San Francisco

Recently, I put my guitar away and put my directing clothes on, which consist of a black hoodie, dark rinse skinny jeans and black Nikes – and started work on Jill Sobule’s video for her song “San Francisco” from her beautiful new album “The California Years.” Jill and I have been friends for some time, and I have always wanted to work with her. She is a rare breed of singer. Her heart, head and voice are all at one. There is so much emotion and sweetness and light and stingingly bright humor and love in the way she sings. She sounds like a little girl going through a bitter divorce.

The song “San Francisco” is a perfect Jill Sobule song about her visit to a masseuse who shares her dreams to go to the city someday. I love San Francisco and am constantly fulfilling my dreams of going there, so I felt I was the perfect man for the job. Lorene Machado helped me get the first shots of Jill singing at her house. I loved this part so much, because Jill is really fun to hang out with. One of the things I love about Jill is that she is so incredibly alive, like cold water melting down a snowy mountain as the morning sun cracks the ice, and the life in her spills out in her songs, in her words, running down the hills of everyone around. I remember she singled out my little puppy Gudrun and told her, like it was a secret she didn’t want anyone else to know – “when I get home, I am going to take a bath and get right in my pajamas! Right in the afternoon!” It was so cute, you could just scream. I got in a little masseuse costume and Jill and I played travel guitars on top of a borrowed massage table. I got wonderful shots of Jill playing all over her house. She’s so fair and precious and pretty. I love to photograph girls. I think I must be some kind of dirty old man inside, creeping around with my camera trying to get a stolen glimpse of their underwear.

After I finished the principle photography with Jill, I headed to San Francisco for shots of the city, and also a kind of moving gallery of portraits, people I love and who represent San Francisco. I had one crew member, “Cho Show” alum Mookey Goh, who was my 1st AD, PA, grip, best boy, catering, locations and driver all rolled up into one. Our first subject was the illustrious Henry Lewis. We picked him up at Sword & Skull Tattoo and I also got to meet GRIME, who I absolutely adore and I wish I had a whole ‘nother body so he could tattoo it. We took Henry to his studio, which he shares with Shawn Barber, who I tried to get in the video, but unfortunately, he was away at the Philadelphia tattoo convention. It’s called the “get shit done” or “GSD” studio, as Henry and Shawn both sport the “GSD” tattoos and the life attitude of getting shit done. They are both world famous painters and tattoo artists and all around SF icons as well as being totally just hot guys. Henry said that I could also get a “GSD” tattoo as well, because I too, get shit done.

We gave Henry a ride home and then tried to shoot some of the drag show at AsiaSF, but since we didn’t have permission, we had to leave – but it was all handled very politely I must say. They gave us a whole bag of delicious dinner to compensate, so it’s all good. Not only is the show packed with stunning drag queens, the food is just divine. The chef there told me he has had a crush on me for ten years, so you know, I like them. They have a reality show coming out, and so their image is pretty tightly controlled. I am looking forward to seeing it!

The next location was infamous blogger Violet Blue’s beautiful Castro home. I loved shooting Violet, not just because she’s an absolute beauty, but also because I love her writing, and she is very much a San Francisco success story. She has gone from being a homeless teen to literary icon in just a short time, because she’s still very young! She should probably sport a “GSD” tattoo as well. I put her in front of “No on Prop 8” sign. Her skin is very luminous and set off wonderfully by her jet black hair. I think the shots of her are my favorite of the whole shoot just because she’s so darn good lookin’. Did I mention I love to photograph girls?

We waited for some very late drag queens. Drag time is like 2 hours later than everyone else, sort of like daylight savings time, so spring forward or fall back – it’s gonna take 2 hours more because of makeup and hair, bitch. Tita Aida, Cecilia Chung, Christina and Monistat joined us. “Cho Show” fans might remember Monistat from the Vh1 promos, where she plays the drag version of me. Some people have a mini me. I have a maxi me, and that is Monistat. Everytime I see her, I am like, “bitch, why? why? why? you look exactly like me. bitch why?” It’s like looking in a mirror if the mirror was a drag queen. I loved shooting all the drag queens but I just couldn’t get enough of Monistat, who was burning up my lens so bad it melted and shit. She actually painted a yellow nicotine stain on her teeth as part of her drag. I couldn’t stop shooting her and will likely make one version of the video with only Monistat for myself.

I had to kidnap Monistat and take her to our next location, the armory, where is. I am working with on another extra special secret project (NOT PORN- I wish), so I get special access and they let me stay there for free! I get my own room, #420 (appropriate). I put my maxi-me in the stairwells and shot the shit out of her. Then, I got Peter Acworth, the king of kink himself to don a little white thong leotard underneath a giant velvet and lace opera cape. He looked just like the Infant of Prague, or Le Petit Prince. He spun and spun and spun like a whirling dervish on the rooftop of the armory, overlooking the city. He spun around so hard he got dizzy and almost fell down. It was really hilarious and stunningly beautiful, and really captures him as he is. Peter is a like a mad king, but he’s not really mad, just mad for his kingdom, and the kingdom of is a tremendously successful one. He’s like Lord of the Cockrings.

We then went to my favorite place of all, Everlasting Tattoo, where my tattoo artist and friend Mike Davis tattooed shop assistant Ryan with an “SF” tattoo, just for me and my camera. We also played guitars to song like rock stars and I got some really pretty shots of the neon Everlasting Tattoo sign. Shit, I need to get more tattoos. We rounded out the weekend by shooting Mark Eitzel, from American Music Club. I love Mark, and he and I are working on a duet for my new album. He is a friend of Jill’s too, and a San Francisco icon, and very handsome indeed.

I am getting better with the camera. I haven’t picked it up in a couple of years. It takes some getting used to, since I forgot everything I learned from making all those music videos and short films. I just try to shoot too much, and then try to just be on the other side enjoying the images. The more I enjoy the subject, the better it looks.

I spent the better part of the morning shooting at Stephen Elliott’s apartment, which is so classically Mission, with big bay windows that let in all that foggy white San Francisco light. I got cute Isaac Fitzgerald’s on camera debut, as well as lovely Daphne and the sweet blondness of superstar Lorelei Lee. For the final sequence I went back to the armory and shot my darling Princess Donna, who put Stephen in some serious rope bondage and sat on him like he was a human swing. It was so incredible. I was really exhausted from shooting, but seeing that brought me back to life. Of course, I didn’t take any photos, but I think I can steal some here and there from people to show you. Thanks to everyone in San Francisco, and especially to Jill Sobule and her beautiful song!!!

Violet Blue blogs about the shoot and posts some photos.

9 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. Sounds like you had a great time!
    You know, I moved to San Francisco a week before I turned 18 because I wanted to run with the drag queens. I had this image in my mind of vast herds of queens charging through the city light brightly colored, petticoated and ostrich feathered buffalo, and I wanted in on that even though I am a girl.
    As it happened, the Duchess of Castro elections were not long after that, so my vision kind of came true!

    And no shit, I have a friend who retouches the photographs there! I don’t suppose you met Jenn, didjya?

  2. um, darling, it was all Christina’s fault! I waited for almost 40 minutes for her to put her corset on… and did you just call me a drag queen?


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