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Guide to the People's Fund Records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: People's Fund Records
    Accession number: 1988-06
    Creator: People's Fund
    Extent: 1 box
    Repository: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
    San Francisco, California.
    Shelf location: Housed at the GLBT Historical Society.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], People's Fund Records, 1988-06, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.


    The People's Fund (1976-1983) was a charitable organization that provided financial aid to members of the gay community of San Francisco. Its stated goal was to lend and grant funds to members of the "homosexual community" who suffered unexpected loss due to fire, theft, or a death in the immediate family. The Fund operated under a charter with the Pride Foundation, and was a product of the combined efforts of the Council of Emperors, and Bob Ross of Benro Enterprises.
    The Council of Emperors (1972 - present) is a major component of the Royal Court of San Francisco. The Royal Court originated with the Council of Empresses, organized in 1966 by Jose Sarria. Other elements include dowagers, dukes and duchesses. The Royal Court system was soon copied by many other cities and regions. It merged theatrical and camp elements of high drag with social, political, and fundraising activities. The Court has been credited with helping to link gay bars with city politics and forming a gay voting block. It holds ritualized social events (balls, diners, parties, etc.) that generate major funding for gay organizations and AIDS charities.
    Benro Enterprises is the creation of Bob Ross, publisher of the Bay Area Reporter(BAR). Benro owns the BAR, Gay Graphics, and Gay Comics. It also once owned a bar supply company, Glasses Etcetera. Bob Ross has long been active in the Royal Court. He was elected seventh Emperor in 1978.
    The Pride Foundation (1972-198[5?]) was a private non-profit organization whose goal was to operate a gay community center that would house legal, recreational, artistic, and social services. A partial listing of the founders of the Pride Foundation includes Zane Thomas, B.J. Beckwith, George Mendenhall, Roberta Buba, Charlotte Coleman, John Wahl, Perry Wood, and Paul Hardman. Paul Hardman has suggested that the surviving papers from the Foundation can be found through the One Institute in Los Angeles.
    Mark Calhoun, treasurer of the People's Fund, was credited with supplying the momentum behind the activities of the Fund. Calhoun, owner of the Starlight Room (a gay bar located at 1121 Market Street), died in 1980. The People's Fund was disbanded in 1983, when a check for the remaining funds was donated to Shanti.

    Scope and Content

    This sparse collection is comprised of approved and denied applications for assistance, thank-you notes, bank records, minutes, and scattered correspondence. There is little that documents the relationship between the Pride Foundation and its community center at 330 Grove, Bob Ross and Benro Enterprises, and the People's Fund. Nor is there an record of how the decision was made to limit aid to victims of theft or fire, or the death of family members. The criteria used in determining eligibility for funds is also not indicated.
    One interesting exception to the stated purpose were funds spent on the funeral of Robert Hillsborough. Hillsborough was murdered in a vicious gay-bashing in June of 1978. His murder, which was linked to the current Anita Bryant campaign in Dade County Florida, sparked tremendous anger and street demonstrations in San Francisco. Money from the People's Fund was used for cremation of the remains, the funeral itself, and to fly his mother Helen to San Francisco for the services.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Imperial Court System