"The Healthy Penis" is back
Move over Lou Seal, there's a new San Francisco mascot that will be appearing at parades, street fairs and other public events around the city over the coming year. It's the six-foot-fall Healthy Penis.
Courtesy Better World Advertising
Coming soon to a parade near you
Actually, there are three of them, and they'll make their reappearance Friday at noon at the corner of Castro and Market. They were controversial when they debuted in 2002, but became popular and were spotted around the city until 2006 to encourage gay and bisexual men to get tested for syphilis. (They come with a fourth, much less attractive buddy, Phil the Syphilis Sore.)
Syphilis cases dropped over those years, and the penis costumes were borrowed by other cities to promote syphilis testing. But now the Department of Public Health is bringing them back because syphilis cases in the city are again on the rise, up 50 percent from 2007 to 2008.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty, for one, is very excited about the return.
"He was very well received previously and just added the right touch of humor and whimsy to an effort that's serious, which is encouraging gay men to regularly test for STD's," Dufty said. "I definitely recognize we probably wouldn't be as well received at the Irish Cultural Center, but we'lll probably do fine at the Harvey Milk Plaza."
So who's actually inside those big penis costumes? Turns out it's public health staff. "There is no lack of people who want to volunteer to wear a penis costume in public," said Eileen Shields, spokeswoman for the department.
She said they'll be everywhere in the coming months. We think they should run in Bay to Breakers to test the new no nudity rules. "I would give anything to see the police write-up on that," Shields said.