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1957 Guide to San Francisco

San Francisco has a rich history, and has been famous for many things: the Gold Rush, the 1906 earthquake, and the 1967 "Summer of Love" which is being celebrated this year for its 50th anniversary. Now the city is famous for its unaffordable housing costs. However, to reveal San Francisco's longest-running claim to fame, we go back ten years before the hippie invasion, to 1957, when Herb Caen’s Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area was published. The tourist guide has plenty to say about the city and recommendations for what to do when you visit.

…Caen invites tourists to spend an evening at Finocchios, “the far-famed or ill-famed place—depending on your point of view—where ‘female impersonators’ go through their paces, alarmingly disguised in garish wigs, overflowing gowns, and comic-opera false bosoms, all designed to make your visiting maiden aunt from Anamosa, Ia., gasp in delighted disbelief (‘You mean they’re actually men?’). Some of the talent is quite good, and the productions show more imagination than you might expect. Finocchio, incidentally, means ‘fairy’ in Italian.”

And with that, Herb Caen introduces his readers to San Francisco’s nascent LGBTQ community, which, far more than the hippies, would come to define their city. After all, the struggle for civil rights has always been more compelling than the mere desire to let one’s freak flag fly, however much fun that might be.

Read the entire article at Collectors Weekly.

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