Baloney – documentary on San Francisco’s Gay Male Burlesque Troupe
Baloney is a no-holds-barred documentary chronicling 18 months in the life of a mostly male, mostly naked, very erotic San Francisco burlesque troupe called, Baloney. Queer artist Michael Phillis realized that “his worst day as an artist was still better than his best day as a tech manager.” So, he quit his day job, not just to create art, but to connect with other artists, many of whom work in jobs similar just to cover the cost of living in America’s expensive queer mecca.
This is an interesting behind the scenes documentary on what it takes to put on a performance, spotlighting everything from choreography to outfits, and how to keep the audiences coming back for more. Michael Phillis is the brains behind the concept, along with his partner if life and work, Rory Davis. Phillis woke up one day and decided his dead end tech job was not making him happy. In fact, it was depressing him. So, he and Rory came up with the concept and stormed forward to make it happen. It’s great to see so many different body types and also representation from female and straight males, despite the name of the show itself. The show is more about performance art and sketch comedy than outright nudity, however those seeking skin will be satisfied as well. As with most everything, they were shutdown due to COVID, and again became creative by bringing the troupe outdoors to the fans by way of some unique fundraising initiatives. Let’s hope this continues for a while, and perhaps franchises out to other cities.
Thus, Baloney, the performance troupe, was born — a classic variety show combined with burlesque, using theater, dance, and strip tease to explore and celebrate queer sexuality and life experience. Michael, together with his life partner Rory Davis, have been delighting and surprising audiences for years, and this documentary offers up an under-the-covers look at the real life people who create and perform the show, and a behind the scenes view into all of the hard work that goes into putting on this powerful and beautifully produced professional theatrical production.
Ahead of Baloney’s VOD debut, director Joshua Guerci shared what Baloney means to him as a filmmaker and a human. “Looking at the world today, I’m proud of Baloney because it challenges the prevailing narrative that sexuality is something to be ashamed of. Opponents to equality want to push LGBTQ identities back into the closet and this film demonstrates how queer identity is the entire lived experience of a person beyond what people do behind closed doors. I hope when people watch the film, it sparks a conversation about how we learn to be more like our authentic selves. I made Baloney to look beyond the coming out and the process. The Baloney journey explores not just who you love but how we love each other and ourselves.”
With Baloney about to be released to the world, co-creators Michael Phillis and Rory Davis shared, “After doing the show live onstage for the past 8 years, it’s thrilling to see Baloney reach an international audience through Joshua’s documentary. Our hope is that young queer adults will see the movie, connect to the show, and know that they’re not alone. There’s a wonderful world of underground queer performance out there and your chosen family is waiting for you.”
While moderating the screening at Outfest Los Angeles, Drag Race star BenDeLaCreme enthused, “Baloney feels very much related to drag. There really is a relationship between Baloney, drag, and indie filmmaking that’s all about being scrappy and making everything happen yourself and being all hands on deck to make the art be what it needs to be. That’s something really beautiful and relatable and exciting and I love that it’s uniquely San Francisco.”
The clothing optional documentary made its world premiere at Frameline and went on to inspire audiences at Outfest Los Angeles, Seattle Queer Film Festival, Cinema Diverse Palm Springs, Winnipeg Reel Pride Film Festival, TLVFest: Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival, Boston Wicked Queer LGBTQ+ Film Festival, and Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. At RuPaul’s DragCon Los Angeles, the film is nominated for Best Documentary.
Baloney debuts June 7 across North America and will be available on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Spectrum, and in Demand. Baloney was directed, produced and shot by Joshua Guerci in his feature debut. Marc Smolowitz (Being BeBe, Transfinite) produced. Available from Gravitas Ventures.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.