A-Gay Tom Taylor
Owns Castro's Rainbow Flag?
As if the situation with the public flagpole at Harvey Milk Plaza weren't wacky enough, let's add another questionable element to the story.
To recap: Steve Adams, the manager of the local Sterling Bank and head of the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro, decides if and when the rainbow flag will be lowered or another flag allowed to blow in the wind at the plaza. MUMC recently published an incredibly restrictive policy on using the flagpole, which basically says they will work with political activists on sharing equal access this public property on the 12th of Never.
I mentioned to a friend and longtime Castro resident over the weekend that a wealthy gay man by the name of Tom Taylor actually owns the flag at the plaza, and possesses the key to to the flagpole's control box, and my pal knew nothing about Taylor and his ownership of the flag.
When MUMC in February 2011, after much advocacy, decided to lower the flag for a few hours to honor murdered gay Ugandan David Kato, and made sure activists knew MUMC was doing us a supposed huge favor, our request to stage the flag lowering as part of a program about Kato's death and the plight of gays around the world, Adams and Taylor refused to coordinate the lowering with us. Talk about the petty control queens of MUMC!
Last September, when community photographer Bill Wilson and I organized a ceremony under the flag to honor gay hero Mark Bingham and all who died on 9/11, the MUMC leaders, after much unnecessary dawdling and dicking around, agreed to lower the rainbow flag. Guess what? Again Adams and Taylor adamantly refused to inform the community and press as to when the flag would be lowered so we could make it part of the day's commemorative activities.
I mention this history to provide a small picture into how the 1% of wealthy gays in the Castro control the public flagpole at Milk Plaza.
So who is Tom Taylor and how did he come to be in this powerful position? A few answers come from a blog post at the SF Weekly site last April written by Joe Eskenazi:
Yesterday, we wrote about who owns the Castro's iconic rainbow flag. Technically, it's the Castro Merchants -- who pay for and insure the flag, which sits on land owned by BART and managed by the Department of Public Works.
Fair enough. But who fixes the flags when they wear out? Who stores the building-sized banners? That'd be Tom Taylor. His qualification? He has the space for it -- and he took over after the inventor of the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, moved out of town.
Taylor, who owns multiple city properties, stores and rehabilitates flags in a SOMA workshop. "I am the only person with a large enough shop to handle it," he says. "When something goes wrong, who else has a space to lay out something that's 20 by 30 feet? And I also have the big industrial sewing machines."
Taylor and his wealthy doctor boyfriend Jerome Goldstein, have developed a cult following for their fancy annual Christmas decorations that envelop their spectacular house in the upscale Dolores Heights enclave. As the video attests, their private home attracts major media and lots of eyeballs every December.
A December 2010 article from Mission Local's J.J. Barrow touches upon the rich neighborhood of Tom's house and the unnamed expenses of the annual decorating extravaganza:
Tom and Jerry think of their tree as a public service, and hint in a flier about the decorations that they’d like donations from their wealthy neighbors to help support what they do. They do not, however, want money from the majority of the people who visit the tree . . . They won’t reveal the cost of the extravaganza (Tom simply says, “It’s terrible”), even though the neighborhood wonders if it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Speaking of public service and the related matter of the public's Harvey Milk Plaza's flagpole, it would be so democratic and beneficial if the likes of A-gays Steve Adams and Tom Taylor were persuaded to return control of the flag to the entire community.