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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Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END

By Josh Eliot

 

When I read Will Seagers' blog last week, it got me reminiscing about my years in San Francisco and, even though I was there nearly a decade after Will, I fell in love with the city just as much. So… Flashback, 1981. When I ended my second blog, FRANK ROSS: The Boss, I was still working for the Screening Room Theater in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and the summer of 1981 was approaching. It’s a little fuzzy as to whether the theater had an ownership change to Savages at this point, but I do remember Frank Ross being in a very different head space. One day on his way to work, Frank was walking down Jones Street and, when he was just a block away, a man jumped from the top of a building and landed not more than five feet in front of him. This messed him up immensely, and justifiably so. I was in the ticket booth when he came in trembling and with a face full of tears as he told me what happened. I jumped up from the stool and just hugged him, while he shook uncontrollably. It took a long time for Frank to get over what had happened; some things you just can’t “un-see.” My on-again, off-again quickies with TK, the hot stripper from the theater, had settled into the off-again stage permanently as he became involved with an equally hot blond stripper more around his age.

 

Savages Theater, formerly the Screening Room Theater

Savages Theater, formerly the Screening Room Theater

 

I was 18 years old and could count on one hand how many sexual trysts I'd had. I didn’t count the customers at the theater who would cruise me from the lobby while I sat in the ticket booth. Occasionally when the coast was clear I would step back into the theater, during a ten-minute break, and let one of them blow me if they were cute enough. That didn’t count as sex in my book, just customer service at it’s finest. I was still settling into the fact that I was now out of the closet and not very experienced. On one of my days off, I decided to throw caution to the wind and set off for a day trip to Lands End. Months earlier, TK and the strippers took me there after a night at the Trocadero Transfer Disco and filled me in on its history. There was a nude beach you could hike to on a path that started at the Cliff House and old Sutro Bathhouse. It was a downhill trail all the way to a cove, and supposedly along the way there were men in the bushes going at it.

I’m embarrassed to say, I put on my favorite corduroy brown cut off, “short shorts” and headed to the beach, knapsack attached, on the #38 Geary street bus to Lands End. The ride there was uneventful and when I arrived, I basically used my “gay-dar” to follow a group of men to help me find the right path. It worked like a charm, and before I knew it I was on the trail headed to the cove. What a “wonderland” of excitement, as the trail did not disappoint. Clusters of men in circle jerks, blowjobs and more. Single men sporting big bulges, with the help of cock-rings, inviting the passers by to have a feel. I bypassed all of them, probably because I was too intimidated, and spent the day at the cove. I spread my blanket, got some sun, went up to my waist in the frigid water and at one point talked with a guy who came up and sat with me. We exchanged numbers, but I never called him. Not really my fantasy Lands End experience, but I wasn’t exactly an aggressor either.

Around 4pm, I hiked back up the trail and to the bus stop to catch the #38 Geary home to the Tenderloin. The bus was packed, standing room only, because everyone was leaving the coast. It wasn’t until we got several blocks into our trip that things took a turn. At one of the stops, a tall gentleman came aboard and shimmied his way through the isle where we were all standing there crammed against each other. I thought to myself, OMG this guy looks just like JOHN BECK. John Beck starred alongside Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier in what was my favorite book and movie of the time. The Other Side of Midnight was a #1 bestseller and hit movie with very controversial content, and I just loved it! Anyway, John Beck, to me, was the hottest thing since sliced bread.

 

John Beck with Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier

John Beck with Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier in The Other Side of Midnight

 

I must have been gawking at him because on his way down the aisle our eyes met and he ended up stopping right next to me. The bus continued on its journey and he kind of just stood there, one arm on the bar to keep balance and the other arm holding a book at his waist. He refused to make eye contact, just kept staring off into space, when suddenly (and this was impressive to me) he started rubbing his knuckles back and forth over my crotch, using the book he was holding as a shield. All the time not making contact but knuckling me non-stop which, at 18 years of age, immediately caused me to get a full boner. I was mortified when I saw a lady in one of the seats looking at me with judgment on her face because these shorts were so fucking short my underwear was pushing below the fringe, exposing my cloth covered boner. Oh the depravity! But it wasn’t enough to make me to move away from those knuckles. Finally, my own personal John Beck was making eye contact with me and cracked a very sexy smile. I was jumping out of my skin, but no words were exchanged. At some point seats opened up and we both took separate seats, still eyeballing each other. We both rode the bus until the end of the line and it wasn’t until we un-boarded that we first spoke. I told you I was shy.

 

Crowded #38 Geary bus

Crowded #38 Geary bus

 

We both over-shot our stops, had a laugh about it, then he invited me to his place. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. All too often when someone pops their cherry, like I did that day, it’s an uneventful situation. This one had it all: the anticipation, the courting, the foreplay (in silence), then the foreplay in bed followed by my first time bottoming. There was even a follow-up dinner date at his place, but that was it, I moved on. Of course, the first time hurt like hell and I really didn’t enjoy most of it, but he was very sweet and even bathed me in his tub afterwards because I was trembling. I guess it’s normal for middle-aged men to bathe their children!

I’m not saying, “Don’t Wear Short-Shorts on the #38 Geary to LANDS END,” but if you do, you might just get your anal cherry popped! (Again.)


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?

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Give Me a Hand...

posted by Madam Bubby

 

I remember on this Canadian sex advice show Talk Sex With Sue how the host encouraged a woman to give her husband a hand job (while he watched porn). Her advice seemed eminently sensible; one, because rather than the woman complaining her husband watched porn and masturbated, she could participate in the event, and two, this activity certainly added variety to their sex life.

Let's face it: not everyone is necessarily turned on or can even orgasm through penetrative sex. From what I have read, most women don't orgasm from “the act,” often needing clitoral stimulation (orally, manually, or with toys). And the male g-spot (or “p-spot”), the prostate, is often stimulated in the fuck bottom, and can bring the receiver to orgasm, but what if one doesn't probe it the right way, or what if one needs additional stimulation to climax?

And if you don't want to orgasm with your only partner as your own Mr. Hand, why not find the sexy hand of a Mr. Right to bring you ever so slowly, even “edge” you to that climax? And depending on your position, you might even be able to admire other parts of his beautiful body, because you aren't bent over. The possibilities are limitless.

Beyond the factor of necessity, many people enjoy manual stimulation for its own sake. Imagine being tied down and worked over by several hands (much like in a segment of Goodjac Too, whose director Michael Goodwin made a series of movies focused on handjobs). I am getting carried away and must stop. Wait, no, don't stop!

 

Hands groping Keith Ardent on the Goodjac Too cover

Hands groping Keith Ardent in Goodjac Too

 

On the subject, here at BijouWorld, we just released the hot 1981 Joe Gage classic, Handsome (typically originally written as HANDsome). Though blowjobs and cum-eating are also plentiful in this film, it (as the title suggests) focuses on the eroticism of handjobs and jacking off, full of circle jerks, mutual masturbation, and all things manual.

 

Handsome poster image and screenshots of mutual masturbation and jacking off

Handsome images

 

For an extensive analysis and historical coverage of the making of Handsome, check out the in depth Ask Any Buddy podcast episode on it, which goes into Joe Gage's fascinating connection to the 1980-established jack off club, the New York Jacks. (The still-active New York Jacks' website also touches on this connection.) And look over our blog on jack off clubs for a little more historical and cultural context.

Find Handsome on DVD and streaming through Bijou!

 

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Madam Bubby is Damn Mad: Ageism in the Gay Community


Posted on craigslist, missed connections:

Thursday night it was the backyard at Manhandler. You were sucking guys off with your shirt off. You smoked a lot. That's nasty by the way. You seemed to be in my proximity or in my face the whole time I was there. You were inside fucking with your tired little cell phone (probably seeking even more cum from the web) and I got a good look at your face in the light. No wonder you lurk around dark sex venues. You are at least 55, maybe 60, wrinkled, fugly, and that Sean Hayes hairstyle has GOT to go. Please, do us all a favor, and take the summer off from sex. Don't come to water sports parties or bear naked or anything else. Stay home, or whatever the fuck. And the next time you try to elbow your way into the middle of my sex with someone, I'm going to give you a swift kick into your dried up decayed little balls. You know who you are, the one who looks like Jack from Will and Grace, and wears that ridiculous half-lopsided little harness thing sometimes. Go pickle yourself, hon.

Manhandler Saloon

Reply to the above: OMG I know exactly who you're describing. He is everywhere!!!! And so rude and will try to horn in on your action. He needs to stay home for about 20 years until sex no longer matters lol.

I am damn mad. I understand the poster's need to vent on one level, but I actually felt sorry for the person this individual was complaining about.

I wasn't surprised by the poster's crass materialism (”tired little cellphone”) and of course, obviously, the insults about the person's age and physical appearance. Such unabated viciousness seems to be common these days in a culture of narcissism and entitlement.

And let's face it: these have always been problems with ageism in the gay community, as well as the rampant discrimination against those who don't possess an ideally perfect youthful body. Even in vintage Hollywood, an actress over 35 was over the hill.

And the prejudice against age and those who don't match up to certain physical standards has escalated in a world where sex is available on a phone app, bodies can be photoshopped, and Kim Kardashian is a role model.

Gay body issues


Regarding the reason for the vent, I do understand the etiquette about not “horning” in on public sex scenes, but rather than posting something so hurtful anonymously (the coward's way out), how about speaking kindly to the person and perhaps explaining the etiquette, for a start?

(But then, in the middle of a circle jerk, counseling might not come to mind.)


As I said above, I feel deeply sorry for this person who was the target of such vitriol. Loneliness … sexual addiction … who knows what drives this person to behave this way? I think his fate is the fate of so many unattached older gay men, many of whom don't know how to develop relationships (or, even more sadly, they could be lonely survivors of the AIDS epidemic of the eighties) because their only exposure to gay life was “dark sex venues,” which before today's environment of acceptance, were often the only places a gay person could connect?


Lonely older gay man

And finally, to the person who posted that craiglist ad: Who are you to judge? You also seem to frequent these “dark sex venues.”

 

I don't think I would be wrong in predicting that you will be that person in about twenty years. Karma's a bitch, bitch!

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Jack Off Clubs

Circle Jerk


The circle jerk. Supposedly boys have done it (regardless of orientation) since time immemorial as a ritual of initiation. (I never experienced it, but I do remember pissing contests outside with this one kid I was later forbidden to play with. How did my mother find out?) 

This underground jack off culture was immortalized in the “Four in Hand” quartet, a playlet from the controversial Oh! Calcutta!, an evening of short humorous playlets about sex that opened off Broadway in 1969. The “four in hand” (also the title of a classic Nova porn film) is a knot sometimes used in men's neckties and ends up being a pun for a collective jerk off. It's interesting that the guys doing it in the playlet are all ostensibly straight (women's breasts appear on the screen at one point, because whatever the guys think of shows up via a “telepathic transmitter”). But the guy running the scene is clear that it's a competition to see who cums first. Men will always be at heart (and in their groins) boys.

When gay men began to enjoy the fruits of their sexual liberation, they began to organize formal and informal jack off clubs. Some even became “respectable” and took on the trappings of not for protfit social clubs, with newsletters, weekend retreats, fundraisers, and websites. I would also think they would have become more popular as safe sex became a life and death matter during the height of the AIDS epidemic. The New York Jacks, founded in 1980, are still around. Seems like they've made the transition to the Internet Age (there's a message board and a Twitter account). Though, of course, the point is live cock play … (But given gay gym culture, one can go to the locker room for a jack off and then report about it on craigstlist missed connections!) 

 

New York Jacks

The New York Jacks are still bucking these trends, as they still seem to follow the practices of “patch” or leather clubs. There's a membership application one can download, for example (they seem to be up and running in person with vax cards), and an emphasis on both etiquette as well as alleviating anxieties about what to expect at such a function. I guess when all one needs to do is turn on a phone to enjoy a cybersex jack off these days, perhaps social anxiety is more of an issue. I mean, you don't want to be the one who gets the booby prize because he doesn't shoot.

Gay Social Network

When I was younger, not that much younger, but still, youthful, I remember being invited to the Chicago Jacks (defunct, as far as I know). No, I am not going to divulge what happened to me (and it didn't involve jerking off), but I did return regularly, not so much for the action (interestingly enough, this group, which met informally, allowed oral and anal sex; many groups do not). I enjoyed the company of some hot gay macho-looking guys and also what sometimes happened to me at my place after the meetings if I met a special someone. 

But the air of competition was there, everyone cheering on as the president of the group (God rest his soul) after much jiggling and wiggling finally emitted that gooey string of white stuff. Was it worth it? I feel exhausted remembering the scene. (And I remember that I had smoked a certain substance before attending; I usually did. Not necessarily an aphrodisiac.) 

I also remember they they used to hold meetings at a supposedly secret location. The night of their party, a police raid took place. So much for secrecy. Who told on them? 

I'm going to tell! I caught you! Is there still something of the shame and secrecy surrounding that sin of Onan going on here? Even if one doesn't subscribe to the conventional religious view that is sinful, it's still essentially a private, solo act. Perhaps that's the taboo here: what is private becomes a public competition. But in the midst of the public gaze, the eyes of the masturbator are closed. The private fantasy (maybe even that first image you discovered could make you hard) is still going on, but unlike in the Four in Hand playlet, the images are locked in the imagination and memory. The circle is unbroken. 

Source for some information here: Cornog, Martha. The Big Book of Masturbation. San Francisco: Down There Press, 2003. 

 

Jack off party from The Goodjac Chronicles
Huge jack off party from The Goodjac Chronicles, the first of Michael Goodwin's mid/late '80s videos focusing on masturbation and handjobs
 
Circle jerk scenes from Winners Circle and Seven in a Barn
Circle jerk scenes from Brentwood's Winners Circle and J. Brian's Seven in a Barn
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