DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: "Just Another Stroll Down the Castro!"

By Will Seagers

 

Hi guys, it's Matt Harper - AKA Will Seagers again! (I thought it might be fun to use my first porn name at least once in these blogs!) Today's excursion through the Castro will name several spots that I frequented and loved. I hope these names bring back pleasant memories to all! I wish I could devote time to every place on that street. But, that might be a book length blog! LOL! We will be strolling from Market and Castro to 19th and Castro... to help you set your bearings!

 

Castro Stree Theatre sign and neighborhood view

Castro Theatre sign and neighborhood view

 

First off, right near the corner of Market and Castro across from The Bank of America is Twin Peaks. A bar resplendent with a long history in the neighborhood, it is the first Gay marker welcoming you into The Castro. Although I didn't really hang out there myself, I did go in on occasion for one of their legendary Irish Coffees... a mainstay in all of San Francisco. This was another bar that used huge panoramic windows to take advantage of the colorful foot traffic vistas. Although it was a mixed and very dedicated clientele, it was primarily a more senior crowd.

 

Twin Peaks Bar

Twin Peaks Bar

 

Just a few doors down and before the marquee to the Castro Theater was Capricorn Coffee Shop. I think it was there that I first developed my love of good fresh ground "joe." My favorite part was sampling the more exotic blends and hurrying them home for my first partner and I to enjoy in our Chemex filtered coffee maker... very vogue at that time.

 

Mug from Capricorn Coffee Shop, SF

Mug from Capricorn Coffee Shop, SF

 

Since my co-author Josh Eliot did such an amazing job writing about the Castro Theater, I will be moving along down the street to one of the iconic stores of the Castro - Cliff's Variety! I don't think there was a soul in the entire city that didn't take advantage of the amazing and eclectic fare offered in that emporium. Anything from your basic hardware needs to more kinky bathroom accessories (personal hygiene products) would show up on their shelves before anyplace else in the country... I believe! Towards the end of the 80s they opened a separate linen shop right next door. Pricey as hell, but I am pleased to report that the two Collier & Campbell queen sheet sets I bought there are still in use at my home nearly 35 years later!

 

Cliff's Variety

Cliff's Variety

 

All American Boy. Just down from Cliff's Variety was a Mecca for very stylishly gay oriented guy's clothing. The styles were always very carefully chosen as this had to be one of the smallest clothing stores in town. I remember getting numerous pairs of pastel tennis socks there. You have probably seen some of these in porn flicks as a final part of disrobing before the "fun" begins. Also, I got some of my most cherished light weight and leather bomber jackets in that store... one of which is still hanging in my closet!

 

Tommy, my first partner and I both sporting All American Boy jackets!

Tommy, my first partner and I both sporting All American Boy jackets!

 

No visit to Castro Street would be compete without a stop at the restaurant Welcome Home. It is situated on the west side of Castro Street and it is one of the restaurants that is steeped with neighborhood history. The very first night I arrived in San Francisco, I had my first dinner at Welcome Home, a cozy, pleasant spot with very homestyle food. I'll never forget hearing one of my favorite songs, “Don't Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston as I ate that dinner.

 

Welcome Home Restauarant

Welcome Home Restauarant

 

Now, we'll cross 18th street - still on the east side of the street - to a very posh gift store, "Statements." A very handsome and wonderful man that I met on Fire Island back in the late 70s moved from NYC to open this one of a kind store. It was more of an Italo/Milan gallery than a store. I loved going in to browse... as I could hardly afford the prices! I was graced with a lovely birthday gift from that store from an adorable man and co-worker from the Badlands. It was a beautiful Italian glass vase shown in a picture below.

 

Vase from Statements

Vase from Statements

 

Right next door and still in operation is another iconic destination in the Castro - Anchor Oyster Bar. With its delicious seafood menu, you really needed to get there early if you wanted a table. If my memory serves me, I don't think that they took reservations!

 

Anchor Oyster Bar

Anchor Oyster Bar

 

Now, crossing the street to the west side and moving back towards 18th St., we find something very different in terms of what you might expect to find on such a high rent and busy street - Tommy's Plants! Remember this was the late 70s - early 80s. You would be hard pressed not find a home sporting some very exotic plants nor the ubiquitous macrame hanging planter! Lush potted palms, orchids, and all other rarities were to be found in this well stocked greenhouse. I have always been a bit of a "plant nut!" So, I was pretty much a regular in that place.

My last entry (or should I say entree) for this reminiscing stroll is "Maria's," a wonderful Northern Italian restaurant! It was located mid-block just down from Tommy's Plants. It featured a fairly large dining room where you could sit and eat really fine Italian cuisine and watch the cruising on the Castro. Or (when the weather was suitable) dine out behind the main dining room where there was a nicely planted garden area. A close friend Michael and I were some of Maria's earliest and most frequent diners. Maria would always manage to come over to our table to greet us and "dish!" Not only was she an excellent chef, but was charming and quite a hoot.

Even though I lived for most of my fifteen years in San Francisco in the South of Market district, I was always drawn to the Castro - for its charm... and of course for the boys!

 

Will Seagers in Cruisin' the Castro
Will Seagers in the film Cruisin' the Castro (DVD | Streaming)


Previous blogs in DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO series:
The Castro Theatre - Josh Eliot
The Badlands - Will Seagers
The Midnight Sun - Josh Eliot
Moby Dick Bar - 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
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Badlands
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: Moby Dick Bar

 

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Coffee?

Cup of coffee

Coffee is omnipresent. At least as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a world where stewardesses and waitresses always offered coffee and groups of adults drank cups of coffee (even at night). It usually came out of big metal cans, already ground. People made it at home in tall shiny percolators. Mrs. Olson spent her life in other people's homes encouraging coffee drinking. Badly made coffee meant social disgrace.
 

Mrs. Olson commercial

The beverage was the medium of socialization, its most minimal level. I don't know you that well, neighbor, but here's a cup of coffee. And you could always get coffee at places where life-changing boundary events occurred: hospitals and funeral homes. And you drank it from white styrofoam cups.

The coffee phenomenon in the West started out as an expensive treat for well-heeled gentry in late seventeenth century England, becoming the preferred drink of literary intelligentsia in what were called coffee houses. The less expensive it became (tea followed a parallel journey), the more widespread.
 

Sears department store exterior

Unfortunately, the coffee buzz was built on the sounds of whips cracking on plantations populated by African slaves. The same dynamic applies to sugar, which Americans used to add to their coffee in cute little packets (I remember ones that showed pictures of birds) or cubes before Starbucks entered the market with its elaborate lattes and coffee lingo of Tall and Grande. No more just black or sugar or cream choices.
 

Slaves in a coffee farm in Brazil

Yes, the coffee shop is back and has reached heights of gourmet splendor (and I might add still based on oppressive labor in areas where the beans are harvested), but its denizens are usually working on laptops, perhaps a place to at least get out of the house in an online world. No coffee shop has a right to exists without Wifi.
 

Person at Starbucks on a laptop

Person to person connections do occur in these settings, but often they seem to be first-time encounters. I spoke with you online. Let's meet for coffee.

I've never got meeting for coffee, unless it's an early morning meeting. At my house. In my bed. I've noticed many of the traditional brands like Folger's used to show commercials with couples in intimate settings drinking coffee. White couples in fluffy bathrobes lounging around on Pottery Barn-inspired home settings. It's the wholesome after-sex drink, like the once omnipresent after-sex cigarette.
 

Straight couple in white bathrobes drinking coffee in bed

This image is retro in some way, maybe, but also, especially when paired with the cigarette, there are some associations with loneliness. Picture the elderly woman in McDonald's drinking coffee, and then going outside to smoke. And going home to repeat that action.

What's scary is one could substitute elderly single gay man in the picture above.
 

Older man sitting alone at McDonald's drinking coffee

After all, the trendy young gays go out for coffee, and either drink it at the local Starbucks or, if they are really status conscious, at some hipster place that sells environmentally friendly beans in recyclable cups. The shop also doubles as a cat petting parlor and sells locally made tie-dye scarves. The gaylings also take their coffee home sometimes, because just being seen with the cup on the street gives them social status.

The only place you will see me with a cup of coffee is early in the morning, my best time for sex, which means you will have to spend the night at my house. And trust me, if I get really turned on, you'll need that cup of joe. Woof!

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