pull out all the stops, investing in sophisticated props and presenting highly choreographed performances.
The following is a conversation with Heklina, the founder of Trannyshack.
SF Station (SFS): Heklina, this is your 11th Miss Trannyshack Pageant. You expect to sell out the Regency, which is a rather large venue. With a ticket price of $35, has it always been this big?
Heklina (HK): No, itís just something thatís gotten just bigger and bigger over the years. Itís not held in a gay bar, so a lot of different "persuasions" attend.
SFS : When did it hit its critical mass?
HK: I guess it was two years ago when I moved it -- it
had been on a Sunday night for a long time -- and I finally just realized itís an event that needs to be fully out there. I donít know if you are aware what a pain in the ass it is to get a high profile venue on a Friday or Saturday night in San FranciscoÖ But itís such a great event that it has to be on a Saturday night so people can ride the party energy into the wee hours -- so I just had to pay through the nose to get a good venue -- and then it just exploded!
SFS: I must have been at that one two years ago. It was packed. One performer went up in a cherry-picker as tall as the balcony, and another one did a torch-song that ended with a real flesh brandingÖ
HK: (laughs) Yeah, that was two years ago.
SFS: I think the move to that venue was tremendous. Everybody was there.
HK: Yeah, it really took off. It was like going mainstream.
SFS: One of the things I wanted to touch on here is the "Tranny" market. Do you see yourself or the show as a part of the "T"?
HK: I donít really look at is as the Tranny market. Trannyshack is not something that people think of when they think of your average drag show. I think itís more of a thing for the quintessential San Francisco "experience". The audience demographic is gay men and women, straight people, transgender people, etc. We donít really pander to peopleís ideas of what a drag show is really supposed to be. If I wanted to make more money, Iíd pander to the circuit crowd, yíknow?
SFS: I think youíre hitting it pretty much on the mark, Heklina. Tourism is my specialty; youíre really almost hitting a raunchy Cirque du Soleil meets "Fear Factor" quality of entertainment. Because itís so creative and bawdy and breaks a lot of rules -- I think a lot of people come to San Francisco for that kind of experience.
HK: Itís really gratifying to see people react and respond if they have never seen Trannyshack before. A lot of gaping mouths and woops. Each year itís getting bigger because people tell their friends they canít possibly explain it, you just have to attend it.
SFS: Compare the Trannyshack Tuesday experience with the Miss Trannyshack Pageant.
HK: Well, youíre never going to see the same thing on Tuesdays. I like to break peopleís expectations. Youíre not always going to get a blood-soaked rock ní roll explosion. Sometimes it will be a tribute to Madonna, sometimes a punk rock performanceÖThe thing about Trannyshack at the Stud is that itís a lot more improv.
SFS: So do you pick a theme, then announce it so the performers can groove on that concept in preparations?
HK: You can always check on my website (http://www.heklina.com) to see the upcoming theme. A whole month a head of time
SFS: Good reason for people to visit your site (and ours http://www.sfgay.org). Do the performers get to do just one number? Is there ever a contest?
HK: Yes, performers generally get just one number. We sometimes do contests like Star Search, where weíre looking for the new drag talent. You never know what youíre going to get.
SFS: Drag is a lot of work, are there still people who are coming in fresh with enthusiasm?
HK: Yeah, drag is a lot of work. Itís definitely an investment.
SFS: So what does the Miss Trannyshack title carry with it for the year?
HK: (laughs) Nothing. (laughs) The thing about is that there arenít any rules. You donít have to represent a community or raise money for a cause. You just win the title and then represent the club and the performance for the next year. You become kind of the "face of the club".
SFS: Are you always the emcee, except when youíre doing Trannyshack in New York or somewhere else? Who takes over when youíre away?
HK: Iím always the emcee, but when Iím gone itís usually Peaches Christ.
SFS: Do you intend to continue into the foreseeable future?
HK: I donít intend to continue in this current incarnation. I need a challenge, so Iím considering making this the last year at the Stud as far as a Tuesday weekly club. Iíd love to go to a bigger venue with a bigger stage, better lighting and do it maybe once a month. DNA Lounge would be a good size.
SFS: Well, weíre looking forward to your upcoming events! Thanks for letting sfgay.org help with sponsorship!
by Nancy Norstad on Nov 07, 2006