In May of 1976, Susan Stokeld, a regular customer of Zott‚Äôs in the financial district in the City, started regaling me and anyone near her stool at the bar about a ‚Äúserial‚ÄĚ that the Chronicle had started running by a handsome young Southern blonde boy. Within weeks it became the chief topic of conversation at my joint as well as at Perry‚Äôs in the Marina and The Washington Square Bar & Grill in North Beach.
On Friday‚Äôs, the then uber popular mainstream radio station KSFO had a regular sock hop at Zott‚Äôs, and the popular DJ Jim Lange suggested we have a ‚ÄėTales of the City‚ÄĚ party and the station along with KSAN, the huge rock station, would cover it. Susan took charge and invited Armistead to lunch where we cocktailed and put together our 1st Tales soiree.
Everyone thought he was handsome as hell, charming, witty and humble (all true). One young regular worked for I. Magnin and said he‚Äôd get a bunch of mannequins that we hung from the ceiling, and ladies and gents of the bar selected the characters they would portray in a costume contest. Everyone wanted to come and as the night approached it was ‚Äúthe event‚ÄĚ to be seen at. We decorated the place in Barbary Lane style, the staff all dressed as one of the characters and a party started. It was so crowded we started serving drinks in Leidsdorff Alley and Commercial Street and both radio stations and a few television stations joined the mayhem.
Localites like Quentin Kopp, Judge Ira Brown, Joan Hitchcock, television personalities, authors, politicians and columnists along with society dames and even a large contingent of ‚Äúthe gay‚Äôs‚ÄĚ clamored to get drinks and celebrate the freedom and love Tales brought to ‚ÄúSin City.‚ÄĚ If memory serves me, at one point Armistead stood on a table and announced he was gay and took a hit off a joint. The party was a giant success and several days later we got a note from Armistead thanking us and saying he had a blast and was still washing blue glitter our of his hair and clothes.
I‚Äôve touched base with Armistead over the years, one time not long after the party he had a party for 49er football hero Dave Kopay at the Duck House on Telegraph Hill when Kopay burst out of the closet. Mayor George Moscone and a host of other wonderful San Franciscans were there that night and many of us walked down the hill and closed the ‚ÄúWashbag‚ÄĚ later that night.
Armistead has been a supporter and donor to Shanti for many years so we connect there as well. One Pride weekend, my columnist buddy Bruce Bellingham called and asked me to go to the then Hotel Ana where Armistead and Laura Linney were doing press interviews. Anti gay candidate for governor Simon joined the party to do a press conference for his campaign. Beautiful, witty Ms. Linney asked Mr. Simon if he was aware that he was surrounded by homosexuals. He wasn‚Äôt, and exited like a brushfire.
Armistead is one of the great Mr. San Francisco‚Äôs.