Diving into SoMa/Folsom: A TALE OF TWO STUDS

By Josh Eliot

 

The Stud Bar in San Francisco’s South of Market District, as Will Seager’s blog Long Live The Stud has attested, was my favorite place to go during the early 1980s. Before I moved to the Castro, and while I was hanging with my friends from the insurance company, The Stud was our hangout. For a brief period of time, my high school girlfriend, Lisa, moved from Rhode Island to live with me, causing me to “come out” much faster than I thought I would. But even after I told her I was gay, we remained close friends and roommates for a time. The Stud Bar featured an extremely enlightened crowd the likes of which I’ve never come across again in any bar, anywhere. It was straight, mixed with gay and bi, all with a punk/new wave flair, with a very positive and lively atmosphere. It was like being in a room with all the “cool” kids, yet they weren’t dickheads like they are in the movies. The music was incredible and yes, we either started or ended our nights of drinking at Hamburger Mary’s across the street. Wayland Flowers and Madame, dressed as a punkette, were sometimes seen in the crowd on Monday “punk night.” Etta James, Sylvester, Two Tons of Fun and even Dianne Feinstein made appearances during the decade.

 

Stud interior, Sylvester poster, new wavers

 

I met one of my first boyfriends there, Philipp. Philipp was German with blond hair and blue eyes and so tall that it hurt my neck to stretch up and kiss him. Around the same time, Lisa started seeing a really cute “bi” guy who was also blond. It was kind of surreal to see us both hanging with these guys across the bar at the Stud, after spending so much time as a couple in high school. I think it was a smooth transition because we were such good friends for so long. One night, she told me that her new boy-toy was taking her to a straight bathhouse. In the 1980’s, the gays weren’t the only promiscuous ones! It sounded like she got thrown smack dab into the middle of an orgy in this large room that had back-to-back mattresses on the floor. Not to be outdone, I mentioned to Philipp that I had never been to a bathhouse. After making out with him while lying in the middle of Market Street by the main stage at the Castro Street Fair, he told me he was taking me to one. We went south of Market to Club Baths at 8th and Howard. I had no idea of what to expect because I hadn’t watched that fabulous movie, The Ritz, with Rita Moreno at that point in my life. The Ritz (1976) takes place inside a gay bathhouse in Manhattan and is based on Terrence McNally’s play of the same name.

 

The Ritz poster and images with Rita Moreno

 

We checked into the room, showered, jacuzzied, had a drink at the bar in our towels, then had a good time with each other back in the room. Now, I was 19, maybe 20 at this point, so of course I couldn’t just roll over and go to sleep like Philipp did. Once he was into a deep snore, I tiptoed out and quietly closed the door behind me. The place was in full swing at this point and I caught quite a show going on anywhere and everywhere. My eyes locked on this hot, hairy stud beating off in the showers and, just as I headed his way, Philipp appeared out of nowhere. Thank goodness I wasn’t lip locked yet. I told him I was hot and sweaty in the room and needed to shower, so we did and then returned to our room - for a sleepless night, on my part! Philipp and I saw each other pretty regularly for a couple of months, but I guess it was the last straw for him when he caught me in a hot tub with some guys at the Woods Resort in Russian River. It was my first time at the Russian River, so of course I was like a kid in the candy store, and Philipp fell asleep again. I was barely out of the closet and monogamy was the last thing on my mind. I tried to not be such a dick to someone who really was treating me very special, but it was beyond my ability to control myself in these sexually charged places.

He stopped calling after that trip to the Russian River and it was a little awkward, at first, seeing each other at the Stud Bar. Eventually, Lisa returned to Rhode Island and I was hanging out more with the guys Fritz, Fred, Peter and Richard from the insurance company. (Read: Everybody’s Free to Feel Good for more info on them!) Richard was the straight one of the group and his British girlfriend was best friends with Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Banshees. When Siouxsie came to visit, we all went to the Stud Bar and, even though I was never a fan of it, most of us did coke and Quaaludes. That was an awesome combo, I might add.

 

Siouxsie and the Banshees

 

The bouncer/doorman gave me shit about my (fake) ID and made me stay outside with him while my friends went into the bar. Even though he had let me in with no issue many times prior. Once there was no line at the door to get in, he didn’t hesitate to rip the fly of my blue jeans wide open, cop a feel and plant a deep “Frencher” on me, right there on the street. I was loving it, especially on the ludes! Once satisfied with himself, he broke his bear hug on me, I arranged myself, then he slapped me on the ass and let me into the bar. The crowd, of course, was going wild for Siouxsie, so much so that she darted out of the place shortly after arriving. Sheri (I think that was her name) was a bartender at the time who was so sweet and friendly. She looked like a hot Pat Benatar with leather arm bands. She told me the drink I ordered was on “him” and pointed across the bar to the bouncer/doorman. She told me, “Be careful of that guy,” and I should have taken her advice. I ended up going on a couple of dates with him. He was a Harley biker dude, so that kind of turned me on. It was very daddy and his boy! I can’t remember his name, and I’m “sorry/not sorry” because he ended up giving me my first (and only) case of the clap. Philipp, of all people, was the one who told me about and took me to the free clinic when I randomly explained my “burning” symptoms over drinks at the Stud.

I guess the title of this blog really should have been:
A Tale of Two Fabulous Studs and One Dirty Biker

 

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
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR

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Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR

By Josh Eliot

 

The Folsom Street South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco was the gritty contrast to the famed Castro District, especially in the 1970’s and 1980’s. When the Castro had its annual Street Fair, the crowd was eclectic, including men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Dancing, and sometimes flashing, drag queens, street performers, snake charmers, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and country & western groups who would suddenly break into a square dance in the middle of the street, forcing the crowd to separate. There were Dunk-A-Hunk booths, face and body painting, numerous food tents and the Gay Men’s Chorus staking claim to the plaza in front of Hibernia Bank to belt out some show tunes.

 

Castro Street Fair, 1980s

Castro Street Fair, 1980s

 

You would see large groups of partygoers hanging out the windows of their flats and overcrowding the fire escapes and overhangs on the apartment buildings above Star Pharmacy, Valley Pride Market and Market Liquors. The bars, of course, were packed to the brim with large crowds surrounding the doors. The Main Stage was on Market Street and the corner of Castro and featured performances by artists like Sylvester, comedians like Ellen DeGeneres and Danny Williams as well as local and somewhat well-known bands. The whole event was just slightly over the top and refreshingly not overly political.

The Folsom Street Fair, by contrast, was a full-on South of Market “sexperience.” Some would call it sleazy, others would say it was the ultimate middle finger to society. It was a bit of both. If you’ve read Will Seagers' last two blogs, Diving Into SoMA/Folsom: Hamburger Mary's and Long Live the Stud!, you’ve already got a first hand account of some hot spots in the neighborhood. Spanning the blocks on Folsom from 8th to 13th streets and splintering off between Howard and Harrison streets, there was quite a large area for bad behavior to take place. To say that Folsom street really brought the grit is a major under-statement. I think the first rule of thumb we learned was don’t even think about showing up without putting on a cock ring, because you would definitely not be in the majority. You would always expect to see bare asses in chaps, tits galore, random whipping displays, hoods, ball gags, leather jockstraps, and chains, but a street fair wouldn’t go by without some shocking outfit or action that you never saw coming!

 

Folsom Street Fair

Folsom Street Fair

 

Whereas the Castro fairgoers would separate to let the square dancers dance, the Folsom fairgoers would crowd in and form an impenetrable circle to shield the circle jerk or blow job that spontaneously started happening in the middle of the road, keeping out anyone who was looking to stop it. I don’t know if all that happens these days but it was very commonplace in the 1980s. I remember going into one bar and seeing someone squatting on top of a cigarette machine while getting rimmed. Dore Alley sat smack dab in the middle of the street fair map and surprisingly it looked much different in the light. Dore Alley and close by Ringold Alley were notorious “last chance” cruise spots for bar patrons once they closed at 2am.

In 2014, Mike Skiff’s (videographer and director for Catalina Video under Mark Jensen) documentary Folsom Forever was released by Breaking Glass Pictures. I was so proud to see what he had accomplished after we all parted ways when Catalina Video was sold to Channel 1 Releasing in 2007. I recently viewed the movie on TUBI, the free streaming service, which documented the behind the scenes actions and adventures of the fair organizers and volunteers. The Folsom Street Fair organizers' self-proclaimed mission statement reads, in part, as follows:

“Folsom Street is committed to cultivating a safe, open and inclusive environment for kink, leather and alternative sexuality. We are dedicated to sexual liberation and the right to pleasure as a crucial part of the whole liberation movement. Folsom Street is an explicitly anti-racist organization and we are committed to decolonizing our practices.”

 

Folsom Forever poster and director, Mike Skiff

Folsom Forever poster and director, Mike Skiff

 

No Folsom Street Fair would be complete without the appearance and contributions of Mr. Markus. Marcus Hernandez, a longtime leather columnist for the Bay Area Reporter, was always front and center throughout the fair and on the Main Stage. Mr. Markus, through his column and international ventures, influenced the leather/BDSM subculture, its ethics, traditions and fundraising efforts. His smart and sarcastic column shone a light on the culture that had long been demonized and suppressed by mainstream gay and straight cultures, generating respect by showing that the leather community was among the most dedicated to their tribe. Even though he passed away in October of 2009 at the age of 77, his voice and message of pride for the LGBT and his beloved leather community reached far beyond San Francisco to like communities internationally. I remember seeing him several times at the International Mr. Leather Contest in Chicago when we shot it to release on DVD. It had been so many years since I heard his distinctive voice across the loud speaker and it brought me right back to those dirty, nasty, fabulous days that my roomies and I let our inhibitions fly at the Folsom Street Fair.

 

Mr. Markus and the Main Stage at Folsom

Mr. Markus and the Main Stage at Folsom

 

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
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR

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RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship

By Josh Eliot

 

Working on the Catalina Video crew for 22 years from age 25 to age 47 was probably what some would think is the epitome of a dream job. To an extent the first 15 or so years were just that, but towards the end of my days with the company I was exhausted, burned out, idea-less and for the most part just ready to retire. For the majority of the years, especially once Scott Masters and John Travis left to start their own company Studio 2000, I became producer and was expected to “pump-out” two movies or more a month. All of the movies had a maximum of $13,500.00 budget except for our big budget “movie of the year,” which was allowed $25,000.00. The big budget movies had the luxury of having twice the amount of shooting days, so on day one we shot the oral and cum shots then on day two the anal and cum shots. Having each model cum twice in a scene really added some polish and made them appear more “stud-like.” Because the crew's salaries themselves were not part of the budget, we were able to stretch the dollar pretty far to add all the bells and whistles of a major production. All of the Catalina Crew were paid separately according to how many shoot days they worked per week.

Even though my youth helped me get through this vigorous schedule, it did take its toll over the years. Not much of a dream job, right? Well, from time to time the management did surprise and delight us with out of the ordinary adventures. William Higgins' main man in the states, while he lived in Prague, was David Weiss. David ran a distribution center called House One, which was literally in a special wing of his Burbank home. I would say David was the “boss” of Catalina’s general manager and facilitated all of Higgins' wishes. For some reason David really took a liking to me and had my best interests in mind. He was always offering to take me to Prague with him whenever he was going over to see Higgins but it never worked out for me to go because of that damned two movies a month schedule! He did however show up one day to tell me he had met with the owners of RSVP Cruises and arranged for Richard (an editor for House One) and myself to work a two week stint on an upcoming Mexican gay cruise leaving from San Diego in a couple of weeks. I was blown away, especially because our GM agreed to postpone production to allow me to go!

 

Richard, Josh & two RSVP Cruise employees

Richard, Josh & two RSVP Cruise employees

 

Richard and I arrived at the port mid-afternoon, as the ship would depart at 5pm sharp for Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán and Cabo San Lucas. We went aboard immediately as part of the RSVP staff. The first person we met was Danny Williams, a San Francisco comedian, who I remember seeing at the Castro Street Fair every year. In 1989, Danny began what was to become a 22 year career working as master of ceremonies and cruise director for RSVP Cruises. He introduced us to all the other staff, who were a wonderful group to work with. Richard and I went up to his editing suite, which was also the green room for the performers of the nighttime shows. Once there, I inspected my video camera equipment for my job on board. I was to shoot every event, cocktail-underwear party and land excursion, always bringing the footage back to Richard each night so he could edit it into a VHS tape each passenger would get as they disembarked the ship at the conclusion of the trip. I checked out my quarters and it was a private room! That’s like striking gold, because I was very single at the time! I think I had sex almost every day - I guess our ship uniforms helped with that!

 

Tea dance, underwear parties & nightly entertainment
Tea dance, underwear parties & nightly entertainment

Danny Williams, comedian

Danny Williams, comedian

 

I started shooting footage of all the passengers as they came aboard the ship on the main deck. I noticed two familiar faces amongst the crowd: Bob and Larry, the owners of The Vista Grande and Atrium in Palm Springs. We shot at their men-only clothing optional resort a lot over the years for movies like Big Guns 2 and Palm Springs Weekend. I just loved those guys and we were all thrilled to see each other. The warmth and excitement of seeing them suddenly dropped to “icy-cold” when a strange woman with a long wrap over her head approached me. I said hello and tried to start a pleasant conversation when she cut me off and asked if my camera was turned on. I started to explain what I was shooting but, without missing a beat, she stepped right up to my face, pulled her wrap from her head and said: “If you point that thing at me, it’s going over the side of the ship,” then she promptly walked off before I could even respond.

It turns out the woman was singer Jane Olivor and her reputation (that I later learned of) did not disappoint. Evidently when she walked into Richard’s editing room, also her green room, she demanded that everyone leave immediately. How very Gloria Swanson. Jane Olivor has a huge almost cult-like gay following and I have to say when I shot her performance I found her voice to be amazing! I even bought tickets, years later, to see her one summer in Provincetown. Betty Buckley was also aboard, and I’ll tell you she was fabulous and even let us watch her rehearsal! The work of shooting the passengers was pretty “full-on” because the cameras back then weighed a ton and required a separate video deck on a strap over my shoulder. I remember literally almost passing out from heat exhaustion, when I discovered a sanctuary in Puerto Vallarta called “The Blue Chairs.” The Blue Chairs is a beachfront gay resort with a bar along the beach offering 2 for 1 margaritas and, after 3pm, 3 for 1 margaritas. The place was packed with almost everyone I knew from the cruise ship. I plopped myself down and spent the afternoon there, every once in a while picking up the camera to shoot the passengers at play!

 

Cabo San Lucas beach party and The Blue Chairs in Puerto Vallarta

Cabo San Lucas beach party and The Blue Chairs in Puerto Vallarta

 

After seven days in Mexico and at sea, we returned to the San Diego Port. The passengers disembarked, then a few hours later a whole new set of guests boarded and we took off to do it all over again! Now this was the “real deal” dream job, with a whole new selection of hot guys coming aboard! Years later I was sent by Catalina Video along with my crew to board another cruise ship for an event called the Pillage & Plunder Gay Cruise - this time not to videotape the passengers, even though it was impossible to keep them out of my frame, but to film our big budget movie of the year, Voyager. Caesar and Steve Rambo were the leads, along with about nineteen others. In my next blog I will talk about how what started off as another dream cruise ended up being more like a nightmare!

 

Caesar in Voyager

Caesar in Voyager

 

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
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun

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