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[Note: like much of my Flickr account, this post is not exactly safe for work.]
On January 5, 2006, we threw our first major party at the Big Gay Frat House -- the Epiphany Party. It was the largest non-fundraiser we've ever held there and helped set the tone for our future events.
I had been in a private local Mardi Gras krewe for many years, almost two decades. Our krewe selected a monarch at Mardi Gras who would reign through the party and then throughout the next year. In most years, the monarch was chosen by lottery; candidates would select a piece of king cake. A small plastic baby was baked in the cake; whichever candidate selected the piece with the baby would be chosen monarch for the following year. For a five year stretch, monarchs were elected by the True Krewe, a group of members who helped throw the annual parties. We returned to letting the baby select the monarch, but only True Krewe members were eligible to be candidates.
I had vied to become monarch every year since joinging the krewe in its fourth year, and I was always the bridesmaid, never the bride. I was dubbed the Susan Lucci of our krewe. Finally in 2005, in the krewe's 17th year and my 14th as a member, we held our celebration in Palm Springs and, on my birthday, I was became monarch by acclamation when all of the other potential candidates stepped down to guarantee me the win.
One of the founders of the krewe always believed that finding the baby always "speeded things up" for the monarch, karmicly speaking, for good or bad. That was certainly the case for me. A month after becoming king, I was hired by Gay.com after more than a year of unemployment (granted, I wasn't looking for much of that time). Six months later, we bought the Big Gay Frat House.
(Note: some of the other photos in this post may not be entirely safe for work. More after the jump.)
The monarch of the krewe really only has one responsibility other than presiding at the coronation of the next monarch. The Mardi Gras season officially starts on January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, and it was our tradition that the monarch throw an Epiphany Party to kick off the holiday season. Most of our Epiphany Parties were rather small affairs, much smaller than the Mardi Gras party itself, often limited to just the True Krewe. But after so many years of trying to become King, I was bound and determined that my Epiphany Party was going to be epic. And with the Big Gay Frat House, we now had the perfect venue.
Our home was still undergoing massive renovations. Scaffolding covered the front of our building, as the three-month facade work stretched into its fourth month (and would ultimately take four more). But that gave us a certain amount of sound protection and, with the garage blocked off from parking, made it available for the party.
I spent an embarrassing amount of money to make the party as perfect as possible. Thousands of dollars on alcohol (and not bottom shelf: all of the vodka was Ketel) -- and more booze had to be purchased midway through the party. Fifteen go-go boxes were made, which became the foundation for our stage. Rope lights, fabric, and decorations were purchased. And a staff was hired at a very generous salary:
- Two door guards
- One coat check girl
- Three bartenders
- Three floaters
- Five go-go boys
- Two drag performers accompanied by a live pianist
The place was decked out, top to bottom. The ground floor consisted of a dance floor in half of the garage (the other half curtained off to hide construction storage), and the unfinished office space made into a dimly-lit seedy bar with a South of Market vibe.
One flight up on the main floor, we set up some of the go-go boxes to be the stage where the drag performances were held. The main bar was set up in the kitchen and the back deck -- little more than a rear balcony at that point -- was the designated smoking area.
The top floor had yet another bar as well as a video lounge and another lounge with quieter music. My bedroom was set aside for the go-go boys to change. This was before we had curtains, and a neighbor in the back whom I later met commented that he enjoyed watching his "backstage" view of the party.
There was a half hour drag show with multiple performances each by Trauma Flintstone and Janet Fly (sometimes seen about town as Ethel Merman), accompanied by Tom Shaw on the piano. But the thing that really made the party epic was the staff. Eleven of them -- three bartenders, three floaters, and five go-go boys -- were all hired for their uninhibitedness. The go-go boys started out in shorts but frequently changed into more revealing outfits. And every half hour, the bartenders and floaters removed more and more clothing. By the end, they were all in varying states of undress -- some in underwear, most in jockstraps or g-strings, some just wearing strategic decorations, and and least three ended up completely naked, head to toe, even barefoot.
It was an epic party, and it put the Big Gay Frat House on the map. We had over two hundred guests. Even the Bay Area Reporter mentioned it. It also cost thousands and thousands of dollars that I paid out of pocket, which taught me a valuable lesson: to throw an epic party, get things donated. And to get them donated, make it a fundraiser. We worked with liquor distributors for future events to get alcohol donated (several cases for every single party, all provided for free), and it reduced our overhead costs rather dramatically. The Epiphany Party was our largest private party and one of the biggest events ever held at the BGFH. For better or for worse (probably the latter), it completely changed my reputation in our Mardi Gras krewe. When I told my friends to bring dollar bills to tip the go-go boys, I don't think they realized how serious I was.
I set up my Flickr account specifically to be able to share photos from this party. Little did I know at the time that it would become the foundation for my new reputation as a sort of documentarian of San Frnacisco's LGBT nightlife.
Some of the tamer photos (relatively speaking):
And some of the more risque photos:
(This post, by the way, is the 200th post on the Big Gay Frat House blog, and I think it's fitting that it's about the party that established our presence in the Castro.)