Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Long Live the Stud!

By Will Seagers

 

After a tasty meal and a free trip to the Twilight Zone courtesy of Hamburger Mary's, It's time to strut across Folsom Street (diagonally) to the sister establishment of equal fame - The Stud - for music, dancing and (more) cocktails!

 

The Stud exterior, original location

The Stud exterior, original location

 

When TNT Enterprises opened up Hamburger Mary's and The Stud, it was a joint effort by the two original owners – (T)rixie N (T)oulouse. By the end of the 70s, Trixie had left San Francisco to live in Hawaii and open three more restaurants - Honolulu, Maui and Portland. When he left S.F., Toulouse took over H.M and Trixie's ex, Jimmy, ran The Stud.

I remember my first time in The Stud. It was packed with all sorts of men and women - colorful to say the least. There was quite a din coming from the roar of the crowd and the DJ booth - one of the first in the city. There was quite a mix in the sexuality, too. Gay and straight mixed nicely together without issue. If who you were hitting on was not receptive, it could be because they were either not turned on to you or they were straight! LOL. More times than not, people's sexuality was so pliable you might be going home with someone from "the middle!" It was the 70s and there was still the leftover free love from "The Summer of Love" of the Haight/Ashbury era of 1969!

Anyway, walking into the bar you would notice a distinct similarity in decor to Hamburger Mary's. Very rustic cedar shake walls and lots of great Deco lighting fixtures. The island bar was the prominent feature for sure. It was a huge narrow rectangle that spanned almost the entire middle of the room. The bartending staff was equal to that of Hamburger Mary's in terms of its eclectic mix. Some bartenders were very hot and others made up for that with their very individual personas. To the right and rear of the large bar was the dance floor and DJ booth. Great music was to be heard from many genres. Disco was just beginning to bud and it was featured there frequently at the end of the 70s by DJs like Chrysler Sheldon, George Ferren and John Rendazzo, just to name a few. Later Larry Larue would play host to new wave and punk music as the 80 were ushered in.

 

George Ferren, now living in New England
George Ferren, now living in New England
 
DJ Chrysler Sheldon and a glimpse of DJ John Randazzo

DJ Chrysler Sheldon in a Stud shirt (center) and a glimpse of DJ John Randazzo (right)

 

I was quite pleased to be invited to be The Stud's sound tech by Jimmy, the manager. I guess I was given good press by the folks over at Hamburger Mary's across the street! I used to frequent the bar to hear the sound system "in action." John, one of the DJs that I mentioned, liked having me in the booth for visits. I watched him spin and took notes. I told him that I was making tapes for clients around town. One night he asked me if I wanted to play. I was a bit timid at first... but, took him up on his offer. My brief debut that night and subsequent nights went well. This was the kick in the pants that I needed to pursue playing in public.

I had never known that The Stud's building was leased. Midway into the 80s the property owner, Alexis, came back to town and wanted the building back. The Stud was forced to move to its second location on Harrison Street were it remained until its closing just two years ago. Meanwhile, the original location remained a bar and was renamed The Holy Cow. I was their sound tech for a few months, then I moved on. One of the most distinguishing features of the newly renamed place was the life-sized fiberglass cow that was hung above the entrance!

 

Holy Cow exterior

Holy Cow exterior

 

The relocating of The Stud was really a good move. They managed to retain a lot of the feel of the original place - decor wise and people wise. And, it seemed to grow in popularity and fame. In its last ten years, it hosted regular periodic parties such as "Go Bang" with its creators Sergio Fedaz and Steven Fabus playing the best music out there! They crafted a very "clubby” feel that was reminiscent of many New York neighborhood dance bars. Sergio and Steve not only played but had top name guest DJs regularly. My last visit to San Francisco was in 2019 where I attended "A Tribute to the Troc." This was a party dedicated to the famous San Francisco disco Trocadero Transfer, also located in the South of Market region. Magical music from that era was skillfully played by Jerry Bonham that night. Familiar faces were in the crowd to celebrate and reminisce.

 

The Stud, second location
The Stud, second location
 
Steve Fabus in Go Bang shirt and Steve with Will

Steve Fabus in a Go Bang shirt (L) and Steve with Will on a recent visit (R)

 

It is hard to believe that there is no more Stud! COVID and the crazy San Francisco rent prices brought the bar to its close. It was truly the end of an era! But, I am willing to bet there will be one more clever redo... after all, Third Time is the Charm!


 

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
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel
Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s
An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills
Merry Christmas (and Getting Re-Organized)
Now and Then
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Badlands
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: Moby Dick Bar
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: "Just Another Stroll Down the Castro!"
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Hamburger Mary's

 

 

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Now and Then

By Will Seagers

 

This will be a rather unique addition to all of the blogs that I have written in the fact that Jules my editor, is sitting right next to me here in my home!

From the very beginning of taking on the blog, Jules has made me feel completely welcomed and comfortable joining the Bijou stable of creativity! So, in all honesty this will be a blog of dual input! Jules tone of voice and lack of immediacy eased me into wanting to become a writer and part of this project which I have embraced!

It all started with a simple question posed by blog writer "Madam Bubby," who at the time was writing for Bijou. And that question was, "Whatever happened to Will Seagers?"

Being a classic porn lover myself, I happened upon the Bijou site one night back in 2018. I brazenly responded back to that question with, "I am alive and well and living in the Southwest with my partner of 20+ years!" And to that the lovely Julia (at that time) emailed me to ask for an interview that we later did by phone.

Our 2019 attempts for communicating were soon hampered by COVID. It was a difficult time to launch a new project. But, we managed to do the phone interview. This was to be followed by the series of blogs that were delayed for two years. Unfortunately, there was a period of silence. The whole world was at the behest of this pandemic.

Rekindled! Fast forward to March of 2022 and we picked back up where we left off without missing a beat. Our communications took on the feel of two friends talking - not a distant business relationship! For me, my writing took on a new dimension of one-to-one conversation. This was mostly due to the encouragement of my (new friend) Jules... a change was in progress for the two of us!

 

Bijou office (left); Will's office (right)

Bijou office (left); Will's office (right)

 

The friendship part of this was also greatly enhanced by the fact that we were both devotees of Astrology. We had both studied this ancient Art/Science for many years. What we had to share took on a life of its own. We compliment each other in the enormous knowledge needed to converse in this specialty. Jules is great at assembling the charts and data so needed in the process. Whereas my gift is an innate ability to be able to synthesize and apply this info. This partnership is outstanding. This is a science/language with which we are both FLUENT!

How does all of this relate to a porn blog? Quite simply, we are better communicators. When you get to the point with a friend where you finish each other's sentences... that's a good pairing!

Back to work! I am primarily the writer. Jules is the assembler/editor. In my fury to get all of these story lines out of me and into a usable writing format, some shpilkes occasionally takes place! Jules puts me at ease with suggestions and compliments. So, as a duo we work quite well together. Over the past year or so we have grown close. I mandated that we needed to have an in person visit. Also, we have grown close enough to share some very personal life goals and accomplishments.

I met Julia at the beginning of this journey. It was also at this point that Jules was starting to emerge. After the "silence" of the pandemic and we got back in touch - and rolling - there were some changes. It was Jules that brought my attention to the deepening of his voice... it was deeper, quite deeper. And, then I was (finally) graced with more recent photos of him. I got to see the "Then" and "Now" pics. Keep in mind these photos were from over a year ago. Jules is still moving forward quite nicely! When I picked him up at the airport just a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised at all of the accomplishment towards his goal.

 

Jules before testosterone (left) and after (right)

Jules before testosterone (left) and after (right)

 

As I already knew, my Alan and Jules would really hit it off. It has been a great visit. Also, well worth mention was the New Year's eve get together at my bestie Mac's house where everyone welcomed Jules into the fold. A great time was had by all!

I am truly blessed with meeting and working with Jules! I can feel the universe is conspiring in my favor. For, this comes at a time when I am also in a special period - one of deep retrospection. Soon to be 72, I am looking back at a life that has been blessed with some very rich experiences. I am grateful for my friend and "Co-worker" Jules!

 

Jules and Will, December 2022

Jules and Will, January 2023

 

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
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel
Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s
An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills
Merry Christmas (and Getting Re-Organized)

 

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Merry Christmas (and Getting Re- Organized)

By Will Seagers
 
Will plaing the organ in festive birthday attire

Don we now our gay apparel

 

Well, Season's Greetings to one and all! This will be my first sequel blog. Back in November, I wrote about my love and fascination with the "musical" organ as well as the biologically attached one that got me into Bijou in the first place! Lol.

Because music has been such a large part of my life, whether it be DJing, selling Hi-Fi or playing and selling organs and pianos, my first blog on the organ left a lot out of a rather large story.

I remember leaving off the first blog at my arrival in Santa Fe. Until the purchase of the Lowery spinet, I had been without an organ for 5+ years... which seemed like a lifetime! I wound up purchasing a couple more organs in Santa Fe, which got me back to another Conn 651! It was not in the best of shape, electronically speaking. It seemed like my organ tech was always coming over to jump start this one.

 

Open organ with maintenance man at work

Say 'Aaaah' – my trusty organ doctor at work

 

With all of the abovementioned technical issues, I started pondering another brand... Allen. It was a wise move - musically and technically. My first was an ADC-3600, a beautiful two manual theater model. That didn't last long. Once you have had three manuals, two is a little limiting! That led to the ADC-3600's big brother, the ADC-4600 - the three manual and very well equipped version for its time.

 

Allen Organs Headquarters sign

 

It was at this time that I started to take organ lessons again. This was at the suggestion of my Allen technician. Little did I know that the man he was referring was a legend in the theater organ world who lived right here in my home town. I have decided as a courtesy to keep the anonymity of my teacher and tech. My "lessons" were really coaching sessions as my "coach" thought pretty highly of my playing and overall knowledge. I let him know that I was gay right from the start. He "let the cat out of the bag" during our first lesson, as well. He was my senior by 20 years. Besides the wonderful music, we had hilarious times with him recalling his various gay escapades during the '50s and '60s. Belly-laughing was always part of our curriculum!

Through him, I was introduced to his house-mate and his partner and we became a very large family that got together on all of the major holidays. All of this was wonderful except that in only a year and a half of knowing my teacher, his health failed and he passed in 2012. I was not only saddened but lost. I thought I had finally gotten a musical liaison back in my life! Oh well. I am quite thankful for that period of time that I had with him and the rekindling of musical energy that he gave me.

 

Open close-up with framed picture of organ teacher sitting on it

I didn't say his name, but here's his picture (framed, sitting on the organ)

 

A year and a half later my step-father passed. He left me a nice sum that I used to get the organ that I own today... an Allen MDS TH 17. I still have to pinch myself when I look at it! It is massive and gorgeous! Oh, how I could have used my teacher to learn all of this organ's features. Playing music and playing an organ like this are two different things. Learning to maneuver through a song and change registrations with the thumb pistons and toe pistons was something that I was never taught. And, now in my 70s, it is something that I am determined to learn on my own.

All of these instruments have one thing in common - they have brought great pleasure. From the very first time I heard a theater organ as a child, I knew I wanted to play one. I have been moved to tears on many occasions. It has proven to be the gateway to my soul.

 

Will's current theater organ

 

 

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
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel
Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s
An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills

 

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I Know I'll Have Many Other Homes, But Never a Place Like This: A Brief-ish History of Bijou Theater Parties

posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

 

Bijou exterior and upstairs map
Bijou Theater exterior and upstairs map

I first went to the Bijou Theater in 2008. It was a snowy day that March. I was in my last month of being 21 – quite an eventful year. It was weeks after I met my first real girlfriend, who I would wind up being with five and a half years. At the beginning of my 21st year, I had my first kiss. (I was a very late bloomer.) Months later, I first had sex (in the bathroom of the longstanding goth club, Neo, another Chicago landmark that closed mere months before the Bijou Theater in 2015). Shortly afterwards, I began going to S/M events and getting curious about the sexual spaces in the city.

The snowy March evening in question, I attended one of Bijou's Wayward Sisters parties with a group of friends. These parties were a blast. They generally got good turn outs and lively crowds – mostly younger art students and predominantly women, though a big mix of folks were present, including Bijou regulars. (There were intentionally never any gender restrictions at the Bijou, unlike many other gay adult businesses. Bijou owner Steven Toushin welcomed all adults and his attitude was always, “No one should be left out; it shouldn't be an exclusive space.”)

At these parties, David Boyer from Chicago's leather bar, Touche, would hand out beers in the back garden and spank the recipients. People DJed in the theater area and danced on the stage and, upstairs, explored the space, cruised, had sex, talked to each other through glory holes. That night, I wound up in the sling in the dungeon, making out with two of the girls I'd shown up with, while some Bijou regulars stood around in the dark and jacked off, a few of our other friends peeping at this display through a window. I later went outside and saw my dude friends and some other guys standing in a circle on the balcony with their dicks whipped out, comparing them while deep in conversation.

Bijou exterior and upstairs map
Bijou's upstairs

About six months after attending this party, I wound up answering a Craigslist ad seeking an editor for a gay porn company; an ad so brief it was almost cryptic. When I went in for the interview, it was a very pleasant surprise to realize it was for Bijou and that, in addition to the theater, Bijou was also a vintage gay porn company. I was a filmmaker with a particular interest in '60s sexploitation films and LGBTQ film history and a burgeoning interest in '70s porn, so this was extremely up my alley. I very much wanted the job, even more after Steven discussed the company and its history and philosophy, so I was thrilled when I picked up the call confirming that I got it.

The Wayward Sisters events were still running when I got hired at the Bijou office and, in total, operated for around a year and a half. Steven recalls once showing up at a Wayward Sisters party with his partner and doing a flogging and fisting scene in the dungeon. As they played, party-goers wandered by and started gathering, their conversations soon growing silent as they watched intently. Afterwards, a group of young women came over to talk to his partner and pay compliments about the scene. I went to one or two more of these parties before they wound up being discontinued not long after the person who originally ran them moved to Europe.

But let's back up much further, well before my time.

Wells Street in 1976 and 1970s Bijou Theater ad
Wells Street, 1976, and '70s Bijou Theater ad

The Bijou Theater opened in 1970 in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood on Wells Street, where it was in the proximity of several other gay and sexual businesses. The first film that played there was Richard Nixon's Checkers Speech, named after the Nixon dog. The next was a gay porn film. In 1980, it expanded to a second floor, with a maze of glory hole booths and a dungeon room. By then, it was open 24/7 and people partied there late into the night. Touche and other gay bars would bus folks over and the crowd from Carol's Speakeasy, located next door, regularly spilled into Bijou (sometimes for free through its back door) after hours. During these decades, the theater endured numerous police raids, obscenity busts, bomb threats, and more, but it kept running. In addition to porn films on Bijou's screen, these first few decades saw live performances on stage by many of the films' major stars, including Al Parker, Richard Locke, Lee Ryder, Peter Berlin, Jim Cassidy, and Casey Donovan (and Colt stars later on in the 2000s).

Ad for live appearances by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater
Ad for live appearances by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater, April 1980

From 2000 to 2002, Miss Tiger and her Erotic Cabaret, featuring the Bijou Boys, took to the Bijou's stage. Drag performer Miss Tiger's events were elaborately staged erotic revues featuring theatrical pieces, humor, musical numbers, strip shows, live sex acts, and more. One notable show incorporated a Gregorian chant playing as a man came out dressed as a priest and with four men dressed as choir boys. They all read from Bibles, then the choir boys took turns sucking the priest's dick on stage.

Ad for live appearances by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater
Ads for Miss Tiger's Erotic Cabaret

Not long after I began working at the office, a fellow employee asked me if I wanted to help out with one of the theater's strip shows. I wound up running lights and music for these each month. Another co-worker, Bryan, took over as host for a long while and he incorporated stand up comedy into the Nude Revues. We often made elaborate videos to feature during the intros and during intermission. Finally, Michael, who worked in the box office, took over hosting. He had a great rapport with the customers, which made for a comfortable flow. (At the final Nude Revue before the theater's closing in 2015, he ended the show by singing a poignant song, which brought tears to many an eye in the crowd.)

Bjiou Boys Nude Revue posters
Bijou Boys Nude Revue posters

Bijou held a big 40th anniversary party in the first months of 2011. This was hosted by David Boyer, and the packed audience took in live music performances of classic gay porn theme songs accompanied by dancers (one of whom poured orange juice all over her naked body to a very noisy cover of the theme to Arthur Bressan Jr.'s 1984 film, Juice), videos about gay porn history and Bijou's history (both viewable at the bottom of the Bijou Theater page on our website), words from Steven Toushin, a two foot tall ejaculating dick cake (made by my girlfriend), and a strip show.

Dancers, bands, and dick cake from the Bjiou's 40th anniversary

Bijou Theater 40th anniversary party photos


During the 2000s, more people were approaching Steven with interest in doing events at the theater, as the dynamic at the bars was changing. The first huge event to be staged there by organizers from outside the theater during my era in the 2010s was the release party for the vintage gay porn soundtracks of Patrick Cowley by Dark Entries Records on Valentine's Day of 2014. DJs played in the dungeon (which got crowded, hot, and sweaty) and others played downstairs on the stage while clips from the movies Cowley scored were shown on screen. This event illuminated some new possibilities for hosting parties in the space that were influential during the theater's final two years, during which we worked with many different organizers and artists.

Later that month, a friend of mine staged reading of an erotic play he'd co-written about Abraham's Lincoln alleged gay relationship. This event segued into a year or so when a friend in the same circle proposed doing monthly variety shows at the theater. I helped him run these and they were chaotic, sometimes thrilling, and often messy installments called Upstairs/Downstairs, featuring performance art, video art, experimental film, punk bands, noise musicians, installations, DJs, and stand up comedy. Some highlights: a performance featuring a corn cob strap-on covered in I Can't Believe It's Not Butter; legendary Chicago bands and performance artists taking to the stage and finding creative ways to utilize the space; a night when I had to mop milk, piss, and cum off the floor of the dungeon after the show; and a fake human sacrifice and haunted house.

Dancers, bands, and dick cake from the Bjiou's 40th anniversary

Upstairs/Downstairs poster; performance by Chicago legends Ono and a "human sacrifce"


With these and following events, inspired by the broadly mixed crowd and dynamic use of the building seen in the Wayward Sisters and Patrick Cowley parties, we tried to find more opportunities for newcomers - across a range of ages and genders - to feel welcome in the theater, while also hopefully being an interesting change of pace for the customers who had called it home for decades. Finding this balance was tough and sometimes tense, but a worthwhile endeavor. Steven was interested in people trying new and different things at the theater and he gave them pretty much free reign in what they planned (basically unheard of), though he often suggested to organizers that one successful approach to the uniqueness of the Bijou was allowing things to unfold throughout the entire venue. The staff of the theater went above and beyond during the events in these final years, which often required a huge amount of extra work.

During this span of time, S+S Project hosted an exciting show highlighting the work of many talented local artists, including installations of artwork, video art screening in the theater, and performances on stage and upstairs (featuring nudity, lard, and balloons). Afterwards, we hung around late into the night in the dungeon while DJs kept playing.

A couple of large queer dance parties were thrown by Chances Dances – one for Halloween and one for Valentine's Day. These included DJs, performers, vintage lesbian porn, and more.

The Men's Room parties also came to the Bijou during this time and hosted several events. These quickly turned massive, culminating in a sprawlingly large and debaucherous one during the IML weekend of the theater's final year. These nights featured music on both levels and erotic performance art (once incorporating fireplay and once featuring piercing play; in the latter scenario, a disco ball was strung up to the performer's cock and balls and when the needles pierced into his chest were tugged out, blood spilled down his body and onto the disco ball).

Chances Dances and Men's Room poster
Chances Dances and Men's Room posters

In the same era, we held an intimate memorial service in the theater, hosted by the folks I went to my initial Wayward Sisters party with, for their friend Wiley, a long-time Bijou regular who loved the place and had recently died. His friends shared memories and screened videos they'd made with Wiley in the theater to a small gathering that also included theater attendees and employees who'd known him.

In the fall of 2015, we got the terrible news that the Bijou was being forced to close, as the result of a legal battle with its landlord. We quickly scheduled a series of events for its final week, David Boyer running several great Touche parties and classic porn films playing 24/7 on the screen. We set up one last party on the theater's final night in operation, and I welcomed anyone who was interested in participating to contact me. We had an overwhelming response.

The night saw wild performance art in the dungeon, live music, beautiful dance performances on stage, DJs doing disco sets in the dungeon, classic porn clips in the theater, erotic videos by local artists screening upstairs, a photobooth and roaming photos by GlitterGuts (all of which you can see here), and I even, in one gorgeous moment, walked by to see a person sawing out a section of the glory hole booths while fucking someone. (Several panels were removed for posterity, Steven keeping some and the person who removed them continuing to this day to install pieces of the Bijou in art shows and other spaces around the country.)

Glitter Guts final party photos
Forced Into Feminity and more from the final party by GlitterGuts

Many friends and strangers talked and fucked. Intergenerational conversations were happening throughout the night, as many people from all different points in the theater's history (and newcomers) showed up. I finally managed to have sex in the theater (in one of the booths, with my then-girlfriend). People were so appreciative of the space, each other, and the history, and being able to be free to do whatever they wanted there, engaging enthusiastically in the way I'd always hoped for. A few asked if they could keep the faded vintage porn film posters on the wall and we took these down and gave them out. One DJ (who'd been involved in putting on several previous events) played an entire new score to the Frank Ross classic Made in the Shade in the theater, which thoughtfully included a sample of the lead performer's final line: “I know I'll have many other homes, but never a place like this.”

Final scene from Made in the Shade
Final scene from Made in the Shade (1985)

This party ran until the next morning. As the remaining stragglers lingered, I found myself alone in the dungeon as Donna Summers' Last Dance came on the playlist, and I danced and cried.

Party remnants
Party remnants

The rest of that day is a blur. I may have napped in the office or not slept at all. A few of us, including Steven, David, Bijou's custodian Shrodney, and I, had to take down the screen and clear out any remaining equipment by the end of the night before the property was turned over to its new owners. We climbed ladders to disconnect lights from lighting rigs, cleared out the projection booth, and packed everything up. Shrodney and I made a final pass through the upstairs, which was a wreck from the party (we didn't have to clean up after it for once), and removed lightbulbs and signage and took photos of the graffiti on the remaining glory hole booths. We headed down the spiral staircase for the last time and shut the door to that room, placing a peacock feather we found, left over from one of the previous night's performers, on top of the door frame.

Screen removal, peacock feather, graffiti: final photos taken in the Bijou
Screen removal, peacock feather, graffiti: final photos taken in the Bijou

We all finished our work and headed out, locking the front door for the first time in 35 years. Steven had to install a lock for this, because the front door didn't even have a functioning one – the theater had been open every day all those years, even through fires and bomb threats, since it became a 24/7 establishment in 1980.

Weeks later, a large group of my friends, moved by their experiences there, held a beautiful memorial service for the Bijou Theater in their own space, which was deeply in the spirit of the venue. I've seen its spirit continue on in gatherings of friends, sexual spaces, and porn screenings since, and hope to continue to catch glimpses of it as the years pass.

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