The Lavender Half-Hour

Thursdays on KALW are queer, and the Oakland Box goes black once again.

Notice a rainbow glow from your radio? Not since 1982-1987, when lesbian-gay radio shows Fruit Punch and Traffic Jam both aired weekly on Berkeley’s KPFA, has more than one locally produced gay-and-lesbian-themed show graced the airwaves. But with KALW’s new fifteen-minute Out in the Bay joining KALX’s half-hour Straightjacket gay arts program (returning to Mondays at noon sometime in November), Bay Area airwaves will again offer bountiful commentary.

Out in the Bay is the offspring of cohosts Eric P. Jansen and David Latulippe. Jansen, with fifteen years of print and broadcast journalism under his belt, originally pitched an hour-long interview show to KALW and KQED three years ago. Two years later, the proposal took on new life. When a fifteen-minute time slot temporarily opened in KALW’s schedule on Thursdays at 7:45 p.m., the two teamed up with fellow FrontRunner and producer Susanna J. Hines and comedienne Marilyn Pittman, whose frequently irreverent comedy caps the evening.

The meat of the show is an eight- to ten-minute interview. October 7’s debut segment featured a consistently entertaining interview with Trevor Hailey, a whiskey-voiced woman who has led walking tours of the Castro neighborhood since 1989.

“I hope straight people will listen,” Jansen says. “In the same way that white people frequently tune in to the Tavis Smiley Show, we want people to learn about a community and issues they may not have regular contact with. But it won’t be the ‘same old hat.'”

Future segments include a look at a four-year UC San Francisco study on the tobacco industry targeting of the lesbian and gay community. Among topics likely for discussion are an R.J. Reynolds project that targeted gay men in the Castro and homeless men in the Tenderloin, and the discovery that so-called “gay leaders” were recruited to promote tobacco interests.

Hines is producing a piece on lesbian and gay foster kids, and another on issues for people born with anatomies not considered standard. Also on her agenda is how the East Bay, home to the largest lesbian and gay African-American population in Northern California, remains in the shadow of San Francisco. Jansen’s mouth is watering over his interview with Bayview-Hunters Point SFPD cop Lenny Broberg, equally visible in the law enforcement and leather communities. November’s Thanksgiving segment promises insight into how members of the lesbian and gay community often eat turkey not with their family of origin, but with their chosen family.

After its three-month pilot run, Out in the Bay might morph into a longer show. Meanwhile, with KALW’s Thursday evening line-up including AIDS Update at 7:30, Out in the Bay at 7:45, and the nationally-syndicated This Way Out at 8, it’s lavender night on public radio. — Jason Victor Serinus

Down, Maybe Not Out

The Oakland Box has faded to black. The much-loved arts venue faced what proved to be an insurmountable challenge, namely raising $100,000 in three weeks to cover the renovation costs and permit fees needed to bring its building up to code. An eleventh-hour fund-raising drive brought in nearly $15,000, but that still left the Boxers short of their goal. Cofounder Laura DuBois plans to keep the facility’s nonprofit status in the hopes of returning with a new venue in 2005.

But while the arts community has lost a valuable resource in the short term, Oakland continues to bubble. New restaurants or bars, some of which also feature music, continue to pop up on what seems like a daily basis.

Down on 5th Street, just off Broadway, Breks Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge has just opened. And on 17th Street between San Pablo and Telegraph, a new spot called @Seventeenth, an upscale dance club featuring neo-soul and R&B hits, recently celebrated its grand opening.

But the musical crown jewel appears to be Luka’s Taproom and Lounge, which has set up shop on West Grand, at the site of the old Hof Brau. The place, which is practically unrecognizable from its former self, boasts a full bar, tasty bar food, and full meals. Its amenities include an elevated DJ booth, a dancefloor, and a pool room, which hints at its potential to be the new hip joint. Luka’s has already hosted an off-the-chain party for Warrior center Adonal Foyle, and has begun to lock down its entertainment schedule. Oakland blues legend Birdlegg is slotted for Wednesdays, and Thursdays is Caribbean DJ night. On Saturdays, DJ Wisdom, aka Papi Chocolate, and rotating guest DJs bring authentic Frisco club flavor to the O. As the DJ, who lives nearby, explained, “I’ve been wanting to do something on this side of the bay for the longest, but the venue hasn’t been right.”

Of course, all of these new spots present a decidedly more upscale vibe than the Box’s distinctive grassroots flavor. But before you scream “gentrification alert,” be aware that much of that void could be picked up by community-oriented venues such as Oaklandish and the Oakland Noodle Factory, both of which have stepped up their bookings as of late. And if this trend continues, chances are, when the Box does return, it will return to a much stronger nightlife scene than the one it left. — Eric K. Arnold

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