Sunday, April 1, 2012
Somewhere Over The Rainbow...
There is nothing more fun in San Francisco than taking the the F-Line street car up Market Street and into Eudora Valley-The Castro District. This tiny neighborhood located right below Twin Peaks is the end of the rainbow for many. Not only is the neighborhood home to San Francisco's gay community, and the epicenter of Gay culture, but it's the home to one of the world's most famous silver screens. The crown jewel of Eudora Valley: the prestigious Castro Theater movie palace. Its located right before Castro Street intersects with Market, 17th, and Divisadero.
The first time I went to the Castro Theater was with my good friend Erik and his two friends David and Liz to see the foreign film The Mill & The Cross starring Rutger Hauer and Charlotte Rampling. Erik invited me to attend, he knew I had been wanting to go there badly. He also wanted me to meet his two of his best friends as well. It was a wonderful experience and I walked away wanting to go back again. It was awesome making that dream a reality and I was thankful it was with them.
We decided to go see the Castro's version of Sing-A-Long Wizard of Oz. We didn't dress up as any of the characters, but we sure turned out to be "three boys and a girl" just like THEM! It seemed too perfect. No place on earth could be better to see the that monumental MGM classic than the Castro. The Wizard of Oz has long been referred to as a "gay classic" because of the underlying metaphors that the characters represent. Judy Garland and her smashing number "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", along with some of the one-liners are other pink nails in the film's gay coffin. There are plenty of other tongue-in-cheek references as well. Everybody loves Oz, and it never gets old. It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is, all that matters is that you share the moment of watching The Wizard of Oz with people you genuinely care about.
I got off work at 5:30pm and hopped on the F-Line and took it up Market Street. Erik came in via BART and walked the rest of the way to Castro from the Mission. David and Liz rode on BART from Berkeley and took MUNI to the Castro Station.
On my way up Market (the Yellow Brick Road) the friendliest gay man started talking to me about San Francisco First Baptist Church. I told him I had been wanting to attend there sometime in the near future to check it out. The man's name was Michael, he was passionate about First Baptist and he excitedly informed me that their new pastor was from Arkansas. I felt my stomach jump up and informed Michael that I was born and raised in Arkansas. Beyond puzzled, I then stated, "This is extremely odd, how in the hell did you all obtain a pastor was from Arkansas? Pastor's back there are dead set on the Gay Community roasting in hell and San Francisco is based in hedonism, you will never be able to fully convert it. Its too transgressive. Is he Liberal?" Michale was shocked I was from that neck of the woods. He replied, "Well, he's very liberal and 27 years old. He also feels called here. He waited a year and a half to get the position." He then asked me what Arkansas was like and it felt good to hear someone inform me that it was the heart of the "Bible-Belt". I hadn't heard that term since I left home! I'm definitely gonna check it out now, I'm curious to know what town this pastor is previously from. They also sing the great old hymns I was raised on. This makes me very happy. Michael got off at Church and Market and I continued up into Eudora Valley. I'm grateful we had that brief meeting.
We came together at the entrance to the Castro Theater and were ready to enter the land of Oz together. We sat downstairs just below the balcony and almost directly in the middle of the screen. As the crowd started to pour in the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ lifted up out of the pit and the organist began to play "The Oz Overture". I was taken back to my childhood on those opening notes. My friends didn't see it, but a few tears were shed because lots of memories came flooding back. I had always wanted to be a pipe organist as a teenager playing film scores in a big theater. There is so much fantasy and youth in the Oz score.
Right before the film played there was a jovial costume contest. Then we had Sing-A-Long Wizard of Oz Warm Up Time! This man dressed in Oz attire frolicked like an excited boy and said, "Its now time to sing one of the most beautiful and fabulous songs of all time...SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW!!!! Everyone in the theater started to cheer, shout, and clap with glee and hullabaloo. The Ozmandian then shouted, "SING IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT SAN FRANCISCO!!!!!" The Mighty Wurlitzer powered up and everyone in the theater started singing in unison. Oh my God. Jesus H. Christ. Here we all were in the center of Gay Mecca in one of America's most loved theaters singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and just bathing in the sheer decadence and fantasy of it all. I sat by a gay couple and they were holding hands and kissing one another. Some people cracked their green glow-sticks early and waved them in the air for ambiance, others were blowing bubbles! I will always remember that as long as I live.
The movie started and we cheered for Dorothy! We barked for Toto! We hissed with vile hatred for that bitch Elmira Gultch and the Wicked Witch of the East, we cackled too! We "Ooooohhhhhed and Ahhhhhhed" whenever the film transformed from black & white to color, We blew bubbles for Glenda the Good Witch and it was magical watching all the bubbles glow and travel through the dimly lit theater. Others were skipping merrily up and down the isles whenever "We're Off To See The Wizard" was sung. Laughter permeated the place, there was so much joy in that place. When Dorothy sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" we all became a mighty chorus once again. All rainbows end in Castro. When the camera zoomed in to the Ruby Slippers one man yelled at the screen, "WORK EM' BITCH!!!", And instead of chanting, "There's no place like home" we said "There's no place like San Francisco." It was hysterical.
I hadn't seen Wizard in years. It's one of those films that should be watched on the big screen. In 1939 Wizard didn't get the credit it deserved because of Gone With The Wind. The make-up and costumes are immaculate and the painted back grounds are far-fucking out! So much detail went into them, the sets are a visual feast for the eyes. The Ruby Slippers are the most valuable movie memorabilia item in the world and are proudly displayed in the Smithsonian Museum. Watching the Emerald City sequence took my breathe away. It all looked so real. The Ozmandian costumes were so rich, yet simple. I loved seeing that the materials were plastic, cotton, green velvet, and suede just to name a few. The Munchkin wigs and attire were stunning as well. Those costumes had a lot of love put into them. I can only imagine how cool it must have been to be an artist on that set painting the back drops. I love it all.
I'm thankful I saw it with Erik, David, and Liz. They're a part of my life out here. Some of the morals of Wizard of Oz are friendship, facing fears, adversity, obstacles, and finding yourself along the Yellow Brick Road of Life. God knows I'm finding myself out here everyday. I'm thankful I have them along the way for my adventure down it. I'm positive they are happy to have me along for theirs. San Francisco will always be the merry old land of Oz. Keep the Optimistic Voices in your head and a song in your heart. Have the courage to keep going.