'Baloney' - gay burlesque show's revealing documentary

  • by Cornelius Washington
  • Tuesday June 7, 2022
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Pablo Escobar gets a lift in rehearsal; a scene in the 'Baloney' documentary
Pablo Escobar gets a lift in rehearsal; a scene in the 'Baloney' documentary

Combining social commentary with saucy sexy strip sketches, SF Baloney, seen mostly locally at Oasis, has received the documentary treatment from auteur Joshua Guerci, who directed, shot and edited the 75-minute film, now viewable online.

The film is both charming and poignant and should stand the test of time, just in time for Pride. It breaks boundaries, politically, socially and sexually. It's great to see such purpose, drive and identity from co-creators (and partners in life) Michael Phillis and Rory Davis, who create ingenious ways to remain afloat in today's uncertain climate in art and entertainment.

Here in the Bay Area, unlike other major metropolises, we will allow ourselves to sit back and be entertained, give the artists their shot to perform for us. We attract talent from all over the world. It's also a tradition for that talent to try out their material and refine their acts here for a discerning and kindly critical crowd, before premiering it to less friendly but more lucrative markets.

We especially have a fondness for the bohemian, the bent and the bizarre; the formula that creates camp, leading to long, loving affairs we have had with The Cockettes (which begat The Singing Saint of San Francisco known as Sylvester). The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, with their stunning nuns surpassed by none; "Beach Blanket Babylon," and the all-Asian troupe, The Rice Rockettes. They all state the case for talent, lust for performing and benefit caring to a knowing crowd.

Added to this list will be the all-male gay strip show, and now a documentary film, about Baloney, which former Oasis co-owner Heklina called "like Magic Mike meets Mork & Mindy."

The show began in 2014, giving a more ballsy approach to burlesque bump-and-grind, with a side order of serious queer flavor.

The current cast of performers includes all races, body types, sexual orientations. There is even a cisgendered woman (Beth Miles) and —gasp!— a straight man (Aaron Sarazan), lots of singing and dancing and a whole lot of positions. Together they exude the sensual and whimsical vibe that one can get only in San Francisco.

The film's most romantic aspects are that despite the cast's day jobs (some quite interesting.), they long for life onstage. They do it from their hearts, and it all comes through with every eight-count and eyebrow arch.

Technically, the film is quite imperfect and beautifully seamless, simultaneously. Along with rehearsal and performance footage, we see Phillis and Davis work on scheduling, casting, and taping posters around the Castro.

The cast is quite engrossing, some of whom I've seen around town, just living their lives (Andrew Slade and his boyfriend Jules Llavore, "Daddy" Will Tantra, Joe Andrews, Ryan Patrick Welsh, Pablo Escobar and others).

In offstage interviews in their homes, they reveal personal struggles, from quitting dot com jobs to mental health and eating issues, each trying to balance artistic creation with making a living. Still, there are more than a few unanswered questions about them, perhaps to leave room for another film?

There are no standouts among the cast or their musical numbers, as they are all singular, and the film makes you care about each of them. In their rehearsals, their concern for each other is palpable and gives a romantic peek into how to 'put a show on the boards.'

My favorite part of the film was their riff on a Dolly Parton song from the film, "Best Little Whorehouse In Texas," which I suspect would make her titter with glee. The cast going out into the audience to execute some lap-dancing, and their ingenious 2021 mid-pandemic outdoor car wash events, is the film's perfect grace note to celebrate the city by the Bay.

The film is a manifesto of queer culture. I can only wish lots of love and success to everyone involved, the performers, especially. Their humanity shows that life is truly a cabaret and while Oscar may not call, Oscar Meyer should be very proud.

'Baloney' is available on iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Spectrum, and inDemand. www.Baloney.film
SF Baloney's next live shows at Oasis are July 7-16. www.sfbaloney.com

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