For those not in the know Tales of the City is the acclaimed eight-book series from gay American author Armistead Maupin. The books follow Ohio born Mary Ann Singleton and her adventures in San Francisco after moving in with the eclectic (and eccentric) occupants of 28 Barbary Lane. These include moody bisexual, Mona, gay-and-sometimes-proud, Michael, and marijuana smoking landlady, Anna Madrigal.
Tales of the City portray San Francisco as ‘a world within a world’, filled with unique and exciting people, with gates open to all. The books describe San Fran’s Golden Gate Bridge as a magnetic force, pulling in those on the outside and making it impossible for those within it to leave (at least with their hearts in tow).
Fans of Maupin’s Tales of the City books (and its TV mini-series) can retrace the steps of Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver and its other popular characters through the Tours of the Tales website. For San Francisco visitors, even unfamiliar with the novels, the site acts as a good general guide to some of the city’s best (and worst) kept secrets… Tours of the Tales contains downloadable tour trails and lists any ‘official guided tours’ being hosted throughout the year.
We took the main walking tour starting at Buena Vista bar, where Mary Anne first arrives in the city and enjoys an Irish coffee. We moved on to Russian Hill and then better known areas such as the Searchlight Market and Svensen’s Ice Cream. The highlight for me, however, was seeing the steps at Macondray Lane, which inspired those at Maupin’s fictional Barbary Lane. A second to this was spotting the flock of wild parrots on Telegraph Hill (also featured in the books).
Armistead Maupin’s first book in this series was awarded the Big Gay Read prize (a competition which seeks to find the best gay book of all time). The series captures the Bohemian and outrageous sides to San Francisco.
If Maupin’s books aren’t enough to tempt you, check back on Gay Star News for Matt Newbury’s upcoming and detailed account of where to explore and what to do in the wonderful city of San Francisco.