Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms

By Will Seagers

 

I remember always admiring those built young  men when I first started cruising Christopher St. and going to Village bars and clubs. There was no doubt in my mind - likes attracted. So, "Gymming" had to become a part of my life.

My first experiences were "Health Spas" and the good old YMCA. The health spas offered pretty good workout equipment. But, they were more family oriented and had no sexual undercurrents. One thing that I noticed about the Ys was the additional activity going on in the wet areas. I could hardly wait to finish my workout and get to the showers! Lol.

During my stint as a steward for Eastern Airlines, I always opted to go off on my own on layovers when possible. This was particularly true when I flew between NYC and Montreal. L'Aero - Navette was the name of this shuttle flight. I spoke French and made the inflight announcements... usually with some chuckles form the French Canadian passengers. It seemed nobody could figure out what my accent was! Lol.

 

Eastern Airlines plane in flight

 

Anyway, Montreal was one of those cities where I stayed at the Y. It was smoking hot! I was especially drawn to the burly dark haired Canadian lumberjacks! They never failed to deliver the logs.

Fast forward to my arrival in San Francisco in the mid 70s, the Y came to the rescue again! Being new to town and not yet acquiring a gym membership, I made frequent visits to the branch downtown. I was most amazed at how brazen people's approaches were! Lots of grabbing and groping were to be had!

I don't remember what brought me to The Pump Room, one of the earliest gay men's gyms, but I sure made a home for myself there! It was a modest storefront location just above Church St. on Market St. It had two partners, Lee and Bob. The first was the primary partner and a very flamboyant type. The latter went on to partner with two other folks and create The Muscle System - AKA The Muscle Sisters.

I really liked the feel of the place and asked for a job. I was at a high point in my porn career, was recognized and was hired. I got hit on by a lot of the members and developed a thick skinned "attitude." Some members complained. But, I did my job, helped train new members on the equipment and was a recognized asset to the business. So, Attitude and all, I remained part of the staff for three years.

I mentioned that one of the owners was flamboyant. And, I should also add very talented at pageantry. There were festivals held at the San Francisco Civic Center called the Beaux Arts Balls - an annual event. I was asked to participate in several of these major costumed events. Lee was very clever with design. He made himself up in a huge blue plexiglass diamond. Along with several other buffed members of the gym, we "linked' together with Lee to form The Hope Diamond and its silver chain. It was very well done and garnered awards.

 

San Francisco Civic Auditorium exterior and interior

San Francisco Civic Auditorium exterior and interior

 

Perhaps the most vivid memory of these Beaux Arts Balls was one where we came as the signs of the Zodiac. Lee was the Sun. And, once again gym members were recruited and made up the twelve signs. Even though it wasn't my sign, I was given a very fetching costume of a Centaur - Sagittarius - complete with bow and arrow! Lee had crafted the rear, horse half of the centaur from chicken wire covered in purple (Sagittarius' color) velour with the horse feet on castors. I strapped it to my butt and it blended with my purple leotards. It was a knock out costume. When we presented ourselves on the runway, we were met with cheers and screams. Due my recognition in the porn biz, this spectacular costume and a little extra bravado on my part, the place went nuts as I was announced and I trotted down the runway with this horse's ass attached to me. I certainly didn't mind be a Sag for a night!

 

Will Seagers in glitter body paint

"Pump and circumstance"

 

The gay gym topic is a huge one for me. More to come au future!

 


Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted career and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model and film performer. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy
The Ecstasy and the Agony

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The Ecstasy and the Agony

By Will Seagers

 

The decision to leave San Francisco and return home to the East Coast in September of 1991 came from great fear and sadness. My "City by the Bay" had been home to me since 1976. But, life was closing in on me and I needed to reinvent myself (i.e save my life!).

In September of 1989, my partner Tom passed from complications of AIDS. We had been together for almost all of my time in SF. I watched the grim reaper take Tom from me over a torturous five year period. During this time, I coached myself on how I was going to make it through this and make a new life for myself after he passed. Although I remained strong for him and by his side, I crumbled like a sandcastle hit by a wave the day he passed.

To put it mildly, escapism took over. I used almost everything I could to stay high and away from reality. "Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll" isn't just a saying - it became a lifestyle! I couldn't come home to the little apartment that we had for thirteen years anymore. It haunted me... too many memories.

 

Will Seagers in San Francisco

 

I went through several apartment changes in SF... none of which worked. I needed to be by myself... to collect myself.

The last place I stayed was a room rental. The house owner was a casual friend and a coke dealer. Although he was very kind and understood my dilemma, I wound up pushing his product towards the end. That's when I knew I had to leave.

I contacted my Aunt in New Jersey... a person who had always been an anchor in my life. I asked if I could stay with her 'til I got on my feet. I could sense an anxiety on her part. But, she relented and I drove cross country. I left on Labor Day weekend. I'll never forget my drive down Market St. as I silently said my goodbyes to the city that I had loved so dearly. So, onto the freeway entrance and onto my four day cross country excursion.

I remained in NJ for three years, where I entered the musical instrument business and sold and taught organ and piano. I have always loved music. And, when times were good, I always had a theater organ in my home.

 

Will Seagers in New Jersey

During the piano and organ phase

 

Bored to death in NJ, I sold most of my belongings and started a new adventure in South Beach, Florida. It was quintessentially even more of a gay Mecca than SF. (The year was 1995.) Things have changed substantially. I had more sex than ever... even episodes right on the beach! Yes! Stuff like that really happened. But, that too became hollow and unreal after a while.

 

Will Seagers in the '90s

Being 45 is not so tough in South Beach

 

NYC beckoned. Along with it came some serendipity. I returned on the first weekend of April. I stayed with my brother in Brooklyn while apartment hunting. The serendipitous part - I met my current spouse Alan the very first weekend I went to Manhattan on the dancefloor of the "Roxie" dance club. It was April 4th, 1995. That was the day that the Agony turned back to Ecstasy!

 

Painting

 

Thank you to Will Seagers for use of the photos.


Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted career and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model and film performer. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy

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The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor

By Josh Eliot

 

FLASHBACK, 1987: I was 25 years old when I started working with Catalina Video in San Francisco. Dan Allman was in charge of the new studio, which he ran with his new boyfriend, John, who he met on the set of a movie he recently directed called Bad Boys Club. Catalina Video moved their productions from Los Angeles/Ontario to San Francisco after the video crew got busted in a Ralphs Supermarket parking lot while shooting the movie Bulge. That’s really the extent of the information I was given at the time. All of the camera cases and equipment still had remnants of the “evidence” tape from the police department. The story I was told is that it was no longer viable to shoot in the L.A. County limits until a pandering case was resolved in the courts. So they set up shop in San Francisco. The Catalina Producer/Director was Scott Masters (Nova Video) and the VIP Director of the company was John Travis (Brentwood Video). William Higgins had recently moved to Europe.

 

Catalina equpiment with evidence tape

Catalina equpiment with evidence tape

 

John Travis started off in the industry shooting 8mm loops including the two infamous John Holmes gay porno scenes. He also shot the ever enduring Brentwood Video library of films, which are best sellers to this day. He was hired by Chuck Holmes and started a decade-long tenure with Falcon Studios. His work as cinematographer in The Other Side of Aspen 2, A Matter of Size, Big Guns and The Young and the Hung elevated those movies' statuses. He became lovers with and was credited for discovering Jeff Stryker. Travis’ Powertool starring Stryker became the most successful and best selling movie of its time. Travis won Best Director/Best Picture for Powertool in 1987 at the Adult Video News Awards. (The same year, I started working with him and he never mentioned it for months! That’s how unpretentious he was.) He also won an AVN Award for Best Director/Best Picture for Undercover in 1989.

 

John Travis and Jeff Stryker

John Travis and Jeff Stryer

 

Most of my days at the studio consisted of “woodwork”: building sets, then dressing and lighting them for upcoming shoots according to the specifications we got from Scott Masters in Los Angeles. The night prior to filming a scene, the director and models would fly in from Los Angeles and Dan would pick them up and take them to an apartment Catalina rented and furnished. It was always a nail biter when we would show up for the shoot in the morning. If it was a set for a Scott Masters movie, you can bet your ass that there would be major changes that would delay the beginning of the shoot. Scott would always have outrageous requests that drove us nuts. Things like, “I don’t like that end table, it’s too small to fuck on. Can we run out and buy another one?” - instead of just modifying his plans for the scene and fucking on the roomy couch instead. But when John Travis came to direct, he always had positive things to say about the sets. If anything, it was the lighting that needed modifications, which always made the set look better. His experience showed. He would always find creative ways to modify things on the fly and avoid situations that could make a shoot day come to a dead halt.

John Travis ALWAYS showed up to the set with two brand new packs of Benson and Hedges 100’s menthol cigarettes. He would smoke almost every one down to (and into) the filter. In the early days John was always directing from behind the camera as he had done for years and cigarette smoke was always creeping up into the shots! After the first couple of movies, we built him a beautiful deck and monitor station on wheels so he could direct from behind the monitors while Dan and I performed all the camera work. I think, for the first time in his career, he was able to get out from behind the camera and direct from the station at a distance, and he LOVED it! One would think that his movies would have a different look if he wasn’t working the camera himself, but he was very specific on the framing 100% of the time. “Pull out wider…No... too much... zoom in… but just a cunt hair.” That was one of his favorite lines and I kept using it when directing my own movies for the next 20 years. It was one of many classic lines John put out into the world. I credit him for my first award in 1992 for Cinematography on a movie called Sterling Ranch at the Gay Erotic Video Awards. He was in the audience and when I thanked him personally, my voice cracked and I nearly lost it, but after all, he did put me up there.

 

Josh Eliot at the Gay Video Guide Awards

Josh Eliot at the Gay Video Guide Awards

 

The crew was always enamored with him and we always laughed our asses off. This man was so relatable and sincere, he would give you the shirt off his back. This guy directed Powertool, for God’s sake, and had zero attitude about it. He shared all his experience, shooting secrets, and directing techniques without even giving it a second thought. I truly was the luckiest guy in the industry to have such an icon take me under his wing and mold me.

On a movie called Powerline with Tom Steele, we built a rooftop set, which he thought looked too clean and sterile, so at one point he walked on the set and tossed his full ashtray of cigarettes onto it. “There you are… it’s called seasoning… I’m seasoning the set... It’s too fucking clean.” We roared! That is John Travis in a nutshell. Truly inspirational, down to earth, generous, one of a kind, and an old soul who made the industry a much better place.

 

Magazine featuring rooftop images from Powerline

Magazine featuring rooftop images from Powerline

 

John sadly passed away in January of 2017 but his work will stimulate and entertain forever.
 


Bio of Josh Eliot:

At the age of 25 in 1987, Josh Eliot was hired by Catalina Video by John Travis (Brentwood Video) and Scott Masters (Nova Video). Travis trained Eliot on his style of videography and mentored him on the art of directing. Josh directed his first movie, Runaways, in 1987. By 2009 when Josh parted ways with Catalina Video, he'd produced and directed hundreds of features and won numerous awards for Best Screenplay, Videography, Editing, and Directing. He was entered into the GayVN Hall of fame in 2002. 

 

You can read Josh Eliot's previous blogs for Bijou here:

Coming out of my WET SHORTS
FRANK ROSS, The Boss
Our CALIGULA Moment

That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!
DREAMLAND: The Other Place
A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck
Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!

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The Pass Around Boy

By Will Seagers

 

Part of being under the wing of Chuck Holmes, owner of Falcon and many other legendary porn brands in San Francisco, was being in an extended family of "Available Escorts." I have always been a little on the naïve side... taking things at face value... not a good way to be in this multi-faceted industry. I had no idea that I was up for "grabs" for the right price and for a very discreet clientele that did their shopping from a distance.

Because there was no internet back then, "clientele" would either use the movies, magazines or come down to Trinity Place, Mr. Holmes' bar and restaurant, to see what was available. It finally dawned on me when I noticed that I was waiting on and bartending to men considerably older than myself. (Duh.) This was a very clever operation, looking at it in retrospect. The names of those involved will remain undisclosed. But, it shouldn't take too much connecting of the dots to draw some conclusions.

Will Seagers in the 1970s

Will Seagers in the 1970s

 

One of my first episodes took place in the quite well-to-do San Francisco neighborhood of Sea Cliff. A prominent designer/decorator requested my presence as a gift for his lover as well as for himself. The lover was a knock out and was easy to "work" with. The older of the two necessitated me reaching into the same bag of tricks that I used when I was paired with someone in a movie that I was not attracted to. Call it "professionalism"... but, it always got me through. And, I was invited back several times, much to my pleasure. Much of the second visit took place outside at the swimming pool, where another fine pair of gents were recruited. And, bathing suits were not even an option! (I didn't know that I could hold my breath that long under water! Lol.)

Another memorable hire was as a birthday gift. Once again, this was for the younger half of a couple. Unfortunately, this one was a particular disaster! When I entered their posh Pacific Heights Victorian and directed to a bedroom where the fun was to happen, there was a mound of the "white stuff" that looked like the peak of Mont Blanc! With the birthday boy, who was cute enough, I availed myself of some of the "snow." Unfortunately, due to the copious amounts we both had... I could not perform for him or with him. Lesson learned. No white stuff while working! Lol.

THE most memorable of my escort episodes was with a very prominent poet of the time who lived in L.A. I flew down a few times and had a good enough time, myself, to validate the return trips. Although I have never been rich... money was really the icing on the cake. I enjoyed the adventure of it all!

OK. So, here's that most memorable episode. I got a call from my L.A. poet asking me if I would like to be flown to NYC to the opening of a night club/disco... Studio 54. Keep in mind this was opening night, so all of the legend and fanfare had not yet had the chance to kick in. Loving adventure and the company of this client, I said sure!

 

Big crowd at Studio 54

Big crowd at Studio 54

 

I am a little foggy on some of the details - being decades ago - April 26, 1977! One thing I do remember was not being able to get in. My host was nationally and internationally known... and, I wasn't too hard to look at, either! Well, who walks up the runway to the front door but Cher - and in all of her costumed glory! Little did I know that my host and Cher were friends. Next thing I remember is my host yelling out, "Hey Cher, who do you have to fuck to get in this place?" Cher looked over and signaled us to come over and join her. And, with that, my host was on one arm and I was on the other. That's how you enter Studio 54!!

 


Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted career and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model and film performer. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street

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The Stereo Maven of Castro Street

By Will Seagers

 

It is sort of funny... but porn got me into Eber Electronics of San Francisco, a long time legendary store for audio and video in the Castro area of SF. I started going there with the little windfalls of cash that I would make from each movie or mag to buy another piece of gear that would make up my home DJ system. So, in a way, my films propelled me into other professions - sales and DJing!

During my many visits to the store I started to notice the differences in the sales techniques in the sales staff. Some were very kind when it was only information that I needed. Others more or less gave me "the broom" when there was no sale in sight. My go-to guy became Harold. Although he was very knowledgeable, it was his wit and humor that really separated him from the rest of the pack. Originally from Brooklyn, I sensed that he was a reincarnated vaudeville comedian! His use of Yiddish to describe certain things and stereo parts would literally have me in stitches! To put it mildly, he had quite a "Shtick!" When my film career started to grow and I was routinely spending more and more with him at the store, the others who had "broomed" me were now lamenting their shortsightedness!

During one visit with Harold, I told him I was interested in working there. Well, it wasn't more than a day or two before Jim, the store manager called me in for an interview... that I aced! I had the privilege to be under Harold's wing for a brief period of time before Harold matriculated into the position of sales rep with one of our vendors at the store. Harold was a real performer. He was infamous for his Saturday afternoons at the store to start live comedy at any given opportunity.

The most infamous of these times that I could remember was when Robin Williams, who lived in the neighborhood at the time, sauntered in through the front door. Little did I know that Harold and Robin knew each other and would burst out into some pretty insane improvs. It was only seconds before Robin and Harold were hurling comic insults across the (packed) main floor. The entire store was roaring! I had to pinch myself... I thought I was at some off Broadway performance or the like. Those were the golden years of San Francisco when you never knew when all hell was going to break loose!

NOW, as to my part: I started there in 1984, right about at the peak of my screen and mag career. People would come in. I would greet them. And to see people's faces, the double takes... I wish I had them on film. Here we were one block away from the Gay crossroads of the world, Castro and 18th Streets. And there was nothing conventional about any of the businesses in this neighborhood. There were several other gay salesmen there... one who remains my friend to this day... Jim. Together, while being friendly and knowledgeable, we artfully dodged (and sometimes we didn't) gropings, exposures and always the stare-downs. We kept our cools and had a blast! Also, it was not uncommon to have a leather couple enter the store... one on a leash and the other with a riding crop!

 

Will Seagers at Eber Electronics, SF

Will Seagers at Eber Electronics, SF

 

I have always loved electronics and have had a penchant for learning technologies, nomenclatures and the like. So, to a lot of the gay community, I became a go-to person for putting together a stereo, home theater or video cameras. I love when my friends on social media still thank me for helping them! I never made a big deal out of it... it was just natural.

Speaking of what came natural... Well, I did a lot of "home installations," too. And you can read all you want into that... it was all true! Lots of mischief ensued. I knew it didn't take rocket science for a client to do a basic TV set-up themselves! Lol. Let's just call this another perk. BTW, that didn't last too long. The owner caught wind of it and brought a halt to all home visits! (Boo!)

I remained on staff until 1990. For the restless type that I was in business, I would call that a long haul! I had a great time... met lots of wonderful people... and repeated the process later in 2000 in Santa Fe, N.M. at another legendary and well known Audio-Video mecca. Things always seem to happen to me in twos! And to think that this was coexisting with DJing and porn!


 

Thank you to Will Seagers for use of his photo.

 


Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted career and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model and film performer. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

 

Will Seagers, present day image

You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather

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