aka Dorothy Evelyn Fondryn
25 Aug 1953 - 13 Jun 2007
Foggy City Dancers
In Their Own Words
SAN FRANCISCO / Castro tour guide to walk away / After telling the neighborhood's story for 16 years, she's retiring
Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer
No matter how many times she sits in front of Harvey Milk's old camera shop and tells the story of his assassination, Trevor Hailey feels the tale's power.
She has told it about 4,000 times as leader of the popular "Cruisin' the Castro" walking tour for 16 years.
"This job has given me so much joy. This is a fabulous neighborhood," she said after a recent tour. "But a while ago, the idea just washed over me -- it was time to pass the torch."
Hailey, who turns 65 this month, plans on hanging up her sneakers and her rainbow badge to retire as soon as she finds someone to take over the gig.
Not only that, she's leaving the neighborhood that she has introduced to thousands of people from all over the world and all walks of life. She plans to move to San Diego this fall with her partner and sell her tour business, and she's looking for a successor to train.
Hailey's walking shoes will be tough to fill. In her acclaimed 4-hour tour, she interweaves history, anecdotes and personal reflections about the gay community, San Francisco and the Castro's unique role in all of it.
Among the tour highlights:
-- Twin Peaks bar, the first gay bar in the world with wall-to-wall windows.
-- The birthplace of the AIDS quilt, a modest storefront on Market.
-- The history of the rainbow flag: It appeared first in Milk's 1977 campaign for county supervisor; the giant rainbow banner at Castro and Market streets was first raised in 1997.
-- The secret of the Castro Theater's ornate ceiling: It's made of cardboard.
-- The Pink Triangle Memorial, which honors the 15,000 gays who died in the Holocaust.
"Trevor's work is invaluable. I'm really sorry she's retiring," said Terence Kissack, executive director of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Historical Society in San Francisco. "Not everyone is going to pick up a 300- page history book on the subject, and Trevor really brings the story to life. You really get the sense that she's someone who lived through it."
Hailey grew up in a middle-class family in Jackson, Miss. Like many young women in that era who feel they didn't quite fit in, she joined the military as soon as she could. After a stint in New York, she was transferred in 1972 to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, where she worked as a nurse. One look at San Francisco, and she "didn't look back."
After leaving the Navy three years later, she worked as a real estate agent for 10 years on Castro Street just a few doors from Milk's camera store. In the late 1980s she studied recreation and leisure in graduate school at San Francisco State and took a class on entrepreneurialism.
When Shirley Fong-Torres, longtime leader of Chinatown walking tours, lectured one day to the class, "it was like a light bulb went off."
"I knew right then that's what I wanted to do," Hailey said.
She already had a knack for storytelling, a warm sense of humor and a love of people. She was developing a passion for gay history as a volunteer at the gay archives.
"That's when I discovered we even had a history," she said. "Until then I thought we'd all sprung full-bloom from rocks."
Since 1989, she has shared the neighborhood story with tourists and locals, gays and straights, rednecks and liberals and for Catholic priests, Mormon believers, celebrities and school groups.
"It's people's response that fans my fire," she said. "Plus, I'm an incredible ham. So I've been very lucky."
Ceri Bevan, a former tour guide who works for a study-abroad company in London, was especially impressed.
"If there wasn't someone like Trevor to tell you the history and background of things, you'd just come here, go into a few bars and go home," he said, while on Hailey's tour Saturday. "I didn't realize there was more to the story than just gays staying in the Castro. The story started a long time before that."
Lawyer Bill Howard and his wife, Daphne Howard, visiting from Charleston, S.C., were also impressed with the tour.
"I guess I knew before that the Castro was unlike any other area, but I didn't know all the background," said Daphne Howard. "I'm really enjoying it. I always enjoy learning new things."
Hailey, who had farewell hugs for all her tour participants, says the most rewarding element of her job is in the mailbag. She loves hearing from people, especially those who had preconceived notions about gays and the Castro before taking her tour.
"I had this guy who was sort of a redneck, who had five kids, and he wrote to me later and said he was going to make sure his kids didn't grow up like he did," she said. "I still have that letter. That's why I love this job."
Castro icon Trevor Hailey dies by Cynthia Laird
Former Castro resident Trevor Hailey, who became a local icon with her popular "Cruisin' the Castro" walking tours, died in a San Diego-area hospital Wednesday, June 13 following an apparent subarachnoid hemorrhage Sunday night. She was 66.
Ms. Hailey's longtime friend, city resident Lynn Haley, told the Bay Area Reporter Wednesday that at press time, hospital personnel were removing some of Ms. Hailey's organs for donation. A call to Ms. Hailey's longtime partner, Norma Sue Griffin, was not returned by press time, though Haley said that Griffin had given her permission to inform the paper of the developments.
The news saddened many in the community, as Ms. Hailey had planned to return to the city this weekend for the premiere of the short film Only in the Castro with Trevor Hailey Saturday, June 16 as part of the Frameline International LGBT Film Festival.
Patrick Batt, the former president of Merchants of Upper Market and Castro, told the B.A.R. that Ms. Hailey will be greatly missed.
"This is sad news," Batt said.
Batt recounted that when he was MUMC president and encountered Ms. Hailey giving one of her walking tours, "she always stopped and pointed me out and pointed to the Pride banners on the lamp posts and that I was the one who got the banners up."
"She never didn't have a smile on her face," Batt said.
Ms. Hailey started the walking tours in 1989 and it became very popular among tourists and local merchants. She retired in 2005 and Kathy Amendola took over the tours.
Rick Bacigalupi, producer and director, told the B.A.R. this week that he plans to show his film, and that either he or Marga Gomez, who is its narrator, would likely give an introduction to make audience members aware of the situation.
"It's a very light-hearted piece." Bacigalupi said. "Obviously, this is a serious development."
Ms. Hailey, a Mississippi native and ex-Navy nurse, came to San Francisco in 1972. By the late 1980s, she had started the walking tours that led tourists visiting San Francisco's Castro District on an amazing trek through gay history, pointing out landmarks such as the late Supervisor Harvey Milk's camera shop and of course, the Castro Theatre.
Bacigalupi said he started making the film 10 years ago, and he and Hailey decided to finish it once she announced her retirement.
"It became a retrospective of her tours," he said.
In a 2005 interview with the B.A.R. shortly before her retirement, Ms. Hailey said her business was "rewarding."
"Gay people leave with their self-image improved. And those from the alternative lifestyle — or what I call my straight clients — leave far better educated; bless their hearts they have not been given the respect of getting the right information about our community."
Only in the Castro with Trevor Hailey will be screened as part of the "Look Us in the Eye" documentary program Saturday, June 16 at 11 a.m. at the Victoria Theatre.
Foggy City dancer and local celebrity famed for her walking tours of the Castro neighborhood.
A scene from the documentary "Only in the Castro with Trevor Hailey."
- San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, CA) Wednesday, 10 Aug 2005
- Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco, CA) Thursday, 14 Jun 2007
- Foggy City Squares website : accessed 17 Mar 2021