By 1979, Halloween on Polk Street had grown into quite the spectacle. The City’s BART stations had opened for revenue business in the mid-1970s, making it ever easier year by year for straight, suburban lookee-loos (and other riff-raff) to come into the “Polk Strasse” neighborhood by the thousands and crash what had otherwise been a private party in the public domain since the early 1960s.
Halloween was then the only night of the year that San Francisco’s gay men and women, some cross-dressed, could routinely congregate in public without fear of police harassment. And while most of the costumes had already left the Street by 1979 for safer venues: balls, halls, and behind the doors of Polk’s gay bars, the street tradition finally ended in 1980 when the SFPD refused to issue a parade permit for Halloween on Polk Street and otherwise refused to block the Street’s vehicle traffic for the night. Polk Street Halloween had become another relic of San Francisco’s gay closet.
|from Revelers, Late 1970s, Polk Street Halloween|
I moved into the Polk Street neighborhood in 1975 and attended the Halloween revels, cross-dressed, from 1976 to 1979. Starting in 1977, I brought to the party my Leica IIIg rangefinder camera, flash holder, and bags of old-school magnesium-filled flashbulbs the size of golf balls and, pre-focused and, looking for action outside the Leica’s tiny view-finder, shot much as I had at athletic events and peace demonstrations for my college newspaper, the Sacramento State Hornet.
I got my start at the Hornet in 1968 and have been mostly a street photographer ever since. In the mid-1990s, I started making stereo cards illustrated with my own images and narratives and eventually graduated to full-blown book arts. Among my achievements as such, I won a place in SF Camerawork’s 1977 book and show, “Eros and Photography” (page 47 in the book), and starting in 2009, I have sold several book art pieces to the University of Washington for their Rare Book and Special Collections Library. In 2015, the Library of Congress purchased one of my book art pieces for their Special Collections.
I transitioned in gender on the job at the San Francisco office of the US Securities & Exchange Commission and retired from the Commission as a Securities Compliance Examiner (Team Leader) in 2005 with 33 years of federal service, including two years in the US Army as a draftee with a photographic MOS: 84-Bravo. And I still live in that same Tenderloin apartment I moved into back in 1975.