A poster from Finocchio's, date unknown.
Image courtesy Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California
One of the most interesting things I've done recently was prowl around the premises of Finocchio's, San Francisco's fabled female impersonator club, which closed November 27, 1999 after 63 years in the same location.
Well aware of its former glory, I was a bit sad to see Finocchio's look so down at the heels last week as GLBT Historical Society staff members carted away a truckload of memorabilia. The drag club business just ain't what it used to be, and it hasn't been for a good long time. It felt like a piece of old San Francisco -- and old gay life -- had quietly passed away. Joe Finocchio's second wife Eve, a feisty grand dame well into her 80s, sat in a chair in the middle of the room and watched her grandson, the club's manager, box up the liquor stock as we historians circled like buzzards around ratty dressing room fixtures, odd scraps of cast-off costumes, a pair of false eyelashes stored in an empty Premarin prescription bottle, and other detritus that had accumulated over more than half a century.
At one point, Eve Finocchio motioned for me to come to her. "Here, honey, why don't you take this, too," she said, handing me an exquisite ermine stole. "I once gave it to a queen who worked here, but he doesn't need it now. He's a Catholic priest. Anyway, I might as well donate it to history -- you just can't get away with wearing fur these days.
Check out the GLBT Historical Society for much more information on local queer history.