Our Fair Lady

A drag queen’s guide to surviving and thriving at San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair

In 1984, Folsom Street Fair started out as an alternative event to allow the leather and fetish communities the chance to express their lifestyle in the neighborhood they were living in.

At the time, rents were starting to increase and locals were starting to be displaced. So the community sought to claim their place in SoMa. At the time it was home to over 30 queer owned and operated establishments all located within just a few blocks. At night, when the streets closed, there would be a “sidewalk sale” of men in leather and fetish gear cruising. The streets Ringold and Dore offered a bit of “open” privacy for sex play. The more recent condos on Dore now cover the parking lot that once was my favorite playground as a kid.

Now, almost 35 years later, the fair still thrives as the world’s largest leather/fetish event, donating over $6 million since its inception when SOMA was known as “Megahood.”


I’ve attended and performed at many Folsom Street Fair events over the years and might have a few tips to help the drag queens amongst us survive and thrive.

1. Wear what you want, no matter how enormously impractical.

You see, I also have an enormous fetish – for clothes. Throughout the year these big fair events make me want to wear something extravagant. Ana Matronic of BBC Radio 2 (where she pays homage to the sounds of disco) and former Scissor Sister, once dubbed me “the Muhammad Ali of Drag” for being able to carry so much weight in fabric down the street – while balancing something on my head that really shouldn’t be sitting there.

2. Be yourself

Remember that Folsom Street Fair is an opportunity to express yourself, and, most importantly, treat everyone else with the respect they deserve. So please don’t feel self-conscious. And certainly, don’t make others feel that way. These are the things our community is striving to overcome.

3. Bring a fan or umbrella

It’s usually the peak of warm weather in San Francisco and you don’t need your face to melt off.

4. Bring an escort, preferably a cute one

For fetching cocktails and crowd clearing. The lines are long and the throngs massive.

5. Wear leather–dress in theme and wear nothing more than a harness if that’s what you desire

But remember that sunblock is your friend.

6. Don’t wear 150 yards of crinoline under your skirt.

The only thing mine attracted was empty beer cans and used condoms.

7. Piss on only those that want to be pissed upon.

Consent is sexy.

8. Safety pin your house keys to your bra or jockstrap.

Just in case you lose everything else.

9. Stay hydrated.

Alcohol is dehydrating, as is the sun and sex. So please keep a water bottle handy at all times.

10. Make sure you and your friends are having fun.

But remember that moderation is good. You will thank yourself Monday morning

11. Organize a time and place to check-in safe with your friends.

It’s easy to get lost in the crowds and remember that cell service is not what it should be when there are 100,000 people packed into a few blocks.

12. Don’t forget that this is a non-profit event with the proceeds going to charity.

Don’t dodge the entrance fees and donate whenever you can afford.

13. More Juanita…