Tom Taylor and Jerome Goldstein call the massive Christmas tree in front of their Dolores Heights home their annual gift to The City.
The 65-foot Norfolk Island pine – which is festooned with scaled lights, huge gift-wrapped boxes and moving stuffed animals – has become a popular neighborhood, and national, draw. This year, Tom and Jerry's Christmas Tree opens today, and Santa will pass out candy canes and pose for photos through Dec. 24.
Yet the tree wasn’t always in its current super-sized form.
“We started it 26 years ago to look like the average tree in the average home. It was a very important statement to say that the gay community is doing something for you and your families,” says Taylor, who is married to Goldstein.
That such a tall tree grew from a 3-foot indoor plant purchased at a local nursery is as unfathomable as a bathhouse encounter between Taylor and Goldstein in the free-loving 1970s turning into a 41-year union.
But “till-death-do-they-part” almost came sooner than anticipated when they were diagnosed with HIV in 1983.
“We took our final trip around the world that year,” says Goldstein. “And for some reason or another, you can't explain why you're alive. So we try to give back as much as we can to everyone.”
In gratitude for surviving extreme prejudice and the AIDS crisis, Taylor, a property manager and construction expert, and Goldstein, a prominent neurologist, have given back immensely – as founders and supporters of numerous gay and AIDS organizations and projects.
Each Thanksgiving, they begin work on their annual Christmas presentation. The extensive process, which the couple pays for out of pocket, was documented in director Richard Gutierrez's short film “Making Christmas,” which premiered at the 35th San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival in 2011.
“We started it years ago, and it's just one of those expenses we have in life,” Taylor says. “There are some things we feel we have to do. Giving back is one of them.”
But Taylor, 71, and Goldstein, 73, say they can't sustain this particular commitment for much longer. They’re inviting neighbor and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to fund the holiday event in future years.
“These people have an obligation with all their billions of dollars generated,” Goldstein says, “to think about what they do for the community other than run buses up and down every street.”
IF YOU GO
Tom and Jerry Christmas Tree
Where: 3560 21st St. (between Church and Sanchez streets), S.F.
When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 10 through Dec. 24