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