Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Hamburger Mary's

By Will Seagers
 
Original Hamburger Mary's exterior

Original Hamburger Mary's, SF

 

Where do I begin with telling the tales and memories of this iconic Folsom area locale?

First, I'll do my best to recount my presence and involvement at Hamburger Mary's. And, it is going to come from a very personal standpoint... I literally "lived there" for most of my thirteen-year relationship with my first partner Tom Beebe. He was one of the "original family" that started this restaurant back in 1972.

 

Tommy in leather jacket

Tom Beebe

 

My first and sort of vague recollection of the place was having one of their legendary hamburgers after a night out prowling around the Folsom/SoMa area and its countless bars. This, by the way, was just before meeting Tommy. So, my view of the place was detached. Nonetheless, I was fully awestruck! Upon entering, I immediately felt like I was on the set of an Andy Warhol or John Waters movie. In the well-orchestrated chaos of the place was a waitstaff of latter day hippies, drag queens and some of the most colorful people (in a very colorful town!). All offered a friendly and slightly crazed welcoming feel!

 

Patron hanging out in original Hamburger Mary's doorway

Hamburger Mary's

 

Keep in mind this was late 1976. So, Baghdad by the Bay was in full swing in terms of wild sexuality and frivolity. What I was wearing I thought was a propos for the area and the night (leather - vest and chaps)... It turned out I was too tame. I wore 501s under the chaps! LOL. Hanging out at Sissy's Saloon (the bar connected and to the right of the restaurant proper) were all sorts of barely clad men and women - the men NOT wearing the 501s that I had just mentioned! And, it did not turn a single head! It was just standard operating dress at this time.

One of the cornerstones of the place was the food... always predictably good! From the legendary hamburgers (meatless to meaty) to scores of salads and homemade soups. Remember, this was also a representation of left-over hippie macrobiotic and vegetarian fare! Speaking of soup... the young lady who first started at 18 as one one the "soup crafters," Rose, went on to become manager and owner of this enterprise. She and Tommy were very close and remained friends for years.

One of the other cornerstones was the eccentricity of the appearance of the restaurant, itself. The walls were plastered with lots of local art and photos. One photo of note was of my Tommy's butt in 501s with a waiter's order pad in a back pocket that said "Thank You!" The tables were doors from Victorian homes of late. No two chairs in the pace matched... nor did the "china." And, one of my favorite touches was the milk or half & half placed on each table in a glass baby bottle complete with a nipped off nipple for easy dispensing. Another part that I really enjoyed were all of the exotic plants around the place. The legendary "Artista" took care of them and supplied the place with her artwork, as well. There was never any one star in either the staff or the guests... it was a collective! 

How I met Tommy:
Little did I know that he was a big porn fan of mine until his arrival in December of 1976 at Trinity Place. I was offered a job there by Chuck Holmes (of Falcon fame) back on Fire Island at the end of the 1976 Summer. I accepted the job and gleefully moved to San Francisco with a troop of other folks from Fire Island.

So back to Trinity Place:
In walks Tommy with his close friend Chrysler and they prop themselves up prominently at the bar. He was the cutest guy with the most dazzling brown eyes and smile. He orders up and, upon paying for the drinks, lays out a beautiful fine gold chain (along with a whopping tip!). At the end of his stay he invited me to come see where he "worked!" Later on that day we made our way down to Hamburger Mary's!

 

Will and Tommy

Will and Tommy (L), Tommy (R)

 

I could easily write a porn script around the first night we spent together. Suffice it to say, it was hotter than hot... I remember tearing off his clothes and tossing them on a coffee table. Under the glass top of this coffee table was a recent centerfold of me. (Who says "You Can't Always Get What You Want"!?) Within a month or so we were living together in our little "Mouse Palace" apartment on 10th St. near Howard. We remained there for thirteen years in the SoMa neighborhood well before it became chic. BTW, this was the Hamburger Mary's house... employees lived in four of the twelve apartments, including the Super of the building, Gregory. He is pictured below with his legendary red ponytail. That building was a hoot!

 

Painting of original Hamburger Mary's exterior

Painting of orignal Hamburger Mary's (Gregory in doorway)

 

Also, "Mary's" was know for music. Their DJ booth was at the end of the bar just before a small game room. The two DJs were Tess, whose fare was classic rock, and Lee, whose forte was disco and new wave music. Every once in a while I would venture into the booth and play a mini-set. They both encouraged me to enter into the music world. I started my musical life soon after. My main musical attachment to Mary's was being their sound tech. Although the system sounded good with its JBL speakers and McIntosh tube amps, the playing console needed an update. With my connections in N.Y., I brought in a UREI mixer, Technics Quartz Lock turntables and Stanton cartridges. The sound system really popped and my DJ friends appreciated the new detail in the audio. While doing Mary's sound I was invited by Jimmy, the manager of The Stud (just across the street) to come and be their sound guy.

This is where I part from Mary's. Next episode will center on The Stud whose fame and history spanned not only the decades but two locations!

 

Exterior of The Stud, SF

The Stud, SF

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
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!"

 

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DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: "Just Another Stroll Down the Castro!"

By Will Seagers

 

Hi guys, it's Matt Harper - AKA Will Seagers again! (I thought it might be fun to use my first porn name at least once in these blogs!) Today's excursion through the Castro will name several spots that I frequented and loved. I hope these names bring back pleasant memories to all! I wish I could devote time to every place on that street. But, that might be a book length blog! LOL! We will be strolling from Market and Castro to 19th and Castro... to help you set your bearings!

 

Castro Stree Theatre sign and neighborhood view

Castro Theatre sign and neighborhood view

 

First off, right near the corner of Market and Castro across from The Bank of America is Twin Peaks. A bar resplendent with a long history in the neighborhood, it is the first Gay marker welcoming you into The Castro. Although I didn't really hang out there myself, I did go in on occasion for one of their legendary Irish Coffees... a mainstay in all of San Francisco. This was another bar that used huge panoramic windows to take advantage of the colorful foot traffic vistas. Although it was a mixed and very dedicated clientele, it was primarily a more senior crowd.

 

Twin Peaks Bar

Twin Peaks Bar

 

Just a few doors down and before the marquee to the Castro Theater was Capricorn Coffee Shop. I think it was there that I first developed my love of good fresh ground "joe." My favorite part was sampling the more exotic blends and hurrying them home for my first partner and I to enjoy in our Chemex filtered coffee maker... very vogue at that time.

 

Mug from Capricorn Coffee Shop, SF

Mug from Capricorn Coffee Shop, SF

 

Since my co-author Josh Eliot did such an amazing job writing about the Castro Theater, I will be moving along down the street to one of the iconic stores of the Castro - Cliff's Variety! I don't think there was a soul in the entire city that didn't take advantage of the amazing and eclectic fare offered in that emporium. Anything from your basic hardware needs to more kinky bathroom accessories (personal hygiene products) would show up on their shelves before anyplace else in the country... I believe! Towards the end of the 80s they opened a separate linen shop right next door. Pricey as hell, but I am pleased to report that the two Collier & Campbell queen sheet sets I bought there are still in use at my home nearly 35 years later!

 

Cliff's Variety

Cliff's Variety

 

All American Boy. Just down from Cliff's Variety was a Mecca for very stylishly gay oriented guy's clothing. The styles were always very carefully chosen as this had to be one of the smallest clothing stores in town. I remember getting numerous pairs of pastel tennis socks there. You have probably seen some of these in porn flicks as a final part of disrobing before the "fun" begins. Also, I got some of my most cherished light weight and leather bomber jackets in that store... one of which is still hanging in my closet!

 

Tommy, my first partner and I both sporting All American Boy jackets!

Tommy, my first partner and I both sporting All American Boy jackets!

 

No visit to Castro Street would be compete without a stop at the restaurant Welcome Home. It is situated on the west side of Castro Street and it is one of the restaurants that is steeped with neighborhood history. The very first night I arrived in San Francisco, I had my first dinner at Welcome Home, a cozy, pleasant spot with very homestyle food. I'll never forget hearing one of my favorite songs, “Don't Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston as I ate that dinner.

 

Welcome Home Restauarant

Welcome Home Restauarant

 

Now, we'll cross 18th street - still on the east side of the street - to a very posh gift store, "Statements." A very handsome and wonderful man that I met on Fire Island back in the late 70s moved from NYC to open this one of a kind store. It was more of an Italo/Milan gallery than a store. I loved going in to browse... as I could hardly afford the prices! I was graced with a lovely birthday gift from that store from an adorable man and co-worker from the Badlands. It was a beautiful Italian glass vase shown in a picture below.

 

Vase from Statements

Vase from Statements

 

Right next door and still in operation is another iconic destination in the Castro - Anchor Oyster Bar. With its delicious seafood menu, you really needed to get there early if you wanted a table. If my memory serves me, I don't think that they took reservations!

 

Anchor Oyster Bar

Anchor Oyster Bar

 

Now, crossing the street to the west side and moving back towards 18th St., we find something very different in terms of what you might expect to find on such a high rent and busy street - Tommy's Plants! Remember this was the late 70s - early 80s. You would be hard pressed not find a home sporting some very exotic plants nor the ubiquitous macrame hanging planter! Lush potted palms, orchids, and all other rarities were to be found in this well stocked greenhouse. I have always been a bit of a "plant nut!" So, I was pretty much a regular in that place.

My last entry (or should I say entree) for this reminiscing stroll is "Maria's," a wonderful Northern Italian restaurant! It was located mid-block just down from Tommy's Plants. It featured a fairly large dining room where you could sit and eat really fine Italian cuisine and watch the cruising on the Castro. Or (when the weather was suitable) dine out behind the main dining room where there was a nicely planted garden area. A close friend Michael and I were some of Maria's earliest and most frequent diners. Maria would always manage to come over to our table to greet us and "dish!" Not only was she an excellent chef, but was charming and quite a hoot.

Even though I lived for most of my fifteen years in San Francisco in the South of Market district, I was always drawn to the Castro - for its charm... and of course for the boys!

 

Will Seagers in Cruisin' the Castro
Will Seagers in the film Cruisin' the Castro (DVD | Streaming)


Previous blogs in DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO series:
The Castro Theatre - Josh Eliot
The Badlands - Will Seagers
The Midnight Sun - Josh Eliot
Moby Dick Bar - Josh Eliot

 


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
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

 

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