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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Blue Collar

Ed Wiley in Rough Trades
Ed Wiley (aka Myles Longue) in Jack Deveau's Rough Trades

When I was younger, much younger, I slept with a guy who one could safely say was blue collar. He worked at various constructions jobs (mostly unskilled). He was hot (muscles, beard, deep voice, big hands) and he was gay, and he was kinky. What more could one ask for? In fact, at a gathering I held when I was sleeping with him off and on, a cultured friend of mine who sold suits to mostly white collar executives met him. He blurted out to me, “You slept with him! Can I touch you?” He meant it jokingly, but I think much was implied in his reaction, much about class, education, sexual orientation, and how that all ties into how we view what is masculine.
 

Hot Truckin' before/after color correction images from upcoming restoration
Before/after color correction from Bijou's NEW restoration of Tom DeSimone's Hot Truckin' starring Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers as truck drivers

Where does the term blue collar even come from?
 

Hot trucker

The term blue collar was first used in reference to trades jobs in 1924, in an Alden, Iowa newspaper. The phrase stems from the image of manual workers wearing blue denim or chambray shirts as part of their uniforms.
 

1930s men's work uniforms

Some blue collar workers have uniforms with the name of the business and/or the individual's name embroidered or printed on it.

Historically the popularity of the color blue among manual laborers contrasts with the popularity of white dress shirts worn by people in office environments.

The blue collar/white collar color scheme has socioeconomic connotations, which comes from the British class system, especially as it transmuted because of the Industrial Revolution.

The people who worked in factories were called the working class, and they varied in degrees of respectability, ranging from the skilled laborers who could afford a small house and raise a church-going family (think Archie Bunker types), to unskilled day laborers at the bottom of the social ladder.

These individuals, because of their lack of education, were stereotyped as coarse and ill-mannered, but also as physically strong and big-hearted; perhaps Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners exemplifies the best and the worst of this image.
 

Ralph Kramden
Ralph Kramden

The people who ran the factories and eventually created the big corporations of the Gilded Age and beyond, combined with the older, genteel professions of teachers and doctors, became the white collar middle and upper middle classes, and at the top of that ladder, the nouveau riche.

This structure pretty much held for a long time in the United States, but once factory jobs moved to China and other places because of globalization, a new working class replaced it, working lower paid service and retail jobs jobs, and also in office jobs, ostensibly white collar, but working mostly as servants to upper middle class and upper class high level professionals like lawyers and corporate executives.
 

Robert Rikas in American Cream
Robert Rikas as a power-hungry white collar executive degrading his employee in the brilliant and satircal 1972 gay porn classic, American Cream

Now, how do gay men fit into this social picture? The stereotype of gay men is definitely not the “rough” guy who works with his hands, but the effeminate artsy-fartsy queen who thrives in refined cultural environments, the “sissy.” If you weren't out in that way and consigning yourself to stereotypical gay professions like acting and hairdressing, you conformed to the social structure above, and if you were in the working class, you definitely didn't proclaim your sexual orientation.
 

Henk Van Dijk and Garry Hunt as a ballet dancer and a trucker in Ballet Down the Highway
A ballet dancer (Henk Van Dijk) & a closeted truck driver (Garry Hunt) having an affair in Jack Deveau's 1976 film, Ballet Down the Highway

Thus, in the book Maurice, the aristocrat Maurice is really taking a risk by loving Alec Scudder, a gamekeeper, much below him in social class.

So, what was a gay construction worker or trucker to do?

Hide their true selves, it seems. But note, so many gay porn fantasies involve these blue collar guys in places like truck stops and construction sites, but how much are they the projected fantasies of white collar gay guys who fetishize the conventional masculinity of these straight guys?
 

Vintage ads for Grease Monkeys and Hardhat
Hard working mechanics and construction workers in the vintage Jaguar releases, Grease Monkeys and Hardhat

Tellingly, we saw this projection become dominant very soon after the initial liberation of Stonewall, when the gay clone look involved construction boots, denim, and keys hanging from belts.
 

Richard Locke in Cruisin' the Castro
Richard Locke, the ultimate blue collar man of '70s gay porn, in Cruisin' the Castro

And of course, one of the Village People guys was a construction worker.
 

Village People construction worker

Thus, in my case, it was almost a status symbol that I really slept with a real blue collar guy (I also slept with a fireman).

Neither relationship worked out, and it wasn't because of the social gap.

Yet, since the 1990s, when those relationships occurred, some social distinctions have blurred, but not all. Even in the increasingly mainstream LGBTQ community, upper middle class wealthy white educated males have wielded the most power and influence, ostensibly for the good of all in a diverse community, but the dynamic mirrors the class structure of the society as a whole.

The Veda Pierces (the snobbish daughter of Mildred Pierce) who looked down upon dollar days and men who wear uniforms (today what many retail employees have to wear) still exist, but they come from all social classes as the world of cyberspace creates a level playing field for everyone.
 

Veda Pierce
Veda Pierce

Yet, the world of Twitter can create identities that don't correspond with one's real life social status, and thus the opposite of the above can occur: an Amazon delivery person can show more class and education and insight than a nouveau riche person, the most powerful man in the world, who embodies the worst stereotypes of the blue collar worker every time he tweets.

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