The 1960âs brought us the hippie movement that was another wild and crazy moment in the ever-shuffling deck of San Francisco. At that point I was legal and drank like a fish, but hey, it was fun. The country was becoming angrily consumed by the escalating war in Vietnam and people were tuning in and turning on, but also turning off. LSD was the primary drug of choice and booze became the substance of âold peopleâ and losers.
Iâd gone to school with Joan Baez and Grace Slick, who were to become important players in the evolving music scene that started pitting youth against an establishment they deemed lost and irrelevant. Timothy Leary became one of the spokesmen for the liberation that LSD was providing to more and more people my age and younger.
The Summer of Love was upon us and it pretty much waned as quickly as it waxed. The prelude to the Summer of Love was the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967. It was produced and organized by artist Michael Bowen as a âgathering of tribes.â The event was announced by the Haight-Ashburyâs own psychedelic newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle. JFK had been assassinated and Lyndon Johnson tried to impose âThe Great Societyâ on us as we fought an unjust war in Vietnam.
The 9-5 hours found me in a custom suit by day and bell bottom jeans and hippie- style shirt by night. I was smoking pot, dropping acid, riding sometimes with Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters in the magic bus around La Honda, going to parties at Neil Youngâs Broken Arrow Studio down there, chatting with folks like Linus Pauling and Tennessee Ernie Ford over pitchers of beer at Zottâs. Hits off a shared joint were as much a part of life then as donning a tux and attending a debutante ball or opera opening.
The music was very San Francisco with Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and The Holding Company with Janis Joplin, who was always fun to drink with. There were frequent free concerts of famed musicians in Golden Gate Park and sex was happening everywhere.
The Castro was in its infancy and there were lots of piano bars and cabaret around Polk Gulch. David Kelsey and Pure Trash played at The New Bell Saloon, Wayne Friday poured drinks there too as he nurtured Gay political power and presence. Disco was king or queen with our own Sylvester playing The Palms on Polk and Bimboâs too. The Fillmore was booming along with The Avalon Ballroom. Altamont brought The Rolling Stones and I joined the crowd, abandoning my car in the highway because everyone else did and trekked to hear the Stones and witness the Hellâs Angels murder a young kid and create havoc.
But it was also a time of liberation for all of us LGBT folks. As we developed a voice of assurance, we hit the streets and claimed our share of the whole community. Thanks to the people who made the music and marches, we collectively moved forward. San Francisco forged a new reality upon a nation divided by race, religion, war, economics, womenâs rights, gay rights and youth. We seized power and made change. âGod bless all The Nelly Queens,â as Jose Sarria put it so well.