San Francisco, USA. 1994
Sequins: the most indestructible flair in fashion. These sparkly plastic disks are surprisingly tough — especially if you get caught on a Drag Queen’s sequined gown in a crowded bar in the Castro District of San Francisco during Halloween.
Unwittingly, I volunteered for this sequins durability and strength testing on October 31, 1994. One week earlier, my friend Cathy and her boyfriend Grant invited me to come with them to the Castro for what was sure to the biggest and most outrageous Halloween celebration around. We decided it would be far more exciting than spending the night in Berkeley where we all lived. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I couldn’t think of a better place to be than the Castro.
A bit of history on Halloween in San Francisco and the Castro
The Castro’s celebration, essentially a massive street party, was the most popular Halloween event in the nation for decades. Traditionally, Halloween has been a celebration during which many members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in San Francisco have felt free to be themselves or their alter egos. In San Francisco, Halloween, as a holiday embraced by the city’s LGBT community, has roots dating back to the 1950s. The Tenderloin, North Beach and Polk Street have all been hosts to the blowout. The Castro naturally inherited the celebration when more gay residents moved to the area in the 1970s. It has rivaled Mardi Gras as far as major ragers go.
Unfortunately, like all good parties that draw the masses, the Castro’s Halloween celebration ballooned to more than 10,000 participants in the early 2000s. City officials canceled the celebration after a 2006 shooting injured nine revelers. While people still gather in the Castro on Halloween it is nowhere near as epic a celebration.
Colonel Sanders is in the House
Cathy, Grant, their friend Ally and I arrived in San Francisco around nine o’clock. When we got to the Castro it was a total free for all.
Scantily clad guys sprinted down Castro Street while gorgeous drag queens sashayed down what turned into an asphalt catwalk. Public displays of affection abounded. This was a homophobe’s biggest nightmare.
For a woman, however, it was awesome. No cat calls, whistles, getting groped or ordered to “Smile.” Cathy and Ally were dressed as sassy flappers, and making use of a former bridesmaid’s dress and lots of black kohl eyeliner, I was “Tinkerhell,” Tinkerbell’s evil Gothic twin. Basically, we could have been naked and on fire and no one would have given us a second look.