Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gratias รก Lulu, Esta Noche y Monica Naranjo

I began new Fracebook friendships with Andres and Bill. We exchanged some email about Latin music and gay Madrid. I hope to learn a lot about Latin music and my new correspondents will be great resources. But there is one Latina star I already admire enormously.

When I take visiting friends out for a night on the town in San Francisco, I tend to end the festivities at Esta Noche on 16th St.

This Latin gay club has been in that once-seedy neighborhood for more than 20 years. Now it’s becoming hip, and the crowd is definitely more mixed than even a few years ago, but I still find Esta Noche welcoming and lively. It's seen more than a few very memorable moments: it was there that Ken MacDonald was kissed in the bathroom by the most handsome man within miles–a high compliment—this is San Francisco after all. It was there—at the bar, not the bathroom—that Miguel Pou taught me to distinguish between the popular music of Spain, and Mexico, Central America plus Colombia and Argentina and a few other countries in the Southern Hemisphere. I usually can pick up that distinctive Brazilian samba-like beat, and of course the lyrics are in different language though that is not easy to distinguish when you know only a few words in Spanish and Portuguese, fiesta, siesta, libertad, y “Et tu mama tambien”—just because I saw the movie and loved it.

But it was “Lulu” who introduced me to Monica Naranjo. How can I say this delicately? Lulu is not a pretty drag queen, and she can have a pretty foul mouth, but she's one hell of performer and knows her divas. During her show, I heard this voice that felt like a combination of Madonna, Bette Midler and Janis Joplin, with a touch of Maria Callas. “Who’s that?” I asked the bartender. “Monica,” he said, “She is THE star of gay Madrid.” I have since learned that she is much more than that, and she moved to Miami so now I don’t have to visit Madrid to hear her live though I still plan a Madrid expedition as soon as I sock away enough dinero.

OK, OK, sometimes her staging and orchestration is a bit cheesy but listen to the quality and strength of that voice! Music unleashes the animal!