Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Doris Fish Day

Twenty-five years ago I made the drive from Stanford to San Francisco on a warm Thursday night. After parking and a few anxious moments of convincing myself to get out of the car, I walked into a gay bar for the first time. My life changed in the next moment when I saw men dancing together.

The emcee for my evening--and the End Up's Wet Jockey Shorts contest--was the incomparable Doris Fish: the first drag queen I had seen in person. To this day she remains my favorite.

Four years later on June 22, 1991, Doris aka Philip Mills died of AIDS, the same month that I moved to San Francisco.

The last time I saw Doris was two years before that. My friend Gerard and I had gone to a fundraiser at the Victoria Theater to help pay her medical expenses. I recently ran across this video of Doris performing that night. It's a memory that has always remained so clear for me because of how the energy in the theater changed when Doris came on stage. The show had been entertaining enough up to that point, but there was the "before Doris" part of the show, and then there was Doris. She had such a powerful presence; even as she was thanking the crowd for turning out, her acidic wit ensured that no one got too weepy.

Somehow that evening was half my life ago.

I miss you, Doris. And I miss what it was like to be young and gay and free in San Francisco. This was your life. And it is mine.

(Video link)
Funny how a lonely day, can make a person say
What good is my life
Funny how a breaking heart, can make me start to say
What good is my life
Funny how I often seem, to think I'll find never another dream
In my life
Till I look around and see, this great big world is part of me
And my life
This is my life
Today, tomorrow, love will come and find me
But that's the way that I was born to be
This is me

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