"I love a Parade!" Recollections of the 1977 S.F. Gay Pride Parade

By Will Seagers

 

Hi folks! Will here. Today's blog will be a bit of a departure from the last few in that it will be primarily a "Photo Essay" courtesy of my trusty Pentax K-1000. Although considered a beginner's 35mm SLR, it was good quality and easy to use! From the mid-70s 'till the mid-80s, when it was replaced with a Nikon SLR. Yes! I used some of that "pin money" from my porn adventures to buy lots of nice toys! LOL.

Although this was not the first S.F. Pride parade, it was my first. I had only been in town since September of 1976. And, during the weeks leading up to this event, I became increasingly excited to see it. My partner Tommy as well as many of our friends went on and on about how festive it was going to be and all of the beautiful people that were going to attend. So, I immediately got out my Pentax and made sure it was in perfect working order.

Sign reading Human rights are absolute
Pride parade and all of its political beginnings.

Ornate yellow dress

The glee and beauty exposed at the parade!
 

Footwear close-up
Fashionable footwear on the floats.

Roger and Tommy watching parade
Roger Magan (left) and Tommy (right) both high as a kite! Roger was instrumental in my move to SF. And, Tommy was there when I arrived!

Tom Junnell on Oil Can Harry's float
A dear buddy and laser mouth cut up – DJ Tom Junnell from Oil Can Harry's disco.

Crysler wearing a Stud shirt
Tommy's bestie Crysler wearing an original Stud t-shirt.

Anita Bryant protest sign equated with hate symbols
The very political theme of this year's parade equating Anita Bryant and Hitler.

Orange-shaped sign protesting Anita Bryant
The “Orange Lady” Anita Bryant was getting more pie in her face!

June in San Francisco is one of the most stellar months, weather-wise. The sky could not be any bluer nor the Sun any brighter. With the temps climbing into the mid-70s, it was shirts-off weather for sure. And, that is exactly what happened - with both men and women! Although it took a decade or two for S.F. to reach the Sodom and Gomorrah heights of the Folsom Street Fairs, this parade for its time was pretty "edgy!"

Tommy and I had a leg up on a lot of the parade revelers in that we lived a mere two blocks from Market Street - the parade route. We decided to walk a few blocks downtown where the crowds were really piling up. I climbed atop a (Walk/Don't Walk) traffic signal for my photo perch. I guess I was up about 8' – 10'... a perfect vista. Although I got a lot of choice photos, I did miss out on taking pics of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone who both attended. As this was the era of Gay Empowerment both fiscally and politically, it was great to have our heroes with us!

One star that did not escape my lens was Sylvester. At this time he was quite a rising musical talent. Originally, he performed in neighborhood venues. But, that soon morphed into national and international attention! As I mentioned in a former blog about The Castro, Syl and I became friends. He came into the bar where I spun records (The Badlands) to say hello and drop off new releases (that I was delighted to play - on the spot!).

Sylvester at the 1977 parade
Sylvester at the 1977 SF pride parade.

Shot down Market St. with Women's Contingent in background
A long shot of Market St. (the parade route) and the many revelers!

Dykes on Bikes
The ever popular women's contiengent from Oakland, “Dykes on Bikes!”

Carmen Miranda drag
Carmen Miranda – move over!

Musicians performing on float
On this sea of floats talent abounded.

Drag royalty
San Francisco's royalty of the day in all of their splendor.

Sign reading The Right to be Human
Voicing our rights!

Sign readign Ministers for human rights
Again!

So many wonderful names and faces were in this crowd! Many became life-long friends. The experience was dazzling and it became an annual affair for me. It has been great to recreate this time capsule. I hope you enjoy! Will.

Thank you to Will Seagers for use of his photos.

 

Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted careers and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model, film performer, and DJ, just to name a few. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

George Ferren, a close friend of Will's frequently mentioned in his blogs, was a major figure in the San Francisco music scene in the '70s/'80s. His current music is available for your pleasure on Soundcloud: BY GEORGE

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy
The Ecstasy and the Agony
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel
Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s
An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills
Merry Christmas (and Getting Re-Organized)
Now and Then
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Badlands
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: Moby Dick Bar
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: "Just Another Stroll Down the Castro!"
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Hamburger Mary's
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Long Live the Stud!
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Club Life..."Hit me with your Rhythm Stick!”
A "Split Ticket" - SoMa/Folsom and The Haight!
Back to Basics: "Staying Vanilla in a Flavorful Culture!"
A Little Secret

 

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LGBTQ Rights are Human Rights

 

posted by Madame Bubby

As the Supreme Court hears seminal cases that may determine the right of LGBTQ persons to work and live without discrmination, I found this quote in a recent article on the first time LGBTQ persons spoke at the Democratic National convention. McGovern was a Democratic candidate, and in the Catholic Democratic households I grew up in, he was our candidate. But of course I was growing up without any knowledge of persons who did not love heteronormatively.
 

Madeline Davis
Image Source: qweencity.com

Madeline Davis, a pioneering lesbian activist who was a cofounder of the Mattachine Society and one of the first university professors to offer classes about lesbians, made this speech:

"My name is Madeline Davis. I am an elected delegate from the 37th Congressional District, Buffalo, New York. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. We are the minority of minorities. We belong to every race and creed, both sexes, every economic and social level, every nationality and religion. We live in large cities and in small towns, but we are the untouchables in American society. We have suffered the gamut of oppression, from being totally ignored or ridiculed, to having our heads smashed and our blood spilled in the street. Now we are coming out of our closets and onto the convention floor to tell you, the delegates, and to tell all gay people throughout America that we are here to put an end to our fears – our fears that people will know us for who we are – that they will shun and revile us, fire us from our jobs, reject us from our families, evict us from our homes, beat us and jail us. And for what? Because we have chosen to love each other."

What is particularly telling about this speech, from those heady early days of gay liberation, is that the content is still frighteningly relevant. Everything she has claimed LGBTQ persons suffer, essentially, a social death, is still occurring, even with laws that have been created, at the bare minimum, to allow, yes just allow, LGBTQ persons to subsist in our country. Subsist, but not enjoy, the freedoms most Americans have long taken for granted.

The fact that the cases the Supreme Court is hearing now still starkly reveal that placing one's human rights in the hands of other humans shows that freedom and human dignity do indeed hang on a thread. The rainbow flag and the United States flag are literally fragile and it just takes one match to burn them.
 

Rainbow flag flying with an American flag
Image Source: NBC News

LGBTQ persons can get married; they can tweet from their phones. But these freedoms are dead ends unless everyone embraces with a full heart, and not just understands from a distance, that no one is safe until everyone is safe to live as whole persons who can love without fear.

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September 12, 1985: Remembering the Infamous Carol's Speakeasy Raid in Chicago

posted by Madame Bubby


The raid on Stonewall of course has become an iconic event because of its social and historical ramifications, but recently LGBTQ historians, including many who publicize history on social media platforms such as Twitter, have called attention to similar events before and after Stonewall. Often the goal of such histories is uncovering marginalized narratives of oppression and liberation that can frame our own interpretations of not just those people and events, but also give a valued context for the present-day legal, social, and cultural challenges to honor and justice that LGBTQ persons still face.

One raid which attained notoriety, mostly because it showed how the politics of the gay Chicago community was becoming very much intertwined overall with mainstream politics, occurred on September 12, 1985.
 

Carol's Speakeasy poster
Image Source: http://chicago.gopride.com/entertainment/column/index.cfm/col/2523

A group called NEMEG, Northwestern Metropolitan Enforcement Group, which consisted of officers from various north and northwestern suburbs, raided a popular gay bar, Carol's Speakeasy, located at 1355 N. Wells Street (that strip still at that point in LGBTQ Chicago history was the center of a vibrant gay nightlife). NEMEG was ostensibly looking for evidence of drugs and drug dealing.

According to David Boyer of Touche and Bijou and a noted figure in Chicago's gay community, who was then employed by Carol's (his first year as manager), the bar was hosting a wrestling promotion night: “We had put out mats on the dance floor and guys would challenge each other to wrestle. Had about maybe 50 or so people in the house.”

Also according to David Boyer, whose account I quote and paraphrase for much of this blog and which generally corroborates what even the conservative Chicago Tribune reported, the Chicago police were not involved; and, as one shall see, this is a most significant, telling detail.

David describes how this, I would claim, vigilante group “stormed the front door, guns drawn,” and that they also broke in through the back. These persons were not wearing any type of identifying uniform, and did not even identify themselves.

Everyone in the bar was forced to gather together and lay face down on the dance floor for a period of several hours. NEMEG members would hit or shove the face of anyone back down to the floor if they even unintentionally looked up.

NEMEG meanwhile searched the offices and serving areas behind the bars, looking for drugs. David mentions that they were even throwing around match books, claiming these contained packages of drugs.

In a manner reminiscent of pre-Stonewall raids, these persons took each person, questioned them, and, most significantly, photographed them. Everyone eventually was forced to leave the bar; no one was arrrested. David Boyer refused to leave after identifying himself as the manager, but they still did not inform him of their identity.

After what seemed an interminable time of chaos and violence, Chicago police did show up, but they did nothing to stop what was happening. Nothing; one could claim they were deliberately ignoring the many legal violations that were occurring for reasons ranging from homophobia to some unwritten code that forbade them from “telling” on their suburban officer comrades.

NEMEG did claim they found drugs on the premises, but they could not determine who brought them.

According to David, at the same time the raid occurred, a couple of employees were arrested at their homes and charged with drug dealing.

This incident did not end up being a narrative memory of injustice and degradation.

By the middle 1980s, the gay community in Chicago had gained enough political power, even during this uncertain time when AIDS was beginning to decimate its members.

Thus, those affected by this raid filed a civil lawsuit against these suburban officers, focusing on clear violations of the law, such as not identifying themselves as police and forcibly taking photographs of the bar patrons.
 

Windy City Times article about Carol's Speakeasy lawsuit
Image Source: http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Windy-City-Times-30th-anniversary-issue-Coverage/52880.html

According to a report in the September 16, 1986 of the Chicago Tribune:
 

"This is one of the most massive violations of civil rights we have seen in Chicago in the last decade," said Harvey Grossman, Illinios legal director of the ACLU.

"Over 50 men were subjected to this course of conduct. They were all ordered to lie on the floor; they were subjected to illegal searches; they were interrogated against their will and required to disclose information about their backgrounds; they were all photographed and none was arrested.

"What the agents did was to take the occasion of serving an arrest warrant on the bartender and turn it into a raid on all who were present at the time," Grossman said.

By 1989, the parties reached an accord, according to a report in the August 18, 1989 issue of the Chicago Tribune. Harvey Grossman in this article makes a telling point: "Although gays have long been subject to police harassment, this is the first time a group of gay men has successfully joined together to obtain damages from law enforcement agencies," Grossman said.

The above is a story of injustice, but also a story of moral courage and faith that the justice system does indeed work, even against those who are supposedly responsible for upholding that its laws are enforced equitably and honorably. In this case, the human rights of the manager and patrons of Carol's were dishonored and dehumanized that night, and though the terms of the settlement did include financial compensation, the real issue is that no one is above the law, and this law is based on the premise that persons are innocent until proven guilty.

Currently, one cannot assume in the case of vulnerable, marginalized populations that their human rights will be respected, and that the justice system will uphold them. I think it's important, overall, to frame this raid as a #NeverAgainIsNow moment that the LGBTQ communities need to take to heart, not only as a warning, but as call for persons to emulate the moral courage David Boyer showed that night.

Sources: Chicago Tribune reports (see hyperlinks); eyewitness account from David Boyer received via email; https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/02/queer-clout-in-chicago-telling-gay-history-beyond-stonewall-and-the-castro.html

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