Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Wake for Willie Watson



On Saturday, March 18th, after the Peace March...



...there was a wake held for Willie Watson...



...at the venerable old San Francisco gay leather bar on Harrison Street, The Eagle.



The owners of the place (click here to get to their website) offered their large back yard for a "Celebration of Willie Watson."



The affair was a little tentative at first...



...and sadness at Willie's early death from Hepatitis C...



...kept many from getting too raucous too soon.



Doug from the Eagle proposed that everyone hold hands...



...and make one hell of a ruckus with our voices...



...but that felt a bit too touchy-feely for this crowd.



A chicken and ribs barbeque was started on the outdoor grill as various people went to the microphone to testify.



Fundi, a great friend of Willie's, started it off with a long, improvised, a capella song...



...that was a bit too self-indulgent for my taste, so I repaired to the bar for more cocktails.



The rest of the paeans to Willie were short, sweet, loving and good-natured, such as Bambi's recital of how Willie had taken him under his wing when he'd just arrived in San Francisco young, scared and alone.



Tim Miller told great stories from softball teams they had played on together.



This woman told of a spontaneous road trip she had taken with Willie from Chicago to San Francisco...



...while this gent told of his bar crawling adventures with Willie and then proceeded to quite beautifully sing "Rosie's Cantina."



Meanwhile, the barbeque continued to fill the place with great smells.



Jim the Sculptor announced that this event was putting the "fun" back in "funeral"...



...while the ancient Harry dispensed affection to everyone.



Doug told about playing music with Willie and announced that there were percussion instruments available for anybody who wanted to join in a drum circle.



At first, it was only Doug...



...and another musician friend who were playing the drums...



...but something magical happened over the course of the improvised percussion jam.



Half the crowd joined in...



...and they conjured Willie Watson's spirit right there.



By this time, I was blubbering like a baby because the moment was so beautiful.



When the time comes, I pray to get sent off even half as well.

8 comments:

sfwillie said...

Very moving, Michael. So nostalgic. And so darn wholesome.

p said...

sf mike, my question is...where's your leather outfit?

sfmike said...

Dear Mr. P: I've always thought the leather queen scene was just the butch version of drag queens, neither of which interests me all that much. However, I have plenty of interesting friends and acquaintances who are into one or the other of those scenes, and in a few cases they're into both leather AND drag. Willie Watson, from what I could gather, tended towards a more masculine hippie style, but as you can see by the turnout his circle was fairly catholic.

And Willie M., you're right. It WAS oddly wholesome.

Tim said...

Great recounting, Mike. I loved what happened at the Eagle for Willie. I was equally moved that day, and it held its spell for a few days afterward.

Anonymous said...

pool. Neil Young, 49ers, Giants,longhorns, drumming, videos(especially one word), artist, friendand compassionate soul.These are only describes Willie, you will be missed and you touched many lives.....George

gregrocker said...

Willie, it's Greg. I'm down here in the SoCal mountains when I get your e-mail returned, so I type your name into Google and here is this beautiful wake which I am suddenly attending... surrounded by familar faces...(WILLIE IS THIS A JOKE?)...knowing u have been sent off well with the majestic verse-walking of Fundi, swirling sorcery from Dennis in hat and cape, cadence by Doug. And now the memories wash over me of dancing at the old Stud, tramping the streets in continuous magic mode, the house on Dore Alley behind the Ambush, the house on Potrero Hill (thanks Dennis), Bruce oh god Bruce, road trips down to San Diego and Bob's in L.A., Rockers clubs, the Bush... U taught me to turn my madness to magic but I kept turning it back again, to ur utter exasperation. When I finally quit drinking we grew apart and I realize that I had passed through ur life completely. Thank you for passing through mine. I love you madly Willie. Safe passage my San Francisco pal of pals. Your suffering is over.

freebird said...

Always had an afinity with Willie and even played ever so briefly in 3 different bands with him. I was at this memorial but very very late and most everybody had already left because I just couldn't leave home knowing I was going to say goodbye to this old friend....and I guess I still really haven't. Glad to see that he had a proper send off.

gregrocker said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9gKyRmic20

Every time I hear this song I think of you Willie bringing home the album. It was fun in the Potrero house doing the Rocker's clubs there - such creativity and excitement tilting at the disco windmill.