Jim and I were fascinated by the pithy dictums found in fashion magazines and self-help materials. They taught how life should be lived in the simplest of terms. These sayings were served with an attitude of absolute certainty based on, supposedly, irrefutable logic.
When I was taking my painstaking time in designing one invite, Jim asked why it was taking so long. I explained I wanted it to be provocative so people would be curious and attend. Then, if it was a good invitation and they had fun at the event, there was something concrete to hold on to afterwards.
From that exchange Jim came up with an aphorism for the ages:
It’s not the party, it’s the invitations.
Alas, there are no known relics of this invite in captivity. Rumors abound that one exists here or there. But as the Stones once sang, “I don’t want to walk and talk about Jesus, I just wanna see his face.”
The only tool at our disposal in those days was 10 cent Xerox copies at the library. They came out on horrible, mimeograph-type slick paper and were in black and white only. The machine did okay with the printed word or line drawings. They were woeful in reproducing photographs.
The first invite was a picture of me at the Gay Lib Dance in a photocopy abstract. You could almost differentiate between the hair and the face. I had decided to attack a gay cliche for Halloween and went as the Death of Rhinestones. They were on my eyelids, on my silver lame tunic, down my legs, bangled on my wrist, and strewn throughout my white Afro (using my own teased out, damaged hair.)
It should be pointed out that, although weeks of thought and preparation had gone into the look, it was all pulled together at the last minute. I had just gotten out of jail that afternoon and hadn’t slept in 2 days.
Other than the particulars for the event, the only other design element was the “Gay is Good” randomly rubber stamped on it. I’d borrowed the stamp from Henderson House, the seat of the Gay Liberation movement on campus.
The slogan may seem facile today but at the time it made sense. After decades (or centuries) of being outcast and disparaged, it was the first public slogan that said it was okay. To me it meant: stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it.
Which is what I tried to do.
Another artistic wonder from the library photocopier. Hand tinted in the joyous colors of Christmas. Sentiment reads:
To acknowledge the many kind expressions of
sympathy received by the Family and I
A Private Reception
Saturday, December 9
Ten O’Clock P.M.
323 S. Lincoln
Egg Nog by Bianca Schwartz
In Cinemascope and Panavision
Challenging the limits of human decency, I again capitalized on my appearance at the Halloween Dance. I went as Jackie Kennedy in the pink suit. People either loved the assassination theme or hated it.
As I said at the time to those who thought it was insensitive, it’s not like I was mocking the bereaved widow of my nextdoor neighbor who was killed in a hunting accident. I was dealing with public imagery that was used to manipulate popular thought. Ever been to a pretrial hearing for one of Bobby Kennedy’s kids where they didn’t wheel out the litany of family martyrs?
Of course this was years before People Magazine, CNN and the Kardashians would prove once and for all that celebrities really are our best friends. And we should do everything they do.
There’s a simplicity in my naiveté back then, however, that still rings true for some of us today.
This was a small affair on 17th street in San Francisco. It was really a reunion of Bloomington emigres who’d moved to the City. Which I had just done that week.
There were a few new people in the mix that hinted of things to come. (Including Gordon who I reconnected with 30 years later via this blog. He graciously donated his 1973 invitation to fill a gap in my collection–see discussion of pithy dictums above.)
The engraved invitations to my first party ever in San Francisco captured the feel of the Republican Country Club tradition this party was meant to mock. Not of the whacked-out weirdos addicted to barbiturates who were throwing it. I dressed as Twiggy that night.
The recent pandemic reminded me so much of my early days in San Francisco. Back then we were quarantining ourselves from work. No one wanted a job when we could sit around doing drugs, art projects and boys all the time. We slept late then waited until midnight to go to the bars. Days were filled with dreams which were occasionally acted upon: “Hey, let’s shave our eyebrows and recreate Bowie’s Pin Ups.”
Immediately after leaving IU we collectively realized there were no photos of the crazy things we’d done in school. No one really thought about documenting it. We were living the counterculture, baby, we didn’t care about scrapbooking.
That changed dramatically after college. We photographed everything. When I met my friend Susan many years later she knew nothing about my past. So I slowly started to fill her in including some of the photos.
She was astounded by the volume of pictures. “What? You had a live-in camera crew all of those years?”
Sentiument: When this you see remember B. And Egg Nog.
Another small affair on 14th street. I’d been in Indiana for the holidays and flew back on New Years Eve, the day of the party. I arrived around 6 pm, the party started at 10. Champagne only, no nog.
Someone gave me a tuinal as the party started. I passed out and missed the whole thing.
I’m not a big nostalgia fan. It just proves you’ve got a great memory and no creativity. I did enjoy the Art Deco mini-revival of the early 70’s, however.
The silver New Years cards were store bought. The inside sentiment was mine alone.
Daryl and I lived on Clay at Leavenworth. A much bigger crowd attended than the previous two years. With the help of Mr. Sarah we ressurrected the original egg nog recipe.
The invitation started off as a Madonna and Child that somehow slipped into an Egyptian theme. The two styles were seemingly incongruous (but provocative). Historical accuracy didn’t matter to me as long as it looked good. I don’t even know if mothers or children existed in ancient Egypt.
I was meeting more people including the Williams Sonoma crowd I worked with. The place I lived with Jeffrey on Jones Street was packed to the gills with guests craving my creamy delight.
Jeffrey had caused a sensation the year before by creating a wreath of pink tulle for the front door. He adorned it with a selection of sunglasses from his vintage, quirky collection.
He collected glasses mainly from the 40’s and 50’s. But if they were odd enough it didn’t matter what year they were produced. Good taste knows no era.
I took his Holidays Shades idea and posed in a vintage swim cap to create a film roll. Each frame had one letter of the message and a unique pair of sunglasses. The fake spool was rolled up and mailed in a film canister.
After the Jones Street affair I realized the party had gotten too big for an apartment. My friends who owned the Baldwin Rosendo salon in Chinatown offered their space on Commercial Street. All of their equipment was moved to a back room. We had the entire basement floor running the length of the building.
There was a token punch bowl of nog but everyone drank the champagne instead. I rented 10 dozen coupe glasses and we sipped out of vessels molded from Marie Antoinette’s breasts.
As one reveler climbed the stairs to leave they accidentally dropped their glass on the landing. To save them from embarrassment, I deflected attention by casually tossing my glass on the staircase too. Within seconds an onslaught of champagne coupes were flying through the air. Everyone joined in to aim at that basement landing.
It was a constant barrage for several minutes as the mound kept growing. When there were no breast replicas left to hurl, partiers tossed empty champagne bottles carving huge divots in the wall. We were left with a nasty pile of broken glass guests had to negotiate on their way out. And that I spent all of Sunday cleaning up.
I was philosophical about it. It was the punk era after all, nihilistic destruction was the name of the game. And most people found it entertaining. Losing my deposit to Abbey Rents was cheaper than hiring a DJ.
I had to work on Monday so it was left to David to return the empty cases to the rental company. Of the 10 dozen maybe 8 coupes survived. When the incredulous rental staff asked what happened David improvised: “The drinks table collapsed.”