From counterculture to Furry: San Francisco’s Frolic party – interview with Neonbunny part 1
by Patch O'Furr
Interview series: Artists, animation directors, DJ’s and event organizers, superfans, and more…
Neonbunny is founding DJ and promoter of Frolic. The 90 minute interview has 4 parts, with one a week posting this month.
- Intro: The most furry place in the universe?
- Part 1) Counterculture to Furry – Neon’s background in the SF Bay Area.
- Part 2) Starting Frolic – Throwing parties and finding other furries.
- Part 3) The furry scene – Frolic’s venue: The Stud – Promoting and operating Frolic.
- Part 4) Controversy and success – Music, DIY culture, Furry events, sex, drama, and more.
1) Counterculture to Furry – Neonbunny’s background in the SF Bay Area.
For many furries in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area is the place to be. For many in the Bay, Frolic is THE most furry place. It isn’t the only center, but it’s an influential one. It’s not just the best Furry party… I’d call it the best party San Francisco has, period. Check out Frolic’s website, and read about it in The Bold Italic magazine.
Neonbunny, founding DJ and promoter of Frolic, met me for a long interview over dinner. His partner Jody who handles tech, lighting and animation was with us. It was a year ago, just after they got back from 2013’s Burning Man event in Nevada. It was a nice place to start:
(Neon) – We’re still catching up from Burning Man. Our living room is piled with all our gear – there’s dust in everything.
(Patch) – My friends showed me videos of all the amazing sights. I hear it’s a week of bad food and good drugs.
And dust storms.
How many people were at Camp Fur?
Camp Fur itself had 45 people. There were lots of furries elsewhere.
Did they have fursuits in the dust?
I took 2 fursuits. One was a new one, I wore it for the first time.
That’s a real christening.
There’s a Burning Man tradition: if you’re a virgin, they make you get out of your car and roll in the dust. It doesn’t matter if you have a $100,000 RV and you’re P Diddy, you still have to.
For Camp Fur – are you the organizer?
Yes, it’s been going for 16 years. It’s not the first camp we started.
Did you bring furries there since the start, or after a while? I remember furry going on in the 90’s.
I was new to it, and didn’t know much… I could barely bring myself at first. I was sleeping in a truck. But then I helped start the Billion Bunny March. It had over 1000 people dressed as bunnies. We gave out 600 bunny ears this year. We get people doing facepainting, ears and whiskers. We march around the whole camp and out to the man, with all the art cars. The carrots come to protest. 30 carrots formed a “protest the bunnies” camp.
How I got into it was from throwing parties. In college, we had all these keg parties at the house after the bars closed, starting at 2AM. I went to Ohio University, art school, for photography. I came out with a master’s from Louisiana State. I studied fine art, art history. I was into more of the darkroom aspect. It didn’t transition too well to digital.
I moved on and traveled a lot, and realized I liked the west coast best. Not so much L.A. and So Cal… people seem a little crazy there. Further north, you can get too many assholes… I like being in the middle between crazy and asshole. Things come together.
It’s like bad crazy vs. good crazy.
You randomly meet people in L.A. There’s a guy who says, “check out my gold nuggets!” – he shows you a vial of emergency meds from the mental health clinic.
San Francisco has a history from 60’s counterculture, the gay movement, and art history. You can always see art in it – parties are culture. Culture is just a medium of art.
I moved out here at the height of the dot com boom, and took whatever job I could get. The first one was at a framing shop. Then I took an entry level job at a design studio. I learned graphic design from working there on the production end.
What kind of projects? Does it have to do with promoting and events?
No – production art. The tech heavy aspect of graphic design for print. Identity design for firms, like branding for Cadbury Schweppes, Chevron, Coors – or a thousand little startups that disappeared. It was more into the more commercial aspects of art. I needed outlets for creativity. I sought out the underground art scene in SF.
A big part of SF culture is the Burning Man scene, all the underground artists, who do it for fun rather than profit. The Bay Area is big for that. It goes back to the Cacophonist Society, or the Merry Pranksters.
Like Ken Kesey.
At my first Burning Man- the guy I caravanned with lives in the house Kesey stayed at, when he wrote The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. It’s a former Russian embassy, by Alamo Square. It was the Church of Satan for a while. Charles Manson lived there for a while. It’s one of the nicest houses I’ve ever seen in the Bay Area. The guy who lives there owns a head shop on Haight.
That’s a lot of history.
I got involved in the party scene, psychedelic trance parties, through the Radical Faeries. I found more circles and met a lot of people into that while traveling on the road. It’s the gay section of the nomadic hippie movement. I went to Grateful Dead shows, visited communes.
Are they associated with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?
No, that’s the more political end, for raising money. The Radical Faeries are the more ideological, self-identified gay hippies. There’s some crossover. I met a lot of them at Rainbow gatherings.
After I moved to the Bay, I got connected and involved with some of those people, like one I met at Rainbow gatherings… one of the founders of the medical marijuana movement. He got involved with that when it was first legalized.
At same time I started going to gay clubs. The one that was most hopping was the Stud.
They had a party called “Sugar”. It was one of the best Saturday club nights. Not the biggest, but the coolest. It was more local, not so touristy, with a friendly vibe. I made friends who went regularly. Some Radical Faeries I knew, Jeff and Gary, started a Thursday night party, “Cheap Trick.”
I started offering décor setup to help out, bringing art, doing experimental art at the time… I went through a phase of buying old 8mm films to loop in projectors. That started the furry aspect.
When I was doing 8mm stuff, what worked best was old 1940s cartoons. There was one I would always seek out- it was a 1940’s black and white cartoon, Buster Bunny. Animation is often loops… it was really easy to find 16 second loops that would seamlessly play.
Jeff and Gary started doing Friday at the Stud and I helped, even helped at Sugar. I also met people doing Burning Man parties. It was the current location of the Stud they moved to in the 90’s, not the original one. I moved to the Bay in 1998.
My second year at Burning Man, I saw EL wire. I started to outline the trim of my body, wearing a black flight suit from army surplus. Then I decided the black absorbed too much light… it needed something brighter. I went online and ordered an open-face white bunny suit.
My friend was doing an Easter party. I went and served jello shots. It was a bunny themed party. They bought all the Easter stuff they could. We shoved the craziness of Easter down people’s throats. It was kind of a satire on consumerism, it was funny.
This is a great place for finding interesting culture… when I moved here I got into business and sought out interesting cultural people. Like the dude who started the first US punk zine, he publishes as “Re/Search.” I visited his office near the Purple Onion, the famous comedy club that closed recently. He published stuff about Survival Research Labs, the artists who started the robot battle thing. It had to do with Industrial music I liked growing up in the ’90s.
Oh yeah, connected to the cacophonist society. A lot of this counterculture connects. It’s how I got into the furry aspect.
Part 2) Starting Frolic – Throwing parties, finding other furries.
The 90 minute interview has 4 parts, with one a week posting this month.
Check for more next week!
Terrific interview, looking forward to reading the rest.