Last evening it was my delight to attend and perform at our Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners Volunteer Appreciation party held at Manny’s, here in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. In addition to being surprised with a certificate from California State Senator Scott Weiner himself (!!!), I had the opportunity to share with my fellow volunteers just what it means to me personally to stand there and sing for three hours at every holiday dinner we serve.
Performing for this beautiful community charity immediately takes me back to my childhood, growing up the child of a Protestant minister. Caring for the needy was something that I saw my father do as a day-to-day activity, not just on holidays. I can remember so many years when my father arrived home late for Christmas Eve dinner, because he was out delivering fruit baskets to shut-ins and the elderly. My father made charity an action as a minister, and that is precisely what we do at Tenderloin Tessie Dinners.
Another personal association I have with TT is that my mother was the church organist and frequent vocal soloist when I was growing up. So to channel my dear mom – who is a very big fan of Vanessa’s, by the way! – by assuming the role of church lady/singer person for this organization is incredibly special to me. From watching my mother’s example when I was a child, I learned the important role that music has in healing and inspiring people from every station of life. Sharing the gift of music and my singing with our guests at TT continues my mother’s legacy of music and ministry, of which I am so proud.
I am particularly grateful to TT President Michael Gagne for discovering my early efforts with creating Vanessa Bousay and for his continued encouragement and support of my performing life. I have often said that there would be no Vanessa Bousay were it not for the opportunity to bring her to life in such an organic incubator as TT. I thank you, Michael Gagne, from the bottom of my heart for the joy of being your “songstress” for Tenderloin Tessie Dinners. It is a role that I hold very dear.
Thanks to everyone involved in making last evening’s event so special. I am so proud to be part of this extraordinary love machine with all of you. We are all in this together and it is quite an amazing family to be a part of. Much love to all!
Every year on Mother’s Day it is my wonderful privilege to host a benefit show for Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners. This over 40 year, 100% volunteer organization feeds the homeless and marginalized of San Francisco family-style meals every Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Vanessa has the unique delight of singing and entertaining at every single dinner. It is a sheer joy to be part of this wonderful organization that does such tangible good for so many people.
Thank you to everyone who came out to Martuni’s this Mother’s Day evening to contribute so generously to this cause. TT President Michael Gagne and I co-hosted the show, joined at the piano by the ever-brilliant Tom Shaw,and Absolute Empress LI Emma Peel as guest soloist & door hostess. Boy did Emma know how to work that tip jar at Martuni’s! Thanks to her magic and all of your generosity, I gifted Tenderloin Tessie with the largest donation we have ever generated from a Mother’s Day show. A wonderful evening, indeed!
On Sunday March 24 it was Vanessa and Erik’s very great honor to appear at a dinner gala for the San Francisco Opera Guild, East Bay Chapter at the Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland. With the expert accompanying of Tom Shaw at piano, Vanessa began the program with a selection of her signature songs. Then midway, with the assistance of former general manager of SF Opera, David Gockley, Vanessa performed an onstage transformation to Erik. Erik then finished the evening with classic Italian songs and baritone opera arias. What a night!
Special thanks to my dear friend Elizabeth Green-Sah for inviting me to appear at the event and for her tireless efforts to make it such a special evening. I am also most grateful to SFO-EBC board president Silvia Lin for all of her support, as well as to board members Florence McConnell and Pamela Philbert. Sold-out weeks in advance, An Evening At The Cabaret was a huge success for all.
On a very personal note, I must acknowledge that this program represented quite a daunting challenge to me as a stage performer. To inhabit the character of Vanessa Bousay — both physically and through her music — presents its own unique requirements. But to transform onstage to Erik and be suddenly stripped of Vanessa’s facade was indeed a very vulnerable feeling. Especially since Erik then immediately launched into full-on operatic baritone repertoire. Although the voice production is the same for both Vanessa & Erik, their respective music and dramatic ethos represent two extremely different characters. Never has the contrast of my two singing stage personas been on more full and extravagant display than here with the San Francisco Opera Guild. An Evening At The Opera Cabaret, indeed!
Shamrocks, rainbows, pots of gold…our Sunday March 10 Irish Eyes show had it all for St. Patrick’s Day celebrating. Just one week ahead of the big March 17 date, we filled Martuni’s with the luck-o-the Irish in song. Thanks to Tom Shaw for his expert accompanying – as always – and to my dear Carol Hull for her cheeky door hostessing.
I must say that the magical, mystic music of this particular show truly takes my breath away. It was such a delight to sing “Danny Boy” once again, and my favorite moment of the evening was our seamless musical segue from “Evergreen” to “Bein’ Green”…why not? Many thanks to everyone who came out to support Tom and me and to get your St. Patrick’s Day groove on early. See you back at Martuni’s in May for our Mother’s Day Tenderloin Tessie benefit show!
Vanessa’s first solo show of 2019 was a real hootenanny of an old-school country western cabaret – what a way to start the new year! Thank you to everyone who came out to support the show and to share in all the down-home fun. I was joined on the OASIS stage by co-star Steven Satyricon, Tom Shaw at piano and Steven Bolinger on drums & guitar. We sang and strummed our way through songs of the most legendary country divas & divos of all time: Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Johnny Cash & Glenn Campbell – just to name a few. A real highlight of the evening for me was getting to wear so many gorgeous sequined dresses with some serious FRINGE action goin’ on…and of course, such big hair! Vanessa truly is an old-school 60’s country diva at heart, afterall. I am so glad y’all came!
“Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…” – unless they are as HOT as my friend Steven Satyricon! Steven was absolutely a force of nature onstage in our Oasis Country Roads show. Classic cowboy suits his very natural, sharp-shooter stage presence and easy, laid-back voice. In fact, there would have been no country music show for Vanessa had Steven not suggested it to me some time ago. I told him “I can’t sing country…I’m a propersinger!” And laughingly he replied, “Oh Vanessa, you are also a great storyteller – and that’s what country is all about.” I am so glad I listened to my Cowboy Satyricon’s advice and expanded Vanessa’s repertoire and performance genre range. Steven, you will always be my Rhinestone Cowboy, darlin!
“I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me…” Those words never rang more true than Christmas Day 2018 at Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Dinner. I am so proud to be part of this over forty-year, 100% volunteer phenomenon that feeds the homeless of San Francisco every Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. To create “home” for our dear guests is one of the greatest joys of my entire year. We seat and serve every table family-style, with each person being treated as a personal guest in our home. The energy in that big room of the First Unitarian Universalist Center is absolutely electric, and as one fellow volunteer expressed after this year: “if you can’t feel the love and happiness here, you should go see your doctor!” Truly, it is better to give than to receive, and I shall always consider Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners home-base for my heart and my better self as a human on this planet. Much love to all of our friends at TT and HAPPY HOLIDAYS all year ’round!
Monday December 10, 2018 was a delightful day for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco’s annual docent holiday party. Thank you to Elizabeth Green-Sah for the invitation to perform for this lovely group of people at a most elegant venue. At Elizabeth’s request, Vanessa transformed into Erik Chalfant right before the audience’s very eyes, with the keen assistance of Dr. Jay Xu, Director of AAM San Francisco. This special moment only punctuated the gender-fluid aesthetic of numerous Asian deities housed in the museum’s collections. The program ended with a rousing audience sing-along led by Erik, which included familiar Christmas songs, Chanukah tunes and even a Kwaanza folk song. Tom Shaw at piano was as articulate and fabulous as ever. Happy Holidays to all of my new friends at AAM!
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go…” Indeed, the season of giving arrived in the most fabulous packaging at the doors of Tenderloin Tessie’s 2018 Christmas Cabaret show, last Friday November 30. With my dear friend and co-host Michael Gagne (President of TT), we featured an array of local performing talents who ushered in the holidays with humor, variety and generosity of spirit and funds. A big, heart-felt Tenderloin Tessie THANK YOU to Sister Roma, Sister Bella Donna Summer, Bebe Sweetbriar, Mutha Chucka, Absolute Empress LI Emma Peel, Grand Duchess XXXVI Davida Ashton, Kippy Marks, Terry Gauchat, Steven Satyricon, Forest McDonald, Laura Simpson, James Campbell, Sergio Fedasz and John Hull for contributing your time and talents to our show this year. And of course, thank you to all of our friends and TT family who came out to support our cause so generously. To donate to Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners please send your contribution to: TTHD 2261 Market Street, #494 San Francisco, CA 94114
Singing for Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners is always the best part of my holiday seasons. Thanksgiving Day 2018 was no exception. I am simply amazed by the energy of this over 40 year, 100% volunteer organization that makes its sole mission to feed the homeless and most marginalized members of our community. The joy is in giving, my friends, and the love that flows between all of us volunteers with each other and with our guests is a sight to behold. My personal delight is standing at the microphone on stage and watching the afternoon unfold, table by table served family style, one life touched at a time. If you have not had the unique opportunity of giving of your time and heart to Tenderloin Tessie, please contact our President Michael J. Gagne at email@example.com for information about how you can be a part of our great big loving family.