Broadway Bares in SF: Stripping for A Good Cause

  • by Richard Dodds
  • Sunday July 10, 2016
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"Broadway Bares" has been an annual New York tradition since 1991, raising nearly $16 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and now it's setting out to become a San Francisco tradition as well. "Broadway Bares SF: Tech Tails" inaugurates a West Coast outpost for the charitable striptease with a July 11 performance at Club Fugazi, better known as the home of "Beach Blanket Babylon."

Fifty performers, including local talent, special guest stars, and members of the touring cast of "Cabaret," perform routines that variously suggest the burlesque striptease of Gypsy Rose Lee, the stuff-a-bill-in-my-posing-strap erotica of the Chippendales, and contemporary Broadway styling, all put together by veteran Broadway performer Deb Leamy.

Scheduled guests include Randy Harrison ("Cabaret," "Queer as Folk"), Jai Rodriguez ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"), reality TV star Cassandra Cass, and "American Idol" finalist David Hernandez. The locally based Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation (REAF) has teamed with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to introduce "Broadway Bares" to San Francisco. REAF has been presenting Help Is on the Way cabaret-style shows since 1995, and will offer its latest edition in that series at the Herbst Theatre on Aug. 21.

The "Broadway Bares" enterprise began in 1992 as a shoestring effort by Jerry Mitchell, then a member of the chorus in "The Will Rogers Follies," who enlisted several of his performer buddies to do a choreographed striptease routine at a Manhattan gay bar, and the next day he was able to deliver a pillow case filled with $8,000 in soggy bills to Broadway Cares. Mitchell's work on the increasingly elaborate Broadway Bares productions helped land him a job as choreographer on the strip-themed "The Full Monty," and he has since won Tony Awards for choreographing "La Cage aux Folles" and "Kinky Boots."

In the beginning, "Broadway Bares" inspired some controversy. "People asked, 'Is this the right way to raise money for AIDS?' " Mitchell recalled. "As a gay man myself, surrounded by friends dealing with HIV and AIDS, I could see that AIDS was taking away their dignity. Part of what I was trying to do was encourage people not to lose sight of their sexual selves and to celebrate their bodies in a safe and responsible way."

Tickets are available by calling (415) 421-4222