From "The Memoirs, Volume Two" -
After our terrific success
of the Piggy Bank float for the Emergency Fund, well, we were their
darlings and we were asked to all their events and marveled over. They
mentioned all the time how another Gay Parade is coming up soon, and how
they knew that we were sure to do something even more wonderful than
last year, and how they were all looking forward to it so! Then too,
each year the Fund selects an “honorary chairperson” or spokesperson or
such, to make a big deal of and to help publicize AIDS awareness and
fund-raising and such. This year it would be Sharon McKnight they
informed us. Well, I had known her a little over the years, a sort of
“Sophie Tucker” hot, popular singer in and around the nightclub and
alternative scenes in San Francisco for a long time, and liked her a lot.
She wanted to be on the
float, they said. So, she came over to the studio and we had a meeting.
“See, Bill, I got this
great idea. You ever see that movie ...?” and named some movie in which
she had seen this lady all dressed up in a big skirt which was actually
a car or something underneath and the dress completely covered the car
and this big lady slowly “strolled” down the street! And wouldn’t that
be a great float!
So, she, Sharon McKnight,
would be the whole float and we would build a big dress for her. She
was then singing a sort of hot mama version of Tammy Wynette’s great
classic, “Stand By Your Man,” as a sort of tribute to all her gay
friends who were ill with AIDS. And she thought it would be perfect to
sing in the parade as she strolled down the street.
We all thought it was a
great idea and set to work making it happen. We would need a big sound
system and so planned to build the speakers into the folds of the dress
and she would have a hand-held mike on top. We designed a big white
dress with big red sashes and bows and a big bustle out the back, mostly
to hide the obvious shape of the truck underneath.
We built the float at Ready Set, of course, and Sharon stopped by a
couple times to "try it on."
I helped her into it.
* * *
And, of course, the
in the Fund knew all the right people and convinced the Parade Committee
that, like, after the HUGE success of last year’s float and, well, this
year it was Sharon McNight (!!!) and that we should be at the head of the
parade. So we were scheduled in to be the first float in the parade,
right after the traditional opener, Dykes on Bikes.
So we rolled into place in the staging area at the foot of Market Street
and, of course, I took advantage of the "photo op" to try on the Big
Her blouse, of course, on top, was a separate piece with big mutton-chop
sleeves and red ribbons cascading down the front, all set off with a big
blonde, curly wig. She put on heavy eye make-up and rouge and would
give it her all! I helped her fluff her hair and checked her make-up.
They got a good turnout,
natch, of all the Fund’s people and friends and hangers-on and all in
their white and red Fund T-shirts, and the Fund’s big banner across the
front and everybody getting excited, standing and pacing in their
We posed for a group photo.
I had spoken to the driver,
Matthew again, before we started, and when it was time to begin and the
loud, rocking music kicked in, I looked into Matthew’s little see-hole
and gave him the nod.
He gave a strong turn to
the left, and then to the right. There was a gasp from the crowd but
Sharon was playing it perfectly and her clear voice, “Stand by your man!
Give him all the love you can!” lead the parade, now clearly “strolling”
back and forth down wide Market Street. An enormous cheer rose up and
rolled along with us the entire route.
* * *
It was a huge hit and a full shot of our "Big Dress" and Sharon McNight
and all the gang covered the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle
the next morning.
* * *
...NEXT: MASTERING THE ART OF PERSPECTIVE DRAWING