Postcard from San Francisco

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Last month I told you that lesbians were quitting the Castro, San Francisco's gay heartland, driven out by rising prices. This month, it's official. At $1,600 a month for a studio, the Castro is now one of the most expensive places you can choose to live in America, according to a property survey just out.

All eyes have also been on the district because of the long-awaited showing of a film on the Castro by local documentary maker Peter Stein. The film tracked the Castro's transition from working-class, Irish neighbourhood to gay home-town, international symbol of liberation, political hothouse, home of the Daughters of Bilitis as well as the spawning ground of the Castro Clone and a thousand cruising bars - all in less than one square mile.

But nothing is forever. Nowadays the Castro is awash with smart restaurants, boutiques and health clubs. Chain stores are opening there, finally waking up to the true colour of money. Locals, however, aren't being so easily bought. "Ten years ago they didn't want us in their shops," protested a man sitting at the bar next to me in Harvey's (as in Harvey Milk) "but now they want to be on our street."

Perhaps the shop owners have been watching Armistead Maupin's Tales Of The City, which is presently re-running on cable. Maupin's "A-gays" are the ultimate Dinkys, with weekend homes in Napa and connections to old money. Last week saw the biggest event on the A-gays calendar - the Academy of Friends Aids benefit ball on Oscar night - for which partygoers arrived in twin tuxedoed pairs, and which was also described by one gay mag as "a stuffy event for gay white men who live in Pacific Heights and are looking for another excuse to dress up." The truth is, most A-gays wouldn't be seen dead in the Castro or even on Polk.

The most popular venues in Pacific Heights for the As to play, and A- wannabes to hang, are the Lion Pub and Alta Plaza - all blond wood and high prices. Designer suits are de rigueur at work and on week nights. On weekends, it's jeans and Polo accessories. "It's not what you wear, it's who you wear," says my good friend Tony, who vehemently denies being an A himself. As a heterosexual woman - and black to boot - I don't exactly have an entree into this world. Even A-gays "of colour" are virtually unheard of.

At Alta Plaza (otherwise known as Ultra Plastic), it's as though the Eighties had never come to an end. It is certainly true to say that this isn't the hippest scene in town. Apart from the "odd surprise visit at Club Universe or the Pleasure Dome", A-gays confine themselves to lavish dinner parties, arts openings and meetings of the Log Cabin, the gay Republicans forum.

It's a total turnaround from the Castro of the Seventies. Today, just because you're gay doesn't mean you have to vote for Bill Clinton. Is this the new meaning of radical politics?

Comments