Found footage emerges of a drag king and singer at San Francisco’s first lesbian bar

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The New Yorker has a great piece on how home movies from the past are telling about LGBT history and culture. One of the clips they share is from Mona’s Candle Light, a short film that made the round at festivals showing 10-minute footage from a 1950s drag king performance at the legendary San Francisco lesbian bar Mona’s 440 Club.

“A drag king called Jimmy Reynard introduces a chanteuse,” The New Yorker writes. “Female patrons with immaculate, gamine haircuts listen at tables; there is the twinkle of jewelry.” 

Outfest says the footage was “discovered at a flea market by Geoff Alexander of the Academic Film Archive of North America,” and highlights singer Jan Jensen performing show tunes like “I’ll Remember April,” “It Was Just One of Those Things,” and “Tenderly.” You can spot some women in suits sitting at tables, enjoying themselves. Sadly, Mona’s closed not long after, but it’s great to see this piece of lesbian herstory somehow survived.


Some of Mona’s Candle Light are included along with other gay home movies from the past in a new documentary, Reel in the Closet, from filmmaker Stu Maddux, available now on Vimeo.

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