The classic definition of The FUNhouse was "...a magical, WONDERFUL place", for those were the words of its creator, owner, and chief resident, ARTc. The story of The FUNhouse is closely interwoven with the larger story of #gaysf itself, so read on to find out a little bit about the channel's life and times.
It's difficult to begin to describe what The FUNhouse was, or moreover what it represented. First of all The FUNhouse is a place. A converted Victorian walk-up where The Filmore meets Western Addition, next door to a school and across the street from a housing project. If you go there today, it's beautifully painted in dark blue and purple with yellow accents -- you can't miss it. But it wasn't always that nice.
When ARTc (who doesn't come on channel anymore) first purchased the building, it was run down and badly in need of repair. He singlehandedly financed and supervised its transformation from a Victorian in disrepair into a beautiful and functional living space. He tore out false ceilings to reveal soaring 12-foot rooms. He installed a luxuriously spatious walk-in shower room (sacrificing a hall closet to do so!)
The FUNhouse was more than just a place to live. It was an incubator, long before such terms became trendy. The large multi-use space in the front of the house was nominally a living area, but more often served as what ARTc called "artspace". It was a gallery. A small stage. A cabaret. A workshop. A studio. A recital hall.
The FUNhouse was a community. In the words of its now-defunct website, "...a creative collective dedicated to producing the ultimate interactive experience." The three people who presided over the "golden age" of The FUNhouse were ARTc ("The Maharajah of Madness"), Duckie ("Empress Lola Divinity, Queen Consort to the Maharajah"), and SubtleT ("The Crown Prince of FUNnies"). Of those three, only Duckie occasionally comes on channel anymore.
The members of The FUNhouse community were known as FUNnies. Some of us, myself included, are still on the channel (syke, Nonau, NavySatan, BobbyJo/SAgent, thefunk, M-n-M) but others (Miou, SFJeep, sidhe, pucky/bushamos, k8to, Two-Bit) have drifted away from the channel and/or IRC altogether. The FUNhouse served the needs of the FUNnies, the community it supported.
During the "golden age" of The FUNhouse (1996-97), it was the place to have channel parties and get-togethers. There was an event every other week it seemed. ARTc's generosity and magnanimity made The FUNhouse the natural choice of venue and the space could easily accomodate large gatherings. But there were smaller gatherings too, like Magic Makeover Nights on Thursdays and Duckie's Wine & Cheese Parties.
The FUNhouse was a venue. Intricately and lavishly decorated theme parties like Under The Sea, Goodnight Opus and Thanksgiving in March would regularly attract 150-200 people from all over the Bay Area. M-n-M's annual fundraising party to benefit his participation in the California AIDS Ride was traditionally held at The FUNhouse. And, the only party that most current #gaysfers remember (unless you were a FUNnie), the Duckie's Back party.
So what happened? Well, a number of things. First of all, Duckie moved away to Seattle to work for Microsoft. Around the same time, there was a changing-of-the-guard, so to speak, on channel. It was the end of the GWM-bot era (administered by Two-Bit) and the beginning of the "interstitial period" characterized by botwars between Poorboy (administed by Xerxes) and the bot that would become Technoboy (then administered jointly by Nutation and RZRaceboy).
#gaysf also experienced (as it does from time to time) an influx of new people, many of them very young. This, combined with channel administrative instability, precipitated The Great Schism, as I call it, and gave (brief) rise to #gaysanfrancisco, which later spawned #gaysf30+. The upshot of all of this upheaval was a marked decline in interest in offline channel events, like parties and get togethers.
(This would continue well after the end of the interstitial period -- marked by the demise of the Poorboy bot; see: slam the channel door -- and on into the Technoboy-bot era. It wasn't until the beginning of the "three-bots era" (Technoboy/Vague/Zamph) and the rise of #GaySF Movie Night -- see: I'm With Julie that offline channel events would resume.)
While The FUNhouse continued to produce events, the participation of #gaysfers fell off sharply. Ultimately, ARTc decided to take a break from event production and concentrate on both his own burgeoning graphic design career and promoting the illustration work of SubtleT, who had since moved out and resettled around the corner in the same neighbourhood.
Today, much of the events of the "golden age" are just memories; indeed, the few photographs that were taken at the time have long since been lost in the channel upheavals of late 1997. ARTc, a former Broadway dancer and performer, is now enjoying a successfull second career as a graphic designer at Landor Associates. Duckie still comes on now and then, and is working at Netcentives after stints at C|Net and Microsoft. SubtleT is a talented and accomplished illustrator, whose latest project is an "illustrated children's story for adults" called Snark, Inc.
Even though little remains of those times, FUNnies like myself will always remember the magic and wonder that was The FUNhouse.