Katya Smirnoff-Skyy Goes Back to the Baths

By David Helton | Photos by Jose Guzman Colon

Native-born and raised in San Francisco, The Countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy has enthralled Bay area audiences for years with her unique blend of opera pop and booze. With a career spanning… a very, very long time… Katya claims to have invented Popera, romanced William Shatner, and lived next to John Lennon at the Dakota during her stint in New York City during the 1970’s. Once Eastern Europe’s greatest Mezzo-Soprano…understudy, the Countess now spends her days beautifying the masses at Macy’s Department store, as everyone’s favorite Chanel counter lady. She spends her evenings crooning and drinking her away through the finer theaters, bars and bath houses of America.

Join the countess on a voyage through Operatic Disco Cabaret at Feinstein’s for one night only – Thursday, June 15th at 7pm – as she recreates her infamous final Performance at the famed “Continental Baths” forty years later. The year was 1976, and Eastern Europe’s most famous Mezzo Soprano Understudy, played the Tuesday matinees at NYC’s most spectacular Gay Bath House. With songs ranging from Jule Styne to Donna Summers, this cabaret has something for everyone, and a disco beat that will take you back to a time when the boys were beautiful, the drinks flowed with reckless abandon and Love was free. Joined by her band the “Spectacle Players”, under the musical direction of Tom Shaw, this show is not to be missed.

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We recently caught up with Katya while she’s busy preparing for a busy Pride month.

What’s special and different about this show? This is the show that I performed at the notorious Continental Baths in New York City in the early seventies. I performed at 4am on Tuesday mornings. I was a headliner! <puts out cigarette> You know anyone can bring the boys to that baths at 2am on a Saturday; it takes a special kind of star to bring them out on a Tuesday morning. That, my friend, is star power.

Katya, do you even remember the 70s? Vaguely, dear. Anyone who remembers the 70s clearly wasn’t there. It was a time when the booze flowed freely, the boys were beautiful and everybody had one thing on their mind. I reigned as queen of NYC’s most decadent palace of carnal lust and cabaret, the Continental!

But you’re a trained opera singer – why are you singing at the baths? Well, in the early 70s I was banned from singing in six states. In search of a new way to make a living, I ended up at the Continental. A girl has to work, you know.

Will your band join you at Feinstein’s? Of course! The whole gang is back together… piano, drums, bass, guitar and a viola. Because you can’t have a disco show without a viola! Oh, and boys in towels.

How do you prepare for the show? It takes time to cultivate music that I feel relates to my life. It spans the death of my late husband, the Count Smirnoff Skyy to the death of disco, which is officially recognized as the day Ethel Merman’s infamous disco album was released and immediately killed the entire genre in 1980.

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So this is a nostalgic show? I like to talk about my friends, Donna Summer — and the night we took Quaaludes and I found myself naked in the tiara of the Statue of Liberty. Moments in life, really. Vignettes.

Feinstein’s is a high-class place, are they ready for you? I adore Feinstein’s! I’ve played a few shows there. My Holiday Spectacular, Katya’s Back in the USSR and my Beatles Show. However, I‘ve been playing Martunis’ for just over twelve years. Every Sunday for 12 years in that back room, where my portrait hangs… in judgement of all others who dare step on that carpeted area we call a stage.

Have you taken these shows on the road? Have you played in Provincetown? I played in Provincetown years ago. I should go back; I think they’re ready for me again.

I agree! I think it’s a good time for a show like yours in P’town. You’re such a character. Of course, 12 years ago, drag was a different sort of thing than it is today. I think I am more in the vein of Varla Jean and Jinkx; I enjoy being a character. A character who sings.

What do you have on the horizon? In September, I will be doing my Bittersweet Nineties Symphony, my Seattle years in the 90s. During that time, I was mothering my daughter, Katherine, whose father I’m convinced is Liza Minelli.

What are your plans for Pride? This is our moment. People come here from all over the world to San Francisco and we’re ready to greet them with open arms. I love all the smaller events happening around town during June. I just love being with my community during Pride – in that sea of Gay I especially love running into so many friends… I hope I’ll see you out and about!

Absolutely! I’ll look for you. How will I recognize you during the day? Well, I’ll be wearing a little more foundation, dear. <sips tea> Just keep your eye out for a stunning early sixties day ensemble in a liberty print that’s quite gorgeous. If that fails, just know that I’ll be the one surrounded by photographers.


The Countess Katya Smirnoff-Skyy
Thursday Jun 15, 2017
Doors: 6:30 PM  | Show: 8:00 PM
$21 – $50

Feinstein’s at the Nikko
222 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA
Get Tickets Here!

 

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