Beloved Queer DJ Bubbles Killed in the Tenderloin

Bubbles was shot on the corner of Larkin and Myrtle streets early Saturday morning.

Mixed-media artwork by Bubbles. /YouTube

For many Tenderloin regulars, Bubbles — with their platinum hair, bright lipstick and mutton chops — was a sweet reminder of the eccentricity of the neighborhood. The persona “Bubbles,” created by Anthony Torres several years ago, was a frequent late-night presence on the streets of San Francisco. As Marke Bieschke put it on 48 Hills, “You couldn’t help but smile when Bubbles rushed toward you at the club or on the sidewalk, like a hyperactive, hairy grandma ready to smother you with panicked attention.”

Saturday morning, Bubbles was killed on the corner of Larkin and Myrtle streets, outside the New Century Strip Club. Local activist David Elliott Lewis heard the gun shots, and was one of the first — through interviews with victims and a call to the Medical Examiner’s Office — to identify the victim as Bubbles. “According to witlessness she was yelled at and chased by an male Asian patron from the Century strip club across the street on Larkin,” he wrote on Facebook. “After Bubbles fell to the ground, the assailant fired at least five rounds point blank. By the time an ambulance had arrived, it was too late.”

Their death left many who knew them in shock. On Sunday evening, around 150 people gathered at the intersection where Bubbles was killed to share stories and pay their respects.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim tweeted out “My heart is broken. We need more #Bubbles in SF. May we honor her legacy. Rest in Power. #TLgbt #StopTheKillings.”

The reference to “TLGB” — which notably puts the Trans category first in the list — references the Compton’s TLGB District, an area of the Tenderloin where trans women of color fought for their rights decades ago. (We wrote an feature story on the district’s history, present state, and future here.) 

The killing is disturbing on multiple levels. As our sister publication the Examiner reports, there were 45 homicides in San Francisco as of the first week of September — 15 more than at this time last year.

And while Bubbles appeared to forgo gender pronouns, their death brings to mind the continuing murders of trans women in the United States. In 2016, at least 22 trans women were killed. So far in 2017, the Human Rights Coalition has tracked 17.

So far, the San Francisco Police Department has yet to define this as a hate crime, but they have identified a person of interest thanks to surveillance camera footage.  

In the meantime, those who wish to pay their respects can do so at a makeshift memorial on Larkin and Myrtle streets.

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