60 years ago, it wasn't uncommon for men wearing women's clothing in public to be arrested. Nevertheless: A group of drag queens prancing along Columbus Avenue in San Francisco — circa 1968 — carried on living their most authentic (and fabulously camp) lives.
Arrests were made in San Franciso against men cross-dressing while out and about the town up until 1974 — a group of ten being detained in the Tenderloin as late as May of 1974. Two months later, the San Francisco law that made cross-dressing illegal was rescinded.
But fourteen years before the piece of pre-WWI legislation was enacted, drag queens were filmed proudly dancing at what's believed to be SF's The Village Club venue.
Unearthed by KQED, the footage shows socialites and drag queens of the era (many of which with hair spun like carnival cotton candy) completely vibing on the dance floor, taking pictures with event attendees, and having their flouncy throws undulate through the air at this late-60's costume ball. LGBTQI+ culture at the time came alive when the sun dipped below the horizon — affording queer people the chance to fully express themselves among peers and help mitigate unwanted run-ins with police.
To see the discovered 70-second clip in its entirety, play the YouTube video below.
Photo: Screenshot courtesy of YouTube via KQED Arts