DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Badlands

By Will Seagers

 

I am very excited to begin this new series with my co-author Josh Eliot. Readers of the Bijou blogs should be quite familiar with Josh's excellent writing style and accounts of gay history past. This new series will be delving into various neighborhoods in San Francisco during the 1980s. Our first look will be in the Castro... a perfect place to start!

My knowledge of The Badlands and its sister bar The Phoenix will be coming from the perspective of a DJ. That was my job in both of these bars. It would not have been right to skip over the Phoenix, as that was actually the first of three bars that I played in the Castro. Also, in its original iteration known as Toad Hall, it was one of the most famous and history rich spots in the district. Many a famous face (and body) waltzed in and out of its doors during the heydays of the mid 70s. People such as Al Parker appeared there frequently. You never knew who you were going to bump into. But, you were always guaranteed a good time!

 

Toad Hall exterior and advertisements, 1970s

Toad Hall exterior and advertisements, 1970s

 

After my brief but pleasant stint playing at Dreamland, I realized that I was not cut out for playing the very long hours that were required. My hat is off to those who could play those sometimes twelve-hour shifts! Luckily I had been approached by the manager of the Phoenix and Badlands who asked me if I would be interested in playing. Without hesitation I said yes and soon started at the Phoenix.

This was a very different kind of place for me. It was a Castro St. bar with a very regular and dedicated clientele. They seemed to take to my eclectic mix of R&B, disco and jazz. My only complaint about the bar was the booth. It was more like an aerie! One had to climb what appeared to be a ladder straight up the wall and enter the booth through the floor. Bringing up crates of records... well, you can imagine what that was like! The view and the sound were great. But, you certainly had to put on a long song if you wanted to take a pee break! Lol. My tenure at the Phoenix was only a few months, as I was suddenly moved "across the street" to The Badlands!

But before leaving the Phoenix, I need to mention a neighborhood spot just two doors down on the corner of Castro and 18th: the Star Pharmacy with its celebrity Jackie “Star.” She was loved by everyone in the neighborhood.

 

Star Pharmacy

Star Pharmacy

 

Moving on, one afternoon the manager of both bars, Ben, came into the Phoenix to ask me if I wanted to play at The Badlands. Once again without hesitation I said yes. I was pleased to find out that he had become a fan of my music and thought it would be an even better fit at The Badlands. I guess I should also mention that this move had something to do with my popularity in L.A. Tool & Die! The booth in The Badlands was in the back of the bar but was visible to most of the clientele. It was shortly after this that I met the owner of both bars, Ron Holmes. Ron was always very quiet and a bit shy. He seemed to like me and always treated me with respect. When I least expected it, I would find him in the back of the booth smiling and enjoying the music. Sometimes it actually startled me!

 

L.A. Tool & Die poster

L.A. Tool & Die poster

 

This was a great job and a great house to play. I remained there for four years! At first, it was a bit daunting in that some of the very best DJs in the city played there: Timmy Rivers, Johnny Hedges and my very dear friend Jorge Martinez (who formerly played at the Boom Boom Room as discussed in one of Josh's previous blogs). For the first few weeks I followed Timmy Rivers' "Church." Timmy did an amazing and soulful mix on Sunday afternoons that got the whole bar swaying! I would come in at 8PM to relieve him and continue until we closed at 2AM. My biggest challenge and goal was to seamlessly blend into his last record and keep the feeling he had created intact for as long as possible. After a bit, I would segue into something more energetic with my signature thumping bass line! After about a month or so, I was given Saturday nights. These were my most cherished memories of being a DJ. I loved to take the room on a trip by taking popular tunes and building momentum to a point that the crowd would scream with joy when a new peak was hit during the night. One of my fondest memories/compliments was when a patron came to the booth with a shot for me and told me that my music made him feel like he was on cocaine! Their only complaint was that they could not dance... it was a stand up bar!

It was a treat and a privilege to have worked with the great and sexy bar staff that that provided the drinks and visuals that made this bar a legend. Its iconic cedar shake interior with license plates from all states and years adorned the walls. Most iconic were the "do not" placards. They resembled stick figures in various positions. Two of my favorites were the figure holding a pot to his mouth and a red circle and a line through it indicating - no pot smoking. The other was in one of the two men's rooms - the open men's bathroom. It had a bathtub AND a trough style urinal! This sign had two stick figures - one kneeling in front of another with the red circle and red line running through it. (I let you figure out what that one meant! Lol.) Regardless of the signs, hot little incidents would have to broken up from time to time. Men will be men! I look back at all of this and think "what a great time to have been alive!"

 

Badlands bar in its later era

Badlands bar (1975 - 2020) in its later incarnation

Previous blogs in DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO series:
The Castro Theatre - Josh Eliot

 

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

 

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Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD

By Josh Eliot

 

Free and easy is how I’d describe the good ole days in San Francisco (1980 - 1988). I embraced the idea of that kind of world, even though living in 1980s San Francisco was like being in a bubble, you really felt the world would be a better place if that euphoria spread outside the Bay Area’s borders. You couldn’t go anywhere in the city that wasn’t sexually charged, lust was in the air. I can’t imagine San Francisco being as free spirited today, I really hope I’m wrong.

I moved to San Francisco at 17 from Rhode Island, and after my stint at the San Francisco Art Institute and prior to starting with Catalina Video, I worked mostly as an insurance claims clerk. At age 19 or 20 I worked on the 32nd floor of the 50 California Street Building in the financial district, opening mail, typing, filing and assisting the claims adjusters. The office was 60 / 40 with the majority being gay men in their late 20s. The office did not have a general manager at the time so the person in charge was a supervisor named Jackie. Jackie loved gay boys and never passed up hiring one when they walked in the door for an interview. My first Friday, Fritz, a claims adjuster, walked up and told me: “Work is over for the week and for the last hour everyone hangs out in the break room.” Jay, the other clerk, nodded and said, “Everybody drinks vodka screwdrivers, except for me because I’m not 21 yet, but Peter will sneak us some.”

Talk about free and easy! I’m sure home office in New York would not have approved of such behavior, so I’m not mentioning this major company’s name. Sure enough, Peter and Fred, two claims adjusters, were pouring vodka and orange juice when I got into the break room where everyone drank and socialized. The gay guys would hold court while the straight ladies ate it all up! Mostly everyone took the train to and from work so there weren't issues with driving. Peter did sneak Jay and I our drinks and I’m sure Jackie knew we were lying to her when we said we were only drinking orange juice. Everyone left work for the weekend on a “high note.” This went on for weeks and only ended when a new general manager was assigned to the office. Our Fridays hit a road block.

As weeks passed, I grew closer to the guys at the office, especially Fritz and Fred. Now on Friday’s directly after work, we all went to Sutter's Mill, a gay bar in the financial district where everybody was in a suit and tie or office attire. It was fucking hot! I equate it to a uniform fetish, but it was a three piece suit fetish! Very sexy. I used my friend’s Rhode Island ID to get into bars until I was 21 and it always worked, always. Sutter’s Mill really was a site to behold, the place was packed and more often than not the adjusters would hook up and leave with some hot number. By 7:00pm the place was dead so we would normally head over to the Castro for dinner and more drinks.

 

Josh Eliot at 17, 50 California St., Sutter's Mill

Josh Eliot at 17, 50 California St., Sutter's Mill

 

Fritz was really courting me and I fell head over heels for him. We had regular dates and hook-ups for months, but it was like pulling teeth for him to ever say we were “boyfriends.” He was the ultimate free spirit with “hippy-ish” behavior, like not being able to put labels on things. It was annoying as all hell and after a while his free and easy attitude was turning me off because I wanted acknowledgment of our relationship. The situation was complicated by the fact that he was secretly still in love with his current roommate Sam, his ex-lover that he never got over.

Fred, on the other hand, was a fun party boy who lived in Marin County and commuted over the Golden Gate to work. My frustration with Fritz led me to acting out and I started doing things I never would have if Fritz had only acknowledged and nurtured our relationship. Every now and again Fred and I had occasional hook ups at a little motel on the avenues. I knew whenever he offered to drive me home from the bar on Fridays it was because he really wanted to drive something else home. I always said yes to that ginormous Italian sausage and made sure to keep it a secret from all the others at work, because everyone knew I was seeing Fritz (everyone except Fritz, evidently).

 

Josh and Fred (L) and Josh, Fred and Fritz (R)

Josh and Fred (L) and Josh, Fred and Fritz (R)

 

One summer, Fritz was back-packing across Europe and it just so happened my brother was flying me to England to watch tennis in Wimbledon with him. When Wimbledon ended, I met up with Fritz and we traveled through England and France. I imagined that this would be the turning point in our “relationship” from fuck buddies to something more. We had some great, romantic times but once we got to Nice things fell apart. The entire trip he kept disappearing into bars' back rooms and I really hadn’t said anything. This was my last night before heading back to England to fly home while he continued through Italy. I wanted to stay in but he wanted to go to Blue Boy, a gay bar. When we got there, upon entering, this really hot bouncer was staring me down. Fritz and I danced, drank, and had a good time until he disappeared into a back room. When he came back to the table I was pissed and went off to the bathroom. In line I looked over to the bouncer who again was staring at me; he motioned me over. I walked over to him and he said something to me in French. When I spoke back in English he just reached down, pulled me into him and started making out with me. He then pulled me over to the bathroom line in front of two private bathrooms. The door opened and he pushed me in with him. It was intense, he was hot and hungry and we had full on sex! People were pounding on the door and he yelled back at them in a rough streetwise tone, which made things all the more hot! Afterwards, I went back to the table and told Fritz exactly what happened to get a reaction and make him jealous. He told me he thought it was great and was happy I had that experience. That was the final straw for me, I couldn’t believe he was not upset and ended things with him there and then. We were done.

I was bitter and distraught when I took the sleeper train back to England. My heart was broken but I was determined to put him out of my thoughts. Shortly after returning to England I went to a pub for a stiff drink where I met three guys from Scotland. They were all handsome, but I particularly hit it off with the shaved headed one. They took me with them to the nightclub Heaven where we danced and drank the night away. From Heaven, we all took a taxi to their apartment in some really random part of London. I was finally free of Fritz, and because of my recent behavior and the fact I went home with three Scottish guys, some would say I was easy. Like the song says: Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD and I was back to doing just that!

 

Blue Boy in Nice, Heaven in London

Blue Boy in Nice, Heaven in London

 

 

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!
The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor
(Un)Easy Riders
7 Years with Colt Model MARK RUTTER
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone

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