Gogos & other great talents: Besties nightlife talents for 2023

  • by Michael Flanagan
  • Tuesday October 24, 2023
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DJ Lady Ryan, Peaches Christ (photo: David Ayllon), Marga Gomez (photo: Jim McCambridge)
DJ Lady Ryan, Peaches Christ (photo: David Ayllon), Marga Gomez (photo: Jim McCambridge)

From your favorite DJs to drag performers of all kinds, you, our readers, selected their favorite people in nightlife. Live bands, bartenders, gogo dancers and more talented folks get a nod for 2023.

DJ Lady Ryan (photo: Facebook)  

Best DJ: Lady Ryan
Runners-up: David Harness, Page Hodel
From her performance in June 2022 at the Toro y Moi concert at Stern Grove (which sold out in 30 minutes) to her show on KALW (Wednesday nights from 10pm to Midnight) to her work as a co-founder of Soulovely (which "curates an extraordinary platform that celebrates and sustains the unwavering spirit and beauty of Oakland's queer and trans-BIPOC communities") Lady Ryan is a true force for good in developing a better and more accepting Bay Area.

She has shared the stage with such luminaries as Diana Ross, George Clinton, Erykah Badu, Anderson Paak and the Indigo Girls, and most recently has been seen enchanting her fans at the Town Bar and the White Horse. Our readers truly appreciate you and the joy you share uplifting our community.

Marga Gomez (photo: Jim McCambridge)  

Best Comic: Marga Gomez
Runners-up: Wonder Dave, Lisa Geduldig
Marga Gomez is practically a force of nature. She has been paying her dues for so long in San Francisco that I hope she is getting compounded quarterly interest on them. I've seen her at venues all the way back to Valencia Rose and Josie's, and fondly remember her turn as Ricky Ricardo in the Frameline promo. So it is truly a joyful occasion to be able to announce that our readers agree that she is top comic this year.

Earlier this year she curated and hosted "Who's Your Mami Comedy" Brava Cabaret and is most recently at Brava in "Swimming With Lesbians," her solo show inspired by her time working as an entertainer on cruise ships. She is a woman of a thousand characters! Last December she was the special guest of the San Francisco Symphony along with Peaches Christ. Congratulations to a well-loved performer.

Peaches Christ (photo: David Ayllon)  

Best Drag Queen: Peaches Christ
Runners-up: D'Arcy Drollinger, Juanita MORE!
To say that Peaches Christ has had something of a roller coaster year, from tragedy to triumph, is an incredible understatement. Last year's "The Summoning," the immersive theatrical experience at the Old San Francisco Mint to this year's "The Initiation" at the same venue and her last appearance with the late Heklina on Hulu's "Drag Me To Dinner" have been on the plus side of the ledger. Having Google pull out of a Pride event at Beaux would be on the negative side. And having lived through the events surrounding Heklina's death in London are beyond words.

Having just lived through the last year it would be considered an accomplishment for Peaches to be able to string a cogent sentence together. That she continues to grace us with performances, and stunning ones at that, is a testament to her strength and dedication as a performer.

Alex U. Inn (photo: Gooch)  

Best Drag King: Alex U. Inn
Runners-up: Madd Dogg 20/20, Chico Suave
From their work founding hip-hop drag troupe Momma's Boyz to their work organizing the Drag Up! Fight Back! rally and march against anti-drag legislation, and their co-organizing of the fourth annual People's March and Rally, Alex U. Inn has had a busy year and shown that activism and performance can live and thrive side by side.

Regarding the People's March and Rally Inn told the Bay Area Reporter in June, "We can't just isolate ourselves. We need to fight all the battles so we keep all of our rights intact. That's why we're the People's March."

Fauxnique (photo: Paul King)  

Best Faux Queen: Fauxnique
Runners-up: Trixxie Carr, Créme Fatale and Miss Shugana (tied for third)
When Fauxnique won the Miss Trannyshack pageant in 2003 she pretty much put faux queens on the map, registering a whole new perspective on performance, gender and creativity. When her memoir, "Faux Queen: A Life in Drag," was published last year, Monique Jenkinson, the person behind Fauxnique, shared her story and the path to that groundbreaking 2003 accomplishment.

About performing in drag clubs, Jenkinson told Out in the Bay's Eric Jansen in 2022, "Being invited into this weekly kind of down-and-dirty, loose, but very frequent and regular practice was, as they say, a game-changer." Sharing her story and inviting more awareness to Faux Queens has been a game-changer as well.

David Delgado (photo: Facebook)  

Best Bartender: David Delgado, The Cinch
Runners-up: Heather Dunham, Wild Side West; Johnnie Wartella, Pilsner Inn (tied for Second); Robbie Cheah, Oasis
David Delgado has been doing his bit to preserve LGBT culture in the Polk neighborhood for some time. He was assistant manager at Deco (510 Larkin) when it closed in 2012 and told the B.A.R. then, "Deco was such a fun place. It wasn't the Castro. It wasn't South of Market. It was just its own neighborhood bar."

He obviously knows how to keep the spirit of a neighborhood alive in a bar and is doing a great job of it at The Cinch. In 2020 he was a runner-up in this category and apparently he's doing something right down on Polk Street, as his reputation has only grown since then.

Katya Smirnoff-Skyy  

Best Nightlife/Cabaret Performer: Katya Smirnoff-Skyy
Runners-up: Paula West, Suzanne "Kitten on the Keys" Ramsey
This year Katya Smirnoff-Skyy celebrated 18 years as the host of the cabaret show Katya Presents at Martuni's. The Countess Smirnoff-Skyy has performed at Feinstein's at the Nikko, Mr. Tipples Jazz Club, the Castro Street Fair, Boxcar Theatre and other venues.

Earlier this year, J. Conrad Frank, the man behind the Countess, told the B.A.R.'s Christopher J. Beale, "We've tried to make Martuni's sort of the hub for cabaret and encourage artists to do their own stuff and produce their own shows. We're singing songs, telling stories, and serving strong drinks."

Middle-Aged Queers (photo: Facebook)  

Best Live Band: Middle-Aged Queers
Runners-up: Lolly Gaggers, Planet Booty
With lyrics like, "To measure my worth, tape measure determines my girth, size queen, size queen, size queen you'll fucking take it" from their song "Size Queen," there is no question that Middle-Aged Queers have found a place in the hearts of those of us who used to haunt venues like Valencia Tool & Die and the Chatterbox. Middle-Aged Queers return to shred a spot they occupied in the 2020 Besties.

Middle-Aged Queers are something of a local punk queer supergroup with former members of The Cost, Fang and the Insaints. Equally at home at the Folsom Street Fair (where they played this year) or at 924 Gilman (ditto) they put the hard back in hardcore.

Like all good Middle-Aged Queers the band is off to recruit in Ron DeSantis' Florida right now, with gigs in St. Petersburg and Gainesville, but they will soon be back home in the Bay Area to feel the Bestie love. Rock them like a hurricane, Middle-Aged Queers!

Emerson Silva (photo: Gooch)  

Best Gogo Dancer: Emerson Silva
Runners-up: Chad Stewart, Jella Gogo
Emerson Silva has performed at a dazzling number of spots around the bay including The Café, The Oasis, The Port Bar, Splash San Jose, The Midway, Beaux, Midnight Sun and the Lookout. He's stripped down at a few of REAF's local iterations of Broadway Bares. Clearly he has worked hard to establish a reputation as an amazing dancer who gives his all to his audiences. He previously was runner-up in this category in 2020, but his hard work is obviously paying off. Be sure to tip this talented guy.

Gooch (photo: courtesy)  

Best Nightlife Photographer: Gooch
Runners-up: Steven Underhill, Kid With a Camera
Gooch returns again this year as your choice for Best Nightlife Photographer, the person whose lens most captures the essence of San Francisco nightlife. His photos this year from The Kiki at Beaux show off the wild vitality of the event and make it clear why he wins this category again and again.

He even manages to capture when nightlife makes its appearance in the daylight, as he did with an amazing photographs of Juanita MORE! in this year's Pride edition of the Bay Area Reporter. He previously won Besties as Best Wedding Photographer in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and is the official photographer for many local events. He somehow manages to blend into the background in order to get candid photos and yet when you see him he never fails to charm. Thanks to Gooch for documenting the fun in style.

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