Perhaps the supreme example of the bacchanalian glory that was the San Francisco of that era occurred on one astounding Halloween in 1981. With my young ward Robin off on a several day sexcapade involving harnesses and the use of fists in places that would make a nun implode, I was on my own on Halloween. Robin had told me not to miss the event before he left, for it was one of the greatest spectacles that the city could ever produce.
I was living full time by now, and so I set out in the evening, wearing tight Jeans and a frilly blouse, to cross the street from my apartment on Larkin to the next street, Van Ness. In crossing one street, the universe changed.
Van Ness was filled with about 15,000 people, and some estimates were higher. The street was literally an ocean of people, circulating about the 10 blocks that comprised the second center of Gay Life in San Francisco.
Halloween in San Francisco, in the gay areas, surely made even Mardi Gras seem like a pathetic puppet show.
Incredibly buff, naked men danced in unison on the building tops while costumed crowds marched in circles to crowds of happy onlookers. Baffled and vastly outnumbered police officers pushed through the absolutely well behaved throng, desperate to find anything, ANYTHING to justify their unwanted existence here...and maybe a chance to arrest one of these "dirty perverts".
But one event became my quintessential memory of the night. A soul had painstakingly constructed a perfect, anatomically correct, photographically real, giant penis costume to wear. The hugh pink phallus marched through the crowd, accompanied by a cadre of guides to help the blind willy find his way.
Of course the police simply could not permit this, and from my vantage point up against a building, I saw four police officers hassle the amazing effort. Off the street, they commanded, the costume was obscene! Sadly, for the creator and his entourage, they were forced to withdraw, or face arrest. The police remained in my sight, apparently judging my part of the street as prime location for annoying the party.
A few minutes later, all eyes were incredulously turned skywards. The vast crowd became hushed. From the window of an eight story building, the giant penis costume protruded, thrusting in and out of the window in a familiar rhythm.
For all the world it appeared as though an all but invisible King Kong was thrusting madly from behind the structure. The police, slack jawed in disbelief, hung like rag dolls on their own bones, helpless to comprehend the sight that they beheld.
The giant, perfect penis increased it's frisky gyrations, and the crowd started keeping time with calls and sounds of encouragement. Mesmerizing, the great phallus pumped with great abandon, even changing angle for maximum satisfaction. It was a puppet show to end all puppet shows.
The great penis in the air reached a climax, and the crowd below echoed the event with their deafening, unified voices. The creators of the costume had gone to a wondrous extra effort, for gallons of what looked like whipped cream squirted forth, powerfully pumped, from the tip of the costume. The cream splattered down the building and onto the reveling crowd.
The Great Phallus Of Van Ness began to droop. The jaunty angle sank, and it became flaccid, hanging from the window, slowly drooling white. Then it withdrew from sight, slowly but inevitably. The window was shut.
Cheers rang out in the cool night air, made warm by the presence of so many joyful people. Thunderous applause and deafening praise vibrated the window glass behind my back, as the utterly beaten police officers regained control of their paralyzed bodies, and slunk away in total defeat.
It was a time of transcendental hedonism.
How utterly wonderful it was to have been able to have seen the San Francisco at the peak of the Gay Era.