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Riot on the Set

Tales in the City

By Martha McPartlin

It's unavoidable. You live in a city as picturesque as this one, so you're gonna get your fair share of industry types descending upon it. You know, the ones looking to exploit our homes and neighbors as scenery in their grand cinematic opuses. And next thing you know, the rest of the free world is suffering under the delusion that everyone here lives in a lavender Victorian with views of both bridges and that being a hippie is considered a good thing.

But we begrudgingly love it, don't we? It's worth having your bus rerouted and being prevented from parking within blocks of your house, isn't it?

However, if there is one person that should be more than welcome to use the people and places of San Francisco as a means to his artistic end, it's author Armistead Maupin for the production of his More Tales of the City. The six-hour sequel to the critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated original series (yeah, lifted straight from the press release), it's the film version of the novel from the collection that has become required reading for all new arrivals in San Francisco.

Armistead and pals only filmed for four days in the city, and they set up camp at the majestic Palace of Fine Arts. The main characters were outfitted in period dress circa 1977, currently available at any Buffalo Exchange. They engaged in a romantic scene that consisted of walking, talking and kissing, which they then repeated three times, with no discernible difference.

Because the actors on hand aren't terribly famous yet, the set wasn't exactly overrun with thrill-seekers, save three giggling teens. In fact, as far as I could tell, most of the excitement was provided by a handful of young grips running around picking up heavy things.

But what does Mr. Maupin, the man who epitomized that madcap era of fun drugs and free sex, think 20 years later of the painfully retro and hopelessly nostalgic San Francisco of today? As Armistead sees it, not much has changed. "The core principles stay the same," he says. People are still concerned with "human kindness, compassion, and working on their souls."

As for the numero-uno thing he misses about the raging '70s? "Why it's the freewheeling sex, of course." Don't we all, Armistead, don't we all.

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From the November 1997 issue of the Metropolitan.

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