A literal invitation to dance on one sunny morning at the Endup led to a new circle of friends with which to discover San Francisco’s hedonistic delights. I bounced between the Endup, pool parties, house parties and boat parties with a group of party professionals. I was glad to have the company of my party friends but found that there was a lack of depth, or meaningful connection. Wouldn’t you know, just as my dissatisfaction with the status quo began to sink in, I ended up crossing paths with Tom during this period. He would go on to become my best friend, soul brother, frenemy and roommate. He would become one of the most influential presences in my life at that time.
Tom and I met at the Endup, of course. I honestly forget how we even got talking in the first place, but we really hit it off. We shared a sense of humor and a passion for astrology, the perfect basis of a great relationship. And we just connected really well, being of the same mindset. We had so many great conversations and tons of adventures. Tom would often be the instigator for nights out, drug trips, road trips, and he also had a marvelous gift of connecting people like so many dots. He called himself the White Rabbit, which rang true enough as we followed him down our fair share of Wonderland rabbit holes.
It was through Tom that I met a whole new crew of partygoers, and this crew was far more conscious and crazy and flamboyant than the people I’d been hanging out with for most of that first year at the Endup. They were Burners before that was even a thing, and their grand poobah was a charismatic figure called Lord Huckleberry.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw him out on the Endup patio, this 50-something man with long, flowing, silver hair, his arms covered in tattoos, and donning these wonderful rhinestone sunglasses. He was forever smiling and laughing (and oh, what a laugh! Deep and hearty, the laugh of someone who was clearly delighted by all of life and the world around him). My introduction to this member of San Francisco alternative royalty was by far one of the best turn of events I’d experienced in that city.
A Lord typically has his Lady, and this Lord was always accompanied by an equally stunning and delightful creature called Opal Essence. Opal was a gentle presence and she sparkled with the same life that Lord did. They were lifelong friends, both hailing from Indiana of all places. They ventured out west together and created a life for themselves in San Francisco. I later found out that a friend had bestowed these names to them and then the names stuck. Someone had once told me that they were at a dinner party and saw two name cards at the table with “Lord Huckleberry” and “Opal Essence” written on them and knew that it was going to be a night to remember.
They also struck a good balance for one another. Lord was the fiery Aries male, full of swagger and who partied harder than Keith Richards, in spite of a heart condition he’d had since birth. Lord loved Leonard Cohen and was such a great storyteller. One of my favorite tales of his was the one about Marcus Aurelius. The story goes that one day Lord got into a taxi, which he was taking downtown to go to Teatro Zinzanni. The cab driver turned out to be quite a scream, as he sped along the streets of downtown San Francisco like a bat out of hell, yelling out the window at people, “I killed the cab driver, and I put his body in the trunk ahahahaha!”. Lord of course thought that this was fantastic, laughing that laugh of his all the way. When they arrived in front of Teatro Zinzanni, the cab driver turned around a looked Lord in the eyes. His tone suddenly became serious as he said, “My name is Marcus Aurelius. I have a message from the mother ship: you’re not going home anytime soon.” This incident by itself would’ve been shrugged off. But Lord was taking another taxi about a year or two later. Different driver, different vibe, and they were headed to another event. Just as the cab pulled in front of Lord’s destination, this driver also turned around, looked Lord in the eyes and solemnly said, “My name is Marcus Aurelius. I have a message from the mother ship: you’re not going home anytime soon.” To this day, we’re not sure exactly what it all means but I can readily believe that Lord was an alien among us.
He also had to be the gayest straight man I’d ever met. I think that one of the interesting things about him was that he didn’t fit into the “normal” straight world yet he also didn’t quite mesh with the traditional gay community. But he was an advocate for free love and just plain ole freedom. His apartment was like something out of a bohemian sex museum, with cock represented everywhere – statues and paintings and nick-nacks. (Later, when he decided as a lark that he wanted to throw his hat into the ring in the race for mayor, he anointed himself the head of the Party party and his slogan was, “Shrooms in every cupboard and a cock in every mouth.”) His running slogan, however, was “For the power and the beauty and the glory of love.” That, and “Spice must flow!”
In contrast, Opal was the cool and collected Cancer woman who often bore the voice of reason, and who had a calming effect on Lord and the whole lot of us. Underneath that sweet exterior, though, was a soul as deviant as any one of us. Opal’s hobbies included seducing younger men, stealing your beer and trying to kill Lord. Lord would always hilariously scream out, “Help, help! Opal’s trying to kill me!!” Once, at Burning Man, she kind of did really try to kill him when she poured him a cocktail comprised of a liquid that, in her drunken state, she failed to recognize as gasoline. I started calling her Angel of Death because she had that soft voice and sweet exterior, but then would always pull a move out of left field that made the rest of us look like Sunday Catholics.
Lord Ikon was another beautiful soul, very free-spirited and dynamic, a Pisces with a tender heart but also a junior Lord in training. He and Lord even got a club night going called Club Ego, their slogan was “It’s All About Me”. This was a guy who would be at a party on a farm and start running round the field on LSD and in fun fur, trying to herd the cows. Other members of the circle were delightful characters with names like Captain, Funky Dave, Flash, and Spoon. Some time later the clowns joined the party. Together we formed a family and partied like rockstars. I had found my people.