The Keeper of the Castro Rainbow Flag

Categories: LGBT
RainbowFlagCastroSF2005.jpg
Off2riorob
Not long for this world...
Yesterday, we wrote about who owns the Castro's iconic rainbow flag. Technically, it's the Castro Merchants -- who pay for and insure the flag, which sits on land owned by BART and managed by the Department of Public Works.

Fair enough. But who fixes the flags when they wear out? Who stores the building-sized banners? That'd be Tom Taylor. His qualification? He has the space for it -- and he took over after the inventor of the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, moved out of town.

Taylor, who owns multiple city properties, stores and rehabilitates flags in a SOMA workshop. "I am the only person with a large enough shop to handle it," he says. "When something goes wrong, who else has a space to lay out something that's 20 by 30 feet? And I also have the big industrial sewing machines."

Taylor also changes out the flag's ropes, weights, and clips -- all the things "the city is not equipped for or just doesn't want to do."

When tourists ask Taylor what his secret is for keeping the flag's colors so bright and vibrant, they're often taken aback by the simplicity of his answer: He keeps shuttling in new ones. Castro flags wave for only about three months before they begin showing their age. It's not the wind so much as the sun that does the job on rainbow flags. The oranges and yellows in particular fade away, and "gunk from the road" darkens the banner.

Taylor has many old flags lying around, but "they're faded and do not look good." Also, they are not flame-proof, which limits where and how they can be displayed.

Not that this ever enters the minds of those who travel to the city to visit the Castro and its flag. "They love to see the big flag, with the colors all sharp and clear and everything looking perfect."

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3 comments
Heather Mcneil
Heather Mcneil

Cut up the big ones to make little ones, and sell them to the tourists?

Gilbert Baker
Gilbert Baker

Tom Taylor is a true hero for his care of the Harvey Milk Plaza rainbow flag and many other acts of community service. I'm proud to call him my friend for more than 30 years there's no one else I would have trusted to be the keeper of this beloved symbol.Gilbert Baker New York City

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Correction: Harvey Milk Plaza no longer exists - it's now MUMC Plaza thanks to local despot Steve Adams.

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