Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Death of Sister Boom Boom

There are various Buddhas put on this earth who are about two steps ahead of everyone else in their understanding of the world, and who instinctively teach everyone else around them. Jack Fertig, who died of liver cancer at age 57 last Sunday, was one of them.

I know nothing about Fertig's youth or background, but he started his career as a young adult in San Francisco with a blaze of notoriety, as a radical gay lib prankster named Sister Boom Boom who was one of the founding members of the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in the late 1970s. The face-painted, nun-garbed troupe were a collection of attention hogs, and Sister Boom Boom was the undisputed queen of media attention, particularly after he ran for the Board of Supervisors as "Nun of the Above" in 1982 and almost won. His campaign poster above that electrified the city is still the gold standard for hippie/punk subversiveness. It made fun of the straightlaced Mayor Dianne Feinstein while misspelling her name as Sister Boom Boom rode over City Hall's dome like the Wicked Witch of the West. Incidentally, he spent most of this period working a day job as a towel attendant at the gymnasium/pool of the old Jewish Community Center in Presidio Heights.

Fertig split from the Sisters early in the group's history, in an angry separation, but not before thoroughly enraging the entire Catholic establishment of San Francisco with public exorcisms of bigotry on the Lone Mountain campus of the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco.

He essentially disappeared from public life in in 1985 when he became a Living Sober adherent before that became fashionable, where he influenced the sobriety movement from the inside in innumerable ways. In the 1990s, when I ran into him again at the back of the Lone Star Saloon for the first time in a decade, he was a pierced, tattooed daddy bear (not pictured above, but you get the idea), before that whole scene became fashionable too. He had also become a professional, published astrologist.

The last time I ran into him was two years ago at a Proposition 8 protest in front of the California Supreme Court. He was wearing a kaffiyeh while holding a sign pointing out the hypocrisy of Christian fundamentalists, relating that he had become a practicing Muslim for the previous six years.

"What!?" We talked for a while and it was soon obvious that he hadn't lost his mind, but was as wise and visionary as he'd ever been, and I thought, "Of course. Way to stay two steps ahead of everyone, Jack."


Markley Morris said...

I'm so sorry to hear Jack is dead. He was a sweet guy and way too smart and talented to live an easy life. Thank you for an insightful eulogy, Mike.

janinsanfran said...

Good man in a good era of this city. Thanks Mike.