The Castro revels, however corrupted and problematic they've become, are an inevitable component of the city's Oct. 31 identity. But seeing Halloween in San Francisco as some inexorable crime-and-banishment saga offers only a partial view of the holiday's particularly strong grip on our collective self-image. The love of outrageous display and sybaritic ritual, of multi-layered masquerade and playful boundary-blurring don't constitute some exclusively gay franchise. They're a widely shared set of cultural values and markers, a way of seeing ourselves, in the crisp October moonlight, with a particular kind of clarity.
Where else could an extravagantly silly dress-up show like "Beach Blanket Babylon" enjoy a 30-plus-year run with no end in sight? For further confirmation, note the success of "Teatro ZinZanni," which turns dining out into a sustained stunt of environmental theater. What other city would turn both the Black and White Ball and Exotic Erotic Ball into stable institutions?
Thanks, Steve Winn. I'm not so sure about it being the "gay high holy day," as you quote David Skal remarking, but I couldn't have said it better myself. I love you, San Francisco!