Gay Lesbian Parade and Celebration

San Francisco, California, June 24, 1990



From “The Memoirs, Volume Two” –



            June was coming up and the big gay parade, which is the high point of our Emergency Fund efforts always.  We would do a float, as usual, but now, after Hug-A-Hunk, we’d been bitten by the “booth” bug, and said, Let’s do a float AND a booth, at the Civic Center where all the parade ends up in front of City Hall, and there would be about a million booths.

            “Wonderful!” they exclaimed, and reserved us two booths, side by side, as before.

            It would be called Care-A-Thon, and sort of like an old marathon, feature all day entertainment and MCs and a big plexiglass funnel on the front of the stage to collect money.




            The booth slowly started to rise in the bay at Ready Set.  Where the Hug-A-Hunk needed only a back wall, now, with all these performers and DRAG QUEENS, we would need dressing rooms!  So the proscenium wall was built a little away from the back of the booth “property line.”  It would be a tiny dressing area, let me tell you.  And on the side, stage left, we left room for a small stage door, for the performers to come and go, with a little window and a “security guard” sort of, who would man the back stage.

            Above, we built a big flat with holes for big cardboard numbers, kind of like an old baseball scoreboard, which we could change, via a rickety ladder throughout the day showing the totals of moneys collected during the show.  Over it all we decided on a sort of “Arabian Nights” theme with oriental looking domes and minarets, covered in metallic contact paper to reflect the morning sun of San Francisco.

            On the front of the stage, well-connected to the floor, we built a plexiglass funnel to collect the money from passers-by.  Throughout the day, a smallish volunteer would crawl under the stage to retrieve the money, which would be quickly counted and we would “go to the big board” for our new total.  David found us a great recording of a musical fanfare to announce the latest total.

            Finally we built into the scenery a big TV monitor and hooked it up to a video camera in front, to playback on the stage all the action.


With the booth AND the float, It was a BIG job!





            I called Doris Fish to come talk about it.  After our Hug-A-Hunk experience, she said sure!  She got the idea right away.




            So Doris would come around and a few others and we began planning it.  We put out the word that we wanted lots of entertainment, all day long.  The guys at the Fund, of course, knew lots of entertainers, and we did too; we would have Tommy and Bermuda and “Righteous Raul” Joshua Brody, others, and we got a lot of offers.  Still we had lots of gaps, it was a long roster.


So, we got to thinking about our friends the drag queens at the two Latin gay bars in the Mission, who had worked with us before and were friends.  Hell, they had lots of acts.

            So we called Roni Salazar and a couple others and I went over to the bars.  Well, these two bars, next to each other on the same street, were long-time rivals and had a history of bitch fights between them.  One bar wouldn’t do anything if the other was involved and visa-versa.

            “Come on, girls!” I said, “This is for a good cause.  You’ll all look good if you come on board for this.”

            And I convinced them.  They would put aside there ancient rivalry for ONE DAY ONLY, and all perform on the same stage for the same cause.  I was considered something of a saint for a while to have accomplished such a thing.






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            Sunday, the 24th dawned bright and our beautiful booth was set up in Civic Center, rising high above about a million other booths, of course, and our float with its own “Care-A-Thon” set and Samantha Samuels singing her heart out led the parade.




            All along the parade route, the AIDS Emergency marchers handed out thousands of pink fliers announcing our booth.




In the booth in Civic Center, David ran the video camera, of course, and as a coincidence, we ended up with about eight hours of the whole thing on video.  It’s a classic.










            Well, it was a big hit, and long remembered.  I don’t know how much actual money we collected, but the good-will and publicity for the Fund was wonderful.  Doris Fish soon attracted an enormous crowd and occasionally would draw the audience’s attention to our good-natured neighboring booths, encouraging their patronage, on both sides of us as they were completely smothered by the overflow crowd watching our show.

            Sharon McNight came around, too, and sang a bunch of numbers.








            Then the girls from the latino bars would come out and do their stuff.  Now, these are really strippers, you know, performing at night in a dark and dingy bar.  I think it was the first time they’d ever seen the daylight! 






            And the little stage couldn’t contain them, of course, they being used to working the crowd, they would jump right off the stage and into the audience, flinging their garments and encouraging passers-by to shove bills down their cleavage.  It was a sight, I tell you.




            Several people commented, “This is something few people here have ever seen in their lives!”

            An understatement.


            Sue de Groot and a friend happened upon me around the edges of the audience.  “Bill!  I knew you had to be behind this!”




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