I feel like the Dean of Students at freshman orientation. Every couple of years when I venture into SF Lesbian Nation, I’m older but the girls aren’t. The older ones have moved across the bridge and are busily raising babies, so I seldom run into anyone I know here. Today I did; Valerie’s a doctor now, and Kenya’s buying a house with her wife. Can the babies be far behind?
It’s the usual mob scene here at Dolores Park, and of course it had to be the hottest day of the year. I feel wildly inappropriate; after all, I might think I’m the Dean of Students, but nobody else recognizes me as such. To them I’m just another “elder,” like the three seniors next to me dressed in identical bermuda shorts and plaid cotton blouses, their backpacks hanging, all sporting the same no-nonsense haircuts in various shades of gray. The clone factor gives me the creeps.
I first started hanging out with baby dykes in my mid-40s; as editor of On Our Backs that’s who I worked with and who we catered to. I was too old even then, yet here I am 20 years later, standing among the latest crop of baby dykes, all of them enthralled to be queer and here in the heady oxygen of SF Pride. I’ll wager none of them have lived in SF more than a year or two.
I actually do have a valid excuse to be here. Sharon Gless, aka Christine Cagney of the old Cagney & Lacey cop show, will soon address the crowd. Although Gless has been married for 18 years to a man, she’s never forgotten that her character was a beloved icon of Lesbian Nation; at marches and rallies you’d see signs imploring Chris Cagney, Come Out! Cagney, like Gless, was blatantly het–but she was a tough lady whose interests ran to poker, baseball, and scotch neat. Besides, both of them were 1980s role models: Marybeth Lacey had her Utopian family life and egalitarian marriage to Harve, while Cagney had looks, brains, old money, and boyfriends–but everyone knew she wanted girlfriends. Louise Rafkin, the leading lesbian commentator of the day, religiously reported Cagney’s doings in her syndicated column.
With the sun beating down on me, I scramble for shade under the bathroom eaves, from where I have such a clear shot I could leap across all the half-naked bodies onto the stage and into Cagney’s arms. But I restrain myself when she shows up, wearing not a cop uni (as an investigator she never wore one on the show either), but a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Understated in style and delivery, she thanks the gals for all their support over the years, and then reveals her true agenda, introducing “my granddaughter who is gay and single. Isn’t she gorgeous?” (and no doubt mortified).
And that was that. I waited out in the street another hour or so until the march began, Sharon/Chris leading the way, chatting with one of San Francisco’s finest. Apparently you can take Cagney off the beat, but you can’t keep her away from lady cops.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people showed up at today’s Pride March with those old signs: Chris Cagney Come Out!