In the early morning hours on a Friday night in San Francisco, a Folsom St. club is thumping with music and packed with young women, many of them from Mills, dancing on a packed floor until sweat drips from their bodies.
Hot Pants, the Friday night dance party at The Cat Club in the gritty South of Market district has caught on like wild fire among Mills students and their friends in their early twenties with a valid ID and a penchant for clubbing in San Francisco.
The twice a month party is marketed toward young women, according to Cat Club bouncer of eight years, Brian Wickliff. "As far as night clubs go, there's not a lot for the younger lesbian crowd-mainly the older lesbian crowd," he said.
Not until about four months ago that is, when a promoter envisioned Hot Pants.
Originally advertised as a party in which young women were encouraged to wear hot pants, the event has since taken on a life of its own.
On a typical Hot Pants night, many young women, mostly queer, some straight, and a handful of men, dressed in T-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes, converge in the cavernous South of Market nightclub to dance to two different DJs in conjoined rooms.
"Hot Pants is a bunch of young, very cool, very hip lesbians that aren't jaded," said Tony Carrachi, the Cat Club's owner. "They're out to have a good time-and nothing's gonna stop 'em."
The bare bones outside of the club does little to inform passersby during the day that a night club exists there, except for the word CATS spray painted in the window.
But at night, two giant black doors open up to an admission window, usually staffed with a heavily tattooed woman eager to take your five-dollar bill, stamp the inside of your wrist with a flowery Thank you, and send you on your way-once you get past the imposing looking doormen scrutinizing IDs at the door.
After peeling back the heavy black drape, customers must weave through the crowd on the first dance floor-the speakers pulsating with nostalgic dance hits from the eighties-to get to the first fully stocked bar, where the line to order drinks is often three deep.
Liesl Schneider, a bartender at the Cat Club for seven years, said she enjoys working the Hot Pants party. "It's such a nice crowd," she said. "That night is my favorite night to work at Cats. It's a bunch of pleasant, fun, good people."
The second room in the back of the club is crammed with bodies grinding on the dance floor, and women dancing together in cages and on raised platforms. The DJ in the booth overlooking the crowd pumps hip hop music such as eminem, 50 cent, and Nelly into darkness punctured with flashing lights.
"[Hot Pants] is a great place for an all girl event that plays awesome hip hop," said Molly Tyler, a junior.
Nicole Johnson, a senior, said she is talked into going to Hot Pants regularly by her friends. "You'll be walking from the hip hop room and you'll hear this great eighties song and whatever you were going to do flies out the window and you'll start dancing," she said.
Hot Pants is popular among Mills students according to Marie Pence, a senior, because, " I have a lot of friends who like to go out and dance to good music with lots of women," she said.
However, Pence is all too familiar with the risks that come with hanging out south of Market. She said she is reluctant to drive there after having her car window smashed while in the club.
Although Hot Pants is a great time for many Mills students, Wickliff cautions patrons to be aware the dangers associated with clubbing, particularly the use of GHB, commonly known as the date rape drug. Often slipped into the drinks of unsuspecting clubbers, GHB can cause amnesia, temporary paralysis and sometimes death.
Wickliff suspects that some women have been drugged with GHB at Hot Pants several times. "You can tell by the lovely, orange-metallic vomit," he said.
He added one important piece of advice-"Don't put your drink down."
"Don't even leave it with a bartender," said Carrachi. "Bartenders are busy. They can't sit there and watch your dring."
Nevertheless, one can expect to see Rachel Gardner, also a senior, at the Cat Club on a Friday. " I never miss Hot Pants," she said.