Kelly Formaldehyde and her friend Chance Huerta have been scenesters for years. “We’ve been going to shows together for more than 20 years. We’d go to all the shows at the original Soma, at the Ché Café...”
Her longtime side gig is making hair accessories. “I make everything from the ’20s through the ’50s — old Hollywood style.” Her La Jolla day job is more serious. She works full-time as a cancer-research associate.
Cancer touched her personal life. Her son has brain cancer and her friend Huerta, 44, found out two months ago he has colon cancer.
“He had surgery and was in the hospital for three weeks. Like most tattoo artists, he has no medical insurance. The bills were stacking up.” So Formaldehyde helped organize a fundraiser for Huerta at the Ruby Room. She donated “hair fascinators” that were sold in a silent auction. “We had artwork from all over San Diego we were auctioning.”
Formaldehyde posted on her Facebook page that the fundraiser was happening and urged her friends to show up to support the cause. But she added a caveat: “I had been there four months before and the door guy was extremely rude. He was being a dick.”
That Facebook posting did not sit well with Ruby Room owner Sean Cute. Like many bar and restaurant owners, he closely follows what people say about his place on Yelp and Facebook.
“He starts going off on me that I hadn’t told him about it in person, that I had disrespected him, and that I shouldn’t write things like that on my Facebook page. I told him this was my private Facebook page and I can write what I want. I was blown away, but I told him I would leave if he wanted me to, even though I was supposed to be doing the silent auction. A half hour goes by and he comes back and says I’m no longer welcome there but that I was allowed to keep my stuff there. I told him that as a business owner he should have tried to rectify the [bouncer] situation. Instead, he blew it up.”
She left but says Cute then added insult to injury. “I had scientists who I work with who came to support my friend who was sick tell me the next day that [Cute] said I was involved in an altercation and was asked to leave. I told him my son had three brain tumors and was going through radiation and chemotherapy. He said it was not his fault that I was going through a rough time. He couldn’t suck it up for a cancer benefit. He could have said something like, ‘After tonight, it’s probably a good idea if you didn’t come back.”
She said she will be posting a review of the Ruby Room on Yelp.
“I don’t think you can stay in business by treating people like that. By the way, the door man still works there.”
Cute stands up for his actions. “We didn’t feel comfortable having her in our club. You try and do a lot for people, but some people just can’t be happy. We don’t charge artists rental fees [to display and sell their art for sale in the Ruby Room]. We get no cut. We have [artwork] here for good vibes. There was a bad vibe going on. Sometimes when people can’t have a good time, and it happens over and over, they become what I call a dark cloud. When that happens we want that dark cloud out of our sky.”
Regarding the doorman, Cute says, “Employees can always do better. Customers can always do better. She could have been nicer as well. We’re all human beings. It just seems like she singled something out that happened a long time ago. Like she was hell bent on turning against a local business...a business that makes sure artists and musicians get paid. My mom has cancer, but I don’t use it as an excuse to mistreat people.”
Cute admits social media matters. “She has a right to attack us [on Facebook], but why can’t we hear from all the other people who had a fantastic night that night?”