San Franciscans of all walks of life flooded the Castro Theatre on Wednesday night, celebrating the opening night of the SFFILM Festival and, more directly, the everlasting magic of Armistead Maupin.
The author’s “Tales of the City” has taken on new life once again in the latest Netflix adaptation, which focuses on a new era of Barbary Lane and the wildly wonderful people that inhabit it. The first installment of the coming season (which premieres on Netflix in early June) tells the story of the Barbary Lane family of decades past as they come to face the trials and tribulations of modern San Francisco.
William Randolph Hearst of Hearst Media introduced the man, the myth, the legend Armistead Maupin himself, citing that Maupin is a true scribe and laureate of our city. “The way James Joyce writes about Dublin, Armistead Maupin writes about San Francisco,” Hearst proclaimed with earnestness.
When faced with the opportunity of producing the next generation of “Tales,” showrunner Lauren Morelli said she was most excited about and focused on a way to “represent a generation of new characters that I don’t necessarily see on TV yet.”
Pressing onward, the producers also explained that though “Tales” may not be so disruptive in liberal places like San Francisco anymore, there are massive implications when isolated LGBTQ folks around the world can binge “Tales” on Netflix, enlivened with the knowledge that places like Barbary Lane exist and can serve as a refuge for them, even if their own immediate society cannot.
In general, that was the theme of the evening. Mayor London Breed offered an honorable, positive message to her constituents prior to the screening, bolstering spirits with talk of San Francisco’s inclusivity and diversity whilst framing our struggles as “challenges,” and galvanizing the open minded to seek out the best in it, rather than crucify San Francisco for ways in which it could not help but change.
The new era of “Tales” doesn’t hide from these changes, but rather dives into them headfirst. It’s a social, content-driven world, one in which everything with a pulse is responsible for curating a personal brand. Where are we left, however, when that brand proves hollow? When the person creating it, forgets the importance of being a person, first and foremost.
There are as many San Francisco’s as there are San Franciscans. Your life in SoMa is different than his on Market is different than theirs on Duboce is different than mine on Lombard. But uniting us all, regardless of the spectrum and gamut of weird, convoluted ambition, right brain, left brain, tech genius, activist, altogether nonconformist, is an attraction to a place that has room to let all these things thrive and coexist with one another. Not many places in the world are that dynamic. Not many cities could withhold all this in a seven by seven radius.
Maupin is perhaps the best at understanding this polychotomy, and shamelessly celebrating the most wonderfully extreme facets of it. He’s been living a good life in these parts for decades, and he’s the first to remark on the ever-evolving nature of it. But he’s no curmudgeonly old man, that’s to be sure.
“You know, I swore that I was not going to be a grumpy old queen. I was not going to be the man that said, ‘You got that goddamn Grindr now, but when I was a boy, we used to have to walk ten miles in the snow just to suck a cock.’”
With that, the entire room roared, the moderator dropped the mic, and Armistead waved off the masses, ushering us back into the city that we live, we love, and he chronicles, now and forever.
// Feature photo by Tommy Lau, 2019 SFFILM Festival, April 10th— 23rd, 2019; sffilm.org