Juanita More on Her Annual Pride Party and Booty Call Wednesdays
As one of the most recognizable figures in San Francisco's LGBT community, DJ/artist/fashion icon Juanita More makes her presence known wherever she goes, whether it's chatting up Jean Paul Gaultier at the De Young or hosting a Funky Chicken Dinner for charity. A DJ with an extensive arsenal of rare records, her trademark sound is a mix of disco and soul; she has residencies at venues such as Q Bar's Booty Call Wednesdays and New York's Vandem. This weekend, she hosts her 8th annual Pride Party, which runs from day to night and spans multiple venues, with guests expected from all over the world. We recently spoke with More about her drag career, being a fashion icon, and what musical selections we'll hear at her famous event. The parties take place this Sunday at Chambers from 12:30 p.m. - 6 p.m. and at Jones from 3 p.m. to midnight.
Give us a short history of how you got into drag.
I've been a drag personality in San Francisco for 20 years. It started out as a Halloween joke, and has turned itself into its own glamorous monster. In all honesty, I love to help people, and that has a huge influence on where the inspiration for what I do comes from.
When did you start the DJ aspect of your career?
I first started DJing within the first few years of doing drag. I played a few cocktail hour parties and introduced people to my eclectic vinyl collection. I would crate records around and literally play whatever the hell I wanted. It wasn't as much about technique as it was style. And I have a lot of style. My vinyl collection includes great rare pieces of jazz, soul 45's and disco 12-inches.
You primarily spin house, techno, and disco at your parties. Why do you think these genres are associated closely with the L.B.G.T. community?
I think that there is a universal queer sound being played in mainstream clubs and bars that appeals to a wider L.G.B.T. audience. That sound is definitely generated through pop culture. I do list all of those genres as things I play -- but I have never been interested in mainstream culture. I was born a disco baby who grew up loving house music. So my ear still looks for those sounds when I am searching for new music to play.
Who are some of your musical inspirations and idols?
I have many music idols; Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Etta James, Dinah Washington... a long list of jazz artists for sure.
Who are some artists that have had a big impact on the drag culture for you?
Divine had the biggest influence on me growing up. I met her once after a performance in San Francisco when she was touring with the play The Neon Woman at the Alacazar Theatre. I remember thinking to myself that I just wanted the cast to take me away with them. It was my childhood dream of running away with the circus.
You're also known for your fashion and being a style icon. How do you choose what you're going to wear for each party where you perform or DJ?
I am a clothes whore, and have admittedly backed myself into a corner with the ideal that I only wear something once. I am fortunate enough to have a great friend and couturier in Mr. David, who helps me realize all of my fashion dreams.
You hold residencies from here to N.Y. to Seattle. Are the crowds generally the same in each city, or do they vastly differ from one another?
I would say that the crowds in the cities I play in are very similar. That would be attributed to the promoters that hire me. We are all in love with the same alternative things and have a mutual following between all of our cities.
What's one thing you think is missing in most DJ booths?
The consistent thing I find missing in DJ booths is adequate room for your stuff. Booths are being built as small and tight as possible. So a place for me to put my cocktail and purse are generally scarce.
You also do Booty Call Wednesdays at Qbar, which has been running for quite a while. Take us through a typical Wednesday night there, for those that haven't been.
Joshua J. and I are going on five years at Booty Call Wednesdays. What we planned on doing from the start is still continuing to grow and happen today. We basically wanted to bring art to the Castro. At the time, pop culture ruled the Castro, with its Britney-this and Madonna-that. So I celebrated what I thought had to be shared, which was to be creative and living, breathing, and working in our own fabulous city. When you are young and move to S.F., the Castro is a very convenient place to be. But it is also such a small subculture of our queer community. With our weekly photo booth backdrops at Booty Call, we invite different local artists each week to feature their work. That alone has influenced and inspired many other parties and events. We have also showcased hundreds of DJs from across the states and around the world. They always ask me, what do I want them to play, and my answer is always the same -- play what you love!
Every year you host a huge Pride Party. Tell us a little about the music that will be played there.
My Pride Party is definitely music-driven. Since the party starts during the day and outdoors, I've always loved the music to be full of life and fun. I want to hear things I recognize and things from the past that bring good feelings to everyone. As dusk starts I want the music to get heavier and darker. This year the lineup is sick. Starting with the girls from Stay Gold, Sparber, the boys from Honey Soundsystem, Kim Ann Foxman, and House of Stank. The music is going to build and tell a story. I've planned it that way.