Thousands gathered in San Francisco this week to remember and celebrate the life of drag impresario Heklina, who died suddenly April 3 while in London for a show with Peaches Christ. Heklina graced many Out in the Bay programs over the years; only once as Stefan Grygelko, the man behind the famous and widely influential drag character he created.
KALW’s Queer Power Hour devoted this week’s entire show to Heklina / Stefan; we bring it to you here in Out in the Bay‘s podcast space. The QPH tribute includes parts of three Out in the Bay interviews (one by founding producer Eric Jansen, two by comic and co-producer Marilyn Pittman), a Crosscurrents interview by Hana Baba, and a “My Mix Tape” by Heklina in which she plays and talks about the impact of a Fleetwood Mac song.
The 50-minute tribute includes fascinating details about San Francisco’s rich queer cultural history – a history Heklina profoundly affected: Heklina’s drag show Mother, née Trannyshack, (1996-2020 ) influenced drag performance globally; Heklina co-created San Francisco cult-hit live-on-stage drag versions of The Golden Girls, Sex & The City and other classic TV sitcoms; and with long-time friend and collaborator D’Arcy Drollinger (installed May 18 as San Francisco’s first Drag Laureate, congrats Baby D!), Heklina in late 2014 co-founded Oasis, the nightclub and cabaret that quickly became central to SF and West Coast live queer performance.
(Eric Jansen’s 2013 live radio conversation with Stefan Grygelko was encouraged by filmmaker friend Brian Favorite, who used part of it in his excellent short experimental 2015 documentary about Heklina and Stefan, titled simply Heklina. It’s amazingly creative, might just blow your mind, and under 15 minutes long! Watch it here on KQED Arts’ YouTube channel. Thank you Brian!)
Trigger alert: Heklina’s groundbreaking and influential show ‘Trannyshack’ is discussed extensively in this tribute special, much of which includes interviews from 2013 and 2014. Heklina honored transgender community concerns and renamed the show ‘Mother’ in January 2015. We present these interviews now in memory of and in honor to Heklina and Stefan Grygelko, and for the important pieces of history they preserve and convey. You can hear more about the name change and the change in the meaning of the word “tranny” over the years in these two features: Trannyshack Is Now Your Mother – Out In The Bay and ‘Faux Queen: A Life in Drag’ – Out In The Bay. Thank you for listening to and supporting Out in the Bay – Queer Radio + Podcast!
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2014 photo of Heklina by Nick Ice