Two Weeks Without Bubbles

Friends and community members eulogize Bubbles and question the forces that led to their death.

Near the corner of Myrtle and Larkin streets in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (Photo by Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

At the end of September at the Eagle, Anthony Torres (known around town as Bubbles) was set to have a going-away bash before starting their new life in Berlin.

Instead, it’s the tentative date for their memorial, roughly three weeks after they were shot outside the New Century Theater on Myrtle and Larkin streets on Sept. 9 around 2:50 a.m. Bubbles, 44, was pronounced dead at the hospital.

An outpouring of remembrance followed as the LGBT community immediately rallied to mourn Bubbles, who was known for their oversized sunglasses, handlebar mustache, and platinum wig, and who signified a fearless spirit of the night. They were also known for animated Facebook live videos, and selling snow cones and cotton candy with their portable DJ set-ups.

“My heart is breaking for Bubbles,” LGBT activist Tom Temprano wrote on Facebook. “They brought so much energy and light to our nightlife community and are truly irreplaceable.”

Remnants of a memorial held in the aftermath of the shooting can still be seen at the corner where Bubbles was shot.

DJ group Housepitality hosted a fundraiser for Bubbles’s family, while Bissap Baobab dedicated a DJ event to them last week.

A Care2 petition started by Julie Mastrine has more than 11,000 signatures to rename Myrtle Street to Bubbles Street.

“To me, he was a beacon of the ethos of San Francisco: Be whoever you want to be,” Mastrine says, choosing to use the male pronoun, as some people have done. “I didn’t know him, [but] a lot of people were inspired by him.”

The petition would need signatures from property owners who have lots nearby and to “indicate a very strong majority in favor of the change” before the Department of Public Works would submit a resolution to the Board of Supervisors. The minimum processing fee is $2,580 and would take at least several months, department spokesperson Rachel Gordon says.

In addition to the street renaming, a memorial fund to cover funeral services and a future community mural has raised more than $13,000 as of press time. Nada Rastad, a friend of Bubbles, set the goal as $10,000.

“He was an important S.F. figure, and with his passing in such a tragic way, I feel that a huge part of the soul of San Francisco died with him,” Rastad says. “His murder strikes at the core of the fight for queer rights.”

Between gentrification and the tech workers who have come to the city en masse, there is plenty of talk about San Francisco losing its character. For Bubbles, this loss of city character meant no longer being able to dress and act how they wanted without fear of a threat.

“Bubbles felt more accepted in Berlin,” Rastad said. “He felt that S.F. was changing in a way that didn’t embrace him the way it used to.”

Josh Cheon, a friend of Bubbles and fellow DJ who works out of the RS94109 record store, steps away from where they were shot, said that Bubbles no longer felt safe in the streets of San Francisco.

This sentiment came after Bubbles had returned from Berlin, where Cheon said their clothing line landed a sponsor, and that they felt their identity and style were more than welcome. Here, they could be confusing to people.

“In Berlin, he was celebrated,” Cheon said. “He was getting out to get celebrated and his life was cut short.”

The San Francisco Police Department declared that preliminary information doesn’t indicate this was a hate crime, though it hasn’t released much more information. But SFPD spokesperson Officer Giselle Linnane said they have interviewed witnesses and included surveillance in the investigation.

“Our intention is to keep the integrity of the case,” Linnane said. “People can rest assured that we are working on the case.”

Mayor Ed Lee released a statement saying that, despite the lack of hate crime classification, “we are nonetheless shocked and saddened that one of San Francisco’s most colorful activists has been lost to violence.

“San Francisco is a place of love, peace, and compassion, and we want every person who lives in this city to feel secure and protected,” Lee said.

As the police chase down a suspect, there is at least one more Bubbles event — in addition to the goodbye party — for people to join. Everyone attending the fundraiser Oct. 28 at Terra Gallery must come dressed as Bubbles to create a “Sea of Bubbles.”

“I do think going out and dancing and celebrating is what Bubbles would want us to do,” Cheon said.

Those who feel unsafe or who need grief counseling and support resources are encouraged to call the San Francisco LGBT Center at 415-865-5555.

Abschiedsfräulein Bubbles begins at 8 p.m. at 398 12th Street on Sept. 29, and Sea of Bubbles begins at 10 p.m. at 511 Harrison Street on Oct. 28.

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