Sarah Klein, a former Metro Times culture editor and columnist who gained international prominence as a burlesque star, died in a car crash early Sunday morning.
Klein, 36, was a passenger in a red Honda coupe driven by her husband, Raul “Bones” Padilla, 43, when the car was involved in a collision with a party bus on Highway 101 south of San Francisco, according to news reports. Padilla remains in critical condition.
As a writer, Klein was attracted to the offbeat and the edgy. In a December 2006 story she wrote for MT as she was preparing to leave for California, Klein noted:
“I've been writing about the cultural underground of Detroit for Metro Times for nearly seven years. In that time, I've seen a lot: the good, the bad, the beyond ugly, the touching, the profound, and the tragic. I've ridden shotgun with designer kidnappers in vinyl catsuits, dived into the Detroit River in the middle of December, and crawled around in the woods with a bunch of geeks hitting each other with foam rubber swords. I've knocked around the dive bars, soaked up live music, crawled through urban ruins, met the people and shared their stories.”
Former editor W. Kim Heron pointed out that Klein had a real knack for penning stories that attracted a huge audience. As measured by Web hits, some of her work remains among the most popular ever published in MT.
“Sarah was really about self-expression,” Heron said. “That’s the way she lived her life, and it’s also a quality she celebrated that quality in the people she sought out and wrote about.”
Sean Bieri, formerly the paper’s editorial design director, recalls how rewarding it was creating drawings to go along with Klein’s stories.
“The coolest illustrations I did had to do with the things she wrote about,” Bieri said. Among those standing out in his memory are a piece about Christian motorcyclists titled “Born Again to be Wild” and a cover story about suburban Satan worshippers.
“She really gave me the opportunity to do great stuff,” Bieri said. “And it wasn’t just me. A lot of people are echoing that feeling.”
Another common sentiment voiced by people who knew her has to do with Klein’s verve.
“She was the kind of person who would jump into a project feet-first and wholeheartedly,” Bieri said. “She was big-hearted, bright and fearless.”
Statuesque and voluptuous with platinum blond hair, Klein cultivated the look of a 1940s movie star or pinup girl — a quality that, along with her sense of humor, served her well onstage, where she performed under the name Sparkly Devil.
"She was probably one of the greatest comedic burlesque performers I've ever seen, but she could also transition into classic burlesque [and] become this other glamorous person just by doing it," Jim Sweeney, executive producer of the Bay Area’s Hubba Hubba Revue, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“She began in a period of time when there were very few people performing in the modern burlesque scene,” Sweeney added. “She was a loved and respected leader of our entire community, and we feel her loss greatly.”
Posted on her Sparkly Devil website is a quote Klein said really captured the essence off her philosophy about life:
“Be fucking fabulous, live for joy, embrace the beauty of the absurd, & fuck anyone who gets in the way of your happy.”
TheBurlesque Hall of Fame was planning a special tribute to remember Klein, who had an international following. Information on other memorial services and tributes will be posted on her site, sparklydevil.com.
A spokesman for the California Highway Patrol told reporters that Padilla was driving southbound on Highway 101 when the vehicle spun out of control near Burlingame and crashed into the middle divider. After the vehicle came to rest facing northbound, a party bus carrying 18 people crashed head-on into the Honda Padilla and Klein were in. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and both she and Padilla had reportedly been drinking. It is not yet known if alcohol was a contributing factor. No one in the party bus was seriously injured.
Klein had performed earlier in San Francisco, and the two were on their way home to San Mateo when the crash occurred.
Metro Times readers are encouraged to post memories of Klein on the paper’s website.