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

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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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