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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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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