How I See San Francisco: SF Pride's Community Grand Marshal Brian "Chickpea" Busta
Brian "Chickpea" Busta is a San Francisco-based community activist, fine artist, and street performer was named a Community Grand Marshal for the 2018 San Francisco Pride by the San Francisco Pride Committee. He is currently Creative Director for the queer art collective Comfort & Joy, known for producing fundraising and community-supportive party events during Burning Man, Pride and other major festivals. Brian's impact on San Francisco has been so great that the city declared June 22, 2013 to be "Brian 'Chickpea' Busta Day". Here, Brian shares his thoughts on the city, Pride, and much more.
Don't forget that this year's San Francisco Pride Celebration is June 23-24, 2018!
What should we expect from this year's San Francisco Pride Parade & Celebration?
People should expect a lot of colorful, happy people in the streets. I love seeing a million people celebrating being queer. This celebration happens not only in the parade or main festival, but all over the city with all Pride month events like the Frameline film festival and parties like Comfort & Joy's Afterglow Blacklight Discotheque on Pink Saturday.
How should a new visitor best experience San Francisco Pride weekend?
Bring your love and openness to help support all the diverse communities in our beautiful city. San Francisco's various queer communities all make a big effort to have fun together and welcome everyone. Visitors should pick up a local gay newspaper like the Bay Area Reporter or Bay Times to see all the Pride month events happening in June.
San Francisco is known as a welcoming destination. How do you see this quality in the city around you?
No matter who you are, you will find your tribe here. You don't have to be beautiful or young to enjoy celebrating Pride with us.
How has the Castro in particular been welcoming?
The Castro has a long history of gay-owned local businesses, restaurants, and nightclubs, which has made the neighborhood a special place to call home. Visitors can enjoy many things that are only found in San Francisco, from drag shows to sex clubs and everything in between.
Is there a great place to see San Francisco's welcoming spirit in action?
I love going to the drag brunch every Saturday at Cafe Flore in the Castro. Camilla Tow and other fabulous drag queens not only perform, but serve delicious meals and designer cocktails that you'll love. Cafe Flore is a great place to hang out, get your bearings, and it's been there for decades.
Is there a new LGBTQ-oriented location or event in the city you're excited about?
Comfort & Joy, a local art collective, is hosting a new street fair this fall called "Glow in the Streets," which will feature lots of blacklight art, street sculptures, performances and an outdoor dance floor in the middle of Noe Street.
Other than San Francisco Pride, what's your favorite annual or seasonal event in the city?
I love what the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do every year to celebrate Easter in the Park. I have entered the Easter Bonnet contest several times, and won it two years ago, dressed as Amber Alert with a giant bunny on my head. The Hunky Jesus contest brings humor, sexuality and spirituality together (where they belong).
How can a visitor make a difference while in San Francisco?
Support small local business. There are great little shops in San Francisco neighborhoods such as Hayes Valley, Haight-Ashbury, and the Mission. You'll find unique treasures and help keep San Francisco's eclectic spirit alive and well.
Where is your favorite historic spot in San Francisco?
I love visiting the Cable Car Museum, because you can actually see the cables moving. It's a visceral slice of living history that is unique to our city.
What is a must-see part of the city for visitors?
Head to the western side of the city to enjoy amazing views at the Cliff House restaurant or, for a more affordable option, check out Louis' Diner next door. Take a walk to nearby Sutro Heights Park to visit the ruins of the Sutro Baths, and for a slightly longer experience, hike north through the National Park's Lands End trail to the Legion of Honor.
You're known for avant-garde art and performance. Where do you suggest someone go to experience San Francisco's counter-culture?
For the adventurous gay traveler, head to South of Market and visit Powerhouse, which welcomes not only the leather community, but everyone else, regardless of age or body type. Hop next door to the Hole in the Wall to see some amazing art installations, and walk down the block to catch a drag show at Oasis. There's a drag show somewhere in the city almost any night of the week.
Any favorite to-do's among the city's more traditional arts and culture scene?
I like visiting the de Young Museum. For live music up close, go to the Old First Church concerts on Van Ness Avenue and Sacramento Street.
Do you have a favorite day trip excursion to recommend out of the city?
I love driving down the coast to Pescadero. The beaches are delightful with charming little restaurants. Have a bowl of artichoke soup at Duarte's Tavern. If you'd rather keep it gay, go north to Guerneville and have a drink by the pool at the R3 Hotel among cute boys in their Speedos.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in the city to recommend?
North Beach is full of amazing restaurants, like Tommaso's, which has been serving yummy pizza for over 80 years.
Do you have a favorite place for a photo in San Francisco?
Outside the Randall Museum, you'll find some of the most spectacular views of the city, right above the Castro. Inside, you'll find a series of interesting exhibits (including a model train in the basement).
What's one to-do item still on your San Francisco bucket list?
I was going to say the Eagle beer bust, because it's a great crowd in the outside courtyard. That, or winning the bulge contest at the Powerhouse.
Any last advice for visitors to San Francisco?
Dress in layers (preferably chiffon, sequins and faux fur), and be ready to have a blast!