The Santas Are Back at Marlena's, and They Are Gloriously Creepy
It's been about a week since the annual Santa-splosion has happened at Marlena's, the gay/dive bar on the main drag in Hayes Valley. This year brings 1,400 Santas of varying shapes, sizes, and species, literally everywhere you look in the small room -- hanging from the ceiling, chilling on every imaginable surface, laid out like ancient kings in the crypt-like display case in the back. Some are animatronic. Quite a few of them have wings. According to Hayeswire, owner Garry "Marlena Empress XXV" McLain has been building his collection for the past two decades, and estimates that 80 percent of the impressive stock has been donated from friends near and far.
Anna Roth This picture only captures a small fraction of the collection.
We stopped by Marlena's to see what it would be like drinking with nearly 3,000 Santa Claus eyes on us. It turned out to be a half charming, half unsettling experience -- it probably would have been more in the creepy camp if the jukebox had been playing Christmas carols instead of a random collection of songs like Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" and Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca." As it was, it was a perfectly weird way to get into the holiday spirit over a $4 happy hour microbrew. Not that we'd expect any less from San Francisco.
Children are allowed in the bar until 5 p.m. every day, so feel free to give them a dose of the holiday magic. After that, it's just a bunch of adults drinking with a bunch of dolls. Merry Christmas!