1980 Flashback: Muni Metro Inauguration Party

D. Robert Foster, who shared an old Muni ticket/transfer on Muni Diaries a few weeks ago, sends along the amazing poster above, and notes:

This is a poster from the May 1980 grand opening party for the Metro system at Castro Street Station. Entertainment by Sylvester, DJs Howie Klein (415 Records), and Larry LaRue. As I remember, ticket holders were eligibile to be among the first people to ride the system by boarding cars at Church Street and then riding right into the party.

Can you imagine how amazing? I almost can, but not quite. Also, where else but the Castro could a soirée this awesome be found?

Thanks, Mr. Foster!

Also, commenters Mike and Gerard shared video from the party. Wild, fun times.

Thanks, Mike and Gerard!


  • JC

    Although I would never undersell the appeal of hearing “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” in person, $20 a head in 1980?!? Equivalent today or say when the Central Subway opens?? (Extra credit for suggesting a comparable performer.)

    • $52.22 in today’s money. Take $2 away for the fare (Church to Castro … riding the subway literally to the party), and you’re talking $50. Not bad. And I know absolutely nothing about current music to even venture a guess at who’d play today.

    • NOH8SF

      Actually, he was singing “I Will Never Stop Dancin'” not “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”. I guess you weren’t enough of a Sylvester fan, even if it was FREE !!!!

  • Mike

    Here is video of Sylvester from that night:

  • The GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco has footage of Sylvester performing at the Castro Muni Station opening party. Here’s a clip from the society’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnK6ai8KkvM.

    • DanB

      Thanks for posting this. What were the blue ticket/red ticket things in the film? Was that a Muni fare sale, or something like drink tickets for the event?

  • D. Robert Foster

    Thanks, Gerard and Mike! That brought a wide smile to my face.

  • W Gatt

    Okay, so what. Muni still stinks and this was another event aimed at one special interest group. Metro – the ride of the futere. The next day it was just antoher Muni bus with not so great people.

  • boner

    thats when San Fransico was mostly white. and the city was liveable.

    • gorley williams

      More livable perhaps but not because it was more white. Just fewer bratty young folks with cars and attitude. And fewer doublewide strollers. And fewer cyclists ignoring traffic laws.

    • A Vuncular

      Actually, San Francisco was probably more African-American then, maybe about the same Latino, and probably a little less Asian.

      I love this city,and I love the mix of people in it. If you don’t, feel free to leave and make room for someone who can appreciate it.

  • cisco

    Now where can I get a copy of this poster?

  • yomama


  • Julian

    Wow! I want a copy of this poster as well!

  • A Vuncular

    The original idea was for the party to be held in the Castro Street Station (perhaps with a temporary wooden platform over the tracks at this side-paltform station), but there was some construction or other reason that this couldn’t be done. Instead, people boarded at Castro Street for a ride to Van Ness, where the party was held. Parked Metro trains on both sides of the center platform kept dancers and other partyers from falling onto the tracks. Several of the Metro cars (the original Boeing-Vertol type) were used as coat checks.
    When the party was over, you couldn’t go back to Castro by train (too late for the Muni drivers, overtime issue maybe?), so a bus bridge ferried people back to Castro Street.
    I was there. It was a great party. Joe Kennedy was there, too, campaigning for his uncle Ted’s 1980 presidential bid — the California primary was only a few days off. The first reports of AIDS were still a year in the future.

  • Ken Maley

    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. This is the poster above.

    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.

  • The Metro Madness poster was created by a dear friend, gay illustrator Chris Grubbs.

  • Rob

    Thank you Ken Maley for having a good memory! I remember it as a great party, and Sylvester, and the lines of parked streetcars and not much else.
    Wasn’t there one of those giant rope-macrame sculptures on the end wall behind the stage? Seem like over the years it got filthier and filthier then it disappeared. I wonder where it went?

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