Heklina returns: drag fave to perform a new solo show at Oasis

  • by Jim Provenzano
  • Tuesday March 1, 2022
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Heklina goes solo in her new cabaret show.
Heklina goes solo in her new cabaret show.

In an auspicious return to her former nightlife roost, Heklina will perform a new solo show with stories and live —yes, live singing— on March 10 and 11 at Oasis.

"It's sort of the story of my life, told with songs by Stephen Sondheim, some classics made famous by Liza Minnelli," said Heklina (aka Stefan Grygelko), from her home in Palm Springs. Local pianist Tom Shaw will accompany her onstage.

"I wanted to challenge myself. I've done Trannyshack, Mother, films, podcasts, plays, so this is something new."

Since the early 1990s, Heklina has been a mainstay in Bay Area queer nightlife. From the first irreverent drag nights at The Stud, to Trannyshack's expansion at DNA Lounge that included annual contests, Heklina has often hosted the most prominent drag and nightlife events which included her own numbers.

In 2015, along with D'Arcy Drollinger and other investors, Heklina opened Oasis in South of Market; the same building that once housed the original Oasis. The new nightclub has become popular for not only drag shows and DJed dance nights, but comic plays and musicals, cabaret concerts and community fundraisers. Heklina recently sold her share of Oasis ownership and moved to Palm Springs, while still keeping a foothold on the Bay Area's nightlife scene.

And of course, Heklina's deadpan line delivery as Dorothy (Bea Arthur's character) in stage productions of episodes of the classic sitcom The Golden Girls have become an annual tradition.

Having endured shutdowns, closures, and online DJ Zoom parties —"They never really worked," admits Heklina, the time for a personal and in-person show is now.

"You know, things have changed," she said of 2020's early pandemic outbreak. "We were all trying to pretend that everything was okay and that they said it was going to be temporary. I remember the early days of the pandemic, we were online, acting like it would be over soon."

Now, with health precautions shifting yet again, while some may be understandably hesitant to attend nightlife events, many are returning to parties and drag shows with their proof of vaccination and facemasks.

"I'm really excited about my solo show," said Heklina, who admits she is not a trained singer, but can carry a tune.

"I sent vocal tracks to Tom Shaw for tempo, and he replied, 'Oh, this is fine, but what key are you singing?'

Heklina's multi-tasking —including recently being a contestant on the TV game show The Price is Right— during her upcoming visit includes returning to host the 23rd annual The Mother Star Search Competition on March 13 at Oasis, and the seasonal monthly dance party Daytime Realness at El Rio on March 20 with DJs Carnita and Stanley Frank.

"It's my favorite party, with a lot of energy, and you know, we don't see a lot of young people here in Palm Springs."

Heklina performing at Oasis  

Heklina did note that aside from the age variance and hot weather, it's mostly easy living in Palm Springs.

"You just get so spoiled. You can drive anywhere, and you know if you're running late you know you can find parking. It's a lot easier than life in San Francisco."

Asked about the extremely hot summers that many residents escape, Heklina mentioned her return to San Francisco and Iceland, her birth country, with its famous volcano that inspired Grygelko's drag name Heklina.

"I love returning to Iceland. But last time everything shut down just as I arrived." Heklina's hosted Pride events in Reykjavík, the country's capital. "I'm their 'queen who made it in America.'

On her 2020 visit, with travel limited and nearly everything closed, she noted, "I got to see so much of the country without any tourists. That was a nice caveat. I was finally able to go around the country like I've not been able to do since I was a child the first time in years."

Heklina's Grand Opening, March 10 & 11, 7pm, at Oasis, 398 11th St. www.sfoasis.com

The Mother Star Search Competition, March 13, 6pm at Oasis, 398 11th St. www.sfoasis.com

Hekina hosts Daytime Realness at El Rio; Sunday March 20 at El Rio, 3158 Mission St. www.elriosf.com

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