Gay History Month In the 1960s, drag found a home in San Francisco’s Glen Park – 127 – Gay Lesbian Bi Trans News

Particular to the Windy Metropolis Occasions. In honor of LGBT Historical past Month, this text seems courtesy of the Bay Space Reporter.Throughout the Sixties, most of San Francisco’s LGBTQ neighborhood’s nightlife was concentrated within the metropolis’s northern neighborhoods. Homosexual bars could be discovered alongside Polk Road and in each the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods.

Within the coronary heart of the town, the late homosexual couple Phyllis Leon and Dale Martin hosted non-public gatherings for homosexual ladies at their dwelling in Noe Valley. They have been doing this since buying their townhouse on Duncan Road in 1955.

Only a quick drive away within the metropolis’s Glen Park neighborhood, if just for a quick time frame, one can get pleasure from feminine impersonators performing on the web site of a restaurant with a storied previous courting again to the 1900s. An account of opening evening on the Casa Blanca Lounge within the October 1964 version of Citizen Information, a defunct early LGBTQ newspaper, known as it “one thing that ought to have been seen.”

“The addition of tacos to feminine impersonators is a welcome addition to the jaded urge for food,” the author famous. One performer, referred to solely as Terry, reportedly obtained “so many telephone calls that it was embarrassing and when you may embarrass that individual, you have carried out one thing.”

An advert appeared in one of many newspaper’s September points touting that the restaurant, positioned at 2972 ​​Diamond Road, would characteristic “San Francisco’s finest impersonators” Wednesday by way of Sunday. He highlighted the performers as “Terry, Jay, Jimmy and Chris” and famous that “Mexican dinners” can be served.

The existence of what was primarily a precursor to right now’s drag reveals would doubtless have been misplaced to historical past if not for a submit on the web site Nextdoor inquiring whether or not there was a bar in Glen Park that includes feminine impersonators. It caught the eye of Paula Lichtenberg, a founding member of the San Francisco-based GLBT Historic Society.

In 2021, I reached out to Evelyn Rose, founding father of the Glen Park Neighborhood Historical past Challenge in 2014, to inquire if she knew something about such a company. The thought of ​​a drag place within the space was a little bit of a shock, Rose instructed the Bay Space Reporter throughout an interview on the Cup Cafe, which is positioned close to the place Casa Blanca as soon as stood.

She has lived within the neighborhood for 35 years, transferring to her present dwelling in Glen Park along with her spouse 19 years in the past. As a result of she works in medical communications and has different historical past tasks to complete, Rose instructed the Bay Space Reporter that she wasn’t in a position to begin wanting into Casa Blanca’s historical past till final January. It did not take lengthy earlier than she started uncovering archival proof a couple of long-forgotten LGBTQ gathering place.

“It was an enormous shock as a result of I did not anticipate finding one thing like this,” stated Rose, who in 2012 started writing about San Francisco historical past on her web site

She additionally requested round to see if there was anybody nonetheless dwelling in her neighborhood who frequented Casa Blanca or watched one of many feminine impersonator reveals. Sadly, a lot of the residents from that point have since died, famous Rose, who to this point has solely been in a position to converse with one one who remembers working into the restaurant to purchase cigarettes when he was 15 years outdated.

“We have misplaced the technology that has that outdated reminiscence,” Rose stated.

On-line archives

Rose turned to a number of on-line archives to see what she might discover about Casa Blanca. This led her to find that there have been historic ties between Glen Park and the bohemian residents throughout city in North Seaside, well-known for its function within the delivery of the beatniks.

An obituary I discovered within the January 28, 1954 version of the San Francisco Examiner for Angelo Pellegrino, the eponymous restaurateur who preceded Casa Blanca within the Forties, described it as a gathering place for the town’s bohemians.

“To know that there had been a bar or tavern that had been working in Glen Park because the Nineteen Thirties that was bohemian or sort of avant-garde was shocking and thrilling. It was shocking as a result of I did not assume individuals considered Glen Park that means,” Rose stated. Explaining that the neighborhood was often known as a “rural backwater” close to former farmland.

It started to draw extra residential growth within the wake of the 1906 earthquake and hearth that destroyed downtown San Francisco. It then grew to become a bonus for salon homeowners within the period of prohibition.

Over the a long time, quite a lot of homeowners ran bars and eating places within the Casa Blanca constructing, with the primary reference Rose discovered to it being known as Casa Blanca dated 1944. She suspects it took its identify from the constructing’s facade, which was painted white, primarily based on outdated images taken I managed to search out it.

“hip place”

By the Nineteen Fifties, “it was already a modern place,” Rose stated. “And it gave the impression to be well-known to individuals on the North Shore. “It was a spot for the counterculture to principally come collectively.

In 1959, brothers Andrew and John Tomasello took over possession of the restaurant. 5 years later, maybe as a way to drum up enterprise, the siblings determined to showcase feminine actresses.

“I do not know why they began it,” Rose stated, though she famous that seeing males dressed as ladies was a recurring facet of well-liked tradition on the time. “Within the Sixties, we had been bombarded with examples of cross-dressing on tv.”

In line with Residents Information, there will likely be two reveals tonight at Casa Blanca. She described the stage as being close to a fire in the midst of the room, good for an “indoor picnic.” Not solely had been the Mexican meals served admired as “scrumptious,” but in addition “very reasonably priced,” with prospects in a position to order a shared plate for $1.50 with tacos, enchiladas, Spanish rice and Frijoles.

As a result of its considerably hidden location, the newspaper additionally offered readers with instructions for attending to Casablanca, whether or not they had been coming by automobile or metropolis bus.

“It is a new sort of bar in San Francisco,” the newspaper famous, “as a result of not solely is it off the crushed monitor, but it surely additionally places on a copycat present nearly each evening of the week.”

Rose, utilizing a clue from an article that referred to the individual working the reveals as Charlie, was in a position to monitor down his niece, who knowledgeable her of her uncle’s loss of life in 2010. The niece stated her uncle had by no means mentioned the matter along with her Casa Blanca, however she revealed that he had emigrated from Mexico and was considerably estranged from some members of his household.

“That is most likely how they began serving Mexican meals,” Rose guessed, because it was beforehand often known as an Italian meals place.

Sadly, Rose was unable to search out out something in regards to the feminine impersonators who appeared at Casa Blanca, or uncover any pictures of them performing on the restaurant. Her archival analysis was halted after discovering the final commercial for the place within the March 1965 problem of Residents Information.

By 1966, it was now not listed within the metropolis telephone ebook, Rose stated. The next yr building of the station and monitor for the BART regional transit line started. It was essential to demolish the Casa Blanca constructing.

Looking out by way of varied archives, Rose discovered a reference to a earlier feminine impersonation efficiency given at Glen Park. An commercial within the December 11, 1899 version of the San Francisco Name promoted a feminine impersonation carried out by Child Troy on the zoo that was positioned inside Glen Canyon, now a metropolis park.

“Cross-dressing and feminine impersonation return a protracted solution to San Francisco and Glen Park,” Rose famous, including that such performances had “been round for hundreds of years if not millennia,” with males in early theatrical teams taking part in all the feminine roles. .

In June, in honor of Pleasure Month, Rose offered her analysis on Casa Blanca, in addition to the historical past of Glen Park’s saloons and the neighborhood’s bohemian connections, on the Glen Park Department Library. She hopes that as extra individuals be taught in regards to the place, somebody will come ahead with private reminiscences of seeing the imitators carry out there or somebody may need ephemera left to them by a relative or good friend.

“I’d be stunned if the neighborhood did not have information of what Casa Blanca is,” Rose stated. “They might not have talked about it, however additionally they did not speak about it evenly, so far as I do know. That is my impression anyway.”

By revealing the historical past of Casa Blanca and its drag reveals, Rose hopes to offer a counterweight to the current wave of laws towards, and protests towards, drag reveals and performers. In any case, it is proof that drag tradition has lengthy been a part of the American story.

“I do not get it, individuals who do not wish to open their minds or expertise alternative ways of life and alternative ways of dwelling,” Rose stated. “I do not perceive it. I hope we will inspire us and battle again.”

To be taught extra about Rose’s work documenting the historical past of Glen Park, and for data on find out how to contact her, go to

Matthew S. Pajko is an assistant editor on the Bay Space Reporter.

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