Nothing has changed at the corner of Post and Steiner. It is still the grimy junction that I’m fond of—my place on Friday nights—this one initiating the party weekend that will extend to Halloween next Tuesday. That seems appropriate. The line is short but is spilling around the corner from the front entry doors as we approach from behind the arena on Pierce Street.
Bowie has been everywhere in the media ever since the tour started on September 22 in Cleveland. On October 20th and 21st the band plays two sold out nights at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Los Angeles is zany for Ziggy. KMET, the underground FM station known as “The Mighty Met,” airs the October 20th concert live. Bowie and the Spiders overwhelm L.A., leaving fans raving about what they had seen and heard.
But as I stand in line I wonder where all the hip San Francisco fans are hiding. Winterland should be crammed, but as we wait only a few people line up behind us. I ask Fred about that, but he shrugs his shoulders. By this time, he’s comfortable with the music and can’t deny its value, but he’s still nervous about the gender incongruity of the album. A couple of weeks earlier I buy a copy of Hunky Dory, Bowie’s previous album, because I enjoy the music. But I tease Fred with the cover—Bowie gazing upwards, a look of longing on his face, his hand pulling his hair up from his forehead effeminately. It’s a soft-focus photo like all the studio photography of movie stars given away as publicity pictures back in the Forties and Fifties.
I walk down to the corner and stand under the signpost. There’s a group of men clustered at the head of the line dressed as women. There are plenty of men in San Francisco who cross-dress. This is my first sighting. Not all of them are outfitted that way. Some are in full Ziggy regalia, complete with red hair and rooster haircuts—all of them colorful and loud.
The rest of the people in line are dressed in denim. It’s the post-hippie look, and I’m a member of that community. I saunter back down to where Fred and Gloria are holding our place in line. I try to look nonchalant.
“What’s going on up at the front of the line?” Fred asks.
“Oh, not much. People waiting as usual.” I keep my reply as deadpan as I can. I want to see the look on his face when he sees the guys at the front door. A few minutes later some additional costumed characters walk around the corner and take their places in line behind us. Fred, who’s been talking rapidly and holding forth on one thing or another, stops prattling and his voice halts. He averts his eyes, which are wide with disbelief, and leans against the wall as if he needs physical support from the shock. A few moments later he says, “I hope they open the doors soon. I’m getting cold,” in the same way a cat, after falling ineptly from a table, licks its paw as if to say, I meant to do that.
When the doors open the line flows in without any rushing or running. When I reach the main floor, I see there are only a couple of hundred people near the stage. I wonder if some folks were running fashionably late. Where is everybody? Perhaps there will be a larger crowd eventually. It’s the right time to get close to the stage and claim a space before the music starts. But as I begin walking Fred does not move. He’s frozen in place, looking at the milling group of alternate lifestyle folks with consternation as he holds hands with Gloria. I think for a moment that she might be the cause of his hesitation. She says a few words to him that I can’t hear—tries to take a step forward and pull him with her. He remains stationary. He shakes his head from side to side. He’s unwilling to join the crowd of cross-dressers.