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|Folsom Street Fair|
|Frequency||Annually, last Sunday of September|
|Location(s)||Folsom Street, San Francisco, United States|
|Most recent||September 29, 2019|
Folsom Street Fair (FSF) is an annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair, held in September, that caps San Francisco's "Leather Pride Week". The Folsom Street Fair, sometimes simply referred to as "Folsom", takes place on Folsom Street between 8th and 13th Streets, in San Francisco's South of Market district.
The event started in 1984 and is California's third-largest single-day, outdoor spectator eventand the world's largest leather event and showcase for BDSM products and culture. It has grown as a non-profit charity, and local and national non-profits benefit with all donations at the gates going to charity groups as well as numerous fundraising schemes within the festival including games, beverage booths and even spanking for donations to capitalize on the adult-themed exhibitionism.
Although sadomasochism has been practiced for many centuries, the modern gay leather scene in the United States developed beginning in 1945 when thousands of gay servicemen were given blue discharges from service after World War II and came to the major port cities of the United States to live in gay ghettos. In 1953, the Marlon Brando film The Wild One appeared, and some butch gays began to imitate Brando by wearing black leather jackets, a black leather cap, black leather boots and jeans and, if they could afford it, by also riding motorcycles.In the 1950s, the magazine Bizarre familiarized people with sexual fetishism.
The first proto-leather bar in San Francisco was the Sailor Boy Tavern, which opened in 1938 near the Embarcadero YMCA and catered to U.S. Navy infantry looking for same-sex sexual encounters.
Folsom Street has been the center of San Francisco's men's leather community since the mid-1960s. Before centering in the South of Market neighborhood, leather friendly bars were located in the Embarcadero (Jack's On The Waterfront at 111 Embarcadero 1952-1963, On The Levee ?-1972), and the Tenderloin (The Spur Club at 126 Turk - raided and closed in 1959, The Why Not at 518 Ellis - opened and closed in 1960, The Hideaway at 438 Eddy - raided and closed in 1961). The first leather bar in SOMA was the Tool Box, a gay leather bar which opened in 1961 at 339 4th St and closed in 1971. It was made famous by the June 1964 Paul Welch Life article entitled "Homosexuality In America," the first time a national publication reported on gay issues. Life 's photographer was referred to the Tool Box by Hal Call, who had long worked to dispel the myth that all homosexual men were effeminate. The article opened with a two-page spread of the mural of life size leathermen in the bar, painted by Chuck Arnett, a patron and employee. The article described San Francisco as "The Gay Capital of America" and inspired many gay leathermen to move there.
The first leather bar on Folsom Street was Febe's, on the southwest corner of 11th and Folsom, which opened July 25, 1966. The Stud bar, which opened in 1966 at 1535 Folsom St., was a gay leather bar that was also originally a Hell's Angels hangout; by 1969 it had become a dance bar for hippies on the margins of the leather scene and had a psychedelic black light mural by Chuck Arnett (in 1987, it moved to 399 9th St. at Harrison). In 1967 A Taste of Leather, one of the first in-bar leather stores, was established at Febe's by Nick O'Demus. As of late 2009, A Taste of Leather announced it would be going out of business after 43 years.
In 1971, the modern bandana code came into use among leather people. Many leather people went to the Embarcadero YMCA (at this YMCA, doing weight training while wearing nothing but gym shoes and a jockstrap as well as nude swimming were both allowed until 1975, when women could become members of the YMCA). Leather people who worked out at the Embarcadero YMCA took advantage of the opportunity to get together with sailors when they came into town and rented rooms at the adjacent Embarcadero YMCA Hotel.
By the late 1970s Folsom's Miracle Mile had featured nearly 30 different leather bars, clubs, and merchants, most within walking distance of each other. These establishments included, in the order they were established: 1968 - Off the Levee (by the same owner of On The Levee), The Ramrod. 1971 - The In Between (later renamed The No Name), The Bootcamp. 1972 - The Barracks at 72 Hallam St., off Folsom between 7th and 8th Streets (a gay bathhouse for people into hardcore BDSM—each room was arranged like a stage set to cater to a different fetish fantasy). 1973 - The Red Star Saloon (connected to the Barracks) (which featured new artwork by Chuck Arnett), the End Up (not a leather bar but a dance bar; however, many leather people who liked to dance went there), Folsom Prison, The Ambush, Big Town—a gay leather shopping mall on the south side of Folsom between 6th and 7th Streets. 1975 - Hombre, The Catacombs (for those into hard core fisting), The Emporium. 1976 - The Trading Post, The Slot (for those into hardcore flagellation), The Hotel (later renamed The Handball Express—a place for those into hardcore fisting). 1977 - The Brig, The Balcony. 1978 - The Arena, The Roundup (later renamed The Watering Hole—a place for those into urolagnia), The Quarters, Black & Blue, Folsom Street Baths at 1015 Folsom (a BDSM gay bathhouse, later renamed The Sutro Baths in 1980—the slogan of the Sutro Baths was "A rainbow of sexual preferences", which was inscribed on a banner above the orgy room, located where the main dance floor of 1015 Folsom now is. The Sutro Baths also admitted women and transsexuals). 1979 - The Stables at 1123 Folsom (for those who liked to dress as cowboys), The Trench (for those into hardcore urolagnia), The Hothouse on the northwest corner of 5th and Harrison (another BDSM gay bathhouse), Tailor of San Francisco, Mister S Leathers. 1980 - The Plunge—a gay BDSM bathhouse with a swimming pool on the northwest corner of 11th and Folsom (in 1983 the swimming pool was covered over and became the surface of the dance floor of the popular bisexual dance club The Oasis). 1981 - The Eagle at 398 12th St., as of 2010, was San Francisco's oldest leather bar, as well as its largest with its extensive outdoor patio, and it hosted many popular barbecues and beer busts to benefit charitable organizations; however, it closed in June 2011 due to a dispute over its real estate. The Eagle has subsequently reopened in 2013.
The predecessor of the Folsom Street Fair was the CMC Carnival (California Motorcycle Club Carnival), a gay leather BDSM dance (with DJs and a rock band) and fair, with vendors and a back room for casual sex. It was held on the second Sunday of November every year from 1966 to the last one in 1986 at various indoor venues including most often at the Seafarer's International Union Hall (referred to as Seaman's Hall for short) at 350 Fremont Street in the Embarcadero area of SOMA. In the early 1970s, the CMC Carnival was attended by a few hundred people and by the time of the last large CMC Carnival in 1982 at what was then the Yellow Cab Building at Jones and Turk in the Tenderloin, it was attended by over 4,000 people.
The "CMC Carnival" was organized by one of the leather motorcycle clubs, the California Motorcycle Club, with the help of other gay motorcycle clubs. The members of these gay motorcycle clubs rode mostly Harley Davidson motorcycles and on periodic weekends rode their motorcycles to outings at picnic grounds in the Sierra Nevada. The first gay motorcycle club in the United States was the Satyrs, founded in Los Angeles in 1954. The first gay motorcycle club in San Francisco was the Warlocks, which was founded in 1960, followed by the California Motorcycle Club, also founded in 1960 later in the year. By the mid-1960s, San Francisco's South of Market district had become the center of the gay motorcycle club scene and was home to motorcycle clubs such as the Barbary Coasters (founded in 1966) and the Constantines and the Cheaters (both founded in 1967).Some leather people of the 1960s and 1970s felt that one was not really a leather person but just a poseur unless one owned an actual motorcycle, preferably a Harley Davidson.
Gay motorcycle clubs in San Francisco also organized many benefits for charity at various leather bars. During the 1970s and early 1980s one could see many dozens of motorcycles belonging to people who were members of these clubs parked up and down the length of Folsom Street on the Miracle Mile. The membership of these motorcycle clubs was decimated by the AIDS crisis beginning in 1982.
In 1979 the newly formed San Francisco lesbian motorcycle club, Dykes on Bikes, led what was then called the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade for the first timeand has done so ever since (since 1994, the event has been called the San Francisco Pride Parade). By the mid-1980s, lesbian motorcycle enthusiasts in other cities began to form motorcycle clubs. In the 1980s and early 1990s, lesbian leatherwomen were often involved in helping to care for gay leathermen who had been stricken with AIDS.
In 1984 the Folsom Street Fair began in San Francisco;it is the world's largest leather event and showcase for BDSM products and culture.
In 2008 and 2012, Folsom Street Events received the Large Nonprofit Organization of the Year award as part of the Pantheon of Leather Awards, although in 2012 it tied with Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend. In 2013, the San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group received the Small Nonprofit Organization of the Year award as part of the Pantheon of Leather Awards. Then in 2015 Folsom Street Events received the Nonprofit Organization of the Year award as part of the Pantheon of Leather Awards.
The San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley consists of four works of art along Ringold Alley honoring leather culture; it opened in 2017.The four works of art are: A black granite stone etched with a narrative by Gayle Rubin, an image of the "Leather David" statue by Mike Caffee, and a reproduction of Chuck Arnett's 1962 mural from the Tool Box, a gay leather bar, engraved standing stones that honor community leather institutions including the Folsom Street Fair, leather pride flag pavement markings through which the stones emerge, and metal bootprints along the curb which honor 28 people who were an important part of the leather communities of San Francisco.
The community had been active in resisting the city's ambitious redevelopment program for the South of Market area throughout the 1970s. City officials had wanted to "revitalize" the historically blue collar, warehouse, industrial district by continuing successful high rise development already underway on Rincon Hill.
But as the AIDS epidemic unfolded in the 1980s, the community's relative autonomy from City Hall was dramatically weakened. The crisis became an opportunity for the city (in the name of public health) to close bathhouses and regulate bars, which they did beginning in 1984.
As these establishments for the leather community were rapidly closing, a coalition of housing activists and community organizers decided to start a street fair. The fair would enhance the visibility of the community, provide a means for much-needed fundraising, and create opportunities for members of the leather community to connect to services and vital information (e.g., regarding safer sex) that bathhouses and bars might otherwise have been situated to distribute.
Thanks to the success of the first Folsom Street Fair, the organizers created the Up Your Alley Fair on Ringold Street in 1985. This fair moved to Dore Street ("Dore Alley") between Howard and Folsom in 1987.
Street photographer Michael Rababy says that a century of artists and poets are being replaced by algorithmicists and trust-fund hipsters, but as the millennium tower sinks, the Folsom Street Fair stands its ground.
There was no fair in 2020.
This section needs additional citations for verification .(April 2020)
As one of the few occasions when sadomasochistic activities are encouraged and performed in public, it attracts a considerable number of sightseers and those who enjoy the attention of onlookers as well as hundreds of photographers and videographers. Although the costumes and activities are frequently transgressive, many people come together at the food court,many attendees find the event "eye-opening" and positive. On the other hand, the event has at times drawn public and internal criticism for its bawdy atmosphere and broad tolerance of lewd behavior, and it is a regular target for anti-gay organizations such as Americans for Truth about Homosexuality.
The organizers have reportedly earned a great amount of trust from city officials as they have demonstrated not only an exceptional level of community and volunteer support, but also have risen to be a role-model for other street fairs in San Francisco which have faced opposition from various neighborhood groups. With the assistance of the high-profile Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the gate donations totaled more than $300,000 in 2006 and the methodology emulated at other street fairs like the Sisters' Pink Saturday, the Castro Street Fair and San Francisco Lovefest.
The fair claims it draws 250,000 visitors annually,including leather fetishists from around the world, and is the third-largest street event in California, after the Tournament of Roses Parade and San Francisco Pride parade. Each year, net proceeds from Folsom Street Fair, including gate donations and beverage sales, are given to qualified local charities ("beneficiaries"). These include charities working in public health, human services, and the arts, as well as beverage partners, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who lead the organizing effort at the gates. The event regularly generates over $300,000 annually for charity. Money raising events also include a charity spanking booth, live BDSM demonstrations and a twister stage.
Fair organizers present one or two live stages for alternative bands and artists. Previous headlining live acts have included Austra, Little Boots, Miami Horror, Ladytron (DJ Team), Dragonette, Imperial Teen, Berlin, The Presets, Monarchy, The English Beat, Missing Persons, MNDR, Light Asylum, Shiny Toy Guns, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, Nitzer Ebb, MEN (featuring JD Samson of Le Tigre), My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, The Limousines, Ladyhawke, Adult, and Yacht. Over time, the fair is becoming more and more well known as a venue for top-notch, international underground musical talent. There are one or two dance areas with DJs and cage dancers, featuring DJ sets from the likes of Tony Moran, Manny Lehman, The Cucarachas featuring Tom Stephan, and Mark Moore of S'Express.[ citation needed ]
In 2006, Folsom Street Fair introduced a women's area, dubbed "Bettie Page's Secret" for the first year, then "Venus' Playground" and as of 2016 the current area is called the Playground. The Playground is open to "women of every kind and all trans and non-binary folks." The Playground also hosts the Queer Commons, a space for all genders of queer folks. In 2007, an erotic artists' area was established as well with a performance art stage appearing in 2013 in honor of the 30th fair.[ citation needed ]
Since 1997, a smaller event called Folsom Street East has been organized in New York City by GMSMA. There is no affiliation between Folsom Street East (NYC) and Folsom Street Events (SF).
Folsom Europe was established in Berlin, Germany in 2003 in order to bring the non-profit leather festival concept pioneered by the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco to Europe.
The Toronto version of Folsom Street Fair was dubbed Folsom Fair North, FFN or FFNTO,and was held annually in July from 2003, until it was canceled permanently in 2008.
For the 24th annual event held September 30, 2007, the official poster artwork was a photo featuring well-known LGBT and BDSM community members in festive and fetish attire including Sister Roma "as players in an innovative version of the culturally iconographic" The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, complete with table draped with the Leather Pride flag and "cluttered with sex toys, whips, and various (BDSM) restraints".The image by FredAlert was used on the official event guide and produced as collector's posters that were displayed throughout the city as advertising for the event. Some conservative religious groups criticized the image as anti-Christian and blasphemous, although media outlets noted that parodies and homages of the Last Supper painting like Renée Cox's Yo Mama's Last Supper are numerous, including ones by The Simpsons , The Sopranos , Phish, That '70s Show , Robert Altman (in the film MASH ) and the Boston Red Sox. Chris Glaser, a gay clergyman and interim senior pastor at San Francisco's Metropolitan Community Church agreed that "they are just having fun" with both the painting and the notion of 'San Francisco values,' stating he thought it was "tastefully and cleverly done".
From a press release about the poster, Andy Copper, Board President of Folsom Street Events, a non-profit organization, stated, "There is no intention to be particularly pro-religion or anti-religion with this poster; the image is intended only to be reminiscent of the 'Last Supper' painting. It is a distinctive representation of diversity with women and men, people of all colors and sexual orientations"and "We hope that people will enjoy the artistry for what it is - nothing more or less. Many people choose to speculate on deeper meanings. In truth, we are going to produce a series of inspired poster images over the next few years. Next year's poster ad may take inspiration from 'American Gothic' by Grant Wood or Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' or even 'The Sound of Music'! I guess it wouldn't be the Folsom Street Fair without offending some extreme members of the global community, though."
The Catholic League, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council targeted the largest mainstream sponsor of the event, Miller Brewing Company, threatening to boycott their products for the company's support of the event and allowing its logo to appear in the ad.Miller asked for its logo to be removed from the poster with a statement on its website: "While Miller has supported the Folsom Street Fair for several years, we take exception to the poster the organizing committee developed this year. We understand some individuals may find the imagery offensive and we have asked the organizers to remove our logo from the poster effective immediately." The Catholic League dropped the boycott within a month with no evidence of Miller's sales being affected.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives who represents San Francisco and who is also Roman Catholic, fielded a question on this image as part of her Friday morning press conference.She responded,
It's a Constitutional question. It's a religious question. It's about as global a question as you could ask ... I'm a big believer in the First Amendment. I do not believe Christianity has been harmed by the Folsom Street Fair.
In 2018, Delancey Street Press published the Folsom Street Food Court,with images captured by Michael Rababy. The book is a documentary photography monograph that captures San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair. The unguarded images feature people in various states of dress and undress in the rarely photographed street fair food court. The book documents two years shot a decade apart, 2007 and 2017, to demonstrate that although the city of San Francisco has gentrified over time, the Folsom Street Fair seems to maintain its authenticity.
The handkerchief code is a system of color-coded cloth handkerchief or bandanas for non-verbally communicating one's interests in sexual activities and fetishes. The color of the handkerchief identifies a particular activity, and the pocket it is worn in identifies the wearer's preferred role in that activity. Wearing a handkerchief on the left side of the body typically indicates one is a "top", while wearing it on the right side of the body would indicate one is a "bottom". For example, a dark blue handkerchief indicates an interest in anal sex, and wearing it in the left pocket indicates a preference for being the insertive partner. The code was most widely used in the 1970s in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe, by gay and bisexual men seeking casual sex, or BDSM practitioners.
The leather subculture denotes practices and styles of dress organized around sexual activities that involve leather garments, such as leather jackets, vests, boots, chaps, harnesses, or other items. Wearing leather garments is one way that participants in this culture self-consciously distinguish themselves from mainstream sexual cultures. Many participants associate leather culture with BDSM practices and its many subcultures. For some, black leather clothing is an erotic fashion that expresses heightened masculinity or the appropriation of sexual power; love of motorcycles, motorcycle clubs and independence; and/or engagement in sexual kink or leather fetishism.
South of Market (SoMa) is a neighborhood in San Francisco, California, situated just south of Market Street. It contains several sub-neighborhoods including South Beach, Yerba Buena, and Rincon Hill.
The leather pride flag is a symbol used by the leather subculture since the 1990s. It was designed by Tony DeBlase, and was quickly embraced by the gay leather community. It has since become associated with leather in general and also with related groups such as the BDSM community.
Gayle S. Rubin is an American cultural anthropologist best known as an activist and theorist of sex and gender politics. She has written on a range of subjects including feminism, sadomasochism, prostitution, pedophilia, pornography and lesbian literature, as well as anthropological studies and histories of sexual subcultures, especially focused in urban contexts. Her 1984 essay "Thinking Sex" is widely regarded as a founding text of gay and lesbian studies, sexuality studies, and queer theory. She is an associate professor of anthropology and women's studies at the University of Michigan.
The Up Your Alley Fair, most commonly referred to by locals as Dore Alley Fair or simply Dore Alley is a leather and fetish event held in San Francisco, California on the last Sunday of July on Folsom Street between 9th and 10th Streets and on Dore Street from Howard Street to half a block southeast of Folsom Street. The streets are lined with vendors' booths, and a sound stage is located at the 10th Street end of Folsom Street.
Sister Roma is a 34 year member of San Francisco's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Audrey Joseph is a San Francisco-based record executive, club manager, LGBT rights activist, former President and current member of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission.
Real Bad is the name of a fundraising party held annually in San Francisco, California immediately following the Folsom Street Fair. The party, which occurs on the last Sunday in September, has been in existence since 1989. It is thrown by a non-profit organization called Grass Roots Gay Rights West (GRGR/West). Most of the money raised by the event comes from ticket sales, which are generated by a network of party hosts who sell tickets to friends. Proceeds from the party go to HIV/AIDS charities and LGBT health and community service organizations. In 2007, the party raised $150,000 for San Francisco Bay Area charities.
The Halloween celebration held in The Castro district of San Francisco began in the 1940s as a neighborhood costume contest. By the late 1970s, it had shifted from a children's event to a gay celebration that continued to grow into a massive annual street party until 2006 when a shooting wounded nine people and prompted the city to call off the event.
Charles "Chuck" Arnett was an American artist and dancer. His best known work is the Tool Box mural (1962).
The Rainbow Motorcycle Club is a gay men's motorcycle club based in San Francisco, California. The club was founded in San Francisco in 1971 by Ron Johnson, Mario Pirami and Paul Denino. Some commentators have credited the RMC as being instrumental in the creation of the bear subculture among gay men during the 1980s and 1990s.
Harold Leland "Hal" Call was an American businessperson, LGBT rights activist, and U.S. Army veteran. He served as president of the Mattachine Society and in the 1950s, was one of the first gay activists to speak publicly on television. Call founded printing presses for LGBT publications and later opened gay adult shops and pornographic film screening venues. He received a Purple Heart for his service in the Pacific War.
Folsom Europe is an annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair held in September in Berlin, Germany. Folsom Europe was established in 2003 in order to bring the non-profit leather festival concept pioneered by the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco to Europe. Today this is the biggest gay fetish event in Europe together with BLF's "Easter in Berlin" which is held every Easter in Berlin. BLF is the gay leather organisation in Berlin. BLF stands for Berlin Leder und Fetisch e.V. The main area for the two fetish festivals is in Schöneberg. The Folsom Europe street festival is at Fuggerstrasse and Welserstrasse, close to Wittenbergplatz.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in San Francisco is one of the largest and most prominent LGBT communities in the United States, and is one of the most important in the history of American LGBT rights and activism alongside New York City. The city itself has, among its many nicknames, the nicknames "gay capital of the world" and "the gay Mecca", and has been described as "the original 'gay-friendly city'". LGBT culture is also active within companies that are based in Silicon Valley, which is located within the southern San Francisco Bay Area.
Folsom Street is a street in San Francisco which begins perpendicular to Alemany Boulevard in San Francisco's Bernal Heights district and ends perpendicular to the Embarcadero on the San Francisco Bay. For its southern half, Folsom Street runs north-south, but it turns northeasterly at 13th street. It runs through San Francisco's Bernal Heights district, Mission District, SoMa District, Yerba Buena District, and South Beach district.
The Mineshaft was a members-only BDSM gay leather bar and sex club located at 835 Washington Street, at Little West 12th Street, in Manhattan, New York City, in the Meatpacking District, West Village, and Greenwich Village sections.
The Stud is a queer bar located in South of Market, San Francisco. It was started by associates George Matson and Alexis Muir on May 27, 1966. According to George Matson it was a "bar for people, not just pretty bodies". Originally the Stud was located at 1535 Folsom Street; in 1987 it moved to its current location at Ninth and Harrison Streets. The Stud is known for its themed parties, drag and burlesque shows, and community events. It was also home of the famous Trannyshack, a weekly drag show that featured all different types of drag and drag stars from 1996 until 2008.
The San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley consists of four works of art along the Ringold Street alley in San Francisco's SOMA district honoring leather culture; it opened in 2017.
Cynthia Slater (1945–1989) was the cofounder of the second BDSM organization founded in the United States, a San Francisco, California based BDSM education and support group known as the Society of Janus, which she founded with Larry Olsen in August 1974. According to the Leather Hall of Fame biography of Slater, she said of the Society of Janus,
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