Bad Boys of Fashion comes to historic Castro Theater in San Francisco

Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
Jessica Rabbit and Meryl Streep in the same film festival? Refined and regal San Francisco socialite Denise Hale on the same stage with in-your-face "Project Runway" designers Santino Rice and Jeffrey Sebelia?
What possible kind of film festival could this be?

Why, a Fabulous Fashion in Film Festival, an eight-day, 20-film camp-fest beginning this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, courtesy of producer Marc Huestis.

When Huestis gets jazzed to put on an event, he gives it all he's got. For the past decade, his "Extravaganza" productions, featuring classic diva movies and personal appearances by Hollywood heavyweights such as Jane Russell, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller, Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee, among others, have drawn enthusiastic crowds to the Castro.

Sebelia is the tattooed, formerly homeless punk rocker whose leather-and-lace sensibility and talent for flair and fit won him the top prize on the hit Bravo reality series last season. He's working for himself, putting out his label of rocker chic clothing, Cosa Nostra. Rice, the one everyone loved to hate, who is a skilled dressmaker and showed a final collection of feminine chiffon and satin cocktail dresses, made it to the top three finalists the season before. Both men were hits with viewers; both were full of talent and full of themselves.

"Jeffrey and Santino are bad boys and that is so San Francisco," Huestis says. "We like alternative, edgy characters, and we love old movies, so why should they be mutually exclusive?"

This is the first fashion film festival Huestis has produced and seems to be the only one ever produced in San Francisco. It's not your ordinary fashion film festival. Huestis didn't waste time including some of the more obvious choices, like Robert Altman's "Pret-a-Porter,' for example. Why not?

"Because it's not a very good movie," Huestis said the other day over a grilled ham and cheddar sandwich. "I love Sophia Loren's hats in it, but the movie just doesn't hold up."

But "The Women" does. The 1939 classic is scripted by Clare Booth Luce and features costumes by the great Adrian, who first gave Joan Crawford her doublewide shoulder pads. It opens the festival on Friday night.

"Joan Crawford's gold glittering gown toward the end of the film is worth the price of admission," Huestis says. Other films include "Mahogany," "Velvet Goldmine," "My Fair Lady," "The Wizard of Oz," "Barbarella," "Funny Face," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "The Devil Wears Prada."

He's been starstruck since he can remember. His mother was a flamenco dancer and a stripper; his father was a videotape editor for NBC and worked on the popular "Hullabaloo," the musical variety TV series of the mid-'60s. "My fondest memory of my mother is of us sitting on the couch together: She'd be sewing rhinestones on her costumes, and we'd watch films on 'Million Dollar Movie' on TV."

Instead of inviting the stars on opening night, Huestis will conduct onstage interviews with the "Project Runway" personalities, as well as host a local fashion design contest (with a $500 prize) to be judged by Hale, Sebelia, Rice and comedian Marga Gomez. Now, that's a first no matter how you slice it.

Huestis and Rice met through a casual MySpace e-mail exchange just a few months ago, and Rice and Sebelia are friends. Huestis has been friends with Hale for close to a decade. He loves her Serbian accent, he says, and her old Hollywood connections - she was once married to Vincente Minnelli. They will be judging 10 unknown designers Huestis found on Craigslist and through fashion schools.

Their assignment: to come up with one outfit inspired by a film, designer or director of their choice. He got 35 responses ("some were pretty flaky, let me tell you," he says) and narrowed it down to 10. One designer has created something inspired by the Chinese film "House of Flying Daggers." Another was inspired by the iconic black satin strapless gown Rita Hayworth wears in "Gilda."

"My criteria was that each designer had a very high level of enthusiasm for the idea, that their fashions represented the real population," Huestis says. "One of the designers is doing a size 16 dress. Fashion shouldn't just be for rich and thin women."

Well, isn't that where Hale comes in?

"Yes, I know that I am in that very small minority," she allows, "but I'm different, because I don't care about trends."

Besides, she says, "I like to do everything at least once. I'm curious. And, I'm the only link these young people have with the very end of the glamorous Hollywood empire, which I witnessed when I was married to Vincente. And I am the only one in San Francisco who is on the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame."

The festival closes on Aug. 3 with "Mahogany," the critically panned 1975 Diana Ross vehicle (she also designed the costumes), which tells the story of a young woman from the ghetto who longs to be a top fashion designer.

"All the queens will scream," Huestis says, "and we'll end on a happy note."

Bad Boys of Runway/Fabulous Fashion in Film Festival: Friday-Aug. 3. Opening-night gala, $15, $27.50, $55; other programs, $10. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F. Call (415) 863-0611 or go to .

Full listing of films and times -
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