A well-known burlesque performer who went by the stage name, "Sparkly Devil," was killed early Sunday morning in a suspected drunken-driving crash involving a party bus. And now, her husband faces charges in her death, according to the California Highway Patrol.
“She was wonderful in many ways," her mother Julie Thompson Klein told NBC Bay Area on Monday in a phone interview from the Detroit area about her daughter, Sarah Klein, 36, of San Mateo. "She was the classic model of a creative person who wasn’t afraid to cross boundaries. I always wanted to raise a strong woman I was amazed how strong she became."
Jim Sweeney, executive producer of the Hubba Hubba Revue in San Francisco, said no one in his world called Klein by her given name, but by her stage name. In addition to co-founding Hubba Hubba, Sparkly Devil also wrote about entertainment art form for magazine and alternative weekly newspapers, and served as the media spokesperson for the burlesque entertainment venue. Her mother told NBC Bay Area that her daughter began her career as a journalist for the Detroit Metro Times and eventually was drawn into the lively burlesque world.
"She was an incredible performer," Sweeney told NBC Bay Area on Monday in a phone interview. "And she was a great friend to the burlesque community. We feel her loss greatly."
Raul Padilla, her 43-year-old husband, who was driving and was taken to Stanford Medical Center in critical condition, is likely to be charged with drinking and driving, or possibly vehicular manslaughter, depending on the level of alcohol in his system, according to CHP Officer Art Montiel.
Padilla was driving the red Honda that appeared to have slammed into a center divider on U.S. 101 in Burlingame south of San Francisco about 2 a.m. before coming to rest facing oncoming traffic, which is when he and his wife were hit by the party bus, Montiel said. In addition to Padilla, ten others were injured.
The couple had ``consumed alcohol'' before the crash, but toxicology tests would have to be conducted to determine if Padilla had been OK to drive, Montiel said. Neither were wearing seat belts, he said. Courts were closed on Memorial Day, and it was unclear whether Padilla had any type of driving troubles in the past.
According to Sweeney, the couple was on their way home to the Peninsula from San Francisco. Sparkly had performed at the Hubba Hubba Revue the night before.
In addition to the couple, ten others suffered less serious injuries when a party bus carrying 18 passengers ran head-on into Padilla's car that was stopped on a highway south of San Francisco, authorities said. A CHP collision report listed the party bus driver as Anderson Davis, 67, of Berkeley. Officers said he suffered moderate injuries but refused medical attention.
The injured were taken to either Stanford or San Francisco General hospitals, according to the CHP. They include: Jeckrie Unabia, 28, and Haydee Martinez, 27, of Santa Clara; Julienne Sagun, 22, and Joshua Tan, 28, of Mountain View; and May Ann Granale, 45, and Carlos Cambia Jr., 30, of San Jose, Tola Magee, 30, of San Rafael; Mariel Joy Garnace, 21, of San Jose; and Herland Martinez, 24, of Santa Clara. Another passenger got a ride with a family member to the hospital.
Sparkly's website calls her a mixture of "sass and class," and her resume includes six performances at the Miss Exotic World Burlesque Pageant in Las Vegas, four New York Burlesque Festivals, three Tease-o-Ramas and more. She was profiled in Comcast's "Something Weird" series and two episodes of TLC's reality series, "LA Ink." In the Bay Area, she also performed at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, along with the Hubba Hubba Revue.
Her mother told NBC Bay Area that after she left Detroit about six years ago, she made her way to Gilroy to work for a small paper, which folded. She worked at some Silicon Valley startups, her mother said, and did some web design.
But San Francisco appealed to Sparkly Devil, her mother said, and she met a "wonderful group of people who were involved in reviving the burlesque scene."
Burlesque comes from the Italian word, burlesco, which means to joke or mock. It's now known as a dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter through caricature. In the United States, burlesque is a staple at cabaret clubs and features bawdy comedy and strip teases. In some of Sparkly's videos on YouTube, she is seen coughing up fake blood in a Zombie piece and stripping down to a red bikini bottom and tassles in another.
As for her husband, Sweeney said he knew Padilla and called him a musician and a "nice guy." Sweeney said he did not know if Padilla was known to drink and drive before.
The crash on the southbound side of U.S. 101 in Burlingame about 25 miles south of San Francisco was just a few miles away from the San Mateo Bridge, where five women heading to a bridal party were killed in a limousine fire three weeks ago.
Sparkly was supposed to have performed on Thursday in Las Vegas at The Orleans Casino during the International Burlesque Hall of Fame. People from around the country were posting thoughts and memories about Sparkly on her Facebook site throughout the day.
To see Sparkly Devil perform at the Hubba Hubba Revue in 2010, click here:
The Associated Press's John S. Marshall contributed to this report.