James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Monday, February 27, 2012

Archives February 2012

Desiree Scrapbooks

David Sabado was born in Hawaii and came to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1980s. He started out as a male stripper but was best known to audiences as the popular Asian-American drag queen Desiree. The Hormel Center has two scrapbooks of photographs, newspaper clippings and flyers which document the events where Desiree performed or was mistress of ceremonies.

Some events were simply celebrations; but more often than not, they raised funds and awareness for such organizations as Shanti Project, Dignity / Metropolitan Community Church, the AIDS bill of rights, and a variety of AIDS-related organizations. There are some wonderful photos of the rehearsals and press coverage of the annual event "Men Behind Bars"—which refers, naturally, to bartenders.

This photo of David Sabado and singer-songwriter Sonny Padilla, Jr. was taken to advertise the benefit concert "A Gift for Christmas." Padilla sang his hit "It's Your Body" in the company of David Sabado, Joe Tolbe and others. The benefit was for patients of Ward 5B, the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital. Proceeds of the concert would be split evenly between all of the patients, and the performance was to be videotaped for use on MTV.

Desiree hosted a drag show every other week at Oakland's Bench and Bar. She was a member of [Drag] Queens for Democracy and NAP (the New Alliance Party). She was also the host for the Endup's regular Jock Strap Contest in the late 1980s.
In 1989, Desiree was nominated for a Cable Car Award for Best Entertainer of the year. Her popularity was such that she performed and emceed at many different bars and clubs in San Francisco, including Kimo's, N'Touch, Esta Noche, the Endup, and many others.

The scrapbooks contain flyers from some events produced by John Kass, special events coordinator of the Endup, as well as flyers and a button for Desiree's campaign to become Queen of Hearts of San Francisco. There are also several photos of Desiree and other Imperial Court members beautifully attired as 18th century French nobility.

David's day job was at Wig America, then at Hansen-Fontana, a wig shop on Powell St. The news item on the right reports that Desiree has opened her own shop and gives a "shout-out" to support the new venture; unfortunately it's undated.

These scrapbooks detail the work, humor and dedication of a performer who sought to entertain, enlighten, and improve the community. With AIDS a very real presence at that time, Desiree's success was due in part to the fact that she provided what the community both desired and needed.

All Hormel Center archives are handled through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. For questions, please contact the San Francisco History Center reference desk at 415-557-4567.

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