The BOOM BOOM Room

By Josh Eliot

 

In Laguna Beach, California The Coast Inn, built in 1927, was one of the earliest hotels in the area. The Inn featured hotel rooms, a café and bar. By 1941, the secluded beach town had rapidly grown into a resort destination. During World War II and in the post-World War II period, the property’s clientele changed from primarily vacation travelers to members of the military. In 1956, a fire destroyed much of the front portion of the building, which new owners, the Smith brothers, rebuilt and added a nightclub. In 1977, the cocktail lounge and dining room of the Coast Inn were operating as The Boom Boom Room, a nightclub and disco, and were sold to Sidney Bryan in 1978. The Coast Inn hotel, restaurant and bar now catered predominately to the gay community. As the property grew in popularity over the next few decades, it gained a reputation as being the area’s premier gay nightclub, bringing a very large gay tourist and resident population to the seaside community.

 

The Coast Inn, built in 1927

The Coast Inn, built in 1927

 

In the 1980s, Michael Martenay, a Laguna Beach resident, was appalled to learn that the ashes of two former patrons who had died from AIDS had been scattered in the green space behind the Boom Boom Room. The green area had fallen in disarray and was filled with trash and liquor bottles. Michael spent two days hauling out 39 trash bags of garbage from the site, determined to bring the space back to life. Through community donations of flowers, plants, seeds and other materials Martenay built and perfected “The Garden of Peace and Love,” a memorial garden for mourners who lost friends to AIDS. It is said that over 50 souls' ashes have been scattered there. The city of Laguna Beach, after a recommendation from Police Chief James Spreine, installed a water line near the garden to ensure the garden’s life for years to come.

 

The Garden of Peace and Love

The Garden of Peace and Love

 

I first discovered the Boom Boom Room when I went location scouting with Scott Masters for my upcoming movie, Pacific Coast Highway 2. We found a beach house with ocean front access and booked it. I was anxious about this movie assignment because it was big shoes to fill making a sequel to a William Higgins classic. I fully admit that I was too green to pull it off properly at that stage in my career. The cast and crew did have a great time making it though. I had a brand new exclusive model named Hank Sterling who was very hunky and masculine. Scott Masters took me to the Boom Boom Room for drinks when we were in town months earlier and I of course took the cast and crew there after shooting our dailies. I was always very frugal with budgets and only spent where I needed to, so that left lots of miscellaneous money left over to treat the guys to nights on the town!

 

Pacific Coast Highway 2

Pacific Coast Highway 2

 

Over the years, friends and I made Laguna Beach a regular destination when getting out of town. When I was assigned a movie called Cat Men Do, an original idea our general manager came up with, I didn’t hesitate to make it a “Roadie Movie.” The concept of the movie was pretty much showing the day to day functions of Catalina Video: model searches, promotional ideas, and even the fictional character “Rusty James,” whose signature was on every piece of correspondence to our mail order customers. I shot a faceless Rusty, only identifiable by his name embroidered on his shirt, in the desert of Palm Springs where he gave away VHS tapes to the large number of guys who would blow him through a glory hole in a secluded abandoned shack. I had to somehow make this shameless promotion of the company movie interesting. While we were shooting the Laguna Beach “model search” scenes for the movie, we also scheduled an actual model search contest at the Boom Boom Room. This time we also occupied rooms at the Coast Inn for our cast and crew. The local and tourist crowd could not have been more receptive and fun. Model wannabes got up on stage, showed their asses off and won prizes. Michael Cody and Steve Rambo were the MCs and of course we all drank until closing! After closing, patrons would go down the steps, past the Garden of Peace and Love and continue partying (and more) on the beach under the cliffs. That was our last shoot day so I didn’t have to chase after the models to make sure they weren’t sucking any dick. We all left in love with the Coast Inn and Boom Boom Room experience, eagerly excited about our return some day.

 

Cat Men Do model search party at the Boom Boom Room

Cat Men Do model search party at the Boom Boom Room

 

The Boom Boom Room in full swing

The Boom Boom Room in full swing

 

In September of 2007, the Coast Inn, featuring the Boom Boom Room, shuttered its doors. Because of the Coast Inn’s significance, the new owners' plans to redevelop were held in limbo for over a decade. In 2018, the space still had not been touched by the new owners and the city of Laguna Beach approved the Boom Boom Room to reopen for two days during the Gay Pride Festival, and it was packed! In August 2021, the Coastal Commission cleared the way for the Coast Inn remodel. The Boom Boom Room re-opening is not part of their plans.

 


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

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Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?

By Josh Eliot

 

My spouse Tony Fontana and I are super-organized. We keep the place spotless. All things of importance have their own binders. The filing cabinet folders get edited yearly, and our desk calendar is always up to date. One thing we did during the initial Covid-19 lockdown was go through our photos and separate them into categories inside manila envelopes. A bit much? All that aside, the other day I was going through the envelopes to pull pictures for a recent blog about my past partner, Mark Rutter. Tony worked with Mark Rutter at the Gold Coast Bar and they shared a history as well, so I was looking to see if there were any shots in his envelopes with Mark. I didn’t find Mark, but I came across this one shot that kind of blew my mind. I pulled it out and went up to Tony and said: “Is that AL PARKER in your photo?”

 

Al Parker and friends at a Renaissance Fair, 1980s

Al Parker and friends at a Renaissance Fair, 1980s

 

It was, in fact, Al Parker in the photo. Al and his group of friends were photographed at a Renaissance Fair in the 1980s. My partner Tony is standing in the photo facing the group of friends, which included the woman wearing the blue outfit. Probably a Fred Segal outfit, as she loved to shop there. Her name was Nancy Cole Sawaya, and she was the “glue” that united this large group of friends.

 

Al Parker's friends at Ren Fair

Al Parker's friends at Ren Fair

 

Nancy lived in a mansion off of LA’s infamous Mulholland Drive. A typical weekend for the group would be to start Saturday night off at Greg's Blue Dot, a Hollywood gay hot spot, whose clientele was the crème de la crème of the best looking studs. Around 1 a.m., the group would walk a few doors down to the members only disco Probe and stayed there until well past dawn. The Probe would feature “A-list” divas like Viola Wells , Angela Clemmons (“Give Me Just a Little More Time”), Fun Fun, Linda Clifford, Madleen Kane and many more. When Nancy and the boys showed up there, the staff would see to their quick entrance. After dancing the night away they would all end up at Nancy’s place poolside, where the party would go on throughout the day; even the DJs from Probe and Blue Dot would follow and spin records.

 

Nancy at Probe and a backyard pool

Nancy at Probe and a backyard pool

 

In October of 1982, Nancy and her friends Matt Redman, Ervin Munro and Max Drew attended an emergency meeting featuring a presentation from the San Francisco Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation about Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease. Stunned by what they learned, these four friends set up a telephone hotline to answer questions from the community, because fear about the new disease was rampant. Over the holidays, Nancy and her small group of friends threw a Christmas party at her place called “A Christmas Present,” where guests were asked to donate money in the spirit of the season. Shortly after, Nancy took Tony to a small office in Hollywood on Cole Avenue she was thinking of renting to get his opinion. With the funds earned from the Christmas party, around $8000, she leased the office with her team of friends and offered counseling services to about twenty people known to have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, making it a first in Los Angeles County to do so. This small office, through it’s hard work and dedication to the gay community, became APLA, AIDS Project Los Angeles. APLA’s early fundraisers were held in gay bars and discos and they went on to raise millions of dollars over the next few years with the help of such celebrities as Joan Rivers and Elizabeth Taylor. Nancy served on the Board of Directors for nearly two years while continuously offering one-on-one counseling to the members.

Co-founders Nancy Sawaya and Max Drew tested positive for the disease and by August of 1986. Nancy had been hospitalized six times. Nancy and her husband Lou adopted a baby girl named Morgan who was two years old when her mother passed away in October 1986 at age 40. This was the same year Al Parker lost his partner of eleven years, Richard Cole aka Steve Taylor, with whom he started Surge Studios. Surge Studios was one of the first studios to mandate safe sex practices. Al Parker passed away on August 17th 1992, also at the age of 40, and his ashes were scattered near the nude section of San Gregorio State Beach. Seeing both Al and Nancy in this random photo and hearing these stories about them was really quite extraordinary. They both became icons of gay history, giving so much of themselves to the gay community. Such a tragedy to lose them both so early in life.

 

Al Parker and Richard Cole (Steve Taylor); Nancy on Newsweek cover

Al Parker and Richard Cole (Steve Taylor); Nancy on Newsweek cover

 

As I started to put away the photos, I saw a manila envelope labeled “Tony and Friends,” so I thought I would look in that one to see if there were any more shots of Al or Nancy. I carefully scanned each and every photo, checking to see if I could recognize any faces when suddenly... I saw another one! Tony was facing the camera making a silly face, but it was the person who was to the right of the shot that again blew my mind. I took the photograph, marched down the hallway to the office, went up to Tony again and said : “Is that ESTELLE GETTY from GOLDEN GIRLS in your photo?”

 

Estelle Getty at a West Hollywood party, 1980s

Estelle Getty at a West Hollywood party, 1980s

 

Thank you to Josh Eliot for use of his photos.


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?

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Pot Luck or Unluck?

Dumpy office potluck

In 1592 Scotland, not exactly the jolly tearoom in a time of turmoil, someone used that word potluck to refer to a meal served to a guest the host did not specifically prepare for. In other words, I didn't expect you, so it's luck of the draw what I've got in the pot. And given economic conditions in Scotland at that time, you would be lucky if you got a bit of boiled oatmeal.

Fast forward centuries later, and the word now refers to an event where everyone brings a different (one hopes!) dish. Thus, supposedly, one can enjoy a choice, but at the same time, unless the host or hostess decides to notify in advance who is bringing what (often the etiquette these days), it's the luck of the draw what is in all those pots (really, tupperware, chafing dishes, foil trays et al). Or, in the case of some office potlucks, what's in the 2-liter bottle of soda and bag of chips someone (usually a male) picked up at the downstairs convenience store at the last minute.

I was reading on an admittedly snarky LGBTQ board about an event called the lesbian potluck, and apparently such an event was and is so popular it has become a stereotype. Apparently gay men, in contrast to lesbians, tend to eat out or cook at home specific menus, or if their culinary skills are less than stellar, hire a caterer. Perhaps this set up allows more time for extra-food events such as sex upstairs (or in the slings in the basement) between most of the guests. Or more time to finesse with the crudites and the specific décor.
 

Fancy crudites

Lesbians, however, for a variety of social and cultural reasons, prefer to view these meals as community bonding rituals (I've heard winter or summer solstice ones are popular). They will eat in, but the food comes from other lesbians, lovers, and sometimes, to add drama to those events, an ex-lover or two. I must admit I've never been to one, but I've heard stories, alas. Let's just say perhaps reverting to Prohibition might be a good idea at some of these events.

Yet potlucks were often, in the days of the closet, a way for both gay men and lesbians to meet each other in a private setting free from the threat of the police. I remember visiting Kentucky as late as the early nineties, and the main events for LGBTQ persons were potlucks. They took those Southern Bible Belt church potlucks, it seems, and made them their own way of forming community. (I do hope perhaps that they offered more than baked beans and casseroles with a cream of mushroom base!)

And in the case of lesbians, the potluck often became a way for lesbians and/or early feminists to say, we are cooking for each other, not for men aka husbands and children, and not just in a kitchen in a house owned or supported by a man. And at the same time, these early lesbian potlucks were able to embrace environmentally friendly and nutritious diets, especially, macrobiotic, vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan options. Oy veh. Lentil salad, anyone? More lentil salad, anyone?
 

Lesbian potluck

To be honest, my potluck experiences have been less enjoyable than most. I remember the dictatorial hostess of one I attended criticizing my pumpkin tart (she claimed it was undercooked). Another friend went to the same event and brought a plain lettuce and cherry tomato salad, which the hostess insulted as well (that friend admitted she did not have time to do much and frankly did not want to). Still, the hostess committed a major etiquette faux-pas. (She, a straight woman, much later married a gay man. No comment.)

And then, at the Bijou office a few holiday seasons ago, there was the year of the cookie exchange that accompanied a potluck. I made a vegetable lasagna that year as well that but I should have used regular cheese (the fat free cheese does not melt), and I cut down on the spices. It was bland, but one person just sprinkled a bunch of oregano and garlic powder on it. (At least he did not insult it!)

But I digress. That infernal cookie exchange. So many rules. Let's just say participants had to bake not just say, one batch of cookies as for a potluck, but several batches because one would ultimately exchange your batch with the respective batches of the others. Thus, you would come home with several different types of cookies. But only after you baked Lord knows how many batches of your cookie. In a panic, I called my mother and a friend. They said do drop cookies. I tried a drop cookie cake mix recipe. I burnt two batches. Never again.
 

Burnt cookies

Maybe pot lucks are like life in general. Maybe one should be lucky one can fill a pot, or even own a set of pots, and not just one to piss in (and no, the watersports party is not an event with food).

So, here's to a holiday season and a coming year full of pots, luck, food, sex, and love. Not necessarily in that order.

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Grass, Weed, Pot, Or Any Other Name

The early 1970s. An affluent suburban landscape with plenty of space between spacious homes that today would be characterized as vintage. The high school that serves part of this district is a 1960s building with only two floors, bright brick on the outside, gleaming white tiles in the hallway, and wide windows, quite progressive compared to the multistory, dark brick, and overall prison-like structures that were the norm in previous decades.

Yet across the road a ragged piece of what might originally been a forest preserve served as a hangout to the cliques in that high school called “freaks” or “loads.” (I was never sure about the difference between the two in my marginalized social status.) They wore flannel shirts, faded Levis, and big boots (the girls too). They sported long hair (and I remember so many blonds). They really made a point of being distinct from the Protestant WASP jocks and cheerleaders that pretty much ran the school and who probably ended up in that day’s one percent.

And they smoked in that area, which everyone called The Hole. Now I’m not sure if any other type of activity was going on (given that name), because I was afraid to check it out, but it was common knowledge that smoking was going on, and not just cigarettes. Yes, they smoked what many at that time called grass. Diane, a girl on my French class who identified as a load, confirmed that information. Diane was a load (and I got the feeling she may have dealt the substance in hindsight).

Flash forward to college. I was a virgin in the world of illicit substances, until Denise and Punky and some other girls introduced me to the joys of smoking pot (we called it that name by that time). Denise always seemed to have it, because she got it from some big black guy named T.J. Punky too, because she was a punk gal who knew artsy guys on the North Side of Chicago. Denise and I smoked something called “Sense A Million,” which was supposed to be quite potent. I remember vaguely wandering through tunnels that connected the buildings on the campus and making claims that the overhead lights were beautiful and brilliant.

Fast forward to my young adulthood, gayling in the city both before and after coming out, and once again pot seemed to be central to my social activities. The lady who cut my hair used to deal (I had to call and ask for shampoo), and one year she gave me a leafy pot “bud” for Xmas. Another friend used to get it from some unknown dealer in the artsy neighborhood, and often weekend consisted of our own private “pot parties” at my place. We made pizza from scratch while high during the munchies phase (while the pizza was baking, we ate the standard Doritos and donuts).
 

Bag of Doritos

One time this friend and I went a jack off party completely stoned. On the way to the party, we started putting the words “lava lamp” or “planet of the apes” into various movie titles. Think: Our Lady of Planet of the Apes, On A Clear Day You Can See Planet of the Apes, or my favorite, Hello, Lava Lamp. When I came up with that one, I collapsed onto someone’s grassy front lawn, laughing so hard I could not breathe. Needless to say, my wiener did not function very well at the jack off party, but I did end up that night taking home a hot black guy who dressed like a cowboy (who was also stoned or drunk and as a result, a limp dick).
 

Lava lamp

In my more mature years, financial exigencies have prevented me from enjoying the vicissitudes of this marvelous substance.

Based on the above, I associate pot/weed/grass with a time when social activities didn’t depend on technology. Yet even though one could argue that getting stoned wasn’t exactly the best way to connect, when everyone is stoned … or even just two persons … I found that in some persons a sense of humor arise that were not always present in other situations, even a repressed poet or musician.
 

Happy person smoking pot

Overall, I found the best “pot highs” to be a different release of inhibitions than being drunk; senses were heightened, and sometimes very amazing creative thoughts appeared and disappeared. No violence, no teary confessions, no hangover. Everything is fun, silly, and everything tastes good. Joy. Unabashed, uninhibited joy.

Maybe the cock doesn’t rise up literally when one ingests pot, but the Romantic poet Coleridge’s imaginative “fancy” did from the depths of my cannabis-intoxicated soul. That same poet wrote the famous dream-vision poem Kubla Khan under the influence of opium.
 

1979 Coleridge opium induced vision

Maybe that could be a motivation to finally legalize that marvelous grass, weed, pot, or any other name.
 

Pot leaf
 
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