Nightlife » Music

Promoter Spotlight: Franco Beneduce - San Francisco’s Magnitdue Man

by Steve Kleine
Saturday Aug 30, 2008

It all started with a handshake on the dance floor of Club Universe in San Francisco 13 years ago. Franco Beneduce, an event planner, had recently relocated from New York City when he ran into Jito Garcia, who wanted to start producing large-scale dance events. Jito knew how to get people to the event but lacked the producing experience that Franco brought to the table.

Out of that initial collaboration came forth the now infamous AfterShock after-hours parties. After that triumph, they set their sights on a Saturday night party the week of the city's biggest gayola weekend, Folsom Street Fair. Thus the Magnitude party was hatched.

To understand Magnitude and Franco (who runs it without Jito these days), one must understand the Folsom Street Fair, the massive charity event that last year donated over $350,000 to local Bay Area organizations-a figure that rises each year. Magnitude has been one of the major reasons for the steady increase. With 400,000 attendees from around the globe, the fair is the largest leather event in the world and the third-largest exposition in California behind the Rose Bowl Parade and San Francisco Pride.

Folsom Street, however, goes way beyond what most people view as a leather event. "Folsom gives people the ultimate freedom of sexual self-expression," Beneduce explains. "That is why Magnitude could only happen in San Francisco." Many look at Folsom, celebrating its 25th anniversary at the end of September, as the one day a year they can be themselves-to themselves and to the wider world. A married doctor from Kansas City shows off his exhibitionism by walking the fair clad in nothing but chaps and a raging hard-on. An executive works his submissive side by being led around on a leash. A lesbian shows us that a woman can be butcher than any leather queen could dream of being.

Much More Than a Dance Party
Franco is obsessed with translating this freedom into a dance party, and the result is one of the world's truly unique dance events.

To begin with, Magnitude is about much more than dancing-although there's plenty of that-including live demonstrations and an erotic play space. The rooms are decorated with images of some of the hottest men in leather along with other props to create a sexually-charged atmosphere.

Franco admits that he prefers to throw a party that gives attendees options. "I try to create an event that I would want to attend," he states. "Magnitude is the convergence of world-class music, dancing, live erotic demonstrations, and interactive play. And that can only exist in conjunction with the Folsom Street Fair."

The crowd ranges from the 30s to 50s (with representatives from either side of the spectrum, to be sure). These guys may not be going out every weekend anymore, but when they come to Magnitude, they are ready to party. There may be more men with chest hair and harnesses than shirtless twinks with smoothbodies, but muscle abounds ... and lots and lots of fun.

One might think the music would be a dark after-hours style. It isn't. Franco works with the DJ to create a journey into sexual bliss. "Since the crowd is a bit older, they may not be up on a lot of new music." Franco said, "We always throw in a section of classic dance anthems from the past decade to remind folks of the Circuit heyday."

Neil Lewis, who spun for five of the first six years of the event, had a major influence on Magnitude's sound. "We have had some great DJs like Susan Morabito and Mark Anthony spin for us," Franco says. "Since Neil's death, we've tried to honor his tradition with exceptional new musical talent like Joe Gauthreaux."

This year's DJ, Paul Goodyear, is returning for another spin at the wheels of steel. Goodyear was a close friend of Lewis, knew his music well, and has aprosimilar style. Also, since Paul has lived in Sydney, London and Barcelona and has played all over the world, he brings a fresh international vibe to the event that reflects the changing demographics of the international crowd.

Changing the Party Vibe
International, indeed. Magnitude and Folsom both attract people from all over the world. Many Aussies attend every year, and there's even a regular group from Iceland.

The event was not always focused on creating an erotic and sexualized environment. However, five years ago Franco and Folsom Street Events decided it needed a few changes to make it more reflective of the energy of Folsom Weekend. The changes proved to be especially popular with international patrons, and the event's popularity grew considerably.

The first reworking included theaddition of the Dungeon Beds lounge. The L.A. store Mr. S. Leather is sponsoring the dungeon space with support from Titan Studios. It will be in the basement of the venue, with different music and a different vibe from the main floor-darker and sexier. Expect a steamy, safe, playground of pleasure.

While many mainstream Circuit parties continue to see a decline, it is a testament to Beneduce's continuing handson involvement that attendance at Magnitude has been steadily going up over the past few years.

Franco attributes the continued success to Magnitude and Folsom's unique place in the gay universe. Some compare Magnitude to New York's annual Black Party extravaganza.

Franco admits to some similarities, but he hastens to point out that Magnitude is part of a much bigger experience, one where attendees come for a week or longer. It is not just about a single- albeit fun, massive and very well-produced- party.

With all this erotic self-expression going on, you would think that it would be hard to find a place big enough that would be accepting of an event of this nature.

Franco admits it is hard to find an appropriate space in San Francisco on a Saturday night. After producing events for 13 years, however, Franco has managed to build a solid reputation in the city's larger club community. Landlords know that Magnitude will be a tightly run ship, with attendees on good behavior (but not too good!).

This year, the party is moving to the Regency Center, a restored 1909 landmark. The Magnitude production team plans to transform the elegant Beauxjections, lasers and props that partygoers have come to expect, with some new twists to keep the concept fresh.

In addition to Magnitude, Franco also manages Bay of Pigs, the Saturday night party for the Dore Alley Fair. Dore is the smaller cousin to Folsom and attracts less nonleather tourists and more sleaze.

When asked if anything shocks him at Folsom or Magnitude anymore, Franco simply replies, "I've seen just about everything you can imagine- and then some. But what really shocks me is that there are still gay people in this day and age with puritanical minds who judge the way that other gay people express themselves sexually."

Perhaps. But maybe, just maybe, with the continued success of Folsom Street Fair and Magnitude, some of those closed minds will be changed.

Copyright NoiZe Magazine. For more articles from the world's largest source of Circuit Party, Dance and Festival information, visit www.noizemag.com


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