Remembering San Francisco’s Wild Bartender Benefit Shows

men behind barsSomebody, please find and post video of this, posthaste: the Bay Area Reporter just published a lovely remembrance of what sounds like one of the greatest drag/burlesque/talent shows ever to hit a stage in San Francisco.

The show was Men Behind Bars, and the article is an excerpt from Mark Abramson’s memoir, For my Brothers. It sounds like it was a riot, but more importantly, like a cultural milestone in the evolution of live LGBT entertainment.

The whole thing was organized to benefit an HIV/AIDS group — this was back in the mid-’80s — and starred every bartender, barback, bouncer and waiter willing to strut nearly-naked on stage.

Highlights: a tap dancing troupe, some assorted Cockettes, bellydancing bears, a lip-sync by future SF Empress Pat Montclaire, and a host of hunky bartenders singing a medley of boy-band songs from the ’60s. Delightfully, the touring show of Dreamgirls was in town, and star Linda Leilani Brown made an appearance.

Abramson makes reference to reviewing the videotape of the show, so we know that footage exists. It is a crime that this show is not available online yet. Meanwhile, you can read more of Abramson’s memories in his book, which recounts his life as a bartender in ’80s and ’90s San Francisco.