David's Sexual Underground - 5/22/23

 

leathermen - BijouBlog

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings All,

 

It has been a rough week for me, which has put us behind schedule this week. I have been assisting a dear friend and mighty force in our greater LGBTQ+ community these past few months. When I came to Chicago in 1976, one of the first friends I made was Marge Summit, then owner of His N Hers, a popular community bar located under the L tracks on Addison.

 

Marge Summit in westernwear at His N Hers

 

Marge created a wonderful space that brought many facets of our community together to celebrate. Marge’s staff served us great drinks, prepared fabulous food including the best burger I ever enjoyed in Chicago. And Marge made a space for lots of local talent to perform, grow and succeed.

She became a dear friend and mentor to me in the service industry. Those of you who joined me for Chicago’s Original Country Dance after closing Carol’s Speakeasy should remember Marge helping us serve drinks at various spots along the way Pusch Studios, Paris Dance, Whiskey River, Bedrock to name a few.

 

Marge at the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame

 

As an icon of our community, Marge was there when AIDS first struck Chicago. Her support for many of the early organizations that came to be in response to this emergency was fantastic. Howard Brown, Chicago House, Open Hand and numerous others were causes championed at His N Hers in the 80s with the support of the talented artist that performed at the bar.

Marge did more than just host benefits; she took action when needed. One of my favorite things she did was to push peoples’ comfort zones.

 

Frank Kellas and Marge Summit in newspaper photo, cited as being named as Organizers of the Year from Gay Chicago for their commitment to the Gay Dollar Campaign

 

To stress the economic force of our community, Marge and her leather buddy Frank Kellas launched the Gay Dollar campaign. She bought rubber stamps that read Gay Dollar and stamped thousands of one dollar bills. In the 80s, that got the attention of the Feds. They visited her and threatened her if she persisted. She did persist and straight folks were forced to be embarrassed by handing over “gay money” when shopping, dining, etc.

You may not remember there was a small grocery store at the corner of Belmont & Broadway. The owners were unhappy as the neighborhood became “New Town” with gays moving into the area. Bars, stores catering to gays sprang up. With the fear of AIDS, the owners were afraid of contact with us. Marge would get friends to join her to each grab a grocery cart and fill it with all kinds of items, the smaller the better. Filling the carts, they would leave them at the checkout announcing they were gay. The fearful owners and staff would be forced to wipe off all the handled merchandise, fearing contamination of AIDS. Sound familiar?

Marge met the love of her life, Janan, in her later years and I was honored to host their wedding at my Country Dance at The Call. Sadly, we had to celebrate Janan’s passing there too. The past few months were hard for Marge, failing health and loneliness made it a vicious circle. I was fortunate to spend time with her, sharing memories, meals, helping her cope as she became weaker.

 

Marge and Janan

 

I got to sit with her one last time on Tuesday in her finally hours as she passed from this world knowing she would be reunited with her wife, Janan.

Marge was not part of our leather community, but she understood our side of the family. She was a great friend of Chuck Rodocker, Chuck Renslow and Jim Flint, all leather bar owners in the 70s and 80s. She stood with us as AIDs decimated the clubs and took the lives of so many leathermen.

This loss is not felt just by me but many others of our leather community of that era.

Thanks for allowing me to share this passing with you.

 

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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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The Stereo Maven of Castro Street

By Will Seagers

 

It is sort of funny... but porn got me into Eber Electronics of San Francisco, a long time legendary store for audio and video in the Castro area of SF. I started going there with the little windfalls of cash that I would make from each movie or mag to buy another piece of gear that would make up my home DJ system. So, in a way, my films propelled me into other professions - sales and DJing!

During my many visits to the store I started to notice the differences in the sales techniques in the sales staff. Some were very kind when it was only information that I needed. Others more or less gave me "the broom" when there was no sale in sight. My go-to guy became Harold. Although he was very knowledgeable, it was his wit and humor that really separated him from the rest of the pack. Originally from Brooklyn, I sensed that he was a reincarnated vaudeville comedian! His use of Yiddish to describe certain things and stereo parts would literally have me in stitches! To put it mildly, he had quite a "Shtick!" When my film career started to grow and I was routinely spending more and more with him at the store, the others who had "broomed" me were now lamenting their shortsightedness!

During one visit with Harold, I told him I was interested in working there. Well, it wasn't more than a day or two before Jim, the store manager called me in for an interview... that I aced! I had the privilege to be under Harold's wing for a brief period of time before Harold matriculated into the position of sales rep with one of our vendors at the store. Harold was a real performer. He was infamous for his Saturday afternoons at the store to start live comedy at any given opportunity.

The most infamous of these times that I could remember was when Robin Williams, who lived in the neighborhood at the time, sauntered in through the front door. Little did I know that Harold and Robin knew each other and would burst out into some pretty insane improvs. It was only seconds before Robin and Harold were hurling comic insults across the (packed) main floor. The entire store was roaring! I had to pinch myself... I thought I was at some off Broadway performance or the like. Those were the golden years of San Francisco when you never knew when all hell was going to break loose!

NOW, as to my part: I started there in 1984, right about at the peak of my screen and mag career. People would come in. I would greet them. And to see people's faces, the double takes... I wish I had them on film. Here we were one block away from the Gay crossroads of the world, Castro and 18th Streets. And there was nothing conventional about any of the businesses in this neighborhood. There were several other gay salesmen there... one who remains my friend to this day... Jim. Together, while being friendly and knowledgeable, we artfully dodged (and sometimes we didn't) gropings, exposures and always the stare-downs. We kept our cools and had a blast! Also, it was not uncommon to have a leather couple enter the store... one on a leash and the other with a riding crop!

 

Will Seagers at Eber Electronics, SF

Will Seagers at Eber Electronics, SF

 

I have always loved electronics and have had a penchant for learning technologies, nomenclatures and the like. So, to a lot of the gay community, I became a go-to person for putting together a stereo, home theater or video cameras. I love when my friends on social media still thank me for helping them! I never made a big deal out of it... it was just natural.

Speaking of what came natural... Well, I did a lot of "home installations," too. And you can read all you want into that... it was all true! Lots of mischief ensued. I knew it didn't take rocket science for a client to do a basic TV set-up themselves! Lol. Let's just call this another perk. BTW, that didn't last too long. The owner caught wind of it and brought a halt to all home visits! (Boo!)

I remained on staff until 1990. For the restless type that I was in business, I would call that a long haul! I had a great time... met lots of wonderful people... and repeated the process later in 2000 in Santa Fe, N.M. at another legendary and well known Audio-Video mecca. Things always seem to happen to me in twos! And to think that this was coexisting with DJing and porn!


 

Thank you to Will Seagers for use of his photo.

 


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

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DREAMLAND: The Other Place

By Josh Eliot

 

I settled into my new West Hollywood apartment with Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls playing on my TV, when Jeff Burton showed up at my door to interview for the still photographer position. In 1989, Catalina Video moved production to Los Angeles from San Francisco and we needed a new crew. Upon viewing his photographs, I got very excited. They didn’t have your traditional framing or expected angles, so I was intrigued and hired him on the spot.

On the movie sets, Jeff would shoot stills alongside me while I videotaped the action. There was a “blimp box” that the still camera sat inside in order to silence the clicking noise. Jeff hated it and we would go back and forth over the years bickering about how cumbersome the box was until we finally came to the agreement that he could stop using it. One day, I was shooting a scene and I heard his camera click, which ruined the sound, so I turned to him and noticed his camera wasn’t even facing the set. I thought it was a fluke, then it happened again, and again, and again on different sets. It wasn’t until we were sitting at the bar in the historic Congress Hotel that he finally came clean. We were in Chicago to shoot the International Mr. Leather Contest, as well as scenes for upcoming movies. The Congress Hotel was ground zero for the leather men in town and the place was packed. They were lined up along the walls of the lobby bathroom jacking each other off and packed into the lobby where some where flogged, tied up and wrapped like mummies. The crew and I were celebrating wrapping the shoot by running around the place and somehow ended up on the rooftop of the Congress Hotel partying under the large letters, reminiscent of the Hollywood sign.

 

Blimp box, IML and the Congress Hotel

Blimp box, IML and the Congress Hotel

 

Later in the lobby bar, Jeff was mustering up the courage to talk with me about something. The strange clicks I’d been hearing on the movie sets for months were Jeff shooting shots of the sex from strange angles for his personal collection. He might see a reflection of the models fucking in a coffee table and shoot that or he’d take a picture of a bowl with out of focus models fucking in the background, making them look like steam rising from it. He went on to tell me that his photos showed at an amfAR AIDS Auction, where a studio owner saw them and offered him a show in New York, and someone else saw them and offered him a show in Japan. He was nervous because he was shooting these pictures while on the clock. I told him not to worry about it and I was proud of what he accomplished and thought the whole idea of what he was doing was so creative and impressive. He must have been relieved and decided to let loose, because hours later we spotted him, in the lobby, sitting on the lap of this huge muscle daddy in a cop uniform. We joked about how he looked like a ventriloquist puppet!

 

Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos

Some of Jeff Burton's porn set photography

 

Jeff attended the show in Japan, where a publisher saw his work and offered him his first hard cover book, Jeff Burton Untitled. As time went on Jeff released two more books, Dreamland and The Other Place, an oversized coffee table book with stunning photos suitable for framing.

 

Two of Jeff Burton's books

The covers of Dreamland, Untitled and The Other Place

 

Years later, we reunited on the set of a bisexual movie I was making called Cracked, with Sharon Kane as a sexy hatchet-wielding nutcase. He was shooting for an upcoming fashion festival in the South of France, where young designers would compete and he was a guest juror showcasing his work. He dressed my cast in head to toe Prada and shot his special brand of photos while I videotaped partially clothed sex scenes. At one point, Sharon Kane was getting out of her skin tight sequined dress when her head got stuck in the overly long collar. We heard screaming and panic and everyone ran over to help. She was freaking out and it took forever to get her head out, but the best part was once the dress was off, Jeff peeled back the long collar material and there was a perfect impression, from the make-up, of Sharon Kane’s face with a “Death Scream” look. We all rolled in laughter, except for Sharon; it reminded us both of the good ole days when we worked together, so much laughter.

 

Sharon Kane in Cracked

Sharon Kane in Cracked

 

Jeff’s impressive resume includes work for Tom Ford, Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent, French Vogue, Vanity Fair and Wrangler Europe, to mention a few. His primary gallery, Casey Kaplan, the Barbican Centre in London and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao all displayed his work. His newest accomplishment, releasing in November 2022, is the Louis Vuitton: A Fashion Eye Travel Series book, Las Vegas: Jeff Burton. (He says the shots he took octagon side at the UFC are amazing!) Staying true to his voyeur sexual style that he discovered and originated on a California gay porno set and expanded to different perspectives, Jeff’s work reached across boundaries to become embraced internationally. You have to check out his webpage, jeffburtonstudio.com, for a gallery of his work. The shots where the Tom Ford cologne is being poured over three bubble butt boys is priceless! Congratulations to my friend Jeff Burton on your major success, transitioning porno into the mainstream.

 

Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos
Jeff Burton photos

More of Jeff Burton's porn set photography

 

Thank you to Jeff Burton for allowing your photographs in this blog.

 


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!

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International Mr. Leather 2019 Fashion

posted by Madame Bubby

I passed by a booth at the leather market, and I noticed witches' hats. Yes, the kind with the peak. I heard a woman cackling. No, I am not making the above up, and I am not recounting a surrealistic dream.

And this booth was also selling a particularly hot item at the mart, a leather crown (for Baby Boomers like me, it resembles the head gear of the character Jughead in the Archie comics).

jughead leather crown

To be honest, I've noticed changes in the types of items sold at the market over the years, but this one was certainly, let's just say, interesting. The leather market is no longer solely a gay male space, or for that matter, a “traditional” gay cis leatherman space, with guys wearing the iconic Village People gay macho gear.
 

Village People

Through the years, as a diversity of genders have competed in various contests, the overall inventory of the mart and those who attend it has changed to reflect a more fluid, self-defining identification with and practice of kink.

Thus, the witches' hats could reflect, however superficially, a Wiccan influence, and many gay leathermen have rejected traditional monotheistic religions in favor of other forms of spirituality, often veering toward transmutations of beliefs and rituals prominent globally before Christian domination and colonization. In fact, the polyamorous life of many leatherfolk meshes well with a fluid polytheism.

Other kink/fantasy trends that have integrated themselves into International Mr. Leather include costume play. Think Renaissance fair, think Lord of the Rings, think Game of Thrones. Opera masks, capes, pirate boots with the cuff.
 

Renaissance men's clothing

I also noticed a couple of furries, though the fox had to take off the head (the mart tends to become hot and claustrophobic).
 

Leathermen and furries at IML

And, surprisingly, because I had thought it was not trending, steampunk fashion. I noticed a couple of guys with this gear attached to their hats.

One of the events this year was a discussion of the superhero fetish; this event makes sense, as the culture is replete with multiple constructions, reconstructions, and deconstructions in this genre. The line to get into Avengers: Endgame merges with the line to get into the mart.
 

Men in superhero fetish attire at IML

Even the conventional leather gear is taking on the colors of the rainbow. No longer black and red leather shirts: I noticed bright yellow and a green that somewhat resembles a lawn turf.

Uniforms composed of cloth are now composed of leather. I noticed a boy scout uniform produced completely in leather, and a couple of leather football shirts. Leather for those who can afford it or who want to combine looks and textures, while the cloth will fulfill the fetish/fantasy on its own terms.

Overall, dizzying! A traditional Old Guard type might lament the diffusiveness and lack of authenticity he sees in these fashions, while a millennial might rejoice that she can find something that fits her sensibility and budget. Leather gear has always been expensive. In fact, I noticed substantive price increases all around), and I am not trying to perpetuate the broke millennial stereotype, but the traditional leather scene has tended to attract older, established guys who possess the time and money to be kinky.

But who can really determine not just how to appear non-normative, but be non-normative? The leather kink world thrives on the tensions between hierarchy/freedom, appearance/reality, norm/taboo.

Perhaps the kaleidoscope of colors and textures shows this tension as the scene embraces generations who assume sexuality develops on a spectrum, and for whom reality shifts at a dizzying pace between a cyberspace primarily visual and private: pics, gifs and memes, and the physical, public space of the mart invaded by all the senses: the smell of leather and sweat, the sound of boots, the touch of meaty hands and moist tongues.

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