The club Trannyshack was founded in February of 1996, by Steven Grygelko known by the professional moniker Heklina. Trannyshack was staged every Tuesday at midnight at the Stud, a South of Market gay bar in San Francisco, where it ran for over 12 years. The Tuesday night Trannyshack shows ended in August 2008.
A bartender at The Stud, Heklina was invited by the manager to create an event that would bring in patrons on Tuesdays, the slowest night of the week. As a participant in Klubstitute, a notorious traveling drag show in 1990, Heklina had witnessed the fun and possibilities of Drag without bounds. Trannyshack quickly gained an avid audience, who would wait sometimes until 1:30 in the morning for the show to begin. Many first time performers grew to fame on the tiny Trannyshack stage and some such as Peaches Christ and Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters went on to even greater fame.
With so many creative people in such close proximity, competition was natural and spurred the performers to heights of glamour and vulgarity which challenged long-held notions of what defines “Drag”. The inclusive atmosphere encouraged experimentation of all kinds, both on stage and off: costumes and acts ranged from the extreme, to the bizarre to the hysterical, edging out but never quite obliterating the traditional canons of drag. Transsexuals, drag queens, drag kings, faux queens, and even faux kings filled the Stud along with regular folks both gay and straight who came to watch the spectacle.
As Trannyshack gained renown, it attracted some of the biggest stars in the drag pantheon, and an assortment of stars from music and television made appearances as well. The club became something of a tourist attraction, and garnered inclusion on many “Best of” lists. In fact, Trannyshack’s popularity spawned a number of unlicensed copycat “Trannyshacks”, in the U.S. and even London.
Though the Tuesday night shows at The Stud have ended, Heklina has plans to continue the Trannyshack legacy with the Easter show, and other special events, and to keep the Heklina/Trannyshack brand alive indefinitely.
The Trannyshack Collection (GLC 58) is comprised of posters, press releases, photographs, DVDs, and a series of “Historical Bulletins” written by Bobby Barber which reveal background information on the performers and a history of each of the Tuesday night shows hosted in 2008, the club’s final year. The DVDs include two documentaries, Filthy Gorgeous and Blood, Sweat and Glitter, amateur footage taken from the final Trannyshack Kiss-Off show, and a video oral history from December 2008.
The Trannyshack Collection is available at the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.