A recent Wednesday, 11:15 a.m.: “My living room looks like an explosion in a drag queen factory,” said Joe Mac, who spent the past two months creating this year’s collection of outlandish Easter bonnets in his apartment. His favorite was probably a towering red dome covered in faux rose petals with little white thorns. In second place: a bonnet made entirely of lottery tickets, or maybe the brown butterfly bonnet he likened to a topiary.

They’re all going to good homes. The week before Easter, Mac hauls his creations to Trax, a bar on Haight Street, where he offers them for 20 bucks a pop. What he doesn’t sell there, he’ll hock in the Castro this coming week at a discount, just so he doesn’t have to bring them back home.


“At the end of the day it’ll be like a fire sale,” Mac said. “ ‘Buy me a beer and you get a bonnet for $3.’ But I won’t give them away.”

He’s never sad to see a bonnet go. It’s the process he enjoys more than the creation itself.

“I love doing it,” Mac said. “There is a part of my brain that’s creative, and if I don’t use it then I get bitter.”

Mac, 57, started 15 years ago by making half a dozen bonnets for a Castro bar that wanted to decorate its walls. Every year he says this year will be the last — and this year is no exception. He says it with a big smile on his face.

For this Easter, Mac made about 70 bonnets, no two alike and each one spectacular. He gathers bonnet material all year long, but basically he makes them out of whatever he can find for cheap.

It’s no wonder this year’s collection has a faux rose petal-topiary theme. Mac bought 50 packs of fake flower petals for quarter apiece.
In 2003, after spending more than 17 years as manager and associate producer at the Marines Memorial Theater, Mac decided he need to “spread his wings” and never wanted to work for anyone but himself again. He spends his time dreaming up ways to decorate bars and other venues for upcoming holidays. Christmas, the Pride festivities and Easter are the biggest times of the year for him.

“Now I do whatever anybody pays me to do,” he said. “It’s tough. I’ve never been this broke, but I’ve never been this happy, because I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

“My goal is to make someone laugh every day. There’s a lot of stuff people can bitch about — people get down. And if they can put on a silly bonnet,” Mac said, "and I can pay my rent, then that tickles me.”