Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

The Edge – more than just fundraising

Guest Opinion

Edge basket contest judges Doug, aka "Fluffy," left, Brett Andrews, and contest co-founder Gary Rahlf, aka "Queen the Old Bag." Photo: Gary Virginia
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I was saddened to read in last week's Bay Area Reporter that the Castro community may be losing the Edge bar as a venue for community fundraisers ["Edge bar ends 15 years of hosting benefits," January 19]. I was in San Francisco in the beginning, and thanks to the late Eric Weinmann, the bar's manager at the time, and to his boss whose name I don't recall, I and many others "used" the Edge to raise much needed funds for small and struggling organizations.

The first Mr. Edge Leather contest was created by longtime Castro community activist, Josh Bottfeld, and was co-produced by Frank Lester and myself as a joint benefit for the little known (at that time) UCSF AIDS Health Project and the Deaf AIDS Project. Besides having been the first of many leather contests for the Edge, it marked the first time that the queer deaf community was involved in community fundraising with deaf involvement at all stages of the event – from the co-producer to deaf contestants and even to deaf staff at the Edge (the late Patrick Satzer)! Moreover, Bottfeld recruited the wonderfully talented gay comedian Danny Williams to host that first event, and thus began the long association of Williams with many events at the Edge – all raising thousands of dollars for the community while providing space for very diverse groups of people to come together to help one another's causes.

The first basket contest, originally started around Easter time, was created by Weinmann – a wonderfully talented man who never, ever said no to the community. The basket contest was a fundraiser for the AIDS Emergency Fund and its tremendous success gave birth to Weinmann and Williams's other crazy idea: monthly Full Moon parties ("the only contest around," as Williams and Weinmann loved to remind us during the bare-ass contests, "where any asshole can win"). I regret that I forget the name of the other man who created the basket contest with Weinmann and who designed the basket posters (originally intended to be a new annual calendar).

So something that started as a simple fundraiser – and probably made a little extra money for the bar, too – gave to the Castro a new and unique space for "community." Deaf and hearing, young and old, leather and clone, local and tourist, transgender and questioning – all helped and supported because the Edge bar said, "Yes!" when the community asked, "Can you help us?"

I ask all San Francisco residents to join with me in urging Entertainment Commission Vice Chair Audrey Joseph (herself a valiant sponsor of many fundraisers), Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and the current management of the Edge bar, to please come to some agreements that will help save such a valuable community space for fundraisers, now and into the future.

Paul Causey is an HIV program consultant currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.  During his 18 years as a San Francisco resident and community activist, he served on the boards of the AIDS Emergency Fund, Deaf Communities Together, and the Rainbow Deaf Society; helped to create and hosted the long-running SF cable TV program, AIDS Update; and was executive director of the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center. He can be reached at:

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