SAN FRANCISCO — A celebrated burlesque performer was killed and her husband critically injured in a crash over the weekend, when a party bus ran head-on into the couple’s car as it was stopped on a highway south of San Francisco, authorities said.
Sarah Klein, 36, of San Mateo, who was known for her comedic, racy performances as “Sparkly Devil,” died in the wreck early Sunday. Nine other people were injured.
Klein’s husband, 43-year-old Raul Padilla, was driving a red Honda that appeared to have slammed into a center divider on U.S. 101 before coming to rest facing oncoming traffic, California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel said. Padilla was wearing a seatbelt, but Klein was not, he said.
Klein was renowned in San Francisco’s burlesque scene and beyond for her striking stage presence as well as her community work to commemorate burlesque performers of the 1950s and 1960s in the Burlesque Hall of Fame museum in Las Vegas, said Jim Sweeney, a close friend and producer of the Hubba Hubba Revue troupe for which she danced.
Klein started doing burlesque in her hometown of Detroit about 14 years ago, before the dance revival took off, he said.
“She began in a period of time when there were very few people performing in the modern burlesque scene,” Sweeney said. “She was a loved and respected leader of our entire community, and we feel her loss greatly.”
Sweeney said there would be a tribute to Klein at an annual convention at the Burlesque Hall of Fame on Thursday night, and friends planned a large memorial in the coming weeks.
She left her job as culture editor for Detroit’s weekly Metro Times in 2006 to pursue her career in “sunny California.”
“I really do love this city with all of my hardened little heart, and I am truly sad to go. It’s an indelible part of who I am, and I will always consider myself a Detroit girl. I really hope Detroit pulls through in the long run — but in my heart I knew long ago that I wouldn’t be sticking around to see it,” Klein wrote in a farewell column.
The couple had consumed alcohol before the crash, but toxicology tests must be conducted to determine if Padilla was OK to drive, Montiel said.
Padilla was transported to Stanford Hospital. Montiel added that if Padilla is determined to have been under the influence, he could face manslaughter and felony DUI charges.
The party bus carrying 18 people hit the Honda after it stopped. Two other cars were involved in the crash, but no injuries were reported in those vehicles.
“We’re still trying to figure out who came into contact with what,” Montiel said.
The nine people hurt in the bus had minor-to-moderate injuries. The southbound side of U.S. 101 was closed for about two hours for the investigation.
The bus was equipped with seatbelts, but Montiel did not know how many passengers were wearing them at the time of the crash. Bus passengers in California are not required to wear seatbelts, he said.
It was not immediately clear what company owned the bus, or who was using it.
The crash in Redwood City about 25 miles south of San Francisco was just a few miles from the San Mateo Bridge, where five women heading to a bridal party were killed in a limousine fire three weeks ago.