Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The OTHER Black Cat - Communities Recognizing Their History

Sometimes communities get there first and recognize their own history.

A year ago, friends and community members recognized the historic Black Cat Bar in San Francisco -- the other Black Cat, not LA's equally important Silver Lake Black Cat. San Francisco's Black Cat had a past as a bohemian watering place that once attracted Steinbeck and Saroyan and made an appearance in Kerouac's On The Road before becoming a drag spot under the ownership of Jose Sarria, the first Empress of the Imperial Court drag system.

Last December 15th, friends and members of the gay community unveiled a plaque at the 710 Montgomery St site of the Black Cat, now the Bocadillos tapas restaurant. Jose Sarria, who had run as the first 'out' man in 1961 for City Supervisor, following years of harassment of the Black Cat, viewed the proposed plaque in October 2007. Sarria lost the election but drew 6,000 votes, demonstrating the power of the gay voting block.

A 1951 California Supreme Court ruling in favor of an earlier owner of the Black Cat, Sol Stoumen (Stoumen vs. Reilly) held that bars could not be closed by beverage control authorities simply because homosexuals frequented a bar or met there.

The Bay Area Reporter covered the unvieling of the plaque and commemoration of the Black Cat by its friends, rather than the official preservation authorities: http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=2532.
JD Doyle's wonderful Queer Music Heritage has an informative page about Jose Sarria, including a 31 minute clip from the
No Camping album and lots of Sarria memorabilia: http://www.queermusicheritage.us/drag-sarria.html.

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