Photographs by Rena Ragimova
Imagine a party to which everyone is not only invited, but truly welcomed. Any sex. Any age. Any race. Any sexual orientation. With all due respect (and really, a lot of respect is due), The Lexington Club in the Mission is not that party. Neither is Boy Bar in the Castro. But Hella Gay, which takes over The Uptown every third Saturday of the month, just might be.
The female force behind Hella Gay has been making that open party happen for almost a year. Oakland Local grabbed a drink with Hella Gay producers Carolyn Lihn and Lizzie Boelter before the crowd hit the club.
"I'd been going to all the parties in San Francisco and it was the same scene, the same cliquey people hanging out in the same places. It got boring. We realized that there wasn't a neutral space where everyone could feel comfortable mingling and dancing," said Lihn, promoter for Hella Gay and baker for the new downtown Bakesale Betty's.
Boelter agreed: "Diversity is a big deal to us..."
"HUGE deal!" exclaimed Lihn, as Boelter went on.
"And I'm not talking about just different skin color," Boelter said. "I'm talking about different culture, different social or economic status. That's what Oakland is to me. That's why I live here."
The Uptown's doors are always open to diverse acts, with regular burlesque revues coexisting with surprise shows by Green Day and recently, The Vagina Monologues. It's no surprise that Hella Gay found a home here.
Lihn talked about duo's relationship with the club: "The owners are amazing. After throwing parties at warehouses, it's nice to come in and know that they have all the equipment and security ready. And the bartenders love us!"
Undoing the latches of her DJ decks, aptly labeled "Chemistry Set," DJ Black laughed, "You can tell the age of the DJ from their cases."
Mellanique "DJ Black" Robicheaux hails from Houston, TX, and for the past 19 years has been busy playing every party and knowing, as her colleagues assure me, absolutely everyone in the Bay. Although regular Hella Gay DJ GStar couldn't make it, the crowd had no complaints when San Francisco favorite, J Boogie held down the decks. The Saturday party was also Black's birthday celebration and, sometime around 1 a.m., her guests treated her to an a-capella rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday."
The next Hella Gay party will be the one-year anniversary and will take place at The Uptown on Saturday June 19 at 9 p.m. Bring your gay, straight, black, white, young or old self, $7, and see this Oakland wonder for yourself. Just in time to cure your hangover the following day, the ladies also invite you to Pizzaiolo for mimosas at 2pm on Sunday, June 20.