Tag Archives: 1984

GAY HISTORY – September 23, 1984: The First Folsom Street Fair Takes Place in San Francisco

San Francisco has always had a large gay leather community.  By the late 1970’s, they had created ‘Miracle Mile’, a stretch of Folsom street that featured over 30 gay leather bars and bathhouses.  But Miracle Mile as it was called. was a bothersome eyesore to City Hall, but the leather community defended their sanctuary and fought back against City Hall’s ambitious redevelopment program for the South of Market development already underway on Rincon Hill.

In the early 1980’s as HIV and AIDS tore through San Francisco severely weakening the leather community. City Hall took this opportunity to push through a series of redevelopment plans that together with AIDS, spelled the end of Miracle Mile as a leather sanctuary.

But in 1984 a coalition of leather community organizers and hosing advocates got together and decided to start a street fair. The fair would enhance the visibility of the leather community, provide a means for much-needed fundraising, and create opportunities for members of the leather community to connect to services and vital information that the bathhouses and bars might otherwise have been situated to distribute.

And thus the Folsom Street Fair was born.

Now the Folsom Street Fair after 35 years has become California’s third-largest single-day, outdoor spectator event attracting a whopping 400,000 slaves, masters, mummies, ponies, puppies, pigs, nudists, fairies, boot boys, jocks and people-with-such-crazy-sexual-interests-that-there-are-no-noun-for-them-yet, all crammed into 13 overcrowded street blocks of fun. It has also grown as a non-profit charity, with local and national non-profits benefiting from the proceeds from numerous fundraising booths within the festival including games, beverage and even spanking booths. (And a helluva lot more that is definitely NSWF).

Similar events also take place in Canada and Germany.   And in San Francisco FSF also manage “Up Your Alley”  street fair and special events like the “Folsom Street Fair Formal Leather Gala”

Folsom Street Fair Trivia:  The first Folsom Street Fair date was chosen to coincide with the autumnal equinox which it did through 1992.  Thereafter the Fair became more associated with one of the last two Sunday in September. 

*Photo: Gene Dermody and Carl Martin at the 1984 Folsom St. Fair. Carl served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1970’s with gay activist Leonard Matlovich.

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Gay History – September 24, 1982: The Centers for Disease Control Uses The Term “AIDS” For The First Time

Gay History – 1976: First Discovered AIDS Cases Found In Zaire, Africa

Most of us set the start date of AIDS with the June 1981 when a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describing five gay men who had died of a mysterious disease in Los Angeles and more followed in New York City.. When the HIV virus was isolated in 1984 and a test for the virus became available in 1985, several avenues of research opened up to try to figure out where this virus came from. Doctors in Paris and Brussels, who had long been treating wealthy African patients from their former colonies bearing all of the hallmarks of the new disease, pointed to Africa as a possible source for the virus. On February 4, 1988, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report by Dr. Nzila Nzilambi from Kinshasa, Zaire and other doctors from Belgium and the CDC which strongly suggested an African source for the virus, and revealed that AIDS had been a persistent health problem in rural Zaire as early as the mid 1970s.

n 1976, there had been an outbreak of Ebola in the northeastern Zaire along the Congo river. In the course of the medical investigations, hundreds of serum samples were collected from people throughout the area. Those samples remained preserved Zaire and were flown to Atlanta for testing. Investigators then went back in 1986 and collected more samples from as many people as possible, 388 in all. Ninety of them had also been among the 659 samples collected in 1976. Five of the samples from 1976 tested positive for HIV. Two were still alive ten years later; one was healthy, but the other was already showing signs of a suppressed immune system. Three were dead.  Another woman, the wife of one of the two HIV-positive men still alive, “died in 1981 after a long illness associated with fever, weight loss, skin rash, and oral lesions.” Again an apparent death from AIDS. The third was a child who was seven years old in 1976, who “died of pneumonia and weight loss at the age of 16.”

Also, a 47-year old Danish woman who worked as a surgeon in a primitive rural hospital in Zaire in 1972-77  had repeated episodes of diarrhea. In 1976, fatigue, wasting, and universal lymphadenopathy emerged. She patient recalled encountering at least 1 case of Kaposi’s sarcoma in her work in Zaire, where she was likely heavily exposed. She passed away in December 1977.

Risk factors such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and intravenous drug abuse were not present in the histories of any of these 7 individuals. Rather, heterosexual contacts in Central Africa in the early 1970s and earlier was the sole risk factor.

The doctors concluded: “The results of our study showed that HIV infection was already present in an isolated portion of Zaire in 1976 and that the prevalence of infection in the general population there did not change significantly over the 10-year observation period.”

[Source: Box Turtle Bulletin, Nzila Nzilambi, Kevin M. De Cock, Donald N. Forthal, et al. “The prevalence of infection with human immunodeficiency virus over a 10-year period in rural Zaire.” New England Journal of Medicine 318, no. 5 (February 4, 1988): 276-279.]