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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Queering Valentine's Day

posted by Madame Bubby

I've written about “this day” in a couple of past blogs, including this one on our website. Sigh. I even posted a tweet on my personal account that I “had no plans,” passive-aggressively playing for sympathy (or maybe a date?).

An article I came across in a student publication called the Miami Hurricane makes a strong point, almost a manifesto, “the fact that the day went from one about beheading to betrothing is proof that we have the ability to radically transform this day into anything we want. And transform we did.” To some extent, yes. A day commemorating an early Christian martyr was also proclaimed as the day birds began to mate and is now essentially aisles in retail stores filled with items in various shades of red and pink.

 

Valentine's Day aisle

But is that its end: Hallmark, kitschy images of cupids and teddy bears, overworked florists walking on floors covered with stem cuttings, angst about making restaurant reservations in time and buying the perfect gift?

The article I reference above mentions how some campus organizations are making the holiday more gender-inclusive and include queer narratives in its celebration.

It's interesting though, that queer narratives that either code implicitly or explore explicitly romantic relationships (with varying degrees of intimacy) don't subscribe (because they have to) to what is essentially a kitschy bowdlerization of Victorian sensibilities about gender relationships (which were perhaps more idealized than real).

In fact, in the heady days of LGBTQ liberation in the 1970s (essentially the product of social changes that began in the 1960s), an era that rejected aesthetically (and culturally to some extent) the “hearts and flowers/moon and June” sentimentality of previous eras, gay erotic filmmakers produced work that probes tensions in romantic, intimate relationships on so many levels. Marginalization in this case, as with much groundbreaking art, becomes the space and time to bend and even break conventional social boundaries.

For example, in Andrew Herbert's Song of the Loon, in the 19th century, Ephraim, a white man, has left his lover and taken up with a trapper, Cyrus. Ephraim wants to settle down to an outdoors life of bliss as the object of affection of only one man, but Cyrus knows that Ephraim isn't dealing with his own, or his lover's, emotions on a realistic level. He takes Ephraim to an old Native American medicine man, who imparts the wisdom of the ages to the young blond buck (through words and hallucinogenic visions): Sex and love are not one and the same.
 

Images from Song of the Loon
Song of the Loon (1969)

And in Tom DeSimone's The Idol, an young athlete's (played by Kevin Redding) struggles with coming to terms with his sexual orientation shows how sexual activity and intimate relationships are not mutually exclusive. In fact, no “one” person ends up being the ideal/idol in this film for its protagonist.
 

Images from The Idol
The Idol (1979)

Steve Scott's Track Meet parallels the story of The Idol, focusing on a young track star's (played by Gavin Geoffrey) tension in coming out and accepting himself. Romance, strength, affection, and lovemaking are explored by Gavin as he discovers himself and the world of gay sex.
 

Images from Track Meet
Track Meet (1976)

What's interesting is the coming out narrative present in these films, because of how its complex psychosocial dynamic of fear and repression but, more significantly, self-discovery and self-acceptance, and, ultimately, liberation, subverts the cloying and also creatively bland Valentine's Day sensibility.

Yes, of course, times have changed, but I do wonder if more LGBTQ-themed Hallmark Valentine's Day cards is the blessed fruit of liberation. The struggle of the past should have taught LGBTQ persons to expect more; that the hearts and flowers are transitory and superficial, and that the end is not finding the “One,” but the glorious and at the same time heartbreaking day-to-day challenge of loving him/her/they.

For highlights from more of our romance-oriented films, also check out this video on our YouTube channel.

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