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    In Memoriam: Randall “Randy” Schiller (1948–2020)

    “We all loved Randy,” DJ Page Hodel said of this month’s passing of sound, lighting, and video wizard Randall “Randy” Schiller, expressing the view of many. “Anyone who met him,” she added, “recognized right away his perfect mix of professional passion and excellence mixed with the kindest sweetest gentlest soul. The tenderness of that man’s heart was palpable, authentic, and deeply touching.”

    Randy was a longtime supporter of the San Francisco Bay Times, and we hired him and his crew for many years to manage the sound system for our Pride Parade contingents and other events. His work was always first rate, backed by intense focus, care, and decades of experience. As Page wrote in her tribute, Randy became established as “the king of the dance party scene” in the 1970s and 80s. She explained, “He did sound and lights for all the big ‘mega-parties’ and he was without argument the best in the business.”

    A San Francisco native, Randy graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School, where he was a science major and all-around athlete. He proudly proclaimed that his ambition was to become an electrical engineer. Little did his classmates know that this talent, further honed at San Francisco State University (where he also studied film), would contribute so much to San Francisco nightlife, and to the LGBTQ community, in particular.

    For many years Randy operated a recording studio, and was asked to build the sound system for the I-Beam nightclub and music venue that opened in October 1977. On opening night, groups of bare-chested men in jeans and construction hats memorably carried I-Beams on their shoulders into the club. Randy went on to host the club’s popular “Monday Night Live!” that introduced local artists.

    He also did sound and lighting for Sylvester, Two Tons of Fun, and numerous major artists. Nearly every major San Francisco club at the time benefited from Randy’s engineering expertise.

    Legendary entertainer and Bay Times columnist Donna Sachet wrote, “I had worked with Randy for over 25 years. From the 1993 Mr. & Miss Gay Pageant at Pleasuredome to the 50th Anniversary of the Imperial Court at City Hall in 2016 and at so many events between, Randy was always creative, supportive, and a joy to work with; his high standards elevated San Francisco!”

    Another drag icon, Sister Roma, said: “People from so many communities are coming forward remembering his generous work in our community. He did the sound for the Sisters at our 10th Anniversary party, Halloween in the Castro, and Easter in the Park. And always such a sweet guy.”

    Bay Times lead photographer Rink wrote, “He was a terrific, friendly guy who enhanced so many happenings. He will be missed.”

    The National AIDS Memorial posted the following tribute:

    “Our community mourns the loss of a dear and loyal friend, Randy Schiller. For many years, Randy was the sound, lighting, and video master for iconic San Francisco clubs and bars such as I-Beam, The Box, Trocadero Transfer, Detour, Badlands, Midnight Sun, Moby Dick, Phoenix, and others. It was Randy who first brought magic to the Redwood Grove in the early years of our annual fundraising gala, Light in the Grove—magical lighting, sound effects, and ethereal glowing fireflies. Randy gave generously to his community in so many different ways. He was a longtime, generous supporter of the National AIDS Memorial and other organizations such as The Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation and the AIDS Emergency Fund. Thank you for everything, Randy—our love for you will live on.”

    At a Bay Times holiday party a few years ago, just before Randy’s retirement, he excitedly spoke of his beloved family and RV, which Page described as a “tricked out man-cave on wheels.” He frequently enjoyed trips in it before his recent death due to a heart attack. Page—who also has a treasured camper—wrote: “I am so comforted to have received sweet little missives on Facebook of his being genuinely in ecstasy in his RV wandering the coast of this state he loved so and getting some hard-earned well-deserved rest and relaxation. And he was spending time with his family and especially his little nieces or grandnieces that he just cherished.”

    Published on October 22, 2020