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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Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD

By Josh Eliot

 

Free and easy is how I’d describe the good ole days in San Francisco (1980 - 1988). I embraced the idea of that kind of world, even though living in 1980s San Francisco was like being in a bubble, you really felt the world would be a better place if that euphoria spread outside the Bay Area’s borders. You couldn’t go anywhere in the city that wasn’t sexually charged, lust was in the air. I can’t imagine San Francisco being as free spirited today, I really hope I’m wrong.

I moved to San Francisco at 17 from Rhode Island, and after my stint at the San Francisco Art Institute and prior to starting with Catalina Video, I worked mostly as an insurance claims clerk. At age 19 or 20 I worked on the 32nd floor of the 50 California Street Building in the financial district, opening mail, typing, filing and assisting the claims adjusters. The office was 60 / 40 with the majority being gay men in their late 20s. The office did not have a general manager at the time so the person in charge was a supervisor named Jackie. Jackie loved gay boys and never passed up hiring one when they walked in the door for an interview. My first Friday, Fritz, a claims adjuster, walked up and told me: “Work is over for the week and for the last hour everyone hangs out in the break room.” Jay, the other clerk, nodded and said, “Everybody drinks vodka screwdrivers, except for me because I’m not 21 yet, but Peter will sneak us some.”

Talk about free and easy! I’m sure home office in New York would not have approved of such behavior, so I’m not mentioning this major company’s name. Sure enough, Peter and Fred, two claims adjusters, were pouring vodka and orange juice when I got into the break room where everyone drank and socialized. The gay guys would hold court while the straight ladies ate it all up! Mostly everyone took the train to and from work so there weren't issues with driving. Peter did sneak Jay and I our drinks and I’m sure Jackie knew we were lying to her when we said we were only drinking orange juice. Everyone left work for the weekend on a “high note.” This went on for weeks and only ended when a new general manager was assigned to the office. Our Fridays hit a road block.

As weeks passed, I grew closer to the guys at the office, especially Fritz and Fred. Now on Friday’s directly after work, we all went to Sutter's Mill, a gay bar in the financial district where everybody was in a suit and tie or office attire. It was fucking hot! I equate it to a uniform fetish, but it was a three piece suit fetish! Very sexy. I used my friend’s Rhode Island ID to get into bars until I was 21 and it always worked, always. Sutter’s Mill really was a site to behold, the place was packed and more often than not the adjusters would hook up and leave with some hot number. By 7:00pm the place was dead so we would normally head over to the Castro for dinner and more drinks.

 

Josh Eliot at 17, 50 California St., Sutter's Mill

Josh Eliot at 17, 50 California St., Sutter's Mill

 

Fritz was really courting me and I fell head over heels for him. We had regular dates and hook-ups for months, but it was like pulling teeth for him to ever say we were “boyfriends.” He was the ultimate free spirit with “hippy-ish” behavior, like not being able to put labels on things. It was annoying as all hell and after a while his free and easy attitude was turning me off because I wanted acknowledgment of our relationship. The situation was complicated by the fact that he was secretly still in love with his current roommate Sam, his ex-lover that he never got over.

Fred, on the other hand, was a fun party boy who lived in Marin County and commuted over the Golden Gate to work. My frustration with Fritz led me to acting out and I started doing things I never would have if Fritz had only acknowledged and nurtured our relationship. Every now and again Fred and I had occasional hook ups at a little motel on the avenues. I knew whenever he offered to drive me home from the bar on Fridays it was because he really wanted to drive something else home. I always said yes to that ginormous Italian sausage and made sure to keep it a secret from all the others at work, because everyone knew I was seeing Fritz (everyone except Fritz, evidently).

 

Josh and Fred (L) and Josh, Fred and Fritz (R)

Josh and Fred (L) and Josh, Fred and Fritz (R)

 

One summer, Fritz was back-packing across Europe and it just so happened my brother was flying me to England to watch tennis in Wimbledon with him. When Wimbledon ended, I met up with Fritz and we traveled through England and France. I imagined that this would be the turning point in our “relationship” from fuck buddies to something more. We had some great, romantic times but once we got to Nice things fell apart. The entire trip he kept disappearing into bars' back rooms and I really hadn’t said anything. This was my last night before heading back to England to fly home while he continued through Italy. I wanted to stay in but he wanted to go to Blue Boy, a gay bar. When we got there, upon entering, this really hot bouncer was staring me down. Fritz and I danced, drank, and had a good time until he disappeared into a back room. When he came back to the table I was pissed and went off to the bathroom. In line I looked over to the bouncer who again was staring at me; he motioned me over. I walked over to him and he said something to me in French. When I spoke back in English he just reached down, pulled me into him and started making out with me. He then pulled me over to the bathroom line in front of two private bathrooms. The door opened and he pushed me in with him. It was intense, he was hot and hungry and we had full on sex! People were pounding on the door and he yelled back at them in a rough streetwise tone, which made things all the more hot! Afterwards, I went back to the table and told Fritz exactly what happened to get a reaction and make him jealous. He told me he thought it was great and was happy I had that experience. That was the final straw for me, I couldn’t believe he was not upset and ended things with him there and then. We were done.

I was bitter and distraught when I took the sleeper train back to England. My heart was broken but I was determined to put him out of my thoughts. Shortly after returning to England I went to a pub for a stiff drink where I met three guys from Scotland. They were all handsome, but I particularly hit it off with the shaved headed one. They took me with them to the nightclub Heaven where we danced and drank the night away. From Heaven, we all took a taxi to their apartment in some really random part of London. I was finally free of Fritz, and because of my recent behavior and the fact I went home with three Scottish guys, some would say I was easy. Like the song says: Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD and I was back to doing just that!

 

Blue Boy in Nice, Heaven in London

Blue Boy in Nice, Heaven in London

 

 

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

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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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LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ONE'S GAY TWENTIES

“His friends decided that Ken had fallen into the trap that had snared so many beautiful gay men. In his twenties, he had searched for a husband instead of a career. When he did not find a husband, he took the next best thing – sex – and sex became something of a career. It wasn't love but at least it felt good; for all his time at the Cinderella ball, the prince had never arrived.” – Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On

I've heard about (and read about) that adolescence for males especially extends until one's late twenties these days. Now, these days is kind of vague, so maybe I am thinking more about millenials, but the reasons for this extended adolescence aren't just psychological stereotypes (guys take longer to grow up than girls, and some never do), but also economic. The rising cost of living and increased compeition for jobs that can launch one into a secure middle-class income are factors that often keep the guys living in their parents' basement playing video games.

The game many guys played in their twenties in the 1970s was the sex game (not that guys haven't done it since time immemorial). Guys had been playing it more brazenly in the 1960s, and many women played along, and as they did so, started to make their own rules, and the win did not always have to occur before an altar.

Gays and lesbians, who for so long had to play in the closet, emerged militantly in the heady days of the seventies, especially in urban meccas. Some lesbians found a home (spiritually and physically) in various waves of feminism, but many gay men fled their tastefully decorated homes and entered palaces – sex palaces, bathhouses, movie theaters, back rooms of bars. I am not saying that no one was looking for love, but the love that used to dare not speak its name was more often than not during that time more like a moan in an orgy room. It was as if men became fertile, and multiplied (not in the procreative sense).
 

Gay men in the 1970s dancing

Steamworks, Chicago bathhouse poster

In the quote above, men like Ken (one of the first victims of AIDS), certainly grew from strength to strength, but for many men at that time, coming out still mean choosing between one's sexuality and a career. Thus the gay life became for many guys a sex life in specific, segregated milieu. Their Land of Goshen was ironically a release from bondage. Until the plague …

When AIDS started smiting these men down like that last plague of Egypt, gay men rallied together, but there was no singular Moses like Harvey Milk to guide them. They survived united, and survived divided. For a while the sex palaces remained open, despite an uncaring Pharaoh like Reagan and his Moral Majority priests with their rhetoric of sin and punishment. Yet that plague, with its relentless physical linkage of sex and death, changed everything.
 

AIDS activists hodling banner that says Fighting for Our Lives

Ken's generation saw death daily; the succeeding generation (in their twenties during the height of the plague) saw death, but many of them survived to explore and enjoy if not a cure, then a way to live, not die. The life was not just medical, but eventually legal, climaxing when Love Won in 2015. 2015 brought out the monogamous couples who had found their princes even before the days of liberation and the plague.
 

Person holding gay pride flag at protest in D.C.

Did the plague in some way make many gay men grow up? Not that gay sex, or any sex for that matter, is in itself an immature, irresponsible act? By its very nature it breaks boundaries, liberates, and orgasm is “the little death.” Growing up is experiencing sex, but maturing is understanding sex and the wisdom to know when sex and love intersect, and when they don't.

For gay men, this process was always more fraught because it did not conform to the social norms that heterosexual men and women usually conform to: in one's twenties, one finds a mate and a career, not always in that order, and it's no longer an either/or proposition. One produces children. One's career climaxes as one's children grow up. The cycle continues. Within that norm, one can usually choose.

Yet gay men who lived in the 1970s, who had lacked so many choices, plunged into a world with a bewildering variety of choices. Now with other freedoms (and in this day and age, still endangered) available beyond sexual choice, are gay men in their twenties at another crossroads?

I just hope many of them realize their prince is not an image on Grindr, and that even the image of a prince doesn't last. But if you are lucky, your prince may grow up to be a king.
 

Grindr profile image
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