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October 18, 2017

San Francisco's Nightlife Scene According to Heklina

In the less than three years since drag legend Heklina opened Oasis in San Francisco, the nightclub has become a mainstay of the city’s thriving and eccentric party scene.

It’s easy to see why. Located in the heart of the booming SoMa neighborhood, the charming and intimate space has a lineup of exclusive rotating events, from original drag shows to male reviews to concerts. The venue’s two bars and lounge area make it easy to hang out with friends and take in the show on the dance floor. The rooftop bar has become a hot spot as well.

Our friends at Queerty caught up with Heklina, covering everything from how Grindr is changing nightlife to old-school San Francisco steakhouses. 

On nights you’re not working at Oasis, where do you hang out?

I never go out to other clubs on nights off. I do things like theater, concerts, or dinners with friends if I have any time free. Bars and clubs are workplaces for me. You have to pay me to see me there!

You promoted Trannyshack & Mother for years. What inspired you to start Oasis?

I felt that I had, career-wise, hit a glass ceiling of doing shows in other venues, and I had little new to say. Honestly, I felt like it was either retire or start my own venue--two totally different directions! Deep down, I always knew I had a kind of focus very few other people have. I knew that focus and drive would work for me to have my own birdcage. I saw so many people mismanage venues over the years, so I knew what not to do.

What do you think of the state of San Francisco's LGBTQ nightlife?

Some say apps like Grindr and Scruff are killing queer bars. Walking around SoMa or the Castro, you’d never know it. Apps may get you laid, but they don’t offer drag shows, happy hours, movie theaters and go-gos.

What are your favorite local restaurants?

Most of the time, I am hopelessly old-school. I love The House of Prime Rib or Ruth’s Chris for great steaks. Lately, I have been going to San Francisco sensations like Foreign Cinema in the Mission, and I recently had one of the best meals of my entire life at State Bird Provisions in the Fillmore.

I think it’s much more difficult to get people to go out than it used to be when I was a clubkid. Back in the 90’s, we went out Monday through Thursday. When I started Trannyshack, there seemed nothing unusual about a Tuesday night party that started at midnight. It was a different city. Cell phones are not the only problem; practices like bottle service can also kill the party. I could go on forever about this. Put your phones down and be in the moment!

San Francisco is a sanctuary city. People around the world dream of coming here--and often can't. What’s the magic that makes the city so welcoming, especially in a time when we are seeing a backlash in Washington?

Ironically, when Washington is at its scariest, that’s when San Francisco gets most interesting. I’ve lived here long enough to see a pattern of (relative) complacency during Democratic presidencies and amped-up resistance during Republican ones. To answer your question, though: San Francisco will always be a liberal haven. I can’t quite explain why it attracts freaks, but it is unlike anywhere else in America in most ways. The minute I moved here in 1991, I knew I had found a home. 

Last question: what’s on your bedside table right now?

I’m reading Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller. I’m still entranced by Vulnicura by Bjork, and I am also currently blasting My Bloody Valentine, Blue Oyster Cult and, of course, Bowie.  

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