Honeymoon in the Palms

By Will Seagers

 

It was 1977, some four months since I had moved to San Francisco, and had proverbially tied the knot with my partner Tom. Of course, it was a personal bond since gay marriage didn't exist yet. Tom suggested we go to Palm Springs to celebrate Valentine's Day and have a Honeymoon! I had already heard that Palm Springs was a great place for a winter retreat and a "gay adventure" so I said sure!

Tom was already familiar with Dave's Villa Capri in Cathedral City... a legendary gay resort just outside Palm Springs. Little did I know what a surprise I was in for! So, we booked a flight on PSA and made our reservations for Dave's.

It was a great layout with a pool, sauna and well appointed "cabanas." Our cabana was centrally located between the pool and the sauna. One could feel the very heavy sexual undercurrent permeating the place. After settling in and having lunch with cocktails, a quick "bain de soleil" by the pool, some time in the sauna was next.

Will Seagers doing a handstand on Palm Springs trip, 1977

Will Seagers doing a handstand in between the pool and the sauna, 1977 (Photo Credit: Will Seagers)

 

Oh boy... lots of friendly commotion was to be had in there. It was like a combination of some of the best bath houses that I had ever been to. Tom walked in and found me "busy"... and joined right in. (We were a pair but had an open relationship.) The sauna was a 24 hour service... only shut briefly for maintenance.

After that busy afternoon of travel, arrival and getting acquainted with the place, a nap was in order (or so I thought!). Our arrival hadn't gone unnoticed. A knock on our door. A very handsome man smiled an introduced himself. Without hesitation in he came and we started a free for all on our wonderful king sized bed. (That bed sure did get a work out during our stay!)

The most magnificent memory I have was one afternoon, a few days into our stay, there were quite a few knocks on the door. We had piled up a HOT mass of writhing men with me on the top! In my most decadent self in the midst of all of this sexual play, I was looking out the window for more! This was the decadence of the 70s in its full glory! BTW, being recognized at this early point in my career was the probable cause for the body pile ups in our cabana.

There were notable guests during our stay at the "Villa," as well. Divine had to top the list. I immediately recognized her from Pink Flamingos and other early movies. Little did I know that my other half, Tom, knew her personally and had been a roommate in a commune together earlier in the 70s. Divine was at (or should I say in) the pool not in wig or makeup... but, in total character! She was eating potato chips in this pool and for a little shock value regurgitating them back out on the surface of the water! Although it doesn't come near the ending of Pink Flamingos with the poodle, it did leave an indelible memory nonetheless!

I am sad to say that I never made it back to the "Villa." But, this was one experience that I will never forget!
 

 

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

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20,000 Men

posted by Madame Bubby

Gay director Joel Schumacher in a recent interview that he has slept with 10,000 to 20,000 men (well, that's not too specific a figure, but who can really keep count unless you are carrying around a “little black book” at all times).

Ok, let's do the math. Now, Joel is 79. He claims he started fooling around sexually at age 11. Thus, using the 20,000 maximum, he would have to have had sex five times a day for 55 years. Maybe some days he had more sex than others; I am thinking perhaps he may have attended orgies Friday and Saturday, giving him some weekday nights “off.”
 

Joel Schumacher
Joel Schumacher (Source: queerty.com)

In the interview, Schumacher does tie this sexual history back to the 1970s, where, according to much evidence, some of it anecdotal, a lot of gay sex was going on. The bathhouses were veritable sex palaces and even advertised as such. One person I know said that his memory of being gay in the seventies in Chicago meant readily available sex. And not just in bathhouses and movie theaters and bars. Everywhere. A cruise in a gas station would end up in sex in the gas station bathroom or the bushes next to the parking lot.
 

Gas station bathroom cruisin/sex from Grease Monkeys
Gas station bathroom cruising/sex from Jagaur's Grease Monkeys (1978)

Thus, even if 10,000, the low estimate (again, how would one really know?) could be close to the truth, if one counts every single sexual encounter, and I am making the assumption that not every encounter involved penetration, maybe.

In an attempt to place this, let's just say, “prolific” sex life in perspective, “Now a lot of gay people are getting married, they’re adopting, or they’re having children,” Schumacher said later in the interview. “There wasn’t any of that when I was young. If you went into a gay bar and there were 200 men in there, and you said, ‘Okay, who wants to have a little house with a white picket fence, and a dog, and a child, raise your hands,’ or ‘Who wants to get laid tonight?’ The concept of a lovely suburban life or raising children was not a high concept.”
 

Guys in Fair Oaks Bathhouse, 1978
Guys in Fair Oaks Bathhouse, 1978 (Source: Christopher Harrity, The Advocate, June 29, 2014, picture taken by Frank Melleno)

The 1970s was definitely a time of norm breaking, but, going beyond this time period, when being LGBTQ was not a privileged position in society. Schumacher also implies, it's easier to break norms, especially sexual norms, if you are privileged, and he admits he is. And related to privilege, especially economic privilege, he does claim he never did sex work or paid for it, either.

And of course AIDS changed everything, which Schumacher does admit. And so much more as LGBTQ persons embraced essentially conservative structures like serving in the military openly and especially legal marriage.

Thus, I wonder if the real issue here isn't the quantity of the sex partners, that Schumacher is just a gay version of those toxic masculinity boasters like Wilt Chamberlain who also claimed he slept with 20,000 women, or even, who cares?

I think it really is how we interpret the availability of sex in diverse social and cultural contexts. Taking away sexual choice doesn't necessarily make sex less available. And thus, a climate of easily available sexual choices doesn't necessarily mean sex is more available to you. Schumacher found he could act on his sexual identity in the wild 1970s. In his case, the “supply and demand” worked in tandem for him personally. Personally is the key word here. And I think Schumacher was not simply reducing sex or sex acts to numbers or checking off a list. His experience was the experience of many gay men in their personal sexual journeys. And they were finally given the freedom to choose, until AIDS took away that heady freedom. And it was the LGBTQ community that refused to allows persons with AIDS to be treated like numbers and in doing so, survived and thrived like Joel Schumacher has done.

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Tales of the City: I Read It, Finally!

posted by Madame Bubby

Oh wow, this summer has certainly been a summer or reading for me, in addition to the process of assembling many of these blogs into a book format. I guess I am lucky, to enjoy such large amounts of time to sit there and read. For hours.

As usual, I am way behind the trends. I tend to get interested in media after it is popular (for example, I only got interested in Seinfeld in reruns). I've known about Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City for some time, I know there was a miniseries in 1993 based on the books, and now there's one on Netflix (I don't get it, yet). But I just wasn't that interested.

Until a friend loaned me a huge volume that contains the first three novels, Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, and Further Tales of the City. I read all three Sunday night through last night. For someone who reads much dense scholarly material, it was a quick read, and I don't imply it is superficial. It actually read much like a screenplay, and I mean that as a compliment; less is more in the description, and the dialogue shapes the characters and moves along the action.
 

Cover of Maupin's 28 Barbary Lane

The 1978 one, the first one, was most interesting, as it really gave one a slice of the “sex and the city” life in San Francisco during the swinging seventies. The place was certainly comparable in some ways to the “blue bubble” cities (a scary thought in hindsight) of today.
 

Ad for 21st St. Baths, captioned Definitely for the Discriminiating Male
Ad for gay bathhouse in Mission District, definitely for the discriminating male, from: http://www.missionmission.org/2010/09/17/the-21st-street-baths-were-definitely-for-the-discriminating-male/

But it wasn't just LGBTQ persons who flocked to the city like the young ones did in the 1960s to the Summer of Love; they often were persons perhaps a little more daring than Mary Tyler Moore (who ended up in Minneapolis, not exactly the Babylon of Sodom of the 1970s) trying to figure out how to shape an identity that didn't necessarily conform to that of their Greatest and Silent Generation parents, who themselves, especially if they had the money to do so, were swinging themselves in their suburban sprawl.

But by 1978, the Summer of Love had degenerated into drug abuse, Milk had been assassinated, and Anita Bryant was vomiting her orange juice of bigotry on a national level. Liberation had come at a cost, but Maupin explores these times in a range from biting satire to gentle humor to bittersweet melancholy. Ultimately, the tales are about persons caught up in the wildest and even dangerous escapades (Jim Jones did not die at Jonestown? Oh, that's in the the third one I read) but still, somehow, never losing their ability to laugh at themselves.

One incident in the first novel that happens to the oh so hot straight guy who lives in the wonderful building of Mrs. Anna Madrigal at 28 Barbary Lane (Maupin gives us so many titillating descriptions of him sliding in and out of jeans and various forms of undergear) I found most interesting. Apparently, in San Francisco at that time, “the tubs” or the gay baths weren't the only places to enjoy no strings attached sex. Brian goes to some kind of co-ed bathhoue on Valencia Street. And there was The Party on Monday night, and also that night women were admitted free.
 

Valencia Street, San Francisco in the '70s
Valencia and Market Streets, San Francisco, 1970s, from: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/northern-california/san-francisco/1970s-san-francisco/

He does meet a woman in her private room, (she invites him), but she assumes he is at least bi, and she builds on the fact that most of the guys who go to this bath are bi or gay (but of course!). And I find one ends up feeling sorry for Brian. Yes, he is the heterosexual equivalent of a gay “slut" and he knows it, and he want to get laid, not psychoanalyzed at the baths.

But Maupin's description of the main space is telling, perfectly selective detail, with a real zinger at the end:

There were twice as many men, mingling with the women in a space that seemed strangely reminiscent of a rumpus room in Walnut Creek; rosy-shaded lamps, mis-matched furniture, and a miniature electric train that chugged noisily along a shelf around the perimeter of the room.
A television set mounted on the wall offered Phyllis to the partygoers.
On the opposite wall a movie screen flickered with vintage pornography.
The partygoers were naked, though some of them chose the shelter of a bath towel.
And most of them were watching Phyllis.


Yes, Phyllis, a spin off the Mary Tyler Moore show. Mary's middle-aged friend Phyllis Lindstrom played by Cloris Leachman ends up in San Francisco after her husband dies to start over. And it's got one of the campiest beginnings to any sit com, ever. (Think the big number Hello, Dolly reworked by someone on acid.)
 

Phyllis oepning credits
Phyllis opening credits

But that allusion pretty much says it all about Maupin's take on the topsy-turvy, paradoxical yet also wild and wonderfully campy world that was San Francisco in the late seventies. A world where persons of any orientation could still afford to live in an apartment with a view of the wharfs and where they party with the neighbors and go out to diners at all hours and their landlady tapes a joint to the front door as a welcoming gift.

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LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ONE'S GAY TWENTIES

“His friends decided that Ken had fallen into the trap that had snared so many beautiful gay men. In his twenties, he had searched for a husband instead of a career. When he did not find a husband, he took the next best thing – sex – and sex became something of a career. It wasn't love but at least it felt good; for all his time at the Cinderella ball, the prince had never arrived.” – Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On

I've heard about (and read about) that adolescence for males especially extends until one's late twenties these days. Now, these days is kind of vague, so maybe I am thinking more about millenials, but the reasons for this extended adolescence aren't just psychological stereotypes (guys take longer to grow up than girls, and some never do), but also economic. The rising cost of living and increased compeition for jobs that can launch one into a secure middle-class income are factors that often keep the guys living in their parents' basement playing video games.

The game many guys played in their twenties in the 1970s was the sex game (not that guys haven't done it since time immemorial). Guys had been playing it more brazenly in the 1960s, and many women played along, and as they did so, started to make their own rules, and the win did not always have to occur before an altar.

Gays and lesbians, who for so long had to play in the closet, emerged militantly in the heady days of the seventies, especially in urban meccas. Some lesbians found a home (spiritually and physically) in various waves of feminism, but many gay men fled their tastefully decorated homes and entered palaces – sex palaces, bathhouses, movie theaters, back rooms of bars. I am not saying that no one was looking for love, but the love that used to dare not speak its name was more often than not during that time more like a moan in an orgy room. It was as if men became fertile, and multiplied (not in the procreative sense).
 

Gay men in the 1970s dancing

Steamworks, Chicago bathhouse poster

In the quote above, men like Ken (one of the first victims of AIDS), certainly grew from strength to strength, but for many men at that time, coming out still mean choosing between one's sexuality and a career. Thus the gay life became for many guys a sex life in specific, segregated milieu. Their Land of Goshen was ironically a release from bondage. Until the plague …

When AIDS started smiting these men down like that last plague of Egypt, gay men rallied together, but there was no singular Moses like Harvey Milk to guide them. They survived united, and survived divided. For a while the sex palaces remained open, despite an uncaring Pharaoh like Reagan and his Moral Majority priests with their rhetoric of sin and punishment. Yet that plague, with its relentless physical linkage of sex and death, changed everything.
 

AIDS activists hodling banner that says Fighting for Our Lives

Ken's generation saw death daily; the succeeding generation (in their twenties during the height of the plague) saw death, but many of them survived to explore and enjoy if not a cure, then a way to live, not die. The life was not just medical, but eventually legal, climaxing when Love Won in 2015. 2015 brought out the monogamous couples who had found their princes even before the days of liberation and the plague.
 

Person holding gay pride flag at protest in D.C.

Did the plague in some way make many gay men grow up? Not that gay sex, or any sex for that matter, is in itself an immature, irresponsible act? By its very nature it breaks boundaries, liberates, and orgasm is “the little death.” Growing up is experiencing sex, but maturing is understanding sex and the wisdom to know when sex and love intersect, and when they don't.

For gay men, this process was always more fraught because it did not conform to the social norms that heterosexual men and women usually conform to: in one's twenties, one finds a mate and a career, not always in that order, and it's no longer an either/or proposition. One produces children. One's career climaxes as one's children grow up. The cycle continues. Within that norm, one can usually choose.

Yet gay men who lived in the 1970s, who had lacked so many choices, plunged into a world with a bewildering variety of choices. Now with other freedoms (and in this day and age, still endangered) available beyond sexual choice, are gay men in their twenties at another crossroads?

I just hope many of them realize their prince is not an image on Grindr, and that even the image of a prince doesn't last. But if you are lucky, your prince may grow up to be a king.
 

Grindr profile image
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Casey Donovan and the Casa Donovan: A Fascinating Tidbit

Casey Donovan and the Casa Donovan: A Fascinating Tidbit

 

If you want to know anything, simply anything about gay sexuality or gay history, spend some time digging through our extensive collection of magazines and files. Today, I was looking at some issues of After Dark and Mandate magazine (now, if you really want to show you are of a certain generation (and proud to be that age, of course), drop a line and let us know if you remember those magazines), and found an interesting tidbit about porn legend Casey Donovan. 
 

Casey Donovan

It's not anything sexually scandalous (according to the April 1992 issue of Manshots magazine,  Casey pretty much covered that area thoroughly in his personal life at the baths and tearooms). It's actually kind of a savvy idea, but like many porn stars of that era, many endeavors they tried outside the filmmaking pretty much fizzled. 

Cal Culver (Casey's real name) opened up the Casa Donovan Guest House in Key West in April 1979 and then, in conjunction with that entity, launched Moonbow Tour. The Tour operated during the time of the full moon. Casey personally guided the tours, which included “three special dinners at unique spots, a conch train tour, a variety of sightseeing, a one-half day reef trip, and a rented bicycle.” According to Casey, at Casa Donovan, the nine-room house with a pool, “Everyone's a star.” 

 

Casa Casey article

What I would like to know is how long this enterprise lasted (it started before his last film appearance in Christopher Rage's Fucked Up in 1986) and if it folded before his death in 1987 of AIDS-related complications. According to the issue of Manshots cited above, he did get a job as a gay tour guide with Hanns Ebenston Travel Agency in about 1985, having struggled to keep his establishment running for some time. 

Right now as I am writing this, I am imagining a gloriously bare-chested Casey rising from his pool like a young sea god, drying himself off, and then going out to greet his guests clad only in a tight speedo. I do have a feeling the majority of the guests weren't other porn stars he appeared with like Pat Allen, Steve Anthony, or Al Parker. They may have been the slightly heavyset older “queens” of the period (I do not mean any insult) wearing flowered shirts, Bermuda shorts, and lumpy sandals. Still, if he treated everyone like a star as he claimed, I hope the legendary gave them something to remember, even cherish, by getting to know him as the real but still amazingly hot “boy next door” he always tried to be in his movies. 

 

Casey Donovan Moonlighting article

 

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