Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Spirit of Halloween

Most people have a primal need to dress up in costume and playact on occasion, and though San Francisco has many such occasions, from the Bay to Breakers footrace to Zombie flash mobs, the Monster Costume Ball for the last thirty years has been Halloween.

The current overblown incarnation started on Polk Street in the early 1970s, when drag queens would cavort around the sidewalks, and gawkers would arrive to watch them from around the Bay Area. This blossomed into a huge street party, with Polk Street closed to traffic for a good ten blocks, but the event quickly degenerated into too many people and too many troublemakers. So one year in the late 1970s, the unofficial word went out that the party was moving to Castro Street, and not to tell any of the gawkers. It was probably the most exquisite, spontaneously fun, outdoor party I've attended in San Francisco, partly because everyone was in costume. Of course, by the next year, the word did get out to the gawkers and thirty years later, it looks time to migrate again.

This year Mayor Newsom, in concert with Supervisor Bevan Dufty and the lazy San Francisco Police Force, decided to threaten everyone with arrest, parking tickets, and general unpleasantness if they dared to show up in the Castro on Halloween so people sensibly avoided the place. Still, this seemed like a crappy way to deal with the situation, particularly in a city that relies so heavily on local tourism. Tom Meyer, the San Francisco Chronicle editorial cartoonist, actually wrote the best essay on that subject a couple of days ago (click here). Plus, the word I've been hearing for a number of years is that Halloween in the Castro is over for hipsters. Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in the Mission is where it's at.

Thanks to Mike Harvey for the cool backstage photos from "The Magic Flute" at the San Francisco Opera on Halloween night with the amazing Erika Miklosa as the Queen of Night (click here for her website), the fabulous Elza van den Heever as The First Lady, Charlie Lichtman as a mangy lion, and yours truly as a silly slave.


AlbGlinka said...

That is a great Queen of the Night shot. You, however, should probably hit the gym and not the tanning salon or the costume jewelry counter at Woolworths!

I was there Halloween night. Mixed reactions to the performance. I was actually quite moved by Pamina, and Pappageno's acting is great, though I thought he missed low notes here and there.
Production was most artful, I'd love to know how they did the backdrops, assuming it was all rear-projections from digital artwork.

The animals were hella-cute!

Rent Party said...

I like that orange person.

I was in New Orleans but I did not take pictures.