WATCH: Pride Parades In The 70s Had A Lot More Beards, Badassery

You may have seen the work of gay documentary filmmaker Charles Roseberry in the opening Castro Street sequence of Gus Van Sant’s Milk. But he also took a ton of footage of pride parades during the 70s with his 8 mm camera and now a friend of his has edited it all together into a colorful 40-minute time capsule here for your historic voyeuristic pleasure. Take a few minutes to relive the songs and sights of San Francisco Pride—it’s chock full of rainbow clowns, choreographed marching bands, Anita Bryant posters, sacrelicious crucifixions, bearded leather daddies and spangly, hot disco fabulousness. Makes us almost wanna party like it was 1979!

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  • Hephaestion

    Since those parades were all in the 70’s, it’s horrible to think how many of those we see in the film might have died from AIDS after these parades. So many great and brilliant people were lost. Thank you for posting this video.

  • Mike in Asheville

    @Hephaestion:The HIV/AIDS toll in San Francisco was unlike anywhere else in the country. What most people do not realize is that San Francisco is a small town when compared with socio-economic-political rivals of NYC, Chicago and LA. The highly concentrated population and downtown financial centers make things seem larger than they are.

    Through 1999, almost 4 San Franciscans out of every 100 — total population not just the gay community — had HIV. Of the 27,500 cases in a total population of 728,000, there were over 18,500 deaths. That means 2.5 out of 100 San Franciscans DIED OF AIDS.

    I will never forget how hushed and angry parade goers got when in 1982 the first troupe of HIV/AIDS patients marched at Pride. That small group was not warmly welcomed — there was fear, finger pointing, chaos about what to do, and a major “don’t rain on our parade” attitude.

    The next year, the HIV/AIDS patients groups was 10 times larger. Still much apathy and neglect by by-standers. The hostility had waned quite a bit.

    The following year, the HIV/AIDS group was many groups featuring many 100s of marchers. Finally a hearty welcome and a helping hand. Huge rainbow flags were carried and the crowd threw tons of money for collection to the too many fund raisers.

  • Mike in Asheville

    My introduction to the San Francisco gay parade was in 1978 when my dad returned home from a Sunday morning business meeting at the Embarcadero Center. When his meeting was over, my dad explained, there was this huge crowd watching the beginning of a parade. Who doesn’t like a parade, so he stayed around to watch.

    My dad said it was like watching a Tales of the City column come to life — he truly enjoyed just how much fun and life the parade marchers and watchers were having. He stayed an hour, and told us of the many “only in San Francisco” marchers he happily witnessed.

    The next year I was a freshman at Berkeley and made my way to my first pride parade. Oh yeah, I can say that 1979 was a very fun parade, at least for me!

  • Fitz

    It was such a different vibe back then.
    But yes… I lost almost all of my friends to AIDS
    in the early 80’s. Amazingly, I stayed healthy.

    You know– if it weren’t for the kind of organizing that we did,
    that (by the way) the lesbian crowd did for us….

    I won’t be too nostalgic. No one likes an old fag saying
    “We were better at being gay than these damn kids”.

  • Cam


    All of the group heads and listings for the very very early AIDS organizations in SF like The Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation seem to be men not women.

  • Fitz

    @Cam: Before we had things like KSR, we had people in the neighborhood bringing meals and walking dogs. It was an indescribable time.
    We had fish bowl on the bar for chipping in to help someone pay their rent…
    we didn’t have any of the kinds of organized help that there is now. We invented it.

  • jason

    The songs were so much better in those days. Then, they had classic soul and disco. Nowadays, we have AutoTune and Britney Spears. God help us.

    As for the cause of rights, it was much more connected to the real issues back then. Today, most gay pride parades are narcissism fests where men show off the results of 6 months intensive training at Golds Gym.

  • jason

    As for what happend to many of the people in that parade, many of them are still living and have healthy, normal lives.

  • rick

    Oh California, you used to be so beautiful.

  • Dallas David

    @rick: Still beautiful, just different.
    Everything changes with time.

  • Bard

    Why keep living in the past? Concentrate on right now.

  • Storm

    But if you don’t appreciate the past you can’t really appreciate the right now. I’ve never attended a gay pride parade in San Francisco. Rather, I travel most years to New York City’s gay pride. Now -they- are breath-taking.

  • meego

    @Mike in Asheville: I was there too at the ’79 Parade. I remember that it was overcast and a bit colder than usual. Many were dressed warmly. I was an 18-year-old newbie back then. This was just over a month after the White night riots and some people were worried that, because of the riots, the Parade might not go so smoothly but it did. I was also at the 1980 Parade. We had amusement park rides that year. I still have my copy of the Parade Program from that year. Sadly, none of the men I knew back then are alive today.

  • meego

    @Bard: That’s one of the most ignorant comments I’ve read in a long time. You must be really young. You had to have been there and lived through it to understand why us older guys remember those days.

  • meego

    @Fitz: Exactly. We helped each other.

  • xander

    Thanks to Mike in Ashville, Fitz and meego for telling us about your experiences in the 70s. Those stories need to be handed down.

    Someday those of us who attended +our+ first Pride in the 80s 90’s 00s and 10s will be sharing our stories too (and probably faced with the likes of ‘Bard’ who prefers to ignore the legacies left to him).

  • xander

    Asheville, I meant…. Spelling’s not my strong suit!

  • Sister Gimme. summ

    Thank you for showing the huge hearts of people fighting for their rights!

  • BlogShag

    Beards, mustaches, sideburns, and long hair …BRING IT ON! . It sure beats what became popular afterwards , dreadful buzz cuts, hairless bodies, and fake looking muscles

Comments are closed.