Last week, Billy Francesca debuted “House of Work,” a new night at Ultra Suede thrown with Rick K, bringing Francesca’s whimsical and carnivalesque style to a home that used to host a relatively standard hip hop night on Wednesdays. It is certainly a curious move for Francesca, who already hosts the successful “Dance Bitch” party on Friday nights, down the street at Fubar. The Wednesday night West Hollywood landscape already appears to be sufficiently crowded, with karaoke at Fiesta Cantina, and busy dance floors surrounded by sweaty, sultry go-go dancers at “Garage” at Here Lounge and “Hot Rod” at Micky’s.
So why did Francesca choose to expand his glittery, fabulicious empire and venture into Wednesdays? According to the “Bearded Lady” himself, “I write and perform in plays, and Wednesday is always my favorite day to do them. By Wednesday people are climbing the walls for a middle of the week show. And I love the idea of turning Wednesdays into that…kind of a hump day stunt to get you through Thursday and Friday.”
Francesca had a clear vision for what that "hump day" entertainment would entail. “I wanted a show for the night. I wanted choreographed dance numbers, I wanted aerialists, I wanted more dance numbers, I wanted a runway, videos, the whole she-bang, and the space at Ultra Suede allows me to do that and transform that space like no one has done before.”
As for why he brought his “House” to Ultra Suede, Francesca playfully insists, “I live for that space. When I first moved here 150 years ago, Ultra Suede was doing Club 80s and of course I lived there every week, and I always always wanted that space.” Thus Francesca swooped in with his lithe dancers, colorful decorations, and a supersized runway.
Francesca’s first week of “House of Work” was well attended, though any freshly launched party should start off with a bang and attract at least a decent sized crowd curious to see what’s new in Weho. And most promoters understand that it’s the second week that can be the real testament to the party’s long term success, and the third and fourth weeks that are truly indicative of a night’s lifespan.
Francesca’s proposed plan for success indicates he’s actively working to attract a crowd that’s different than the warblers who flock to Fiesta for cheap drinks and a chance on the mic, and those who head to Here or Micky’s. “I wanted a night that had a crowd that wants to go out and dance their ass off,” he says, “maybe show off a bit on the runway and be in a place where all the young dancers are ki ki-ing around the club.”
Though the “Dance Bitch” party draws a dance-loving crowd of mixed ages, Francesca likely won’t be able to drag all of his Friday night fans out to dance two nights earlier, when the going out crowd typically skews younger. Partnering with the MSA Agency, one of the largest agencies for dancers and choreographers on the West Coast, indicates his seriousness in aggresively targeting the dancer community.
Francesca definitely has an uphill battle to fight. West Hollywood has seemed only capable of hosting a certain number of busy Wednesday night parties at a time, and the location across the street from Here Lounge’s very popular “Garage” party makes it an even more interesting situation. Before “House” opened, guests would often wander between Micky’s “Hot Rod” and Here’s “Garage,” an exchange that the previous hip hop party didn’t seem to share. Francesca might be able to attract some of these transient partiers to his “House” but it is imperative he also brings out an entirely new crowd to fill his venue.
On top of that, Paul Nicholls and Woody Woodbeck, the promoters of “Garage,” are savvy and competitive promoters who have previously proven their ability to defend their party’s popular status. When Micky’s official re-opening threatened to divert the crowd from their party almost a year ago, Nicholls and Woodbeck stepped up their game and extended the open bar, instituted a midnight go-go dancer strip down, and announced a brilliantly simple late night cash prize raffle. It’s hard to imagine that a party located too close to “Garage” could thrive without mimicking at least one of these tricks or wouldn't provoke Nicholls and Woodbeck into upping the ante.
But Francesca appears to view his party as essentially new and non-competitive noting, "I still have my hot go-go boys and a few surprises for May, but I think what makes my night different is the over-the-top pageantry.”
And the “over-the-top pageantry” definitely does make “House” a one-of-a-kind Wednesday experience. It is good to finally see Francesca out from behind the DJ booth where he usually lives at “Dance Bitch” and roaming the dance floor or working the runway. Unlike the karaoke or “Hot Rod” or “Garage” parties, “House” has the unique reflection of the promoter’s wildly colorful personality on it; without Francesca, this party could not live the way it does, and he seems genuinely comfortable slinking through diva-ish postures on the stage, with a seemingly endless library of expressions and modeling poses. If you don’t like drag queens, “fierceness,” flamboyance, Francesca or “Paris is Burning”—the inspiration for the party as evidenced by the night’s name, you simply won’t like “House of Work.”
Besides bringing over the dancers from Fubar’s “Dance Bitch” to join him on the runway, Francesca also has enlisted drag queen Rhea Litre’, and MSA choreographers to bring new numbers to “House” each week. In a characteristically dramatic vow, Francesca swears he “won’t rest ‘till Paula Abdul comes in and sees us do a “Vibeology” number.”
It would be nice to see Francesca also unleash Nadine on the runway, the remarkably talented female dancer from his Friday night party to mix things up a bit. To reinforce the hot homoeroticism of their nights, “Hot Rod” and “Garage” only use male dancers on their go-go boxes, and “House’s” pansexual fashion show feel seems like a knock-out, flexible minx would thrill “the kids” even more.
Because we couldn’t resist asking for a final Francesca-created image, we asked what sort of concoction “House of Work” would be if it were a cocktail. Francesca replied, “A supermodel martini: vodka, splash of cran, splash of lime, Barbie doll holding on to the side of the glass….and by glass I mean fish bowl…”
House of Work is Wednesday nights at Ultra Suede, 661 North Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, 90069, 310-659-4551