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Controlling Castro 

Don't you just love the new, gated, police-heavy Halloween party in the Castro? Quiz yourself and find out.

Wednesday, Nov 3 2004
For the second year in a row, San Francisco revelers were treated to a relatively tame party in the Castro on Halloween, with a heavy and visible police presence maintaining order over a historically out-of-control celebration. Cops did not allow alcohol, weapons, or "dangerous costume accessories" through the 13 gated entrances, which city officials erected in response to the events of Halloween 2002, when five people were stabbed, dozens were arrested for public drunkenness, and one partygoer was seen swinging a live, buzzing chain saw. Although many in Sunday's crowd complained bitterly about the chilling effects of the city's prohibitions, there's little argument the measures are making an impact: Arrests were down for a second straight year, and no major outbreaks of violence were reported. Are you an apologist for the safer, city-sponsored Castro celebration? Take our quiz and find out!

1) City officials were essentially forced to intervene in the Castro festivities after the party two years ago, when, among other crowd-control problems, it took an ambulance more than 15 minutes to weave through the throng and reach a wounded man on the street. In your opinion, had the Castro gotten too wild, or are city officials now overreacting?

A) Hey, I was there two years ago, and I didn't see or hear any ambulance. Then again, I also woke up in someone else's costume.

B) Actually, 15 minutes on Market Street that time of night is not that bad.

C) Are you kidding? It's about time they cracked down. We can't have people just dying in the streets of San Francisco ... unless they're victims of a gang shooting, of course.

2) The most controversial new prohibition is the ban on alcohol. Not only are stores barred from selling liquor inside the Castro celebration, but uniformed and undercover police officers have cracked down heavily on revelers trying to sneak bottles in. What impact do you think the alcohol ban has had on the festivities?

A) It's made me wish I had a nickel for every time I heard the words: "But officer, you don't understand. This beer is part of my costume."

B) This year I thought for sure we had the Fuzz fooled with the ol' liquor-bottle-in-a-paper-bag trick. Damn. Back to the drawing board.

C) It's a better time for everyone. Now I don't have to fear for my life amid a bunch of drunken, rampaging transvestites. (Bonus point if you're from Milpitas; two bonus points if you're visiting San Francisco from a state that voted "red" in yesterday's election.)

3) What do you miss most about the wilder Castro street parties from decades past?

A) Three words: "working chain saw."

B) To be honest, I can't remember. And that's what I miss.

C) The yearly challenge: How to work a bulletproof vest into my costume.

4) Even under more restrictive rules, the Castro Halloween bash is sure to surprise its guests with the sight of something truly unbelievable. Which outfit at this year's party stuck out in your mind?

A) Gosh, I just couldn't believe how many people went as a dominatrix. I mean, who'd a thunk?

B) The undercover cops, because they were trying hardest to pull off their costumes. Fellas, you've either got an inner ballerina, or you don't.

C) The naked Willie Brown. I just pray it was a costume.

5) Halloween fanatics who have been attending the legendary Castro party for years say the makeup of the crowd has warped noticeably in recent years, with collegiate hordes gradually driving away the drag queens and city residents who long made the celebration what it was. How do you think the demographics of the partygoers have changed?

A) I'd say there's more people than ever dressing up as costumeless Pleasanton teenagers who really, really want to see a bare breast.

B) Too many baby strollers! And only, like, half had kegs hidden in them.

C) Hey, look at the course of human history: If frat boys latch on to a subculture's good time, you know things are only going to get radder!

6) What would you do differently at next year's Castro celebration?

A) I'd rather die than go as a Hooters girl again. Not worth it.

B) You mean besides freezing my caveman ass off?

C) Bring more cash. They were selling water and Red Bull for only $3 and $4, respectively!

7) The most important question: Do you think the original, true spirit of the Castro still infuses the celebration, or have the police presence, influx of tourists, and curfew sapped the evening of its magic?

A) Let me put it this way: Street DJs must secure permits.

B) Actually, to be fair, all the best shindigs have metal detectors.

C) Are you nuts? Party till midnight, baby!

How to score:

Score 0 points for every "a" answer, 1 point for every "b," and 2 points for every "c."

6 points or fewer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Next year you're definitely doing something else.

7-10 points: You know, San Francisco just doesn't have enough stuff that used to be cool but now sucks.

11-14 points: Have a safe drive back to San Rafael. Careful on the bridge!

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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