Bubbles at Sunset Camp Out 2017

Bubbles at Sunset Camp Out 2017 (Photo: Robin Russell/Sunset Sound System)

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San Francisco’s LGBTQ scene was reeling Monday after Bubbles, a local DJ, artist and queer activist was shot to death over the weekend near a Tenderloin strip club. The incident has led one San Francisco Supervisor to call for the club, the New Century theater, to be investigated.

San Francisco Police say an unknown assailant shot Bubbles near the New Century theater around 2:50am Saturday morning. Doctors pronounced Bubbles dead at the hospital.

Police said on Monday that they believe — so far — that the shooting was not a hate crime.

On Sunday, social media lit up with remembrances of the beloved character, known for being a ubiquitous presence in San Francisco’s nightlife with dreadlock wigs, outrageously tight shirts, oversized sunglasses and a handlebar mustache.

“My heart is breaking for Bubbles,” wrote LGBT activist Tom Temprano on Facebook. “They brought so much energy and light to our nightlife community and are truly irreplaceable.”

Bubbles, 44, was born Anthony Torres but 20 years ago took on the non-gender-conforming alter ego, often going by the pronoun “they.” Bubbles said in an interview that the persona was a product of San Francisco because in the city “you can get away with doing this.”

“It’s an escape from every mundane day, and San Francisco allows me to do that,” Bubbles told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012.

Bubbles, poolside
Bubbles at a hot springs. (via Facebook)

48 Hills editor and Bubbles’ former roommate Marke Bieschke says that before the alter ego, Bubbles dressed up only a few nights a week, “satisfied with it as an occasion for dress-up.” But after Bubbles moved out, he resurfaced as the Bubbles the full-time performer.

“The defining characteristic of Bubbles was freedom. Everything that you might question yourself doing, Bubbles would immediately go for it,” Bieschke said. “It was exhilarating and shocking and sometimes scary to watch.”

But even before he moved to the city, Bubbles was out and fearless. Marcus Wilson, also known as the Seattle-based drag performer Ursula Android, said he grew up with Bubbles in Phoenix, Arizona. The two attended junior high school together, and Wilson says that Bubbles dressed outrageously and never let the predictable bullying bring him down.

“Anthony was who I desperately wanted to be, but couldn’t even imagine having the courage to be. Anthony got taunted, chased, beaten up, threatened, and suspended on an almost daily basis, and somehow he really couldn’t care less, even then,” Wilson wrote on Facebook. “Anthony’s self-confidence and innate belief in theirself was truly awe-inspiring.”

In San Francisco, Bubbles became a fixture in the city’s nightlife. They could be seen DJing at a club, selling “tranny snow cones” on the street, or just being a character in the middle of the night.

“Someone recently shared a video of Bubbles pretending to vacuum a piece of the Tenderloin at 3am, re-enacting Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free‘ video,” Bieschke said.

Bubbles once considered leaving San Francisco after being gay-bashed in 2008, but stayed anyway. Yet at the end of September, Bubbles expected to move to Berlin — which captured the longtime San Franciscan’s imagination as a place where “people still partied like we did in the ’90s.”

Instead of a going-away party, Bubbles’ friends will hold a moment of silence at this Wednesday’s Housepitality, the weekly dance party Bubbles was most associated with.

“We will never forget the amazing art show he produced for us and all the wonderful moments of fun crazyness and weird that he provided us on our dancefloor, outside of our door and in the scene in general,” the promoters of Housepitality wrote.

New Century Investigation

San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim says she’s investigating the New Century Theater, near where Bubbles’ body was found. Kim believes the strip club may be connected to a fatal shooting this weekend, and she says that residents have told her that the New Century Theater contributes to crime on the block.

“They believe that you know they either don’t act as a steward of the block and allow the drug dealing to go on,” Kim said.

Kim also said her investigation could lead to the removal of one of New Century’s business permits.

Additional reporting provided by Sonja Huston.

Death of Local Character Bubbles Leads to Investigation of Strip Club 13 September,2017Kevin L. Jones

  • Kevin Smith

    So nice, to live the easy life of a glitter queen in San Francisco, on public assistance. Jane Kim ought to investigate that. Why should party queens be supported by the taxpayers ?

    • CW1

      You’re a horrid, putrid “human being” #sociopathic c*nt

  • Jonathan Wright

    So Jane Kim wants to investigate a business because she doesnt like the type
    Of business it is and threatens thier permits while having no powerr to do so….. has she bothered to look at the other problematic businesses in the area? New Century has a good reputation with thr Police and. Neighborhood so might wanna not project your victorian values on SF Mz Kim

    • Athena Pantazis

      She should do all the investigations necessary to get to the bottom of this Murder! 💯🚨 If the club jas nothing to hide then they shouwelcome the investigation to clear their reputation and their name. Maybe you are worried of what she might uncover in her investigation?? Real Is Rate 🤦‍♀️🤳🏼

      • Jonathan Wright

        Ew. Entury has been there far longer than Mz Kim has. Een alive and will be there long past her tenure… they employ former SFPD and if you walk past that club day or night and look at that part of the Tenderloin you will see that is the inly part of the block NOT covered by loitering drug dealers and homeless so lets be real and go after the real culprits… and yes from my understanding the club is cooperating with SF PD in the investigation by turning over video footage that will help show Bibbles was on a tirade right before being shot and other ‘surprising’ evidence.

  • Naomi de Bord

    As far as I know Bubbles prefered to be called “HE”, so I am pretty sure this article is wrong and has a different agenda with the “they” remark. And also this WAS clearly a hate crime contrary to this article. Whoever wrote this please do your research. I thought KQED was better than this. RIP BUBBLES

  • George Ford
  • George Ford

    A recent article on SFIST and other news agencies stated “Alleged killer” and other ridiculous “facts” or statements like “The police aren’t releasing any information about a suspect” Really!? There were a dozen witnesses who witnessed the whole thing and said that the guy works at the door of the strip club as a bouncer. Those guys have the police in their pocket btw I’ve personally seen 2 guys chased down and beaten to a pulp upon being ejected from this club, drunk talking smack ( By about 20 men in black garb and black leather gloves btw). Then the cops show up, all the men go back inside the club and the cops take the badly bleeding 2 ejected patrons to jail never even questioning any of these 20 men who appeared and disappeared back into the club just as quick as they appeared!
    Now, here we are in the case of the cold blooded hate filled murder of Bubbles, down and across the street from the strip club, it was witnessed by a dozen people, one of which actually told me everything she witnessed from 5 feet away when I went to the scene at 5am Monday morning. She said there was a previous verbal altercation which continued near the space toilet where the Asian doorman knocked over Bubbles’ DJ equipment in which Bubbles “defended him/herself”. The guy then went and pulled a gun out and shot Bubbles 5 times in the chest. She said that Bubbles started saying, “Help, Help..” then died.
    I asked this girl if the cops arrested the guy who did it and she said something along the lines of, “Oh, they know who did it”, not answering yes or no to the question; which along with the fact that the news took so long to report it and the police have yet to release a suspect name or arrest information if there is any at all, and the fact that they are so adamantly denying any ties to being a homophobic hate crime, leads me to believe that there is something fishy and not quite normal going on with the “investigation”. As I stated before, this place is known to have the SFPD “in their pocket” so to speak so I wouldn’t put it past the cops to allow the suspect and the other employees of the club to develop some fictitious sort of back story to cover up and allow the shooter/killer/cold-blooded murderer to possibly get away with the crime! Or, at the very least, to try to have the DA offer some sort of “deal” due to the “complicated circumstances” surrounding the 15 to 30 minutes leading up to the eventual shooting and murder of the obviously beloved San Francisco fixture and icon Bubbles Bubblesynski.
    Anthony Torres, aka Bubbles, obviously made quite the impression on those around San Francisco AND the world it seems, as every time I have driven by the scene and the makeshift memorial since, there have been dozens of people there mourning, crying, and tending to the memorial and sharing their stories about Bubbles. It is an obvious and truly sad loss of someone so unique and bubbly that so obviously changed and impacted the lives of many clearly for the better. The ability to make those around you smile and laugh at all times is clearly a gift that Bubbles had with myself and many others no matter how terrible and down my life or mentality had been! He will be missed and hopefully there will be justice. If not, isn’t that what the city is known for?! Fighting for Justice?! In a so-called “Sanctuary City”, not only for illegal immigrants but for transgenders, homosexuals, and ALL people, it’s no wonder the police and media are trying to cover this up so that the media and social media can’t run away with it! The image of our “Sanctuary City”, I guess, is more important than the truth! There is obviously still a present hate and prejudice alive and well, yes, even here in San Francisco that is clearly proven here in the case of Bubbles

  • bear on the peaks

    Jane Kim is talking about this murder as if it were some kind of isolated incident. People get murdered every day and evert night in the Tenderloin. And why do self-identified “progressives” and “liberals” exhalt Jane Kim when her term in City Hall has been distinguished by the obscene escalation of housing costs and street crime? Tomorrow and the next day, more prople will be shot and stabbed in the Tenderloin. Shame on Jane Kim!

Author

Kevin L. Jones

Kevin Jones reports on the Bay Area arts scene for KQED. He loves his wife and two kids, and music today makes him feel old.