Honeymoon in the Palms

By Will Seagers

 

It was 1977, some four months since I had moved to San Francisco, and had proverbially tied the knot with my partner Tom. Of course, it was a personal bond since gay marriage didn't exist yet. Tom suggested we go to Palm Springs to celebrate Valentine's Day and have a Honeymoon! I had already heard that Palm Springs was a great place for a winter retreat and a "gay adventure" so I said sure!

Tom was already familiar with Dave's Villa Capri in Cathedral City... a legendary gay resort just outside Palm Springs. Little did I know what a surprise I was in for! So, we booked a flight on PSA and made our reservations for Dave's.

It was a great layout with a pool, sauna and well appointed "cabanas." Our cabana was centrally located between the pool and the sauna. One could feel the very heavy sexual undercurrent permeating the place. After settling in and having lunch with cocktails, a quick "bain de soleil" by the pool, some time in the sauna was next.

Will Seagers doing a handstand on Palm Springs trip, 1977

Will Seagers doing a handstand in between the pool and the sauna, 1977 (Photo Credit: Will Seagers)

 

Oh boy... lots of friendly commotion was to be had in there. It was like a combination of some of the best bath houses that I had ever been to. Tom walked in and found me "busy"... and joined right in. (We were a pair but had an open relationship.) The sauna was a 24 hour service... only shut briefly for maintenance.

After that busy afternoon of travel, arrival and getting acquainted with the place, a nap was in order (or so I thought!). Our arrival hadn't gone unnoticed. A knock on our door. A very handsome man smiled an introduced himself. Without hesitation in he came and we started a free for all on our wonderful king sized bed. (That bed sure did get a work out during our stay!)

The most magnificent memory I have was one afternoon, a few days into our stay, there were quite a few knocks on the door. We had piled up a HOT mass of writhing men with me on the top! In my most decadent self in the midst of all of this sexual play, I was looking out the window for more! This was the decadence of the 70s in its full glory! BTW, being recognized at this early point in my career was the probable cause for the body pile ups in our cabana.

There were notable guests during our stay at the "Villa," as well. Divine had to top the list. I immediately recognized her from Pink Flamingos and other early movies. Little did I know that my other half, Tom, knew her personally and had been a roommate in a commune together earlier in the 70s. Divine was at (or should I say in) the pool not in wig or makeup... but, in total character! She was eating potato chips in this pool and for a little shock value regurgitating them back out on the surface of the water! Although it doesn't come near the ending of Pink Flamingos with the poodle, it did leave an indelible memory nonetheless!

I am sad to say that I never made it back to the "Villa." But, this was one experience that I will never forget!
 

 

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

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Why be a Homosexual? (Enquiring Persons Want to Enjoy Sex)

posted by Madame Bubby

Jim Cassidy
Jim Cassidy

Sex Play, which appears to be an early 1970s gay porn “naughty picture book,” features an article by gay porn star Jim Cassidy entitled, “Why Be A Homosexual.” (Cassidy appears in several vintage gay porn flicks - Whatever Turns Ya On, A Deep Compassion, The Light from the Second Story Window, and Chapter 3 - available on DVD at those links and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com.)
 

Sex Play cover

But the piece needs some immediate context. This picture book's full title is Sex Play: A Marital Guide for the Gay Male, which is most interesting, because of course at that time gays could not get married, but it assumes that there will be gay couples in long-term but not legally recognized relationships: “homosexual marriages.”

And the forward/editorial by a doctor lends the contents of the book, mostly pictures of different sex acts and positions with some explanation about their benefits to a healthy sexual relationship; authority and credibility. For example, the good doctor proclaims, “There must be a basic reason for homosexuality – it's been with us since the beginning of time and at certain plateaus, during the world's existence, was actually approved of and considered highly aesthetic.”

Yes, true, but here's where pre-existent prejudices come to the fore, “A homosexual can be as masculine as any hetero male and sometimes even more so. If a list were published of the inverts in professional sports, every phase of government, teaching, scuba diving – you name it – it would certainly seem unbelievable.”
 

Men kissing in Sex Play

It's quite daring that he mentions gays as teachers, given the false claims that gay guys are pedophiles, but the use of the word invert really shows prejudice. More significantly, in the late 19th and 20th century, invert was equated with homosexuality, an inborn trait; male inverts inclined to traditionally female behaviors and interests, and vice versa.
 

Sex Play editorial

Yet this theory seems to refer more to transgender individuals, looking at it hindsight, but, more significantly in the context of the times, the good doctor feels the need to show that the homosexuals aren't necessarily “nellies” but also that the masculine ones are the ones who hide their true inversion by living in the closet with a male lover. Very much a product of the times, this view: sexual liberation was occurring, but in the long shadow of the closet, a closet which confused often sex with gender.

Thus, perhaps, the question about why one should be a homosexual in the last article of the publication, seems initially to be almost a tautology. This article begins with the usual arguments that no one knows why someone is a homosexual, but one can spot the nelly ones; it's the more macho ones need to stay underground. Cassidy does allow for a “middle” category, “architects, artists, dress designers, hair dressers, and yes, teachers and members of the clergy ...” Yes, anyone can be a homosexual, but are there degrees by which one behaves as one? The author seems to assume that homosexuality most probably equals, to a great extent, sexual inversion.

But, later in the piece, Cassidy makes some valid points about how young men, using the example of his own experiences in the small town of Delaney, are socialized to be around homoerotic situations, like locker rooms, but that these situations involve references to heterosexual behavior, boasting about “conquests,” even though these guys are experimenting with each other sexually in circle jerks and the like.
 

Why Be Homosexual article headline

Perhaps referring obliquely to his own experience, he claims that, “once in a while, again more often than you would think, a true homosexual will emerge ...” Or, maybe, the person discovers he is already is one, was born that way, but there's a caginess going on here about the issue, followed, though, by some honest insight about how heteronormative sex/gender roles are constantly pushed on male youth, with emotionally damaging results to a young gay guy.

But, ultimately, Cassidy argues, it's all about “wildly throbbing cocks or hot, pulsating cunts.” Even the guy who feels like he must have sex with a girl, but then finds his true sexual fulfillment in a male relationship, having experienced both, he implies that sexuality exists on a spectrum, with bisexuality as a flexible, not rigid, center, an “and” instead of an “or.”

Thus, the supposedly restrictive social norms of a small town, with its rigid patriarchal gender roles, can actually, even for both sexes (though it's clear that the men who end up the choices, not the women, a serious, even lethal inequality reflective of the time this piece was written), end up transmuting into, as Cassidy claims, a “new generation [that] doesn't believe in merely love for the opposite gender; they are including their own sex for what it's worth, a delightful, sexual experience, although opposite from early training, and professing love for all people.”

Anyone can be gay; anyone can be straight; anyone can be bi. Homo, hetero, invert, whatever. Enjoy! The cause and the end result are the same.
 

Sex Play quote and image
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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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Where Is the Gay Ghetto Today?

 

I was looking through a 1982 book (yes, that's a while ago) by Dennis Altman called The Homosexualization of America, which discusses the birth and development of a specific “gay culture,” tying it into developments in the 1960s and 1970s such as the women's movement and the marketing of sex in popular culture.

This description of a typical gay neighborhood from that period really got me thinking, especially from a twenty-first century perspective: 

“Such areas are marked by a certain sameness: they seem at first to be populated almost entirely by men under the age of forty-five, dressed in a uniform and carefully calculated style and dedicated to a hedonistic and high-consumption lifestyle. The main streets of what are often termed the ghettos—Christopher Street and Columbus Avenue in New York, North Wells in Chicago, Castro and Polk in San Francisco, Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles—are lined with shops selling high-camp postcards, coffee pots, pillowcases, T-shirts, and even food (in the ice cream parlors and “Erotic Bakeries”), with dim noisy, and smoke-filled bars, and with the new-style gay restaurants, full of potted palms, with large front windows and health-food menus.” 

 

1970s Chicago


Now, specifically from a Chicago context, North Wells is no longer a gay area (and hasn't been for some time), and Boystown on Halsted Street, though it does conform to some of the description above, seems to be watering down its wild gay nightlife image. Both areas have been solidly gentrified (think strollers, tourists, and sports bars) for some time now. In fact, many gays, having been priced out of these areas, have moved north to less expensive areas like Rogers Park, or, in the wake of increased social approval, moved to the suburbs where many of the jobs have gone and to raise their own families. 
 

Halsted Street, Chicago

 


 

 

 

But what gets me thinking even more deeply (after laughing at the visual in the quote above of “potted palms”) is the queston of whether physical geography really does matter anymore when we are thinking of a gay neighborhood or even a gay culture.

 

After all, it's obvious that connections via the Internet and social media can easily transcend physical limitations and socioeconomic boundaries. A gay guy living on a farm in a “red state” area might of course want to visit a gay-friendly urban area in a “blue state,” but if he's got Internet connectivity, he wouldn't feel as isolated. And urban gays are at at point now, where instead of hanging out at bars or cruising bathrooms, they can hook up instantaneously via Grindr. The “hedonism” Altman observed can end up becoming “virtual” rather than real! 

It's ironic though, as members of the LGBT community are trying to jump through (and quite successfully) one of the last social hurdles in their journey toward full acceptance as equal citizens, same-sex marriage, that face-to-face interaction seems to be an option, not a necessity. As what were once gay ghettos disappear, I do wonder if the very real and nitty-gritty sense of community which gave birth to Stonewall and banded together to confront the decimation of the AIDS crisis will disappear as well. 

 

1970s Chicago
 
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International Mr. Leather -- 34 Years!

It's always hard to believe when you start thinking about dates and chronologies and discover that 1979 was more than 30 years ago. Stonewall was more than 40 years ago! For me, I remember those years well. From the beginning of video, to all those bar contests, now there is the Internet with its fetish sites, and even Grinder. But International Mr. Leather, which is also known as IML, is still here; it's an event where you still meet like-minded people face to face. 


International Mr. Leather is the world's oldest international leather and fetish event on record. Started in the 1970s as a contest, "Mr. Gold Coast Leather," at a Chicago gay leather bar called the Gold Coast, under the aegis of its owner, Chuck Renslow, who still presides over this great event known as IML. In 1979, the event moved to a larger venue, and became International Mr. Leather, held at the Chicago Radisson Hotel. The first International Mr. Leather was David Kloss, one of twelve contestants.

 

Since that time period, the contest has mushroomed into an event of massive proportions. IML features a leather/fetish vendor market, the International Mister Bootblack Contest, and a multitude of sex/fetish parties hosted by various organizations, dances and socials, and related sexual, fetish, leather events. The contest reportedly brings in an estimated $10 million dollars to the city of Chicago in tourism revenue. In today's world gay culture has become more accepted and integrated into the larger society, this fetish event in itself has become more diverse with hardcore gay leathermen mix with "bicurious hipsters" and tourists.

 

But what really makes this year's event historic is the President's pronouncement on gay marriage. Related to this context, given that gay marriage is legal in several states, two of the contestants are married. Even more significantly, according to one source, two civil unions will occur this year at the event. This is exciting! 

Bijou Video and Theater this year once again will have a booth at the Vendor Mart. Stop by and check out our unique collection of vintage gay porn, some of which dates back to the 1960s, as well as to the origins of IML. As part of your Bijou IML experience, take a picture of yourself as a pornstar in one of our four porn scenes. To everyone this IML Memorial Day weekend, be safe and enjoy the party.

 

 

 

 

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