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    Remembering Tom & Jerry’s San Francisco Holiday House

    By Donna Sachet–

    Any review of holiday decorations in San Francisco must include the towering Macy’s tree in Union Square, the colorful display in Ghirardelli Square, the Rainbow World Fund’s Tree of Hope in Grace Cathedral, and … the eye-popping home of Tommy Taylor and Jerome Goldstein.

    Donna Sachet sang “Just
    in Time for Christmas” at
    the Bay Times Holiday
    Party (2019)

    Every San Francisco resident remembers driving by their incredible 65-foot tree, dazzling with lights and reaching high into the Castro sky, surrounded by giant gift-wrapped boxes, a winding train set, and even a miniature Ferris wheel. Eventually they accepted an invitation to appear on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2018, determined to reveal their personal delight in sharing this annual gift with the community. After Tommy’s death in 2020, the lights went dark, and with Jerome’s recent death, this beloved spectacle has reached its end.

    Maybe you have heard the charming story that a tiny Cost Plus tree bought and planted in the 1970s became the centerpiece of an annual display. Richard Gutierrez’s 2011 documentary entitled Making Christmas: The View From the Tom & Jerry Christmas Tree, readily available online, reveals the backstory and includes in-person interviews with the couple. Despite yearly challenges, including health issues, ornament storage, power drains, neighbor complaints, and even troublesome weather, Tom and Jerry never wanted to disappoint the public that so highly anticipated their display for over 30 years.

    Behind the scenes, the tree and the opulent display stood as a reflection of the lives of two generous individuals who enjoyed bringing joy to the city they loved. Their home on 21st Street became the host of many annual events, helping nonprofit organizations to raise money, to share their stories, and to gather their supporters together to celebrate. 

    The Tom & Jerry house exterior decorated for the holidays (2014)
    Jerry Goldstein (front) with Tom Taylor and a guest at the SF Bay
    Times/SF Lesbian Gay Freedom Band Holiday Party (2014)

    Never forget that the tremendous expense of this holiday display was always born by them alone, as were the expenses of many of the parties held there. Not just during the holiday season, but year-round, Tom & Jerry were the magnanimous patrons of many causes, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. They took on the legacy of their good friend Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag, establishing a foundation after Gilbert’s death and were always ready to share his story and to promote this universal symbol.

    In 2019, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Tom & Jerry for a feature article about their holiday tree for the San Francisco Bay Times. Although we were already friends, this was an opportunity to learn so much more about their lives, their relationship, and their activism and philanthropy. 

    They were unabashedly gay and made no attempt to disguise their relationship. Even on that competitive show about their tree, they stood proudly as a long-term married gay couple, openly sharing a warm kiss on national television.

    Anyone who knew them can share stories of their idiosyncrasies—Tommy’s circuitous, often racy stories and Jerry’s outlandish outfits—but in San Francisco, it all made sense and we will all miss their indisputable contributions, motivated by a deep and abiding love for this city they made home.

    Every holiday season, when a creative display catches my eye, I will always think of Tom & Jerry, and I will smile.

    Donna Sachet introduced Jerry Goldstein, who welcomed guests to
    the Tom & Jerry House (2019); PHOTO BY JP LOR
    Singer/songwriter Holly Near led guests in a rendition of “Singing for Our Lives.” (2019); PHOTO BY JEN VIEGAS

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist, and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at

    Published on December 7, 2023