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Folsom Street Fair

A Folsom Street Fair banner (using the Leather Pride flag) hangs from a city lighting pole and marks Leather Pride Week in San Francisco, California.

Folsom Street Fair (FSF) is an annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair held in September, that caps San Francisco's "Leather Pride Week". The Folsom Street Fair, sometimes simply referred to as "Folsom", takes place on Folsom Street between 8th and 13th Streets, in San Francisco's South of Market district.

The event started in 1984 and is California's third-largest single-day, outdoor spectator event and the world's largest leather event and showcase for BDSM products and culture.[1] It has grown as a non-profit charity, and local and national non-profits benefit with all donations at the gates going to charity groups as well as numerous fundraising schemes within the festival including games, beverage booths and even spanking for donations to capitalize on the adult-themed exhibitionism.

The coordination agency, Folsom Street Events (FSE) is a registered charity and has also started similar events in Canada and Germany. In San Francisco they also manage Up Your Alley Fair and special events like the "Folsom Street Fair Formal Leather Gala" with Joan Rivers which celebrated the 25th anniversary, the annual circuit party "Magnitude" (Official Saturday Night Dance Event) which has a leather subculture focus and a relatively new Official Closing Party called "DEVIANTS Adult Arcade".[2][3][4]


  • Origin of the leather subculture 1
  • History of the leather community in San Francisco 2
  • Beginnings of the Folsom Street Fair 3
  • Atmosphere 4
    • Folsom Street East 4.1
    • Folsom Europe 4.2
    • Folsom Fair North (FFN) 4.3
  • Recurring events 5
    • Magnitude / DEVIANTS 5.1
  • 2007 poster controversy 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Origin of the leather subculture

A mixture of kink and leather subcultures mix at the festival. The man on the right may be into uniform and military interests while these other 2007 fair-goers seem to be interested in animal roleplay including a bare-chested man with his "pony".

Although sadomasochism has been practiced for many centuries, the modern gay leather scene in the United States developed beginning in 1945 when thousands of gay servicemen were given blue discharges from service after World War II and came to the major port cities of the United States to live in gay ghettos. In 1953, the film The Wild One appeared starring Marlon Brando and the more butch gays began to imitate him by wearing black leather jackets, a black leather cap, black leather boots and jeans and, if they could afford it, by also riding motorcycles.[5] In the 1950s, the magazine Bizarre familiarized people with sexual fetishism.

History of the leather community in San Francisco

The first proto-leather bar in San Francisco was the Sailor Boy Tavern, which opened in 1938 near the Embarcadero YMCA and catered to Navy boys looking for some male-to-male action.[5]

Folsom Street has been the center of San Francisco's men's leather community since the mid-1960s. Before centering in the [6]

The first leather bar on Folsom Street was Febe's, on the southwest corner of 11th and Folsom, which opened July 25, 1966. The Stud bar, which opened in 1966 at 1535 Folsom St., was originally a Hell's Angels hangout; by 1969 it had become a dance bar for hippies on the margins of the leather scene and had a psychedelic black light mural by Chuck Arnett (in 1987, it moved to 399 9th St. at Harrison). In 1967 A Taste of Leather, one of the first in-bar leather stores, was established at Febe's by Nick O'Demus. As of late 2009, A Taste of Leather announced it would be going out of business after 43 years.

In 1971, the modern bandana code came into use among leather people.

Masked man at the fair

Many leather people went to the Embarcadero YMCA (at this YMCA, doing weight training while wearing nothing but gym shoes and a jockstrap as well as nude swimming were both allowed until 1975, when women could become members of the YMCA). Leather people who worked out at the Embarcadero YMCA took advantage of the opportunity to get together with sailors when they came into town and rented rooms at the adjacent Embarcadero YMCA Hotel.

By the late 1970s Folsom's Miracle Mile had featured nearly 30 different leather bars, clubs, and merchants, most within walking distance of each other. These establishments included, in the order they were established: 1968 - Off the Levee (by the same owner of On The Levee), The Ramrod. 1971 - The In Between (later renamed The No Name), The Bootcamp. 1972 - The Barracks at 72 Hallam St., off Folsom between 7th and 8th Streets (a transsexuals). 1979 - The Stables at 1123 Folsom (for those who liked to dress as cowboys), The Trench (for those into hardcore urolagnia), The Hothouse on the northwest corner of 5th and Harrison (another BDSM gay bathhouse), Tailor of San Francisco, Mister S Leathers. 1980 - The Plunge—a gay BDSM bathhouse with a swimming pool on the northwest corner of 11th and Folsom (in 1983 the swimming pool was covered over and became the surface of the dance floor of the popular bisexual dance club The Oasis). 1981 - The Eagle at 398 12th St., as of 2010, was San Francisco's oldest leather bar, as well as its largest with its extensive outdoor patio, and it hosted many popular barbecues and beer busts to benefit charitable organizations; however, it closed in June 2011 due to a dispute over its real estate. The Eagle has subsequently reopened in 2013.

The predecessor of the Folsom Street Fair was the CMC Carnival (California Motorcycle Club Carnival), a gay leather BDSM dance (with DJs and a rock band) and fair, with vendors and a back room for casual sex, held on the second Sunday of November every year from 1966 to the last one in 1986 at various indoor venues including most often at the Seafarer's International Union Hall (referred to as Seaman's Hall for short) in the Embarcadero area of SOMA. In the early 1970s, the CMC Carnival was attended by a few hundred people and by the time of the last large CMC Carnival in 1982 at what was then the Yellow Cab Building at Jones and Turk in the Tenderloin, it was attended by over 4,000 people.[8][9]

The "CMC Carnival" was organized by one of the leather [10]

These gay motorcycle clubs also organized many benefits for charity at various leather bars. During the 1970s and early 1980s one could see many dozens of motorcycles belonging to people who were members of these clubs parked up and down the length of Folsom Street on the Miracle Mile. Unfortunately the membership of these motorcycle clubs was decimated by the AIDS crisis beginning in 1982.[11]

In 1979 the newly formed San Francisco [10] In the 1980s and early 1990s, lesbian leatherwomen were often involved in helping to care for gay leathermen who had been stricken with AIDS.

Some leather people of the 1960s and 1970s felt that one wasn’t really a leather person but just a poseur unless one owned an actual motorcycle, preferably a Harley Davidson.[13]

Beginnings of the Folsom Street Fair

The community had been active in resisting the city's ambitious redevelopment program for the South of Market area throughout the 1970s. City officials had wanted to "revitalize" the historically blue collar, warehouse, industrial district by continuing successful high rise development already underway on Rincon Hill.

But as the AIDS epidemic unfolded in the 1980s, the community's relative autonomy from City Hall was dramatically weakened. The crisis became an opportunity for the city (in the name of public health) to close bathhouses and regulate bars, which they did beginning in 1984.[14]

As these establishments for the leather community were rapidly closing, a coalition of housing activists and community organizers decided to start a street fair. The fair would enhance the visibility of the community, provide a means for much-needed fundraising, and create opportunities for members of the leather community to connect to services and vital information (e.g., regarding safer sex) that bathhouses and bars might otherwise have been situated to distribute.[14]

Thanks to the success of the first Folsom Street Fair, the organizers created the Up Your Alley Fair on Ringold Street in 1985. This fair moved to Dore Street ("Dore Alley") between Howard and Folsom in 1987.


Bondage demonstration with Van Darkholme at the 2003 Folsom Street Fair
Partial suspension bondage demonstration at Folsom Street Fair 2005.

As one of the few occasions when Americans for Truth about Homosexuality.[18]

The organizers have reportedly earned a great amount of trust from city officials as they have demonstrated not only an exceptional level of community and volunteer support, but also have risen to be a role-model for other street fairs in San Francisco which have faced opposition from various neighborhood groups. With the assistance of the high-profile Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the gate donations totaled more than $300,000 in 2006 and the methodology emulated at other street fairs like the Sisters' Pink Saturday, the Castro Street Fair and San Francisco Lovefest.

The fair annually draws 400,000 visitors,[19][20] including kinky leather fans from around the world, and is the third-largest street event in California, after the

  • Official website
  • Folsom Street Fair photos 2005-12*
  • 2013 Folsom Street Fair photo gallery
  • 2010 Folsom Street Fair review and photo gallery
  • 2009 Folsom Street Fair photos
  • Folsom Street Fair Documentary
  • SFGate
  • 2010 Folsom Street Fair Photo Gallery
  • 2009 Folsom Street Fair Video
  • 2008 Folsom Street Fair Video
  • 2007 Folsom Street Fair Video
  • 2007 - gallery 1, gallery 2, gallery 3
  • 2007 Folsom Street Fair photos
  • 2007 Folsom Street Fair photos
  • 2006 Folsom Street Fair photos
  • 2006 Folsom Street Fair photos
  • 2005 Folsom Street Fair photos
  • 2004 Folsom Street Fair photos
  • Folsom Street Fair general photos from The BackDrop Club
  • Companies Donate Funds to the Folsom Fund at the 2008 Folsom Street Fair

External links

  1. ^ "Cheap date - what to do?". 
  2. ^ "Folsom Street Fair Formal Leather Gala". 2011-09-22. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  3. ^ Folsom Street Events Announces Joan Rivers as Entertainer for 25th Folsom Street Fair Gala: Formal Gala Serves as the Kick-Off to San Francisco Leather Week 2008.
  4. ^ Magnitude Celebrates 25th Folsom Street Fair: Annual Dance Event Thrives As the Official Saturday Night Dance Event.
  5. ^ a b "Bay Area Reporter". 40 No. 44--4 November 2010. p. Page 31 Scott Brogan leather column:. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  6. ^ a b "Leather History Timeline-Leather Archives". Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  7. ^ "yax-192 Life in 1964, part 1". 1964-07-27. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  8. ^ For the history of the CMC Carnival, see Mr. Marcus’ leather column in the November back issues of the Bay Area Reporter, available at the San Francisco Main Library at 100 Larkin St.
  9. ^ "Leather History Timeline-Leather Archives". Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Past Out by Liz Highleyman-''Seattle Gay News'' Friday December 8, 2006 Volume 34 Issue 49—"History of the Gay Motorcycle Clubs":". 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  11. ^ For an exhaustively detailed history of the gay motorcycle clubs, see Mr. Marcus’ leather column, which ran weekly from 1971 to mid-2010, in the back issues of the Bay Area Reporter, available at the San Francisco Main Library at 100 Larkin St.
  12. ^ "Leather History Timeline-Leather Archives". Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  13. ^ Townsend, Larry The Leatherman’s Handbook Original Edition 1972—See chapter near the end about picking out your motorcycle (this chapter is not in the later editions of the book)
  14. ^ a b Rubin, Gayle. "The Miracle Mile: South of Market and Gay Male Leather, 1962-1997" in Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture (City Light Books, 1998).
  15. ^ "Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco (Yelp)". 2006-09-25. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  16. ^ Messing, Philip (2009-06-29). "Outcry Over Nude Bondage Block Party".  
  17. ^ Si Teng, Poh (2005-09-29). "Folsom Street Fair Not For Children". Golden Gate [X]Press. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  18. ^ LaBarbera, Peter (2007-10-03). "‘Tolerance Gone Wild’ in San Francisco as Cops Stand By Amidst Folsom Street Fair’s Public Perversions and Widespread Nudity". Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  19. ^ "Folsom Street Events produces biggest and best Folsom Street Fair on its 23rd birthday" (Press release). Folsom Street Events. 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  20. ^ Folsom Street Events. "Folsom Street Fair FAQ". Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  21. ^ a b Diana Cage (2005-09-21). "Radio Blowfish, Episode 4". (Podcast). Retrieved November 19, 2006. 
  22. ^ charles. "Metroblgging San Francisco: Folsom Street Fair". Archived from the original on 2006-10-21. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  23. ^ Folsom Street Events. "Folsom Street Fair Beneficiaries". Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  24. ^ Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA). "Folsom Street East". Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  25. ^ Folsom Europe e. V. "Folsom Europe". Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Gerstein, Josh (September 27, 2007). "Catholic Group Threatens Battle With Miller Beer Over Racy Ad".  
  28. ^ a b c Cassell, Heather (27 September 2007). "Folsom art draws fire from the right". Vol. 37, No. 39.  
  29. ^ "Catholic Group Urges Boycott of Miller Brewing Co. Over San Francisco Fair Sponsorship".  
  30. ^ Dan Savage on September 25 at 16:35 PM (2007-09-26). "Other Last Suppers: Where's the Outrage? | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper". Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  31. ^ "Folsom Street Fair". Folsom Street Fair. 2007-09-25. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  32. ^ Newscenter Staff (September 27, 2007). "Catholic Group Calls For Miller Beer Boycott Over Folsom Fair Ad".  
  33. ^ Jones, Lawrence (September 28, 2007). "Offensive 'Last Supper' Fetish Ad Incites Uproar".  
  34. ^ Miller Brewing Co. Age Check
  35. ^ "Miller Beer Ban Ends With Apology 2 November 2007". 2007-11-02. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  36. ^ "Folsom Street "Last Supper Ad" Sparks Controversy".  


See also

It's a Constitutional question. It's a religious question. It's about as global a question as you could ask...I'm a big believer in the First Amendment. I do not believe Christianity has been harmed by the Folsom Street Fair.[36]

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives who represents San Francisco and who is also Roman Catholic, fielded a question on this image as part of her Friday morning press conference.[28] She responded,

[34] The Catholic League dropped the boycott within a month[35] with no evidence of Miller's sales being affected.

From a press release about the poster, Andy Copper, Board President of Folsom Street Events, a non-profit organization, stated, "There is no intention to be particularly pro-religion or anti-religion with this poster; the image is intended only to be reminiscent of the ‘Last Supper’ painting. It is a distinctive representation of diversity with women and men, people of all colors and sexual orientations."[31] and "We hope that people will enjoy the artistry for what it is - nothing more or less. Many people choose to speculate on deeper meanings. The irony is that da Vinci was widely considered to be homosexual. In truth, we are going to produce a series of inspired poster images over the next few years. Next year's poster ad may take inspiration from 'American Gothic' by Grant Wood or Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' or even 'The Sound of Music'! I guess it wouldn't be the Folsom Street Fair without offending some extreme members of the global community, though."

For the 24th annual event held September 30, 2007, the official poster artwork was a photo featuring well-known LGBT and BDSM community members in festive and fetish attire including Sister Roma "as players in an innovative version of the culturally iconographic" The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, complete with table draped with the Leather Pride flag and "cluttered with sex toys, whips, and various (BDSM) restraints".[27] The image by FredAlert[28] was used on the official event guide and produced as collector's posters that were displayed throughout the city as advertising for the event. Some conservative religious groups criticized the image as anti-Christian and blasphemous, although media outlets noted that parodies and homages of the Last Supper painting like Renée Cox's Yo Mama's Last Supper are numerous, including ones by The Simpsons, The Sopranos, Phish, That '70s Show, Robert Altman (in the film MASH) and the Boston Red Sox.[29][30] Chris Glaser, a gay clergyman and interim senior pastor at San Francisco's Metropolitan Community Church agreed that "they are just having fun" with both the painting and the notion of 'San Francisco values,' stating he thought it was "tastefully and cleverly done."[28]

François Sagat at the Folsom Street Fair 2009

2007 poster controversy

The annual circuit party "Magnitude" (Official Saturday Night Dance Event) which has a leather subculture focus has been in existence since 1997. Featured DJs have included Tony Moran, Paul Goodyear, Joe Gauthreaux, Tom Stephan, Manny Lehman, Ted Eiel, Jack Chang, and others. Magnitude now attracts 2,500+ people, almost exclusively gay men. There is also a relatively new Official Closing Party called "DEVIANTS Adult Arcade" which has taken place since 2010 also maintains a leather and BDSM theme but appeals to a broader demographic of fairgoers and party people. DEVIANTS attracts nearly 2,000 people and has featured entertainment from Honey Soundsystem, Hard French DJs, Hard Ton, DJs Pareja, The Black Madonna, Horse Meat Disco, Stereogamous, and many more.

Magnitude / DEVIANTS

Recurring events

The Toronto version of Folsom Street Fair was dubbed Folsom Fair North, FFN or FFNTO][26] and was held every July since 2003. The FFN was canceled permanently in 2008.

Folsom Fair North (FFN)

Folsom Europe was established in Berlin, Germany in 2003 in order to bring the non-profit leather festival concept pioneered by the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco to Europe.[25]

Folsom Europe

Since 1997, a smaller event called New York City by GMSMA. There is no affiliation between Folsom Street East (NYC) and Folsom Street Events (SF).[21][24]

Folsom Street East

Fair organizers present one or two live stages for alternative bands and artists. Previous headlining live acts have included Austra (band), Little Boots, Miami Horror, Ladytron (DJ Team), Dragonette, Imperial Teen, Berlin, The Presets, Monarchy, The English Beat, MNDR, Light Asylum, Shiny Toy Guns, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, Nitzer Ebb, MEN (featuring JD Samson of Le Tigre), My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, The Limousines, and Ladyhawke. Over time, the fair is becoming more and more well known as a venue for top-notch, international underground musical talent. There are one or two dance areas with DJs and cage dancers, featuring DJ sets from the likes of Tony Moran, Manny Lehman (disc jockey), The Cucarachas featuring Tom Stephan, and Mark Moore of S'Express. In 2006, Folsom Street Fair introduced a women's area, first dubbed "Bettie Page's Secret" then changing its name in subsequent years to "Venus' Playground." In 2007, an erotic artists' area was established as well with a performance art stage appearing in 2013 in honor of the 30th fair.


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