"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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Early Chicago Pride Parades: A Reflection

posted by Madame Bubby

Four million persons are expected to be at Stonewall 50 in New York City. The 48th annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade in Chicago promises to be quite impressive too, one big party.

Even in these times of turmoil in the United States when the human rights of so many are becoming increasingly precarious, LGBTQ communities are still strong and vibrant. And note that in Brazil, now run by the virulently homophobic Jair Bolsonaro, the São Paulo parade attracted three million persons.

But in the years right after Stonewall, the parades were not the carnivalesque events they are today. They were militant liberation marches, risky on so many levels for the participants. These early parades were attended by only a few hundred people and received little official notice.
 

1976 Chicago Pride Parade

1976 Chicago Pride Parade

The first gay pride march and rally took place in Chicago on June 27, 1970, just one year after Stonewall.

The original parade went from Bughouse Square, right on the dividing line between River North and Old Town. From that point, a small crowd marched down the Mag Mile to the Daley Center.

According to an article by Emmet Sullivan, about 150 people participated. He notes:

The Chicago Tribune ran a 75-word blurb about the event on the third page of its June 28 edition, noting that it ended with festgoers circling the Picasso statue in the plaza and shouting, “Gay power to gay people.” By 1973, the parade had moved its starting point to Belmont Harbor. The “gay liberationists” leading the charge numbered 300, according to the Tribune.
 

Chicago Tribune 1971 Pride Parade Article

1971 Chicago Pride Parade

The parade then bounced between a few routes, mostly around Belmont Harbor and the intersection of Clark and Diversey, at that time developing as Chicago's gay neighborhood.

I remember inadvertently going to that parade in the 1980s (as I went to the old Great Ace hardware store at Clark and Diversey), which by that time attracted thousands rather than hundreds of people. In my naivete, all I remembered were hot shirtless guys holding signs, whose message and import escaped me, especially when a hunky guy with a big mustache marching in the parade came up to me and let me grab his nipple (part of my gradual coming out experience).

I now know that by that time, the AIDS crisis was in full swing and the heady days of liberation were over. The community, with a new-found strength, faced down death and chose life.

Without those brave persons in the 1970s, who literally risked their lives as persons living in the supposedly equal society of America by marching in public, the fabric of a community would not have been strong enough to band together and ensure that those who died would be remembered. And to fight for and with the survivors who would make the memorial quilts.

Maybe in these times when the hashtag #NeverAgain is so apropos, we need to think of this Pride Month kind of like Passover. We remember the nights of oppression, and we remember the days of liberation. But in this case, we saved ourselves. Perhaps it's time to do some more saving.

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Chicago LGBTQ Pride Parade 2016: Subdued but Controversial

 

The lowdown from the Chicago Gay Pride Parade this year was “subdued” but “still colorful” or “festive” but “respectful.” 

The subdued and respectful adjectives fit, because the LGBTQ community is in mourning because of the horrific events at Orlando, and in tandem with many pride parades around the globe, the victims were honored. In Chicago, the first entry was a memorial to the victims, with participants holding photos of them. A woman standing next to me wept. 
 

Orlando tribute at Chicago Pride Parade


After this profoundly moving start, the action began to pick up a bit, but I noticed less people standing by the beginning of the parade (where my friend and I were hanging about). It seemed at times the people marching and on floats had to do more to get the crowds cheering. As usual, PFLAG and the schools elicited enthusiastic cheers. 

I did find it rather unfortunate that the Chicago PrimeTimers (a gay male senior citizens club), which entry consisted of three elders holding a banner, was followed immediately by a bevy of young hot gay hockey players. At least the PrimeTimers got a mention on the special ABC local news coverage! 

This juxtaposition of older and younger might be interpreted as a show of unity in diversity, and several parade organizers claimed that the mood this year, rather than jubilation over marriage equality for all, was respect and unity. Everyone was showing unity based on a broader definition of love in the face of hate. 

Yet here's the rub. Something controversial happened in Chicago that shows we have a long way to go to remedy serious structural social and economic inequalities in the LGBTQ community, in many ways a microcosm of our society as a whole. An event called Pride at Montrose was abruptly cancelled by the police. The reason was ostensibly the height of a security fence. 
 

Pride at Montrose


Note that this event is sponsored by the Chicago Gay Black Men's Caucus, which in the past had used this event to perform valuable health services, (now in danger because of the state budget problems in Illinois), such as HIV testing, and this year, an emphasis on Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). 

Last year #BlackLivesMatter performed a die-in at the parade. 

See the connection here? It's pretty much a stereotype that many of the advances in the gay rights movement were often orchestrated by white men with power and money (and still are). The thrust to be able to join the army and get married could be interpreted as even conservative, as the army and marriage are traditional structures. In other words, was the goal really assimilation, thus marginalizing groups the large society also marginalizes? 
 

Wealthy gay married couple with a baby


The victims of Orlando were mostly young Latinx persons, many struggling to make ends meet in low-paying service jobs. Some were still going to school, mostly community colleges. I doubt any of them would be considered “upper middle class” or even “middle class.” They wouldn't be living in expensive condos (built because greedy developers force out the working class families in those area), walking designer dogs, or attending fancy benefits in beaded gowns (like many of the gay men in the area I live in, I must say). 

Marriage equality is beautiful, but how many persons on the lower end of the income scale can even afford to reap the economic benefits of marriage? And let's not forget that many lesbians, because women still make less money to the dollar than men, are struggling to maintain lives of dignity and peace because their earning power is reduced. And, shamefully, the poverty rate among transgender individuals is quite high as well. 
 

Housing is a Queer Issue - facts about housing in the LGBT community


If we are to really show unity, I think we need to start seriously addressing the fundamental inequities in the LGBTQ community that reflect those present in the society as a whole. We ask others not to judge us because of who we are; let's stop judging others based on income, appearance, age, or even personality. I'm hoping the younger members of our community, many of whom stand the most to lose in an dismal economic future (perhaps why many of them voted for Bernie Sanders), can prove to be an example of unity in diversity for their elders. 
 

Bernie with young people supporters

 

 
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