Vanessa's Words of Wisdom

These are the musical moments of my life…


For almost 15 years it was my delight and joy to know Terry Gauchat. It is with a very heavy heart on this New Year’s Eve that I write this last blog post of the year, as a tribute to one of my dearest friends here in San Francisco. We lost Terry this December, just a few days after his appearance in our Christmas Cabaret show. In addition to being partner to Chris Franz and a loving daddy to their two adorable beagles, Terry was Vanessa’s exclusive photographer for the past five years and webmaster of this website that we created and built together. Words cannot express how saddened I am by Terry’s unexpected passing.

Terry absolutely loved appearing in our Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Cabaret show, and he did so the past three years. Always wanting to sing the same song each year, Terry performed a traditional Basque carol, “Gabriel’s Message”. With a sacred text about the angel Gabriel’s visitation to the Virgin Mary, it is a song of rejoicing for “the lady most highly favored”, and Terry sang it every time with such enthusiasm and delight.

That this song, sung for Tenderloin Tessie, would be the last public declaration from Terry says so much about him as a person. For Terry, the Christmas season was celebrated most authentically at Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners. He believed in our work so much and was always childlike in his preparation to perform for us. Now an angel himself, Terry will always be remembered by Tenderloin Tessie as “Gabriel”.

Terry performs “Gabriel’s Message” in 2018

Terry performs “Gabriel’s Message” in 2017

The joy of collaborating with my friend Terry as subject in front of his camera was an absolute delight. Terry was a genius with lighting and staging a photo. This website that we built together with all of the images we created is a living memorial and tribute to our work together. Although I have lost a cherished friend and a trusted collaborator, Terry’s vision lives on here at and in the hearts of those of us who had the honor of knowing and loving him. Terry’s heart was big, and his love of beauty, his friends and life is an example that I shall never forget. Rest In Peace, my angel Gabriel…Terry Gauchat.

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WHAT A LINEUP! Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Cabaret 2019

Our Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Cabaret show each year features a dazzling array of local San Francisco performing talent. I am so proud of the diverse and eclectic mix of performers that appear for us at this show, as that diversity reflects the broad, inclusive net that Tessie casts over this community. ALL who love are welcome…and they are not only welcome, but CELEBRATED. Thank you to all of our fabulous performers who appeared for us this year to raise money for this most beautiful, over 40 year San Francisco tradition.

Absolute Empress XXX Donna Sachet singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Kathy Holly and Jorge Martinez singing “Feliz Navidad” and “El Nino del Tambor” (The Little Drummer Boy)

Cecilia Palmtag singing “He Shall Feed His Flock” from Handel’s Messiah

Sister Bella Donna performing Whitney Houston’s electrifying “Joy To The World”

Absolute Empress LI Emma Peel performing “When You’re Good To Mama” from Chicago

Alotta Gender performing “Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney”

Lily Chandrasekher & Kevin Jenkins singing “That Holiday Feeling”

Mutha Chucka performing Bette Midler’s hysterical “One Night Only”

The Singers Of The Street perform “A Boogie Woogie Christmas”

Sister Roma & Michael Gagne perform “Roma The Magnificent” – a spoof on the the famous Johnny Carson sketch “Carnack The Magnificent” written & adapted by Vanessa’s hubby, Robert McLoud

Group Finale, “Let There Be Peace On Earth”

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My Drag Daughter “Eustazia”

Every now and then a friend of mine really surprises me…and it definitely takes a lot to surprise Vanessa! But when John Hull told me that he had a dream of performing in drag FOR THE FIRST time at age….well, we won’t mention that…..I was thrilled and in awe of his courage. THEN he told me that he wanted to perform for our Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Cabaret this year….THEN he asked me to be his drag mother! What an honor and  responsibility.

I must admit that with this very head-strong and willful daughter, Eustazia – “Euie” for short – I didn’t have a whole lot of work to do. John is a brilliantly creative artist in many areas, and I suppose the most support I gave him in his journey to discover his character was the platform of the show itself. The drag was a piece of cake for him. It was the opportunity to perform that I could provide. And boy, did Eustazia ever deliver! Her rendition of “Rudolph The Drag Queen Reindeer” was the perfect comic addition to the show, and she brought the house down with her hysterical patter. Brava Diva Eustzia!

On a deeper level, Eustazia’s presence in the show this year punctuates the magic of what make Tenderloin Tessie such a unique and real organization. We say that “all are welcome” at Tenderloin Tessie, and that is true not only with our guests who attend, but with those who choose to volunteer for us as well. Creating Eustazia gave my friend John Hull a chance to  to entertain and contribute in a way that was a sheer delight to him, and in so doing he brought joy to others. That is the soul of Tenderloin Tessie, you see. Everyone is valued, because everyone has something to offer in our family.

Much love to my drag daughter, Eustazia.

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The “Tessie’s Christmas Stuffing” Skit

What started as a simple, little slap-stick comic sketch has now become an inevitable tradition at our Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Cabaret show. With the mise en scene of filming a documentary movie, “Tessie’s Christmas Stuffing” chronicles the mishaps of serving anything at a Tenderloin Tessie dinner WITHOUT “The Love Spice”. Silly and entertaining as it is, the skit has a profound punch at the end that instantly brings home the whole message of the evening and of the charity itself.

This years cast included the inimitable Steven Satyricon as “The Producer”, Andrew Darling as “The Impulsive Volunteer”, Michael Gagne as “The Doctor” & Vanessa as “The Volunteer Cook”. Thank you Linda Lee for these fabulous candid shots from the skit this year.

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HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Tenderloin Tessie Christmas Cabaret 2019

2019 marks our third annual Christmas Cabaret benefit show for Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners. Co-hosting this spectacular evening with TT President Michael Gagne has become one of the highlights of my holiday season. It is a joy to plan the event all year, and to be assisted by so many volunteers who believe in our heart-felt mission. Special thanks once again this year to Sergio Fedasz for providing us with sound, Carla Nicholson with lighting, John Hull for providing us with props and staging needs, James Campbell & Max Schroeder for their talent at the piano, Forest McDonald on guitar, Eric Osborne and Martha Veille for serving us food/drink, Terry Gauchat & Elizabeth Green Sah for publicity/marketing and Linda Ostrom and Denise Gindoy at the door.

It takes a village to put up such a fabulous evening, and Tenderloin Tessie is a 100% volunteer organization that KNOWS HOW TO MAKE BIG THINGS HAPPEN! I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful, loving group of people. Thank you all for your hard work and for sharing your talent with our cause.

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UCSF Surgical Department Holiday Party

What a fun evening of musical merriment with my good friends “The Singing Surgeons” Dr. Laura Esserman and Dr. Sanziana Cosanziana. Thank you, lovely ladies, for inviting Vanessa to appear with you at your annual holiday party for surgeons from UCSF Medical Center. What fun we had singing carols acapella together and bringing some serious diva elevation to the party with our holiday ensembles. I love sharing the stage with you ladies, in whatever incarnation we all find ourselves….that’s what the stage is all about, oui? Merry Christmas to all!!!!

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AAM Holiday Hostess Extraordinaire

Another fabulous holiday luncheon for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco this year at The Metropolitan Club. Thank you Elizabeth Green Sah and Dr. Jay Xu for the invitation to again entertain at your celebration. With my ever-reliable Tom Shaw on piano, I performed a program of songs that told the story of Vanessa’s genesis as a performer, singing for Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners. My role with TTHD as a holiday hostess is one of the greatest delights of my year, and it was so wonderful to share about that joy with the storytellers of the AAM. Holiday cheer to all!

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Tenderloin Tessie Thanksgiving Day Dinner 2109

Yes indeed, the place to be happy is here on earth and the way to be happy is to to help make others happy. I just love that quote by Robert Ingersoll posted right outside of my dressing room door on Thanksgiving Day at Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinner. It was a beautiful reminder of precisely why I — and all of the volunteers who produce this annual event — keep coming back again and again.

For me personally, the metaphysical act of singing is my way of helping to make others happy. Music is such a powerful medium with which to communicate and to bring people together. My view from the microphone during the entire duration of this dinner is — every time — the most extraordinary sight to see. There is such joy in watching all of us volunteers bring tangible happiness and a real sense of belonging to those most needy at the holidays. I am honored and so proud to be part of an organization like Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners that does such good for so many. Much love to everyone in our great big extended TT family!

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HAIR TO STAY: The Diva Way

WHAT a night it was at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco on November 7, 2019. I was honored to co-host a beautiful annual gala for Hair To Stay: an organization that allows low-income chemo patients to keep their hair during treatments. A great cause and a FABULOUS show. I and my glamorous co-host, local drag chanteuse Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, wore stunning David More couture gowns for the entire evening. I also thought it the perfect occasion to bring out my BIGGEST hair, in keeping with the theme of the gala. Fabulous performances were given by headliner Isabel Leonard, Sylvie Jensen and Shawnette Sulker, sopranos, and singing surgeon divas Dr. Laura Esserman & Sanziana Roman. At the end of this most glamorous evening the announcement was made that we had raised over $100,000 for the Hair To Stay cause. Thank you to everyone who came out and gave so generously for the good and dignity of others.

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Birthday Diva COUTURE!

Thank God I was born a LEO…we cats of the Zodiac know how to have a damn good time! And on the occasion of one’s birthday, it is an especially grand time to pull out all the stops and rock one’s best looks. I find that shades of purple and gold particularly suit Vanessa’s royal Leonine persona, and that is precisely what I channeled in her stage couture for our August show. And about the black flowers on the gold sequin dress…they were both an hommage to Karl Lagerfeld and the Chanel camelia AND a good luck charm for daring to wear black on my birthday!

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