Who: San Francisco's queen of drag queens, Trannyshack founder Heklina.
Neighborhood: Lower Haight
Years In SF: 21
Current Gig: Originally from Iceland, Heklina founded San Francisco's longest-running drag show, Trannyshack, in 1996 and quickly became one of the city's most famous faces.
While still running Trannyshack in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, Heklina also appears in shows like the "Golden Girls" and "Sex in the City Live" (closing Tuesday) and champions local political causes.
Heklina took a break from her busy birthday week schedule (Happy Birthday, Heklina!) to talk about this week's Pride festivities, the art of drag and her future in San Francisco.
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Tell me about moving to San Francisco. I moved in 1991. My first place was on Seventh Avenue and Irving in this big communal living house. It was full of these radical fairies and hippies. Great people but not my crowd. It was a pretty big culture shock.
You founded one of the most successful drag performances in the world. Why do you think Trannyshack is so important to people? I think that Trannyshack and San Francisco in general have elevated drag to a form of entertainment that people take seriously. When I've traveled to other cities for drag shows, it's usually always the traditional beauty pageant. But there are no rules at Trannyshack as long as something is authentic. Whenever we have performers who are nervous, I tell them "just get up there and do it, you can't fail."
You also have a show in Los Angeles. Do you alter the show for the venue? Well some of the stereotypes about each city are true: San Francisco wants everything grungy and gritty and LA wants things slick. The cities don't have the same sense of humor. So in LA we often book bigger guest stars or people with gay appeal. In San Francisco we keep things pretty experimental.
Who are some local up-and-coming performers you have your eye on? Dulche de Leche and Aurora Switchblade.
San Francisco Pride is this weekend. Tell me about your plans. I have a crazy week and I don't even have plans for the actual day! On Sunday it was my birthday, Tuesday we had a Sex in the City show, I had parties on Wednesday and Thursday, then Pride this weekend and then closing night of Sex in the City on Tuesday. Whew.
What are your favorite things to do in the city? I go to the movies. I'm going to a movie today! I really miss the single screen theaters that keep vanishing, but I do love the Castro--it's my favorite.
What do you order at the snack counter? I used to order popcorn all of time until I found out how fattening it is! I always thought just getting the popcorn with no butter was a healthy option, but the oil they cook it in makes it so bad. So now I do Red Vines and a Diet Coke unless I'm at the Westfield Shopping Centre since they have that Kettle Corn. It's deadly. Today feels like a popcorn day.
Do you have any favorite restaurants? Well I know we have so many great ethnic selections, but I really prefer meat and potatoes. So Original Joe's and House of Prime Rib are favorites.
I've heard that you don't drink-- Oh god, is that out there!? Yes it's true.
Do you ever find it challenging performing at bars since you are sober? I look at it as I'm going out there to do a job. I'm performing. I'm not going out to bars when I'm not working. And it's kind of a deterrent--I'm especially not tempted to drink when drunk people are up in my face. I'm like, "oooh my god."
Any nightmare Trannyshack stories? We just had this one crazy story in LA. There was a huge fight--really a riot. Apparently these two trannies tried to flush this woman's head in the toilet in the bathroom. The fight spilled into the street and people ended up getting arrested. I had to go down to the jail and get them out.
Do you think you'll stay in San Francisco forever? It's funny, I had a dream last night that I was fed up with San Francisco and leaving.
What makes you fed up with the city? A lot of things. I get fed up with homelessness and how expensive it is here. I would love an apartment with a garage.
So... But I really don't think I'd ever leave. When I first got here I knew it was home. But someday I might get a summer home somewhere warm.
Stop by the closing night of Heklina's Sex in the City Live this Tuesday night. For a preview, check out some photos in the slideshow below, courtesy of Emi Stanley Photography. Happy Pride, everyone!
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