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Arts & Culture » Culture

50 Years in 50 Weeks; 1975 - Empress and an elephant

by Jim Provenzano

Empress Doris rides an elephant down Polk Street at 1975's Gay Freedom Day Parade
Empress Doris rides an elephant down Polk Street at 1975's Gay Freedom Day Parade  (Source:Ron Williams)

1975 was a great year for Bay Area Reporter covers, but the most legendary image of the year is assuredly that of Empress Doris riding an elephant down Polk Street for the annual Gay Freedom Day Parade on the cover of the July 10, 1975 issue. How did it happen? And why?

According to Wally Rutherford's Imperial Newsletter on Page 20:

"Doris' first thank you is to Her new friend, Tagu. If you didn't get a chance to see this extremely intelligent elephant in the Gay Freedom Day Parade, you missed a turbulent but fantastic ride.

"The idea of riding an elephant has long been a dream for Doris. Finally, Her dream was realized through the courtesy of the *PS, Casa de Cristal, Mind Shaft, Nickelodeon, Rendezvous, Bay Area Reporter and the new Church Street Station. Tagu came from Marine World, Africa U.S.A. and the trainers accompanying her were courteous and quite concerned over Doris' safety.

"Doris promises Her Court that she will not take anymore chances during Her Reign."

The photo was taken by Ron Williams (credited to his business Exactly That Productions), who also designed the paper in those days, and still documents Pride events.

The issue also includes a two-page photo spread of the Parade, and one of Harvey Milk's columns covering the day, straight media's lack of coverage, and city funding iniquities.

Read more at https://archive.org/details/BAR_19750710/mode/2up

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