The story behind the 1980 Muni Metro Party

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We recently heard from Ken Maley, who helped organize the Muni Metro party we posted about in the summer of 2011. Here’s what Ken had to say about the planning and preparation for that party, which we’re bummed to have missed (hey! We were kids at that time, too!)

The late Jim Rivaldo, Dick Pabich, and I had lobbied Muni in 1979 to name the Castro Station after Harvey Milk. Harvey was a big supporter of Muni/public transportation. Muni told us stations weren’t named after people, but did agree to our alternative suggestion, which was the Harvey Milk Plaza and an event in the new stations.

A Harvey Milk Fund had been set up and when I learned that the Muni Metro was set to open in May/June 1980, I had the idea of having a party in the Castro station as a benefit for the MIlk Fund. Muni was very cooperative, and when they took me into the station, I realized that it would be too expensive–and unrealistic given that the system was to open the next morning after the event, to install a cover over the rails between the IN and OUTBOUND platforms. One of the Muni staff said I should use a station that had a center loading platform and the first one up the line was Van Ness station.

I was dead set on using the Castro station somehow for the event, and I got Muni to agree to run a shuttle between Castro and Van Ness for attendees. People entered the Castro station and boarded the LRVs, which whisked them to Van Ness. I had mannequins installed on the Church station to look as though there were people waiting for the train.

I asked Christopher Grubbs, then a budding architectural illustrator, to design the poster and invite. Chris is now a world-renowned illustrator.

I was pleased to see it scanned for this flashback.The invite was a precursor to the club cards now distributed on Castro & 18th.

Muni lined the outside tracks at Van Ness with the new LRVs we used for coat-check and seating. Riding into the station was very ethereal. John McGuire did the lighting and Randy Schiller did the sound system. Sylvester had been a friend a long time and eagerly volunteered to perform. I had two DJs–the emperor of New Wave (AKA Punk–Mabuhay Gardens on Broadway) Howie Klein–now at Warner Bros) and the late great DJ Larry LaRue of Stud fame. It was the battle of dying disco and rising New Wave. The two DJs followed each other’s sets’ alternating genres and the crowd loved it.

Flicka McGurrin–now owner of Pier 23 Cafe handled the bar–yes the two colored tickets were for the bar drinks.

Since the Metro system was set to open at 5am the next morning we had to strike the set by that time, so it was a very long day. My assistant Doug Jackson and our group worked straight through 48 hours. I had the party video taped and that master is now in my archive at the SF Public Library. I was invited to screen the video of Metro Madness at a video event at fnac in Paris. I think the French liked the title Madness and they adore their Metro.

I had sent Doug Jackson to Budget Signs, then out on Geary Blvd for event signage where he met Mark Leno. The two fell in love and were together for many years, until Doug’s death due to AIDS.

Metro Madness is still one favorite of my various projects over the years.

Thanks for sharing this great story, Ken.



  1. gordon

    I wish there were pictures!

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