Castro Sober Space Marks 35 Years with Pageant
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As the Castro Country Club begins its 35th year of service to San Francisco's LGBT sober community, the nonprofit will crown its 2018 Miss/Mr. Castro Country Club at its ninth annual drag pageant Saturday, April 14.
The evening begins with a birthday party and silent auction followed by the pageant. Celebrity hosts are Sister Roma, of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and Miss Ethylina Canne; judging the event are Miss Shugana, Pollo Del Mar, and former Miss Castro Country Club Intensive Claire.
Competing for the crown are Minnie Happy Returns (Louis N. Cullen); Menorah Manishevitz (Joshua Rosen); Sharmin Ultra (Justin Bagnall); and Vickie Sparkle Titz (Vincent Ogden). With the title goes the responsibility for hosting the club's monthly drag show, "Mascara," which last year raised $22,000 for the club.
"I hope anyone who has been to the country club or had a friend who has been helped by one of our programs will come to the pageant," Executive Director Billy Lemon, a gay man, said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "It's one of our biggest events of the year and always fun."
According to Lemon, the title of Miss or Mr. Country Club represents "both an honor" for winning the contest as well as an obligation to coordinate the monthly show.
Coordinating and hosting the monthly show, said Lemon, "is a considerable amount of work."
Last year's winner, Michael Marchiselli (aka MGM Grande), who will crown this year's Miss/Mr. Castro Country Club, said the yearlong reign "has been enormously helpful in my ongoing program" to maintain his sobriety.
"It's hard to express how important this has been to me," said Marchiselli, who is gay.
In an interview at the club last month, Marchiselli explained his debt to the Castro Country Club.
"It literally saved my life," said the 40-year-old mental health peer counselor.
Six years ago, when he moved to San Francisco from Philadelphia, Marchiselli was homeless, jobless, and addicted to amphetamines, he said.
Thanks to the programs at the club, located in a Victorian at 4058 18th Street, Marchiselli stopped using, got a job and a bed in a group home, and in the coming months is planning to get his own apartment.
"And a dog," he added.
Although Marchiselli had just over a year of sobriety under his belt when he was crowned Miss Country Club in 2017, "the commitment" of service to the club "was enormously helpful" to me.
"When you compete it's putting yourself out there completely to your community that you are ready to take on a service commitment," he said.
"I would never be able to perform drag if I wasn't sober," he added.
When he took over as Miss Castro Country Club, Marchiselli was committed to making "Mascara" "a more diverse event," he said.
Marchiselli reached out to three transgender women of color he knew, with several becoming regular performers.
"We're still not as diverse as we should be, but Michael has helped us make steps in the right direction," said Lemon.
The pageant takes place from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Everett Middle School, 450 Church Street in San Francisco. Tickets are $10 and available at the door. Individuals interested in sponsorship opportunities should contact Billy Lemon at email@example.com.