Author Tim Jones July 2001
June is the month we slap on our rainbow afros and celebrate our Gay Pride, it was at this time I was in Los Angeles trying to get funding for my movie script "God is in a K hole, please call later", when I had an invite from my Australian mate Allan Parkinson to witness another of his stunning light shows at San Francisco’s main Pride party.
Allan is probably the most creative party lighting technician in the world. He is renowned for his lighting at the Sydney Mardi Gras parties, and put on such an amazing show at one of the "Hand in Hand" parties, that half the dance floor stopped and just stood and watched the stunning lighting show.
He had been retained for the third year in a row to design the lighting for San Francisco’s main Pride party. "ReUNION@ City Hall" is probably the most unique dance party in the world, taking place in the historic City Hall. Along the design of Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral, this is the home to the local government of San Francisco, and probably most famous for being the site on which Harvey Milk was assonated. Imagine, if you can, Ken Livingston allowing the equivalent of "Giant" or "Famous Five" taking place in the old GLC building and you get an idea of what this is all about.
The focal point of the party is the main hall and its three-story dome. On the north side is a grand marble flight of steps leading up to the first floor, all around the four sides are galleries on three levels, looking into the central floor space and dome area. Here the main dance floor and stage was set-up on the Saturday afternoon, only five hours prior to the first revellers arriving.
Technically this is a nightmare in disco sound logistics, with such a cavernous space; the acoustics are more akin to "echo valley" and not made for repetitive beat dance music! The lighting rigs had to be placed on special rigging, and care had to be taken not to damage the historic marble flooring. From the center of the dome was hung a huge ball of tie-dyed material and flowing streamers, this was to represent the vulva of Mother Earth (or some such Californian dream).
Two of the adjoining rooms housed alternative dance floors, one dedicated to Latino Beats, provided by Futura and DJ Salvador, and the other a harder trance sound. The main Dome dance floor was to be celebrated with the usual American Circuit Boy sound of stabbing beats and large vocals, all provided by DJ Roland Belmares of Los Angeles.
The festivities began at seven pm, when the doors were opened to the smaller adjoining rooms, the atmosphere was one of a charity cocktail party, very much a "Hi, How Are You" affair, and an opportunity to mingle with San Francisco’s A set gays. It was here that I met the" Mr. San Francisco Bear Chest" contingent, we Brits have droopy boy models in the back of certain Gay London publications; San Francisco has twelve of their hottest leather hunks, all put together in a fabulous calendar. Peter, Mr. September, explained to me that to be a Mr. Bear Chest 2002 is a big commitment, calling for personal appearances, and calendar signing opportunities, at least once a fortnight, in numerous Californian festivals, locations and bars.
At nine pm the main hall was opened and the dancing began. The space was amazing, and the lighting show predictably spectacular, with the high golden dome and tie-dyed decorations reflecting the spectrum of colours playing in time to the music. The sound was not bad if you stood in the middle of the floor, but as we ascended the stairs to the first gallery it began to deteriorate into a mass of echoing drums! I later learnt that the sound company used was new to this event, as the previous company had gone into liquidation, and so lessons learnt from the past few years had been lost.
Never the less the boys, all 800 of them, came out and enjoyed themselves. At the climax it was a mass of pumped and primed flesh, from wall to wall and on every stair to the first floor. Star fo the night was "Dana International", of Eurovision Song Contest fame. This girl gets everywhere! She sang her infamous Eurovision numbers, accompanied by hunky male dancers; an act worthy of GAY meets Love Muscle.
At 1 pm the grand finale consisted of a huge yellow tie-dyed ball descending from the middle of the dome, it floated across the dance floor and was caught by an Adonis on stage (now what was that all about?). This was accompanied by ten of San Francisco’s famous "flaggers", strategically placed in each of the galleries, dancing with flags held aloft, lit by black light, to look like flames spouting from their hands. At two am the party closed, but this was not the end of our night, the after party Regeneration was a short bus ride away. Here DJ Jamie J, of Heaven fame played until eight am. The whole event was managed and staged by an organization called Nobel Beast www.noblebeast.org a totally all-volunteer organisation with 100% of the proceeds going to two of San Francisco’s main gay charities.
This begs the question what are we doing, or not doing in London? When was the last time you went out, had the time of your life in an most unusual setting, in the knowledge that the profits we’re going to a good cause and not lining some promoters pocket? And please don’t get me started on London’s Mardi Gras!
Sunday morning saw 182 floats take part in San Francisco’s 31st annual gay pride parade, led by 500 Dykes on Bikes!, a tradition that seems to have gone global. It was estimated that 1 million people attended the gathering, and spent over $150 million over the weekend. The floats, bands and marchers all meandered past the 500 rainbow flags lining the parade route to City Hall and the Civic Center, where a huge street party and fair took place covering 12 city blocks. Three separate dance areas were set up catering to all tastes, Trance, Funk, Latino beats and live bands were the order of the day. The main sounds stage was placed in front of the park leading to City Hall, and key live act was the B52’s, rocking the crowd with "Rock Lobster", "Love Shack" and numerous other hits. My friends and I spent the day sipping frozen Margaritas and smoking some of California’s finest herbal remedies.
That evening saw another round of dance parties and hedonistic adventures, starting with "Mass", described as "a massive T-dance ritual" on the first Sunday of each month. Normally Mass runs from 6pm to midnight, which allows the locals to party and still turn in for work on a Monday morning. But this weekend Mass was open until 6am, this was the hottest ticket in town, held at the 1015 club, famed venue of British DJ’s such as Paul Ockenfold, Sasha and Digweed. By 10pm the placed was packed, hot and sweaty, a positive smorgasbord of sexual energy. Music was a great mix of USA House and probably song of the weekend was "Pusaka presents Tha Austin – You’re the worst thing for me", listen out for this one in my sets!. In the name of journalistic priorities, I left at midnight to head over to Universe, the largest and only regular weekly gay dance club in town. Here the usual Sunday night known as Pleasuredome was in full flow, DJ’s Neil Lewis, Jeff Johnson and Janie J played the latest in a range of USA House and Trance on two dance floors. It was no good, even the hunkiest bull of a barman couldn’t keep me there, and I eventually returned to Mass at 3am, to become another titbit on the buffet of life.
Tim Jones is an independent journalist and DJ
Don at http://www.noblebeast.com
Gus at www.guspresents.com
Lighting Guru mailto:email@example.com
DJ Jamie J and Neil Lewis @ Pleasuredome, 177 Townsend, San Francisco, California