Saturday, April 30, 2011

EQCA: Harvey Milk Day/LA
Equals 'Private Bel Air Estate'

The leaders of Equality California and gay Democratic officeholders in 2008 pushed to have May 22, Harvey Milk's birthday, declared a special day of significance across the state. EQCA promoted the legislation to create the special day to accomplish the following:

This bill would require the governor proclaim May 22 each year as Harvey Milk Day. It would encourage public schools and educational institutions to conduct suitable commemorative exercises on that date.

Sounds noble, right? Then why has EQCA utterly failed to push the educational aspects of Harvey Milk Day, and instead for 2011 is focusing on another one of their trademark high-priced ticket galas at a private estate, reeking of exclusion of elitism?

When I think of Harvey and his legacy, I don't see cocktail receptions, VIP lounges or a connection to a TV show about homes in the million-dollar-plus range, but that is exactly what EQCA is promoting in Los Angeles in a few weeks. It's pathetic that a "suitable commemorative exercise" means partying and nothing more.

If EQCA includes an iota of any effort involving schools and educational campaigns about Harvey in their Milk Day events this years, I would like to see it.

If you ask me, EQCA pulled a classic bait-and-switch Sacramento power-play. They promulgated Harvey Milk Day as educational, got their bill enacted, and all EQCA sees in the day is another fundraising opportunity that engages only A-gays.

So far, EQCA's site has not posted anything about their full slate of plans for Harvey Milk Day weekend. This info comes from an email invitation EQCA is sending to folks:

Harvey Milk Day Celebration
Los Angeles
Saturday, May 21
4 to 6 p.m.
VIP Reception 3 to 4 p.m.  
Special Guest:
Madison Hildebrand
of BRAVO's
Million Dollar Listing
Special Host:
 Shelley Curtis Litvack
Six-time Emmy Award-winning
Producer and Director
Address provided upon RSVP
Bel Air, CA
Join us to commemorate the immense contributions of Harvey Milk to our movement.
Enjoy summer cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a beautiful view from Shelley Curtis Litvack's private estate in Bel Air.
Space is limited, so get your tickets now!
Must be 21+
Ticket Levels:
$150 General Registration
$250 VIP Registration
Includes a special private reception from 3 to 4 p.m. with Madison Hildebrand, plus exclusive access to the VIP lounge and private bar.
Email Eric Harrison at for more information.
Generously sponsored by

Friday, April 29, 2011

SF Eagle Lease Expired Last Year;
Are Gay Bar Owners the Problem?

[Correction: The BAR did cover the lease expiration last year. See below for details.]

There's quite a bit of news, none of it good, to share about the latest machinations over the Eagle Tavern. The current Bay Area Reporter noted these details in the paper yesterday:

The home to well-loved Sunday beer busts, which raise money for numerous LGBT groups, Gardiner and co-owner Joe Banks have been trying to sell the bar, at 398 12th Street, for more than a year.

Gardiner recently said that the bar's lease expired more than a year ago, so "I guess it goes month to month." ...

News to me that the lease was up quite a while ago and that the owners had offered the place for sale. I don't recall any effort by the owners last year to inform the community about the developments and keep us informed. Gardiner and Banks had a duty to the patrons and supporters of the Eagle to get the word out _before_ reaching a crisis point this month.

We've seen too many organizations and businesses around town experience (small) troubles that for economic, political or mismanagement reasons that blossom into crises or even closures, and no genuine attempt at respecting the affected constituents by letting us know problems are afoot. A common thread weaving through so many ailing entities is an unconscionable dearth of communication.

Looking back at the emergency meeting at the Eagle, I recall every speaker connected with the bar was vague or made confusing points. Clarity is sorely lacking from the owners.

Got an email a short while ago from Brock Keeling of the, making me aware of a Facebook post from a community leader in the fight to save the Eagle bar, drag artiste Anna Conda. And Eve Batey made me aware of a site run by Willo, who has similar concerns with the bar owners.

Let me say how grateful I am to Anna, Brock, Eve and Willo for putting out the info and looking for hard facts and clarity. We need more folks like them pulling back the curtains and seeing what lurks in the darkness. Thanks guys!

From Willo's site:

This just in from Anna Conda/Glendon Hyde on the Save the Eagle Facebook page. (I make no claims to its veracity, but Anna Conda/Glendon Hyde has been extremely diligent and active in the issue and by all accounts has been entirely reliable.) And if this is true, then my apologies to concluding that the land owner was the jerk in this story—however it would be nice to actually hear something on the record from the landlord to clear this up.

[Excerpted from Anna's page]

What If the problem with loosing the Eagle was an inside job? 

So this is just a made up story or is it?

You own two bars in SOMA and you are a heavy drinker and poor business person. One bar called the Hole in the Wall is your baby and it just cost you a great deal of money to relocate it in the SOMA neighborhood. You want this bar to continue and can't afford the second bar called the Eagle. You decide to sell the Eagle but during that time there is rampant problems created by this owner like inventory problems, rent not being paid for months and you decide it would be better to sell to a straight owner to cut down on competition for your bar the Hole in the Wall. In fact you have willingly made a deal to sell to the owners of the Skylark bar. ...

Finally you would hold the liquor license hostage from potential buyers like say the owner of the Dallas Eagle; who has a great reputation as a community and AIDS activist. You might also go into the Eagle and start removing art work and memorabilia and stop liquor deliveries. Yep if your names were John and Joe and you currently just want out at any cost you would do this.... and to your own community.

While talking to a lawyer for the property owner all this might come out and become knowledge for the community. This lawyer would tell you things like, "Of course we want a 30 year business to stay in the property that is just good business sense." Or "If it were not for all the problems with the current lease holder the entire process would have been easier," Or even "Keep it the Eagle but we can't get you the liquor license because John and Joe own that and they don't want to sell it."

It sounds like fiction but actually it's just about as true as can be. Hoodwinked by members of our own community.

Thanks a lot [Eagle owners] John and Joe. That was real nice to find out yesterday as you dismantled a place so many called home. Hope the Hole in the Wall serves you well but I will say that I will never step foot into one of your establishments again. I am very saddened to find all this out and would never ever give you another cent of queer monies after what you have put us through this last month. Utterly disturbing!

Correction: There was coverage of the lease expiring in 2010, as this note from Matthew Bajko of the BAR mentions.

hey Michael

Saw your post about the Eagle.

Just one minor clarification - we wrote two stories last year about the Eagle being for sale:


Hope you enjoy your weekend

Thursday, April 28, 2011

DEA Bust in the Mission:
'They Have Lots of Guns'

There were at least twenty folks gathered at various spots near South Van Ness and 22nd Street on Tuesday around 4:30 pm, witnessing the exterior elements of the Drug Enforcement Administration bust going down at the building on the south-west corner of the intersection. Two women parked in an SUV asked if I knew what drug was involved in the raid. Nope, not a clue about what or who the agents were searching for.

"They have lots of guns," one woman said. Yeah, the DEA and San Francisco Police Department officers were well-armed and well-armored.

I started snapping pix and the eyeballs of several of the agents zeroed in on my camera. Their body language spoke volumes of stress knowing a camera was on them and their activities. That put me ill-at-ease, so I rode off on my bike after no more than ten-minutes observing the bust from outside.

Haven't seen any coverage about a joint DEA and SFPD raid in the mission earlier this week. Anyone heard anything about arrests or what the search warrants spelled out? Dare I say it? Wondering if this was just a routine bust and why so many guns were on display and ready for shooting.

Here are my pix:

A woman who appeared to be in her 60s speaks to the uniformed and undercover agents, before closing her door. Apologies for the fuzziness.

Duo of gunned-up law enforcement authorities stand guard on the South Van Ness-facing entrance at the apartment(s) being busted.

This police officer is looking toward 22nd Street and his colleagues parked in a van and automobile.

Collection of agents standing guard.
Conservatives Push 'Muslims Burn 
Homos Alive' Video: Authentication?

An acquaintance today alerted me to a video circulating on right wing and anti-Muslim sites purporting showing bound and blindfolded homosexuals doused with flammable liquid, tossed into a pit with a fire blazing, then engulfed in flames.

Googling for more info, I found dozens of conservative sites calling attention to the video, all from the angle that Muslims had burned homosexuals, but what I couldn't locate was an authoritative organization offering authentication for the claims made or facts about where, when and why the death-by-fire killings took place.

What I'd like to eventually learn is why conservative elements for the past 2-3 weeks have been citing and promoting the video, as if they give a damn about homosexuals in the Middle East or anywhere around the planet. Are right wingers stoking bias against Muslims this month, raising a homosexual link in an effort to rile up liberals and the gay community?

However, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) site's blog contains a post from February 13, 2008, stating the video was from the Turkish Daily Hurriyet site. MEMRI said: "Video of Al-Qaeda in Iraq dousing Iraqis taken as prisoners with fuel and burning them alive while shouting 'Allah u Akhbar.'" [Allah u Akhbar = God is Great.]

The analysts at MEMRI have not previously shied away from posting videos with anti-homosexual or gay content, and I would not expect this think-tank and monitoring organization to omit a potential homosexual element to the video below. If there is authentication of the video, let know where to find it.

WARNING: The images are disturbing and graphic, regardless of the sexual orientation of the dead or reasons for the deaths.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Long Island AIDS Exec Earns $526K
as CEO of Three Charities

After I blogged on Monday about a NY Post article detailing the $363,000 annual salary of Gail Barouh, the executive director of Long Island Association for AIDS Care, this anonymous comment came my way:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Gail Barouh is CEO of three "non-profits" : LIAAC , BIASHELP, and LINKS [sic]. Her combined salary is 526,405 annually. I have worked in HIV care for many years on LI, and I can tell you LIAAC has a reputation of providing very little actual services. They also have a reputation of abusing their employees to an unheard of degree. Dr. Barouh forces her outreach workers to "sell tickets" to LIAAC fundraisers under threat of dismissal. So, when you see "funds raised" on their website, think "staff robbery." Someone really ought to shut them down. I promise you, no HIV positive people will be harmed as a result- they won't even notice!

My curiosity was piqued and I checked the sites for BiasHELP, anti-bullying charity, and the Long Island Network of Community Services (LINCS), an association of human services groups, and indeed Barouh is executive director of these two groups.

The IRS 990 filing for BiasHELP for 2009 shows Barouh was compensated $106,528 for an average of twenty-hours of work per week. BiasHELP's revenue for the year was $568,392, and Barouh's salary ate up 19% of the budget.

For LINCS, their 2009 IRS tax filing reveals Barouh earned $56,672 for five-hours of weekly work. Revenue is listed at $426,480, making Barouh's pay 14% of their budget.

Add Barouh's compensation at LIAAC, $363,000, to the money she makes at the two other Long Island nonprofits, $106,528 and $56,672, and the total comes to a very robust $526,200.

So, the anonymous tip is much more than idle rumors. The info from the tipster bears up under scrutiny and should be shared with funders of and clients at the three organizations where Barouh is the leader. Further, the organizations also share a number of board members and staffers, making me wonder if there any other entities, either nonprofit or for-profit, that this crew operates.

Charity watchdogs on Long Island would be wise to look into the incestuous relationships of LIAAC, BiasHELP and LINCS, and how money is raised and spent.

Many thanks to the anonymous tipster who brought this new info to my attention.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SF Weekly: Who Owns the Castro's 
Rainbow Flag at Milk Plaza?

Not only is the SF Chronicle today writing about the debate over the rainbow flag and pole control issues at the city-owned Harvey Milk Plaza, we also have Joe Eskenazi of the SF Weekly covering this story today.

Eskenazi fleshes out details regarding ownership, insurance costs and maintenance of the flag, along with sharing a 2001 three-page memo from the merchants club to the Department of Public Works laying out their plans to take care of the flag. There is no memo from DPW showing that the agency agree to the club's plans.

With several Castro businesses closing in recent months - A Different Light, Fuzio, Bagdad Cafe - and others struggling to pay the rent and keep the doors open, I would think the local merchants club might welcome the energy of activists and others who want to use the district's _public_ spaces to bring more folks to the Castro.

If there were openness and creativity afoot with the merchants, they would have worked with Liz Taylor fans to create a memorial at the base of the flag, put on a short ceremony maybe with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence offering a blessing for Saint Liz, invited the press and generated news. That news would have brought thousands of Liz fans to the neighborhood to add to the memorial around the flag, snap photos and then go out and spend money at Castro bars, restaurants and variety stores.

But no, it's more important for the merchant control queens to maintain a rigid policy they drew up more than a decade ago, apparently written in stone, a policy that does nothing to attract more crowds to both Milk Plaza and the Castro.

Let's hope today's stories finally persuade DPW to hold some public meetings with all Castro stakeholders to devise a new, more democratic process regarding the public property at the plaza. From the SF Weekly's blog:

Don't like the way the Castro's iconic rainbow flag is administered? Go get your own!

That's the message from Steve Adams, the president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro (MUMC). It's his group that pays for the oft-replaced flags, insures them in the event of a costly mishap, and ultimately makes the decision on whether to lower the rainbow colors to half-mast in the event of an LGBT luminary's passing.

Sorry, folks. Liz Taylor just didn't cut it.

That doesn't make sense to outspoken gay activist Michael Petrelis. He raised a ruckus in February until the Merchants deigned to lower the flag to coincide with a rally honoring murdered Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato.

By rough count, that was only the sixth time the flag has been lowered to half-mast since it was first hoisted in 1997. Other honorees include John Cook, the first openly gay San Francisco police officer to be killed in the line of duty; Castro Patrol Special Officer Jane Warner; Trevor Hailey, who was instrumental in the flagpole's installation; and lesbian rights pioneer Del Martin. The flag was also lowered when the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8.  ...

SF Chronicle: Activists Want More Control
Over Castro's Rainbow Flag

(Your humble blogger, under the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza. Credit: Paul Chin, The Chronicle.)

How and why did a private merchants' group come to be in control of not just a piece of public property, but real estate in the heart of the gay community and named for a man who fought against machine politics?

Maybe now that Will Kane has written a front-page story appearing in Tuesday's SF Chronicle, we'll not only get answers but perhaps there will also be an evolution in allowing for diverse factions of the community to have access to the rainbow flag and pole at Harvey Milk Plaza. It would have been great if the editors allotted more space to Kane's piece, looking at the role of the Department of Public Works in this debate, still, I'm pleased that the issues are getting mainstream media attention.

As you'll read, I have not submitted a request to the illegitimate holders of the key for the flag pole to hoist the American flag with the rainbow flag on May 22, Harvey Milk Day. Just as I would not go through any private group to access care and services at a city-run HIV clinic, there is no reason why I must ask a private club to access a city-owned piece of equipment.

Further, the matter of how the Castro's diverse stakeholders will mark and honor Harvey Milk on his birthday, which is state-recognized day of significance, has not been publicly debated. Neither Supervisor Scott Wiener or his cronies in the merchants' club have held a single public meeting about how best the neighborhood will celebrate and use May 22.

Oh, the Bay Area Reporter recently wrote about a private meeting the supervisor and the club president held to organize for May 22, but no time and energy has been spent to engage the wider community. That is the same problem with the flag and pole at Milk Plaza. Our A-gay business owners and a former Human Rights Campaign board member, Wiener, prefer the status quo because it keeps them in control of many neighborhood matters.

If you're not part of the Wiener/MUMC/HRC circles, tough luck and go away with grassroots activism and desires to creatively use the public space of the Castro to meet all of the gay community's needs. Please, let's change that situation starting with DPW convening a public meeting about the public space known as Harvey Milk Plaza and the rainbow flag.

From the Chronicle:

Nothing says San Francisco like a fight over Elizabeth Taylor, Harvey Milk and flying the American flag. ...

The fight started last month, when a handful of Castro residents asked the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro to fly the flag at half-staff to honor Elizabeth Taylor, the Hollywood-star-and icon to gays who died in March. ...
But now the activists, spearheaded by local blogger Michael Petrelis, have upped the rhetorical ante and asked that the American flag be flown on Harvey Milk Day May 22. They've also asked the city to weigh in because the pole is on public land.
Adams says he has not yet received Petrelis' request to fly the American flag, but if he does, it will be considered like all others. Officials at the city's Department of Public Works, which maintains the plaza where the flag flies, say they have no interest in getting involved. ...
Others say it isn't exactly fair that one merchants group gets to control such an important icon.
"The flag has become this international symbol, and because of that maybe there's more responsibility for a community process to control the flag," said Andrea Aiello, head of the Castro Community Benefit District. ...

Monday, April 25, 2011

SFIFF: Lesbian Producer Vachon Checks
iPhone During Film Talk

We were alerted by veteran independent film producer Christin Vachon, an out lesbian who played a vital role in the development of the new queer cinema movement, that she was suffering jet lag before she began her State of Cinema lecture on Sunday night at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Vachon also mentioned her body clock was operating on east coast time, meaning it was midnight for her, and she said the glass she carried to the lectern was full of white wine. A frank talk was promised by Vachon, as she gathered her notes and announced her speech would be less than 30-minutes because she wanted to leave plenty of time for comments from the audience.

Two themes stood out. The first was about the various platforms people watch movies these days - in theaters, through video-on-demand and regular cable or Netflix, via web sites such as Hulu and over their hand-held devices. Secondarily, Vachon entertained us with stories about being open to developing projects that don't require being shown in a theater.

Her longtime collaborator, out gay director Todd Haynes, came up with the idea of making James M. Cain's book "Mildred Pierce" as a series for HBO that was to be faithful to the source, and not a remake of the movie starring Joan Crawford. If anyone had told her even five-years ago that she would be producing a series for cable, directed by Haynes and starring Kate Winslet in her first role after winning an Oscar for "The Reader", she would have laughed at the idea. 

There were several awkward moments during Vachon's talk when she abruptly ended her reply to a question, including at the conclusion of the chat, with an uncomfortable silence hanging over the auditorium. She certainly could have benefited from having a programmer from the SFIFF conduct the Q & A section of the evening.

One thing she did 2-3 times while questions were posed was to take out her iPhone, glance at the screen, scroll for a moment, listen to the person speaking then put the device back in her pants' pocket. Some might consider this rude, but I give Vachon credit for hearing the questions while she checked her iPhone and answering clearly have paid attention to the question.

I bring up the iPhone-checking because before the start of some of the films, SFIFF leaders have implored the audience to not open any electronic devices during the screening and to step outside into the lobby to check email and text messages. Those lights from the devices are quite distracting to the cineaste eye. A bit ironic then that we had the person delivering the State of Cinema address doing exactly that!

And speaking of using an electronic device in an auditorium during the festival, I used my camera to snap these pix of Vachon. The third and final pic, though grainy and dark, shows her listening to someone in the audience, her iPhone in her hand and the glass of wine on the lectern's shelf.

Christine Vachon: the consummate indie producer _and_ adroit multitasker, which serves her well creating films we want to watch.

NY Post: HIV Executive Rakes In
$363,000 in Compensation

Friends have alerted me to a story in today's New York Post about a greedy AIDS executive director back east, and I have to say the tone of the article has strong echoes of my longstanding complaints against other directors at HIV groups and their excessive salaries.

A few points need to be made to flesh out the NY Post piece. The Long Island Association for AIDS Care's web site does not contain any of their IRS 990 filings. Their page for publications says to "see their full financial statements" you need to click the link that goes to the opening page of the GuideStar site.

LIAAC gets a small credit for that link, but they really need to come into the modern age and post their latest three IRS 990 filings on their site and make it very easy to find the 990s. However, I can understand why they're not keen to do that, what with the outrageous compensation package for their chief.

Click here to view LIAAC's most current IRS 990. No registration required.

With many AIDS Inc groups entering their spring fundraising season with annual walks and bike rides launching soon, I recommend all donors and participants in these activities first check out their favorite HIV organization's IRS 990 filing. Granted, lots of the groups are curbing executive salaries and cutting overhead before scaling back services to people with AIDS, and they should be lauded for these moves.

But too many such agencies obscure their public tax filings, or pay their executives way-more-than-decent salaries and we need to shed sunshine into all of the AIDS Inc groups and how they handle their public and private dollars.

Kudos to Kieran Crowley of the NY Post for breaking this story:

Dr. Gail Barouh, who heads the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, has been whining that Nassau County is cutting the group's public funding -- while she's pulling in what a top county official calls an "outrageous" six-figure salary.

Barouh lives in a $1.4 million mansion in exclusive Cold Spring Harbor and drives a 2010 Mercedes-Benz to her charity's Hauppauge headquarters.

In 2009, the latest year for which tax records are available, she received $244,132 in salary and $119,073 in other compensation from LIAAC for a grand total of $363,205 -- for a 35-hour work week. ...

But LIAAC board co-Chairman John Haigney said it's common for charities to spend the lion's share of their money on salaries. ...

(Photo of Gail Barouh appeared in the NY Post. Credit: Victor Alcorn.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Disgraced SF Pride Director
Gets Free Ride from Bilerico

Even before the 2010 San Francisco Pride parade and festival were over, there were rumblings of trouble because of poor executive leadership on financial issues and accountability. Amy Andre served for less than year as executive director of SF Pride, before resigning under a cloud of serious mismanagement charges.

For months the Bay Area Reporter admirably kept tabs on the mounting problems, continually asked Andre for interviews and giving her the opportunity to respond in-depth to her critics. Andre eventually quit, as SF Pride was facing a potential deficit of $150,000, in October and showed tremendous disrespect to the community in not making herself available to publicly discuss what went wrong.

The best way to restore sane policies at SF Pride and learn from past mistakes would have started with Andre engaging the local community with forthright dialogue. At the time of her stepping down from the director's position, Andre spoke with the SF Chronicle in the most vague wording possible that showed a deep denial about the mess she created:

"It was a tremendous learning experience for me, this situation included," Andre said. "That's one reason to take the jobs we do: to learn, to grow, to stretch ourselves. I've accomplished something here, and it's time to move on."

What a pathetic reply, after months of refusing to help SF Pride and the community get a handle on the myriad sloppiness Andre was leaving everyone else to clean up after her disastrous tenure. Her touchy-feely comment to the Chronicle won her no fans and did nothing to solve the SF Pride problems of her making. Good-bye to incompetent leadership was the feeling among many community members.

But none of Andre's poor stewardship or the serious issues left to be addressed at SF Pride warrant even a passing mention by the editors at the Bilerico site, in an essay they ran by her last week. In a provocative column, Andre opined that Lady Gaga is not an ally to the gay community and Bilerico omitted her SF Pride job and accompanying troubles from her bio.
Bilerico's full bio for Andre: Featured from CNN to PBS to Cosmo for her expertise in bisexual community and LGBT rights, guest blogger Amy Andre is the co-author of Bisexual Health, published by the NGLTF. With a master's degree in sexuality studies, Amy has educated thousands of people at over 100 universities and companies, including Microsoft, Harvard, and Stanford Medical School.

Not a thing said about SF Pride and the damage she did to it. I don't know which is worse. Were Bilerico editors ignorant of the extensive news coverage and editorializing in the BAR, coupled with the front-page news in the SF Chronicle, regarding Andre's controversial performance at SF Pride, or did they know the facts and dismiss them?

Either way, Bilerico again shows it's not a source of accountability or watchdogging over Gay Inc and the leaders who seriously harm community organizations.

(The photo shows Amy Andre during her short tenure at the helm of SF Pride. Credit: Rick Gerharter, BAR.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

SFIFF Electrifies Film Buffs at the Castro;
'Mysteries of Lisbon' - a Masterpiece

The 54th edition of the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) opened on Thursday evening with a gala screening of the gay-themed "Beginners" at the Castro theater, with the director Mike Mills and his super-cute leading man Ewan McGregor appearing on the stage afterward.

SFIFF press officer Bill Proctor has given me press credentials, and I'm anticipating spending as much time as possible at the Sundance Kabuki multiplex watching movies, focusing on art house pictures and blogging on my festival experience.

I caught a press screening of "Beginners" this week and can report it's full of much good humor, large doses of poignancy and terrific acting by McGregor and costar Christopher Plummer playing his father, a gay man who emerges from the closet in his 70s and refuses to allow a cancer diagnosis stop him from finding love. Repetitive narrative structure got a bit distracting, while the gay political elements stayed at a rudimentary level, but recommended. Opens in the Bay Area in June.

On Friday, after getting credentialed at the press table inside the SFIFF lounge on Webster Street, I went to see the Czech movie that comes with a raft of awards from the local version of the Oscars, "Walking Too Fast." A drably told story of a secret police agent spying on a quarry he resents and covets, with a muted color scheme and melodramatic acting.

Heavily indebted to Germany's "The Lives of Others," which did an infinitely better job of looking back at communist times, this entry from the Czech Republic had me walking quite fast for the exit thirty-minutes into it. The house was packed, so others found it worth the time, and so may you. There are two additional screenings. Get info on tix here.

Saturday afternoon was a warm and sunny San Francisco day, and I happily spent it experiencing the four-and-a-half hour latest film from European-based, Chilean-born auteur Raul Ruiz "The Mysteries of Lisbon." It's a flat-out masterpiece by a director at the pinnacle of his game. Ruiz declared this work to be his last when it premiered last year, and today was the only showing of the festival.

Based on a classic Portuguese book, the story centers around an orphaned boy under the care of a priest and how the boy learns his mother is alive. Full of long takes that allow the audience to get acquainted with the assorted schemers, Counts and passionate lovers, every scene beautifully composed.

"The Mysteries of Lisbon" is a terrific reminder of how entertaining the classic European art film can be, when the money spent on gorgeous costumes, lush estates and high production values up on the screen come together in telling a good story. Worth seeing just for the fantastic tracking shots and over all expressive camerawork that pleased this cineaste's eyes.

Music Box Films has domestic distribution rights, but their site omits details on a North American release. The official site for the film says a fall release rollout is planned in the top-ten North American markets. I'm not sure which cities encompass those markets, but if live in or near one, and you love love movies that deliver on promises of a grand tale well-told, see this one.

For Sunday my plan is to see "A Cat in Paris", an animated feature, followed by a semi-fictionalized account of under-thirty artists and musicians in Alexandria, Egypt, made before the fall of Mubarak, "Microphone". Final film of the day will be the just-over three-hour documentary from Romania "The Autobiography of Nicolai Ceausescu".

See what's playing, when and where, get more info on the films still to be shown. Start here to engage with the festival.

Friday, April 22, 2011

SF Govt Asked to Raise Stars & Stripes
at Castro Plaza for Harvey Milk Day

It's a simple request I've made to the San Francisco municipal agency that oversees every inch of Milk Plaza, but as of the end of business on Friday, the Department of Public Works has not replied to my letter. The campaign I am waging to bring transparency to the current murky process ruled by the control queens at the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro, might eventually lead to community collaboration over the flag and pole issues.

If you agree that the San Francisco government and all its agency should work with the public on Harvey Milk Day to properly celebrate the man's life and legacy by raising an American flag at the plaza named in his honor, please contact Edward Reiskin. He's the chief for DPW.

Contact info:
Phone: 1-415-554-6920

Here's the text of the letter sent to Mario Montoya, who manages the plaza for the citizens of San Francisco:

I have been informed by Frank W. Lee that you are the DPW supervisor for Harvey Milk Plaza, located at Castro and Market Streets. I am contacting you to request that DPW hoist an American flag on May 22, Harvey Milk Day across California, up on the pole and that Old Glory fly under the rainbow flag to commemorate the patriotism of Milk for a 24-hour period.

Since you are the DPW supervisor for this public plaza, you must have the key for the flag pole control box lowering or raising flags. If for some reason you are not in possession of this key, I then need to know what you and DPW have done to locate the key, which is city property and may illegally be in the hands of private citizens with no written or legal claim to that property, or steps you have taken with a locksmith to replace any missing key.

My request is for you to work with me and other gay activists on Sunday, May 22, for a short ceremony at the Harvey Milk Plaza flag pole to mark the day's importance by lowering the enormous rainbow flag, attaching an American flag the same size as the rainbow flag, then fly both flags for 24-hours.

Further, I believe DPW can use the large American flag on display on DPW's pole at UN Plaza, which is under the supervision of DPW. Of course, DPW may possess other such flags equal in size or smaller than the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza and could also come under consideration for use on May 22.

The flag concerns and other issues require more communication between us, and I wish to restrict our communication to email exchanges at this stage of my request. Let me also say that I am available to attend any public meetings DPW might hold with key stakeholders of the municipal plaza and flag pole in question.

I am not the only San Francisco citizen or Castro stakeholder who seeks transparent discourse with DPW over control of the plaza and pole. For the good of the Castro and the city, DPW should convene public forums and invite all pertinent civic groups to participate, and allot plenty of time for public comment.

We have just over a month to collaborate, you as the city employee assisting me, a taxpayer and voter, in using DPW's Harvey Milk Plaza and the city's flag pole for the educational benefit of the public.

For one very significant day to LGBT people in San Francisco, around the nation and the planet, the rainbow flag must fly on May 22 with Old Glory. I look forward to working with you and other folks at DPW to make the joint flag flying project a municipal success.

Please acknowledge receipt of this request by noon on April 19. I will blog about all this late tomorrow afternoon, and hope to have positive and detailed communication from you to include in my post. Thanks.
(Two flags are better than one. Photo credit: Mariela Lombard, Zuma Press.)
'Passion' Play Pix Rival Folsom Fair
for Whips and Kinkiness

The Datebook section in today's print edition of the San Francisco Chronicle might have been designed to attract the eyeballs of two key Bay Area audiences: the Christians and the leather/kink community. Hey, every daily has to keep people buying the recycled-tree editions and more photos is one way to do it.

The central piece on the section's front-page was an excellent photographic essay of assorted "Passion" plays at local churches and amateur actors rehearsing for performance in conjunction with Holy Week. The centerfold of the Datebook was an eye-popping array of colorful and very pervy/religious pix.

Looking at the fabulous images, all snapped by a staff photographer, I couldn't help but recall the controversy in 2007 when the Folsom Street Fair, a yearly day-long kink parade that attracts hundreds of thousands of fetishists and the voyeurs who love them, used this poster:

That parody of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous "Last Supper" painting created headlines around the world, because Christians were upset. Those headlines likely brought more attendees to the Folsom Street Fair, and the photographer of the poster, Fred Alert, saw his work reposted and on display at countless web sites.

Here are the two pix that best convey the kinkiness of some Bay Area productions of the "Passion" play and the hunkiness of some of the men who create them. These photos taken by the SF Chronicle's Mike Kepka:

An actor portraying Jesus Christ gets squirted with fake blood on his naked chest and flat stomach, as he prepares to wear a crown of thorns.

Another production's rehearsal shows a performer carrying a wooden cross, as a leather-clad guard uses a silver-colored whip on his backside.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Video: Polina Savchenko, Russian LGBT Activist,
Makes Friendship Visit to San Francisco

It's been a few weeks since Polina Savchenko of St. Petersburg, Russia, made a successful week-long visit to Northern California, and I'm pleased to now share with you a video showing just a handful of interactions she experienced with our fabulous local LGBT communities.

For people who have not met Polina, here is your opportunity to see her in action creating political collaborations and personal friendship. We believe our video illustrates her intelligence, strong commitment and warmth, qualities that have won her fans at home and increasing in other countries.

Many thanks go out from Gays Without Borders/San Francisco to all who assisted in making Polina's time with us productive and full of fun.

However, one person must be singled out and praised for his time and expertise in creating this tape. That would be Ken Hodnett, a longtime volunteer community documentarian. Kenny, dear friend, you are a treasure to me and for the community.

All interested persons are invited to join the QueeRussia Google group started by LGBT Russians, to foster respectful communication and understanding between them and their colleagues in Europe and the United States.

The HD YouTube version is here and this is the standard edition:

AFER's IRS 990: $3.4M Raised
For Prop 8 Legal Challenge

The first IRS 990 filing for the American Foundation for Equal Rights is now available for public inspection, and to their credit, the group's leaders have posted their FY 2009 filing on their site.

Revenue is listed at $3.4 million, and $2.6 million was spent on "sponsorship of the federal court challenge of California's Proposition 8, known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger."

Another expense, for a "public awareness campaign to promote full civil rights for the LGBT community", was listed and that amount was $312,333."

In the section for independent contractors, AFER reports spending nearly $1.7 million for "legal and ancillary legal expenses" through Griffin, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. That's the firm were Ted Olson is a partner.

I'd say the gay community got a much better deal out of the $3.4 million spent by AFER in FY 2009 fighting for gay marriage in the courts, than we got from the $45 million wasted by the No on Prop 8 campaign and its lead organization in the election of 2008, Equality California.

Speaking of which, EQCA recently announced a series of town hall meetings across the state to discuss the possibility of mounting a 2012 repeal at the ballot box. The argument for going back to the voters next year, with EQCA again serving as a leader in that battle, is that we shouldn't put all our eggs in the basket of the courts.

This pro-2012 repeal argument calls for at least $53 million to be raised for that campaign. A frightening thought, when so many direct-service health agencies serving LGBT people and persons with AIDS are struggling to keep the doors open.

Glad to say, I don't hear any serious proposal being made to trust EQCA again with millions of precious gay dollars, when Perry v. Schwarzenegger and other legal challenges fighting for gay marriage are working their way through the courts.

Final thoughts on AFER's IRS 990. Their revenue probably jumped significantly in FY 2010, which will be reported in next year's tax filing. I also give AFER's leaders a gold star for voluntarily posting their IRS 990 on their site and that it's so easy to locate.

Here's the image of the tax filing's opening page. Click to enlarge:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scorecard of Closed or Ailing
S.F. Gay & HIV Institutions

With so much turmoil and budgetary problems at a seemingly ever-increasing number of gay and AIDS organizations, and businesses across several sectors of the gay economy going under, changing hands or in trouble of one sort or another, I couldn't keep track of just the names, never mind the reasons behind the turmoil.

I've gathered a comprehensive list, just to map out failed business enterprises in the Castro and other city districts, to get an understanding for myself of the queer landscape in San Francisco over the past two years. Only entities that died or faced significant challenges since 2009 are included.


Black Coalition on AIDS
Budgetary and programmatic changes at the SF Department of Public Health that kicked in recently means a whopping $300,000 reduction in city funding for this minority organization. It was already under duress from previous funding shortfalls in government and private donations.

Marcus Conant, MD
One of America's first and most experienced AIDS doctors gave up his Castro Street practice last year, because of insurance hassles taking up more of his time away from patients. He's retired and moved to New York City. [SF Chronicle]

Castro Country Club
The clean-and-sober hangout on 18th Street recently held a town hall to discuss their strategy for purchasing their building, while simultaneously contending with an annual deficit between $40,000 and $60,000. Baker Places, the club fiscal sponsor, takes care of that expense. [BAR]

Lyon Martin Health Clinic
The board of directors attempted to just lock the doors and say goodbye in four-day, but the clients and community supporters began a turn-around project to save the clinic. A bailout from the SF DPH was never an option because of gross mismanagement. Hanging on for the time being. [Google News]

New Leaf
This mental health and substance abuse counseling agency dissolved itself with a carefully constructed timeline and strategic plan to go out of business, after 35-years of existence. Some New Leaf clients were sent over to Lyon Martin Health Clinic for services. [SF Chronicle]

SF LGBT Community Center
What started out as an patronage project of Democratic Party A-gays has weathered fiscal crises thanks to bailouts from the city, and can't maintain the charade of being a grassroots-supported community center. Municipal planners granted a special zoning variance just for the center's parcel of land, allowing it to lease part of the facility to a restaurant or other profit-making business. [BAR, SF Appeal]

SF Pride
Oh, dear Goddess, where to begin with this misbegotten nonprofit? The accounting screw ups with vendors that negatively impacted the funds available to pass along to the dozens of service agencies that provide volunteers? An expanded deficit and no reserves on hand? The seriously under-qualified executive director Amy Andre who was forced to resign? The city controller's audit and findings of bad management and board practices? Recent waves of resignations of board members and staffers? [BAR, SF Chronicle, SF Weekly.]

Shanti Project
They've lost city funding for their classes providing emotional well-being advice that is no longer considered a direct, necessary service for people with AIDS. No word yet on how much the city will cut from Shanti's budget. [BAR]

Stop AIDS Project
As with other HIV agencies, this one will also see a serious reduction in funding from the city's health department, at a time when it is struggling to maintain existing prevention efforts. A bright spot is that they will collaborate on a single project with the SF AIDS Foundation. [BAR]


A Different Light
The once-venerable and hopping hub for homo wordsmiths quite a number of full moons ago shed its mission as a bookstore for the LGBT community, one that served as a community center, nurtured writers and readers interested in more than porn available at nine other Castro stores. ADL disrespected so many folks that their is no mourning over its tired-ass closure. [SFist]

Castro Theater
Our cherished movie palace jewel is closed every Monday and Tuesday during April, for a total of eight dark nights. The owner and manager say business is fine, that it's basic film packaging and booking at issue in recent months. [Petrelis Files, SF Examiner]

Femina Potens
Who can tell me if it's been nine-months or longer since the feminist art gallery and performance space left it's prime spot on Market at Sanchez? Their web site states they are "between spaces" at present. [Femina Potens]

Mama Calizo's Voice Factory
Performance and rehearsal space that operated from the former Jon Sims Arts Center on Mission near Van Ness, closed in the summer of 2010 due to a fire department inspection that found numerous, previously unnoticed code violations too expensive to correct. [BAR]

Modern Times
Word from the socialist bookstore and meeting place is that they're vacating their Valencia Street venue at the end of April. They carried queer titles and hosted many a queer writer or political workshop. According to the SF Appeal, Modern Times has located new digs on 24th Street and will re-open in May. Yeah! [SF Appeal]


A.G. Ferrari Foods
The Castro outlet for this East Bay based, family-owned chain of boutique Italian delis was spared the chopping block earlier this month, when the company went into bankruptcy and other local shops sold their last salami slices. Ferrari's gayborhood location is not on solid ground, and I wish them well. [SF Chronicle]

Bagdad Cafe
Named after a comedic German film of the 1980s, this greasy spoon closed the kitchen in early April, but promises to open again under new owners and a re-thinking of the menu offerings. When they no longer served potato pancakes, there was little reason for me to eat there. [Grub Street SF]

At Church and 14th Streets, what was until last month known as the BOC, Bar on Church, is now empty but getting exterior and interior makeovers. Hopeful signs a new club will shortly open for customers at this central location? Maybe. For many, the bar is better known for once being the home of the Transfer, a proud dive. [Petrelis Files]

DeLano's Supermarket
Selling everything from soup to nuts and beyond, this 18th Street market abruptly announced a closing date last November when the parent company declared bankruptcy. The good news about the building is that a Mollie Stone's Market took possession, and since February meeting the household shopping and food needs of area residents. [SF Grub Street, SF Chronicle]

Eagle Tavern
More than a leather bar for almost 30-years at the same spot - Harrison and 12th - literally a worldwide famous location for a few generations of the global gay tribe and allies. It's a confusing trail following the landlord and bar owners' versions of the facts, but the last day is expected this month. [Google News]


Affordable Italian pasta-and-salad trattoria is closed and I missed the news about its demise, but Googling showed Fuzio said "Caio Castro" the first week of April when the lease was up. No word on what might go in there next. [Eater SF]


The short existence of the dim sum establishment came and went so quickly, it barely registered on my radar that the cavernous space on Market opposite the Safeway store had been leased by new management and was serving food again. It closed three week ago. [Petrelis Files]

Ristorante Capri
Another moderately priced Italian joint is changing owners, after a healthy 26-year run next to the former Tower Records store on Market Street. Capri will close in the early summer and no date yet on when a new eatery opens in the same space. [Grub Street SF]


Academy of Friends
The purpose of this charity is raising funds for AIDS nonprofits by hosting an annual top-dollar gala on the day of the Oscars. Executive and board turnover, coupled with questionable management, created a steep drop in profits from the pricey party, leaving AIDS groups around town disappointed promised funds never materialized in the two most recent years. [BAR]

Bay Times

In the past six weeks, the smaller local gay paper has not published a print edition for five of those weeks. No word from the owner what the financial situation is at the rag, but they have maintain their web site and update it every Thursday. I'd like to see it printed regularly again. [Petrelis Files]

Kard Zone
The proprietor of the notions and cards store on the ground floor of the Tower Records died last year of abusing multi-substances, Brad Villers, leaving no one to take over the business. The shop remained locked by the cops for months, until Under One Roof made use of the space for a short time. It's now empty and dirty. [Petrelis Files]

Gym SF

The work out club on Market Street above Books Inc, has signs posted on their mirrors detailing their last date of business and for guys to empty the lockers. Turning that venue into a sex space would be my ideal change at the club. They must vacate the premises by April 30th. [Petrelis Files]

Human Rights Campaign Store

Late last year, HRC took over the lease of Harvey Milk's old camera shop on Castro Street and controversy erupted since many feel HRC and Milk are not a good match. HRC's old store at 19th and Castro Streets sits empty and available for lease, while they now sell their merchandise at the former camera store. [Petrelis Files]

Trader Joe's/Tower Records
This retail grocery chain wanted to take over the former Tower Records building on Market near Noe, but factors like poor planning for increased car traffic and strong opposition from area residents killed Trader Joe's proposal. There are no other major potential tenants or buyers for the property. [BAR]

Under One Roof, Castro Street
The agency's sales and profits are in a serious decline at their main shop on Castro, so AIDS service organizations who once received thousands of bucks annually, now get a fraction of that. [BAR]

Under One Roof Annex
Who knew this store existed for more than a year on the second floor of the Tower Records building? Not I, until walking past the entrance last week when stocky guys were moving the merchandise into trucks because the lease is up. [Petrelis Files]

Monday, April 18, 2011

BAR 'Denied Access' to
SF AIDS Budget Meeting

In mid March, the Haas Fund co-sponsored and paid for a weekend junket in San Francisco for select bloggers and old media, that was invitation-only and no part of the junket was open to the public. Many community divisions were fortified and new ones created over the secrecy of the junket until it was underway and other transparency issues.

Among the elite attendees were Bay Area Reporter editor Cynthia Laird and her cub reporter Matt Baume, an ambitious young gay who rarely if ever even mildly challenges anything to do with Gay Inc, pictured above in the center and on the left. The photo was snapped by fellow attendee Karen Ocamb, who like her BAR colleagues raised no public objection to how the Haas Fund junket was organized behind closed doors.

A few days after that junket, I blogged in advance about an invitation-only, closed-door meeting of AIDS service providers in San Francisco convened by and held at the gay community center on Market Street. The meeting was held on March 18, and some weeks later the BAR's Seth Hemmelgarn wrote about trying to attend the AIDS strategy session.

In a clear case of karmic payback, the gay paper reported:

The Bay Area Reporter was denied access to the March 18 meeting. Just before the gathering, [community center executive director Rebecca] Rolfe explained attendees "strongly" wanted to keep the meeting closed because they wanted to have "an honest conversation" about what the [city AIDS budget] changes mean. ...

Interesting that the BAR had no qualms about being part of the closed junket meetings at the Haas Fund office, and less than a week later attempted to crash an invitation-only discussion and the paper's writer was excluded.

San Francisco's leading gay weekly might learn a large lesson here about always siding with bloggers and activists demanding more transparency and open-door attendance policies at Gay Foundation Inc junkets _and_ when AIDS service providing agencies meet to discuss cutbacks and forced reorganization at the agencies.

Our community could do with improved and stricter sunshine rules all around.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jane Fonda: Trans Friends
'Gave Up Penis Privilege'

The Stonewall Democratic Club of Los Angeles honored activist, feminist and actress Jane Fonda with a "Stoney" award last weekend. (I wonder if marijuana advocacy groups have any problems over the nickname for this club's award. ) Over at her blog, Fonda wrote that she took along two friends to the ceremony, Calpernia Addams and Andrea James, two transgender woman. 

This pic from her blog shows the three gorgeous gals glammed up and ready for fun and lots of socializing. From the left, James, Fonda and Addams, smile for the camera:

Some background details from Fonda about her friends and some of the ways they have collaborated together:

My son starred in “Soldier’s Girl” a few years ago ( was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal) in which he played a GI…true story…during the Gulf War, who was bludgeoned to death by his roommate because he ( my son’s character) fell in love with a singer in a nightclub who turned out to be transitioning into a woman. ... [Addams and I] have become friends and I have learned a tremendous amount from her and Andrea about the journey and courage of people who know that, for whatever reasons, they have been born into the wrong sex and make the decision to be who they are meant to be. 

I was so moved and impressed that I convinced Eve Ensler to allow these women to perform her “Vagina Monologues.” Prior to that, only women were allowed to perform the monologues, but I said to Eve, “these women voluntarily gave up penis privilege. In many ways, they know more about being a woman than I do.” There was a performance of all transgendered women..all shapes and sizes, all with slightly different stories. It was an amazing evening. Calpernia wrote a special monologue which was very moving, called “Home Spun”. ...

That Jane Fonda, always the radical and here she doesn't disappoint, opining about penis privilege and abandoning it. I'm so glad she doesn't tip-toe around these matters, uses frank language and discusses her friends who happen to be transgender women with respect. Surely Ensler couldn't turn down Fonda's request for the trans production of her theater piece, and it's probably quite a show when performed by transgender women before a live audience.

What other liberal icon was in attendance at the Stoney's a week ago? Man of many talents and careers with his own controversial history that at times rivals and surpasses Fonda's, the legendary Gore Vidal. Here is a great photo of them together, and I dig that half bemused, half skeptical look on Vidal's face:

Speaking of Fonda, my partner and I recently watched her one-hour interview with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies, and she brought up her TV movie from the early 1980s "The Dollmaker". She played an Appalachian wife and mother uprooted with her family during World War II to Detroit for her husband's employment in the auto industry, and won an Emmy for her performance.

I thought it must be on DVD, so I went to the public library to borrow a copy of it but sorry to say, "The Dollmaker" has only been issued on video cassette and the San Francisco library system does not possess it.

Whichever entertainment corporation owns the rights to the TV movie could make a few bucks, by releasing it on DVD. Rest assured, that DVD would get some free publicity on Fonda's blog!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gov Brown's Town Hall;
Mark Leno Parties at Toad Hall

There is no evidence I can locate on the web proving Democratic gay leader and state senator Mark Leno has ever held a town hall meeting in his long political career with grassroots gays and other constituents.

When I asked his staff last month about his lack of town halls, they invoked the always-present budget crisis for evading my questions. The staffers essentially said he was just so very busy with solving the fiscal woes of California he and his staff simply couldn't expend time and energy on public forums.

There is one Democratic leader, Jerry Brown, wisely holding talking sessions out among voters, and one such meeting was reported in a story by Marisa Lagos and Wyatt Buchanan in this morning's SF Chronicle, bolding mine:

Van Buren Elementary School Principal Ione Ringen has 30 teachers at her Stockton school, but more than two-thirds of them - 21 teachers - received layoff notices in March.

They are among the more than 19,000 instructors across California whose jobs are in limbo.

Gov. Jerry Brown held a town hall meeting at the school Thursday ... At the town hall meeting, Brown heard from teachers, students and school staff members about the uncertainty, and continued to push for his budget plan and a vote on taxes. Republican lawmakers have refused to support putting tax increases and extensions before voters.

Brown told the crowd Thursday that he supports the repeal of a corporate tax break worth $1 billion and thinks more criminal justice services should be moved to the local level. ...

Thank you, Jerry, for getting out of Sacramento and bringing yourself to listen to what ordinary citizens and voters have to say about the budget, and for speaking directly to the people.

On the flip side of Jerry's excellent grassroots speaking and listen tour, we have Mark Leno who is legendary for making drop-by appearances and scoring a bounty of photo-ops at every reception and opening imaginable, including the opening of a window.

The latest example of Mark's prowess of getting his mug shot in the papers happened in this week's Bay Area Reporter when he showed up at last Thursday's invitation-only party at the gay history group's storefront:

The photo shows Mark on the right, with drag artiste and socialite Donna Sachet at a recent party at the GLBT Historical Society's museum storefront on 18th Street a week ago Thursday. The pic credit goes to Steven Underhill. Donna wrote in her BAR gossip column about the soiree and that Mark was there:

Last Thursday's private celebration of this publication's 40th anniversary for staff and invited guests packed the GLBT Historical Society's Museum in the Castro with nearly enough elected officials to take care of civic business! State Senators Mark Leno and Leland Yee, [were among the attendees] ...

Donna also wrote about last Saturday's free and public party at the Toad Hall bar on 18th Street, but she doesn't mention if Mark was there or not, which is why I used a question mark in my headline. Regardless of his appearance or absence at Toad Hall, Mark was able to tear himself away from his budget crisis duties for historical society celebration.

Now, if only he'd finally find the time to also hold regular town halls in his San Francisco district and listen to average gays outside the dine of bar and cocktail parties, I'd be impressed. Mark could learn a lot from Jerry's town hall experience this week.

[Correction: No question mark needed in the headline. Mark was at the Saturday party for the BAR at Toad Hall.]
Wiener/MUMC Closed-Door Meeting
Plans Harvey Milk Day Events

Kudos to Matthew Bajko at the Bay Area Reporter for keeping tabs on the info is swirling about the community regarding the best ways to mark the second official state day of significance honoring Harvey Milk on May 22.

He writes this week about an old-fashioned rally and street protest/celebration I am helping to organize with Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and reports that a closed-door meeting took place recently at Supervisor Scott Wiener's office at which MUMC president's was present:

This year's Milk Day will take place Sunday, May 22 and coincides with the birthday of the late gay San Francisco supervisor, who became the first out politician in California when he won election in November 1977. ...

According to those involved in planning this year's celebration, a rally is slated to take place that day at Harvey Milk Plaza at the corner of Castro and Market streets. Immediately following will be a march to the site of Milk's old campaign headquarters and camera shop at 575 Castro Street. Specifics such as time and speakers have yet to be determined.

"That is all I know so far," said Steve Adams, president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro business association, who attended a recent planning meeting at District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener's office to discuss how to mark the occasion. ...

While Matthew does not qualify the planning meeting at Wiener's City Hall digs as closed-door, I am making the assumption that it was invitation-only and closed-door but there were no public notices issued to the wide community beyond the merchants group. This is the first I'm hearing about the meeting, and I can also say that Wiener has held no community forums in the Castro to discuss ideas for marking May 22 as Harvey Milk Day.

If Wiener is not allergic to grassroots community engagement with Castro constituents who are not rich or donors of his, he would organize at least two open forums surrounding May 22. It does not sit well in my gut that all the public record shows so far about Wiener's plans for that Sunday have only involved the MUMC group and its control queen leader.

Harvey's legacy and message of inclusion and transparency are being trampled on by Wiener and MUMC, which is not right and ought to be changed. I'm not saying Wiener should not meet with the MUMC leader and listen to their concerns, but I am requesting that he expand the number of stakeholders who get to plan with him over May 22.

A simple town hall at the gay community center about engaging as much of the diverse local LGBT community for Harvey Milk Day, would honor not only Milk but also show us Wiener will try to be a supervisor for more than just a narrow slice of Castro stakeholders.

There is one solid month to go before May 22 is upon us. More than enough time for Wiener and his staff to organize some public meetings.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Castro Closures: Gym SF, Bagdad Cafe,
Under One Roof Annex & Fuzio

[UPDATE 1: Another Castro vicinity restaurant is gone. Info below. 2. The Bar on Church and the Blockbuster outlet are closed. Info & pix below.]

The Castro theater today screened the restored version of Antonioni's "The Passenger" starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider, who passed away recently and who for me will always be remembered best for this film and not "Last Tango in Paris", and I couldn't pass up the chance to see it for the 14th time.

On my way to the movie palace I snapped pix of all the signs I saw announcing a business was closed, about to change hands, soon to shutter or the front door locked for inventory.

Some of what's news to me is that Gym SF, the work out club on Market Street above Books Inc, has signs posted on their mirrors detailing their last date of business and for guys to empty the lockers. Turning that venue into a sex space would be my ideal change at the club. They must vacate the premises by April 30th:

Other news to me is the shuttering of the Baghdad Cafe at the prime location of Market and 16th Streets is closed and a sign in the window announced it had been sold, with a reopening promised for May 1st. Good luck with that:

I think the Bay Area Reporter has written about Fuzio, the affordable Italian eatery saying "ciao" and splitting the Castro neighborhood, and it slipped my mind that they're gone. Someone needs to create a scorecard of all the closed businesses and troubled Gay Inc groups in this town going through major upheavals. Fuzio should also have spell-checked "unfortunately" before printing up their sign:

A few doors down Castro from Fuzio was this sign on the window of the locked door at the shell of A Different Light. When the workers inside saw my flash go off, one of the lesbians approached the door curious about my picture-taking. "We're not closed for good yet," she said. OK, whatever you say, but I remember when that place was a hub of homosexual wordsmiths and enjoyed community support:

Do you get the slight sense that folks at the Under One Roof annex on Market Street where Tower Records once sold music on vinyl are burnt out and expressing deep-frustration through sarcasm? This sign was posted in the entrance to the upstairs annex, as workers from the liquidation company was hauled boxes into moving vans:

Now would be an ideal time to ask mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty what happened to his "Castro Renaissance" he promised us. Anyone remember this good idea of Bevan's and do you think the Castro district experienced that renaissance while he was on the Board of Supervisors? If went through such a time, I missed it and we sure as hell aren't living in a renaissance now.

From the Bay Times in 2005:

On the board, Dufty has led what he calls, “the Castro Renaissance,” a plan to revitalize San Francisco’s gay mecca, a cleanup of the city’s Market Street Halloween celebration, and an effort to provide housing for gay homeless youth.

This appeared in the BAR in 2006:

First conceived in 2004 by District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty as part of his Castro Renaissance plan, the historical society project calls for a museum space and archival center to be built on the Castro library branch's property, ... It is projected to cost upwards of $15 million to build. ...

Dufty did secure a $75,000 grant from the city to pay for the conceptual work ...

As we all know, the local library branch was not expanded to include a space for the gay historical society, but $75,000 in city dollars that might have been better spent on general operating expenses for the society, went toward a feasibility study and some gay consultants earned a few paychecks.


The BF and I were walking past Pudong, which was located at 2029 Market Street between 14th and Dolores, for approximately three-months serving up dim sum and saw this sign taped to one of the front doors:

The short existence of Pudong came and went so quickly, it barely registered on us that the cavernous space had been leased by new management and was serving food again. While the location is more than a stone's throw from Castro Street, the Castro district nowadays starts at the SF LGBT Community Center at Market and Octavia Boulevard, and by that boundary Pudong's closure belongs on this list.


On Church Street, two recent closures are added to this list of troubled or defunct businesses in the gayborhood.

At Church and 14th Streets, what was until last month known as the BOC, Bar on Church, is now empty but getting exterior and interior makeovers. Hopeful signs a new club will shortly open for customers at this central location? Maybe the owner is gussying up the joint to be more attractive to potential businesses. For many, the bar is better known for once being the home of the Transfer, a proud dive.

Three doors up from the shuttered BOC is the very empty former location for a Blockbuster outlet. If memory serves, the video and DVD corporate chain end the lease at the end of February. Except for the closed and other locations signs, nothing was posted to the windows about something new going in there in the near future.