David's Sexual Underground - 5/22/23

 

Chicago - BijouBlog

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings All,

 

It has been a rough week for me, which has put us behind schedule this week. I have been assisting a dear friend and mighty force in our greater LGBTQ+ community these past few months. When I came to Chicago in 1976, one of the first friends I made was Marge Summit, then owner of His N Hers, a popular community bar located under the L tracks on Addison.

 

Marge Summit in westernwear at His N Hers

 

Marge created a wonderful space that brought many facets of our community together to celebrate. Marge’s staff served us great drinks, prepared fabulous food including the best burger I ever enjoyed in Chicago. And Marge made a space for lots of local talent to perform, grow and succeed.

She became a dear friend and mentor to me in the service industry. Those of you who joined me for Chicago’s Original Country Dance after closing Carol’s Speakeasy should remember Marge helping us serve drinks at various spots along the way Pusch Studios, Paris Dance, Whiskey River, Bedrock to name a few.

 

Marge at the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame

 

As an icon of our community, Marge was there when AIDS first struck Chicago. Her support for many of the early organizations that came to be in response to this emergency was fantastic. Howard Brown, Chicago House, Open Hand and numerous others were causes championed at His N Hers in the 80s with the support of the talented artist that performed at the bar.

Marge did more than just host benefits; she took action when needed. One of my favorite things she did was to push peoples’ comfort zones.

 

Frank Kellas and Marge Summit in newspaper photo, cited as being named as Organizers of the Year from Gay Chicago for their commitment to the Gay Dollar Campaign

 

To stress the economic force of our community, Marge and her leather buddy Frank Kellas launched the Gay Dollar campaign. She bought rubber stamps that read Gay Dollar and stamped thousands of one dollar bills. In the 80s, that got the attention of the Feds. They visited her and threatened her if she persisted. She did persist and straight folks were forced to be embarrassed by handing over “gay money” when shopping, dining, etc.

You may not remember there was a small grocery store at the corner of Belmont & Broadway. The owners were unhappy as the neighborhood became “New Town” with gays moving into the area. Bars, stores catering to gays sprang up. With the fear of AIDS, the owners were afraid of contact with us. Marge would get friends to join her to each grab a grocery cart and fill it with all kinds of items, the smaller the better. Filling the carts, they would leave them at the checkout announcing they were gay. The fearful owners and staff would be forced to wipe off all the handled merchandise, fearing contamination of AIDS. Sound familiar?

Marge met the love of her life, Janan, in her later years and I was honored to host their wedding at my Country Dance at The Call. Sadly, we had to celebrate Janan’s passing there too. The past few months were hard for Marge, failing health and loneliness made it a vicious circle. I was fortunate to spend time with her, sharing memories, meals, helping her cope as she became weaker.

 

Marge and Janan

 

I got to sit with her one last time on Tuesday in her finally hours as she passed from this world knowing she would be reunited with her wife, Janan.

Marge was not part of our leather community, but she understood our side of the family. She was a great friend of Chuck Rodocker, Chuck Renslow and Jim Flint, all leather bar owners in the 70s and 80s. She stood with us as AIDs decimated the clubs and took the lives of so many leathermen.

This loss is not felt just by me but many others of our leather community of that era.

Thanks for allowing me to share this passing with you.

 

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A "Split Ticket" - SoMa/Folsom and The Haight!

By Will Seagers

 

Today's rather odd blog title indicates a duality in our visit of San Francisco's bygone days: SoMa/Folsom and The Haight. Partially because of one man - Sanford Kellman - who had legendary establishments in both sections of town.

It is hard to leave the SoMa/Folsom area without paying tribute to one of the most iconic bars on Folsom - The Bolt. Known to the gay community as a major leather bar, it drew visitors from far and wide. On any given night one could see the cream of the crop in terms of a "Man's Man" in this medium-sized venue. Quite frankly, I don't remember what the inside of the bar resembled because I was always looking at the incredible men it attracted! As a result, lots of contests and themed events took place there. I do remember iconic construction hardware and, in particular, construction hats as part of its theme. It was one of the first bars to incorporate chain-link fence as partitions in parts of the bar. This was used countless times in other bars (and films) due to the sexual undertones.

 

Chain-link fence in Chicago's Bijou Theater's dungeon room

Chain-link fence in Chicago's Bijou Theater's dungeon room

 

And, I can't leave this part of SoMa/Folsom history without mentioning "The Eagle!" Again we find ourselves in the "thick" of leather country! It had an indoor and vast outside patio. With a high fence as its perimeter, the outside patio played host to Sunday Beer Bashes where lots of its aforementioned leather crowd took advantage and LOTS of skin was exposed. Perhaps, The Eagle was most famous for its Leather Contests. Runways were constructed out on the patio where Leather Daddies and the like strutted their stuff to win some highly coveted titles. Yes! The Eagle deserves Icon status, as well!

 

SF Eagle ad

SF Eagle ad

 

Last but not least on our SoMa/Folsom bar tour is The Powerhouse, another legendary leather venue. Located at 1347 Folsom, across the street from the infamous Dore Alley, this hot spot hosted lots of hunky, bare-chested men. Also, it was known for the Bare Chest Calendar Contests that were held monthly. One's tour of the SoMa/Folsom area was not complete without a stop over at this location.

 

Dore Alley and Powerhouse staff

Oh, that infamous alley! (L) & The friendly inmates at The Powerhouse (R)

 

Back to Sanford Kellman. In 1977, he ventured into the Haight/Ashbury area (1748 Haight St. to be exact) to open one of the most successful dance clubs in San Francisco's gay history - The I Beam! Mr. Kellman carried his construction item theme to a grand level in this club. Hung above the spacious hardwood dance floor was a replica of an actual I Beam wrapped in silver mylar. A great sound system was created for the space by noted audio specialist Randy Schiller, who also provided systems for Castro bars such as The Badlands (where yours truly played for four years). Randy also provided great sound for lots of parties at large around the city such as at The Galleria.

Now, more about The I Beam. Upon entering, one had to ascend a major staircase, as the club itself was on the second floor. (Or was it the third? Lol.) After passing the coat check you encountered a massive game room filled with pool tables and pinball machines. The long bar was to the right, flanking the huge dance floor. Entertainment was brought to you by great DJs like Timmy Rivers, Steve Fabus and Michael Garrett, just to name a few. I remember many times when it got so hot in there that you would skid on the sweat on the dance floor! No joke! Leaving the club could be a bit of a challenge. With the popularity of Quaaludes and that staircase you had to navigate a second time on your way out, many revelers took a tumble! All kidding aside, this club and Mr. Kellman definitely left their mark on the city!

 

I Beam flyer

I Beam flyer

 

Located at 1840 Haight St., at the end of Haight and across from Golden Gate Park, was Bones. This bar preceded The I Beam by a few years and provided the neighborhood and the community with many DJ talents. Coming to mind were the two DJs most frequently behind "The Wheels of Steel" (once again) - Timmy Rivers and Michael Lee. A two-man team known to most as just Jack and Jerry were its owners. Although Bones was not as large as The I Beam, it sported a very sophisticated sound system using Klipsch Corner Horns and top end electronics. (Systems like this put Bones in a league like David Mancuso's LOFT of NYC, famed for its sound from way back at the very beginning of dance clubs.) Like the I Beam, Bones would get hellishly hot and the dancers would usually leave the club drenched! Because of its size and drawing power, it was inevitable that Bones would be eclipsed by the I Beam and close.

 

Klipsch Corner Horns

Klipsch Corner Horns

 

So, praise be given to those who invested in our bar-going and nightclub pleasures from one end of San Francisco to another! A good time was had by all!

 


 

Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted careers and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model, film performer, and DJ, just to name a few. 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.

George Ferren, a close friend of Will's frequently mentioned in his blogs, was a major figure in the San Francisco music scene in the '70s/'80s. His current music is available for your pleasure on Soundcloud: BY GEORGE

 

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
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Long Live the Stud!
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Club Life..."Hit me with your Rhythm Stick!”

 

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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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David's Chicago Sexual Underground 09/21/22 & P(r)ick of the Week

Chicago - BijouBlog
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Greetings P(r)icksters!

Been busy hosting a vaccine party every week at the bar on top of all our other parties. I keep getting thanked by guys passing through the vax line and felt I just had to explain why. So here's what I sent out to my Touché posting this week. I may have covered some this in a previous blog, but it is all part of my "
why."

We are continuing our drive to get folks vaccinated against monkeypox. We want all of you to be able to socialize, meet up and find a fuck buddy, enjoy some hot passionate sex and not end up with a case of this virus. Trust me, I have heard from many who contracted the virus, and the symptoms were PAINFUL.

You like a dick down your throat, up your butt, and guess what? That's where this virus ends up. Sure, they have presented photos on the news about sores on guys' hands, chests, feet or faces. Well, what they haven't shown you are the guys with pox sores inside their dicks, up their asses or down their throats. If we hadn't started pushing guys in our community to get vaxxed, a lot more of you could have experienced this. So, we urge you to keep it in your pants and changed up our video programming and party events at the bar to help you keep yourself in check.

AIDS came to town unannounced and spread quickly and decimated our leather community. We didn't know it was here, what caused it and had no vaccine to stop it.

Today, we know monkeypox is here, how it can spread, and we have a weapon to stop it: a 2-dose vaccine shot. I wish we had this when AIDS hit; I would have a lot more friends still with me. We can stop this now from becoming an ongoing threat, but you all have to get vaxxed to make that happen.

Here's a link to the Chicago Department of Public Health's dashboard for monkeypox. It is updated on Mondays and shows the number of cases falling dramatically. It also shows the number of people vaccinated so far. It is the second dose that I focus on, because it is the second dose that allows your body to develop immunity after a couple of weeks.

9,375 is the number of Chicagoans that have received a second dose as of Monday. 9,000+ folks are fully vaxxed. Out of how many gay men that live in this city? Just think for a moment - how many gay men are there just in Chicago? All of a sudden, 9,375 seems like a good start but way short of what may be needed to keep us from a resurgence of cases.

Let's not forget the guys coming to Chicago because they live in states that haven't done jackshit about monkeypox. I checked IDs last week during our Vax Party and I can state that about 1/2 of those in the bar that came for a shot were from out of town. Florida, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Texas were just some of the IDs I saw.

If these guys feel it is so important to travel this far for a shot (hopefully they had a couple more at the bar), then I would hold that all of you that live here in Chicago would feel just as strongly and make the effort to cross town if need be and get vaccinated.

We had a Pox Vax Party last night, Tuesday, September 20th, and the upcoming one is next week on Wednesday, September 28th. As we have been doing, doors open at 5pm with shots beginning at 6 pm. We start with 100 doses but have been averaging 120 or more these past few weeks. The vax teams leave with doses unused. So don't let the early days of long lines and limited vax shots deter you. You need not line up for hours, just get here by 9pm and get a shot.

We will be adding Vax Party dates in October. Our partners at Project WISH and Rush are lining up teams to provide the shots, and once I have those dates confirmed, we will post them.

Now as to WHY?

We have been thanked repeatedly the past couple of months for hosting these Vax Parties. As guys pass through the line, they let me know how much they appreciate our effort to care for our community. There's a very simple reason why we are doing this.

We are LEATHER.

Time for a little history lesson, sorry if this gets long. I came to Chicago in the mid-70s and began working at Touché shortly after it opened. Some of my early leather mentors were already in their 60s. Which meant they had participated in WWII, and they shared their experiences with me.

Before the World Wars of the last century, travel abroad was the luxury of the wealthy. The average guy lived in his town, worked there and most likely died in that same town. The thought of going to Europe or anywhere else in the world was an unlikely dream of some, but most others just lived their life where they were. You could have urges for men, but you either had to ignore them or on the "down-low."

Heading to Europe and other places to fight in either war allowed these servicemen a chance to broaden their view beyond our American shores. In particular, during WWII, these men experienced a lot more than what their hometowns had to offer. Food, for one, drink another and lifestyles even more. Far from home and expectations they may had lived under (get a job, get married, have a family), many got a chance to explore their sexual feelings.

One of my favorite photo books is At Ease: Navy Men of WWII. These guys were out at sea for months at a time. It is not hard to imagine that physical contact between them would become common. Not just sexual; lots of the photos show guys relaxing, just laying side by side, or in some contact with each other. As humans, we feel the need to touch others.

Naturally this lead some to sexual relations with other men; after all, these guys were in their early to mid-twenties and just as horny as you guys are today. It was just there, unmentioned and tolerated as a phase. But they got over it once they returned home to their girls or wives (supposedly).

One other thing men fighting abroad may have learned was riding motorcycles. It was quick method of communications within the services. A lot of servicemen would probably never have learned to ride if it wasn't for their time in the service.

So, when guys came home from WWII, some had experienced gay sex or at least developed an affinity to being with guys. The late 40s and 50s were not a time of accepting homosexuality. These guys had to live in their closets.

Which is where our leather community sprang from: those guys that had learned to ride while in the service and continued to ride when they got back. They met other guys that served and shared experiences. So, they would ride together, forming clubs with guys they could relate to, who shared their experiences. And sometimes, far from others, they would engage in man-on-man sex.

When I come to Chicago, we had a few gay bikers’ clubs. Others like myself that did not ride were drawn to the camaraderie, the friendship, the "family" of these clubs. Other leather clubs formed for those that did not ride but felt the kinship of leather.

You didn't just drop in, you had to be invited in. It was not that hard. These clubs hung out in bars like the old Gold Coast, The Redoubt, Snake Pit and eventually Touché. The back bar at Touché is called The Club Room and the walls are covered with the colors of the various clubs that have called Touché home or out of town clubs that we have supported over the years.

You could meet these leathermen and get to know them. If they felt you were their kind of guy, they would invite you to join them and once they felt you earned the right, they would present you with patches of their colors to wear on your leather.

As a member of one of these clubs, the other members were your brothers, your family. You take care of your family. If they needed a roof over their head, they bunked with you. If they were sick, you cared for them. Helped them find a job if needed. A lot of times it meant caring for those of other clubs, too. Being part of this community meant you would step up and take care of each other.

This is Touché’s 45th year. My 45th year as being part of Chicago’s leather community. And neither Touché nor I can stand by and do nothing when we have this threat to our community. Leather stepped up when AIDS hit in the 80s. Unfortunately, we lost a huge part of our leather community at that time. A lot of those club colors represent a whole group of 30-40 guys that were wiped out by AIDS. None of them are still with us, but we will never forget them.

Those of us that made it through AIDS were a part of the efforts to respond to AIDS. Just feeding folks brought us Open Hand. They made meals every day and delivered them to guys at home. Many early volunteers were leathermen and they still volunteer today through Open Hand's GroceryLand Pantry.

Being too sick to work and keep a roof over your head led to Chicago House. We raised money and bought a house, again led by a leatherman Thom Dombkowski. Now Chicago house provides roofs for PWAs across the city.

Figuring out what was causing this disease that was killing our community meant Howard Brown ramping up, from STD testing and treatment to research and healthcare, led by another leatherman, Harley McMillan.

The last couple of years brought us covid and we responded, urging all to take care, get tested, vaccinated and caring for those afflicted. Now we've got monkeypox. Just as we have in the past, we are doing what we can to take care of not just our family but our entire community. Because we are leather. It's not a fashion choice, it is how we define ourselves, the identity of the bar and how I see myself.

Whether you are leather or not, get the damn vaccine. Yes, case numbers have fallen, but it is still out there. If we just ignore, it will rear its ugly head again and we will be back to square one. The shots are free. We offer them every week. If you don't want to come here, can't get here, then get vaccinated wherever you are. Demand it. We did, and that is how we are able to host our Vax Parties week after week.

I want all my P(r)icksters out there to get vaccinated against monkeypox. You wouldn't be reading this unless you are a horny bastard, too. Let's keep this from going any further. While you wait for your second dose and immunity to develop, you can safely grab my P(r)ick this week and stay horny with me.

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

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Head Trips (D00413) - On DVD and Streaming

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Chain Reactions (D00437) - On DVD and Streaming

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David's Chicago Sexual Underground 9/2/22 & P(r)ick of the Week

Chicago - BijouBlog
David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

Greetings P(r)icksters!

Been pretty busy at the bar, still training new staff. I have also been hosting regular vax parties for this monkeypox mess. Lots of guys have been coming round getting a shot and thanking me for doing this.

When I came to Chicago back in 1976, I checked out several bars, looking to make new friends in a new town. Then I walked into a leather bar and after a while, I found what I was looking for.

Back then, gay bars were pretty much low key. They didn’t draw attention to themselves, and they were easy targets for police raids and harassment. A gay press was just developing at the time, so finding where bars were in any town wasn’t easy, more word of mouth.

Folks could be friendly in most gay bars but when things went down, a bar raid for example, patrons would dash off and look for another bar to hang out at. The concept of a cohesive community was not quite there yet. One bar getting the spotlight and folks ran to another, being as they were just as much in a closet.

The thing about leather bars back then was the leather clubs that called them home. I’ve talked before about how biker clubs formed up after our GIs returned from Europe and abroad from WWII. These close-knit clubs looked out for their club brothers and, when needed, brothers in other clubs. They were my mentors that brought me to this scene and taught me that we take care of each other as no one else would.

These clubs did a lot of support for members like helping them put a roof over their head or a find job to pay for it. When one got sick, their brothers would take care of them. And a lot of times, when it was serious, say a major accident that had one laid up for a spell, they all stepped up to help. Early fundraisers were just for this, paying someone’s rent or car payment.

As our community grew, so did the leather circle, and our financial support went towards early community efforts. One of my favorite memories from that era was a Toys For Tots Show the various clubs came together and put on. Image a bunch of bearded bikers singing, dancing, some in drag, while raising thousands of dollars for a worthy cause. (Unfortunately, the Salvation Army returned our donation because it came from gay men; why I never put a nickel in one of their kennels)

Most people these days are familiar with Howard Brown Health Center here in Chicago. A huge operation, with clinics across the city providing medical care for LGBTQ+ folks from the northside to the southside and west. But back in 1976, Howard Brown’s focus was on STDs in the gay community. You got a drippy dick, you went to Howard Brown for a swap and a shot. They operated in the basement of a church, one a day a week. There was no charge, just a place to receive care that gay people were fearful to ask for from their doctor or city health clinics. After all, we were just a bunch of queers and because we had sex with other men, we deserved what we caught.

We would host tag nights at the bar where we’d ask for a buck at the door so Howard Brown could get the medical supplies and penicillin to treat us. We did that for Howard Brown and other small groups trying to serve the gay community as it grew.

When HIV/AIDS struck in the 80s, Howard Brown grew from a doctor and nurse in a church to one of the leading efforts to figure out what was causing this unknown disease that was killing gay men. Early on, the leather community put a lot of effort towards support for Howard Brown’s work to help us survive.

Covid came around a couple of years ago and we stepped up to educate and take care of those stricken with this disease. Even during shutdowns, we would check up on each other, get friends to doctors when needed, make soup, shop for others and encourage others to pitch in and get vaccinated.

Now it is monkeypox. Just like HIV/AIDS, this one hit gay people first. It started spreading around before we knew it was here. But, we are leathermen and we take care of our own. That’s why the only gay bars in town hosting vaccination events are the leather bars. Not one other gay bar here has done so.

It is what I have been taught and shown, and as a leatherman we will continue to take care of our own. Even those that have never stepped inside the bar before. Of course, I am making sure they understand Touché is the only bar hosting weekly vax parties, suggesting maybe they should check out what we are all about. More than just hot kinky sex.

So for all my horny bastards out there reading this blog, get a pox vax. It’s two shots, four weeks apart. Once you do that, in another two weeks your body will develop the immunity you need to avoid getting monkeypox. Six weeks and we can put this mess to rest and end the spread.

While you are waiting out those six weeks, grab my P(r)ick and keep it hot.

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

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Pictures from the Black Dance images
Pictures from the Black Dance (DK0047) - On DVD and Streaming

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Mr. Chicago Leather Contest 1988 (D00568) - On DVD and Streaming

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