Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Long Live the Stud!

By Will Seagers

 

After a tasty meal and a free trip to the Twilight Zone courtesy of Hamburger Mary's, It's time to strut across Folsom Street (diagonally) to the sister establishment of equal fame - The Stud - for music, dancing and (more) cocktails!

 

The Stud exterior, original location

The Stud exterior, original location

 

When TNT Enterprises opened up Hamburger Mary's and The Stud, it was a joint effort by the two original owners – (T)rixie N (T)oulouse. By the end of the 70s, Trixie had left San Francisco to live in Hawaii and open three more restaurants - Honolulu, Maui and Portland. When he left S.F., Toulouse took over H.M and Trixie's ex, Jimmy, ran The Stud.

I remember my first time in The Stud. It was packed with all sorts of men and women - colorful to say the least. There was quite a din coming from the roar of the crowd and the DJ booth - one of the first in the city. There was quite a mix in the sexuality, too. Gay and straight mixed nicely together without issue. If who you were hitting on was not receptive, it could be because they were either not turned on to you or they were straight! LOL. More times than not, people's sexuality was so pliable you might be going home with someone from "the middle!" It was the 70s and there was still the leftover free love from "The Summer of Love" of the Haight/Ashbury era of 1969!

Anyway, walking into the bar you would notice a distinct similarity in decor to Hamburger Mary's. Very rustic cedar shake walls and lots of great Deco lighting fixtures. The island bar was the prominent feature for sure. It was a huge narrow rectangle that spanned almost the entire middle of the room. The bartending staff was equal to that of Hamburger Mary's in terms of its eclectic mix. Some bartenders were very hot and others made up for that with their very individual personas. To the right and rear of the large bar was the dance floor and DJ booth. Great music was to be heard from many genres. Disco was just beginning to bud and it was featured there frequently at the end of the 70s by DJs like Chrysler Sheldon, George Ferren and John Rendazzo, just to name a few. Later Larry Larue would play host to new wave and punk music as the 80 were ushered in.

 

George Ferren, now living in New England
George Ferren, now living in New England
 
DJ Chrysler Sheldon and a glimpse of DJ John Randazzo

DJ Chrysler Sheldon in a Stud shirt (center) and a glimpse of DJ John Randazzo (right)

 

I was quite pleased to be invited to be The Stud's sound tech by Jimmy, the manager. I guess I was given good press by the folks over at Hamburger Mary's across the street! I used to frequent the bar to hear the sound system "in action." John, one of the DJs that I mentioned, liked having me in the booth for visits. I watched him spin and took notes. I told him that I was making tapes for clients around town. One night he asked me if I wanted to play. I was a bit timid at first... but, took him up on his offer. My brief debut that night and subsequent nights went well. This was the kick in the pants that I needed to pursue playing in public.

I had never known that The Stud's building was leased. Midway into the 80s the property owner, Alexis, came back to town and wanted the building back. The Stud was forced to move to its second location on Harrison Street were it remained until its closing just two years ago. Meanwhile, the original location remained a bar and was renamed The Holy Cow. I was their sound tech for a few months, then I moved on. One of the most distinguishing features of the newly renamed place was the life-sized fiberglass cow that was hung above the entrance!

 

Holy Cow exterior

Holy Cow exterior

 

The relocating of The Stud was really a good move. They managed to retain a lot of the feel of the original place - decor wise and people wise. And, it seemed to grow in popularity and fame. In its last ten years, it hosted regular periodic parties such as "Go Bang" with its creators Sergio Fedaz and Steven Fabus playing the best music out there! They crafted a very "clubby” feel that was reminiscent of many New York neighborhood dance bars. Sergio and Steve not only played but had top name guest DJs regularly. My last visit to San Francisco was in 2019 where I attended "A Tribute to the Troc." This was a party dedicated to the famous San Francisco disco Trocadero Transfer, also located in the South of Market region. Magical music from that era was skillfully played by Jerry Bonham that night. Familiar faces were in the crowd to celebrate and reminisce.

 

The Stud, second location
The Stud, second location
 
Steve Fabus in Go Bang shirt and Steve with Will

Steve Fabus in a Go Bang shirt (L) and Steve with Will on a recent visit (R)

 

It is hard to believe that there is no more Stud! COVID and the crazy San Francisco rent prices brought the bar to its close. It was truly the end of an era! But, I am willing to bet there will be one more clever redo... after all, Third Time is the Charm!


 

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!"
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Hamburger Mary's

 

 

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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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DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Badlands

By Will Seagers

 

I am very excited to begin this new series with my co-author Josh Eliot. Readers of the Bijou blogs should be quite familiar with Josh's excellent writing style and accounts of gay history past. This new series will be delving into various neighborhoods in San Francisco during the 1980s. Our first look will be in the Castro... a perfect place to start!

My knowledge of The Badlands and its sister bar The Phoenix will be coming from the perspective of a DJ. That was my job in both of these bars. It would not have been right to skip over the Phoenix, as that was actually the first of three bars that I played in the Castro. Also, in its original iteration known as Toad Hall, it was one of the most famous and history rich spots in the district. Many a famous face (and body) waltzed in and out of its doors during the heydays of the mid 70s. People such as Al Parker appeared there frequently. You never knew who you were going to bump into. But, you were always guaranteed a good time!

 

Toad Hall exterior and advertisements, 1970s

Toad Hall exterior and advertisements, 1970s

 

After my brief but pleasant stint playing at Dreamland, I realized that I was not cut out for playing the very long hours that were required. My hat is off to those who could play those sometimes twelve-hour shifts! Luckily I had been approached by the manager of the Phoenix and Badlands who asked me if I would be interested in playing. Without hesitation I said yes and soon started at the Phoenix.

This was a very different kind of place for me. It was a Castro St. bar with a very regular and dedicated clientele. They seemed to take to my eclectic mix of R&B, disco and jazz. My only complaint about the bar was the booth. It was more like an aerie! One had to climb what appeared to be a ladder straight up the wall and enter the booth through the floor. Bringing up crates of records... well, you can imagine what that was like! The view and the sound were great. But, you certainly had to put on a long song if you wanted to take a pee break! Lol. My tenure at the Phoenix was only a few months, as I was suddenly moved "across the street" to The Badlands!

But before leaving the Phoenix, I need to mention a neighborhood spot just two doors down on the corner of Castro and 18th: the Star Pharmacy with its celebrity Jackie “Star.” She was loved by everyone in the neighborhood.

 

Star Pharmacy

Star Pharmacy

 

Moving on, one afternoon the manager of both bars, Ben, came into the Phoenix to ask me if I wanted to play at The Badlands. Once again without hesitation I said yes. I was pleased to find out that he had become a fan of my music and thought it would be an even better fit at The Badlands. I guess I should also mention that this move had something to do with my popularity in L.A. Tool & Die! The booth in The Badlands was in the back of the bar but was visible to most of the clientele. It was shortly after this that I met the owner of both bars, Ron Holmes. Ron was always very quiet and a bit shy. He seemed to like me and always treated me with respect. When I least expected it, I would find him in the back of the booth smiling and enjoying the music. Sometimes it actually startled me!

 

L.A. Tool & Die poster

L.A. Tool & Die poster

 

This was a great job and a great house to play. I remained there for four years! At first, it was a bit daunting in that some of the very best DJs in the city played there: Timmy Rivers, Johnny Hedges and my very dear friend Jorge Martinez (who formerly played at the Boom Boom Room as discussed in one of Josh's previous blogs). For the first few weeks I followed Timmy Rivers' "Church." Timmy did an amazing and soulful mix on Sunday afternoons that got the whole bar swaying! I would come in at 8PM to relieve him and continue until we closed at 2AM. My biggest challenge and goal was to seamlessly blend into his last record and keep the feeling he had created intact for as long as possible. After a bit, I would segue into something more energetic with my signature thumping bass line! After about a month or so, I was given Saturday nights. These were my most cherished memories of being a DJ. I loved to take the room on a trip by taking popular tunes and building momentum to a point that the crowd would scream with joy when a new peak was hit during the night. One of my fondest memories/compliments was when a patron came to the booth with a shot for me and told me that my music made him feel like he was on cocaine! Their only complaint was that they could not dance... it was a stand up bar!

It was a treat and a privilege to have worked with the great and sexy bar staff that that provided the drinks and visuals that made this bar a legend. Its iconic cedar shake interior with license plates from all states and years adorned the walls. Most iconic were the "do not" placards. They resembled stick figures in various positions. Two of my favorites were the figure holding a pot to his mouth and a red circle and a line through it indicating - no pot smoking. The other was in one of the two men's rooms - the open men's bathroom. It had a bathtub AND a trough style urinal! This sign had two stick figures - one kneeling in front of another with the red circle and red line running through it. (I let you figure out what that one meant! Lol.) Regardless of the signs, hot little incidents would have to broken up from time to time. Men will be men! I look back at all of this and think "what a great time to have been alive!"

 

Badlands bar in its later era

Badlands bar (1975 - 2020) in its later incarnation

Previous blogs in DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO series:
The Castro Theatre - 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

 

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BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR

By Josh Eliot

 

Years before starting work with Catalina Video in 1980, I lived on the corner of O’Farrell and Leavenworth Streets in the “Upper Tenderloin” (as I like to think of it) in San Francisco. A typical walk up to Polk Street, where my friends and I would tend to eat dinner, would take me right past the Mitchell Brother’s O’Farrell Theatre. In 1972, the Mitchell Brothers' first, and most famous, full length adult feature Behind the Green Door was released. The movie was filmed inside the theater and featured the debut performance of Marilyn Chambers who, at the time of its release, was the cover model on the Ivory Snow laundry detergent boxes. That fact hit the newspapers and magazines, helping the brother’s $60,000.00 investment earn them a profit of over 50 million dollars!

 

Marilyn Chambers; The Mitchell Brothers' O'Farrell Theatre & Art Theatres Marilyn Chambers; The Mitchell Brothers' O'Farrell Theatre & Art Theatres

 

Of course I didn’t know any of this information at the time, I just loved the fantastic way they painted the building, with whales, tigers and all sorts of wild animals. I guess it was pretty wild inside as well! It felt like they were always showing Green Door either as the headliner or as a second feature to a new release. Boy, that print must have had a lot of edit tape splices from being run through the projector so much! I didn’t realize how much of a classic it was at the time. I lived in a studio apartment that I shared with Abraham, a classmate at the Art Institute. Abraham mentioned that he had never seen Deep Throat, which was playing on a double bill with The Devil in Miss Jones at the Art Theatres in the “Lower Tenderloin,” evidently for a good ten years straight! We went to an afternoon showing and the place was packed! As expected, the print was choppy as hell and at one point got stuck in the projector and started to burn. It wasn’t pretty when the house lights went up while they fixed it, but that’s what made the experience all the more fabulous in my book. We were both kind of surprised how low-budget “Throat” was and how “Miss Jones” looked like an old lady! Abraham starred in my class assignment for instructor George Kuchar titled Behind Blue Eyes (Tap this link to my YouTube Channel if you want to see my very first 8mm feature.) Behind Blue Eyes? Did I subconsciously come up with that title because I kept seeing Behind the Green Door on the marquee? Hmmm. I never got to see the Mitchell Brother’s movie but I always wondered, just what the hell went on behind that door?

 

Behind Blue Eyes poster

Behind Blue Eyes poster

 

Flash forward, way forward, from 1980 to 1989. I received the news that Catalina, for whom I’d been working for about one and a half years, was closing down the soundstage and moving production back to Los Angeles. It was rough saying goodbye to my friends and crew members, because I was the only one Scott Masters and John Travis had convinced general manager Chris Mann to take back with them to run production in Los Angeles. They found me a condo in West Hollywood a few blocks from Scott Masters' house and I moved in. First thing Monday morning, Masters and I drove to the Catalina offices in North Hollywood where I was reunited with Chet Thomas, the editor, who I became friends with when he came up to San Francisco to shoot his “earthquake porn,” The Big One, and I also reunited with Chi Chi LaRue whom I'd met once before. When I was in Chet’s editing suite, we were talking about musical scores. The first couple of movies I made in San Francisco were sent to Chet for editing, not allowing me to have any input on specifics, music, titles or anything. After shooting the scenes, I never saw the footage again until it was out on VHS tape. In a few days I would be starting my third movie, Hard to Be Good, about a young corn-fed stud heading off to a big city college. Costello Presley was credited for music on all of the Higgins and Catalina releases and I wanted to see if he would create a theme song with vocals for the title sequence.

 

<em>The Big One</em> and <em>Hard to Be Good</em>

Behind Blue Eyes poster

 

Chet walked me over to a random door in the middle of the warehouse, which was access to Costello’s area. “Should I knock?” I asked. “Oh hell no… You’ll freak him out.” Chet told me that the only way to communicate with Costello was to write a note with the type of music you wanted and slip it under his door. “You’ll never see him in person, he’s a bit of a recluse,” Chet explained. When William Higgins high tailed it to Amsterdam then Prague, he allowed Costello to move into a private space in the warehouse. Evidently Costello Presley only left that room after everyone went home for the night. No one ever saw him, or if they did it was a rarity. So, I wrote my note and magically a cassette tape was waiting for me one morning with the song “Beauty, Beauty,” with music and lyrics by Costello Presley. The only problem was that by the time I got that cassette in my hot little hand, Hard to Be Good was already finished and released, so I held onto it and used it in my future movie Easy Riders. (Honestly I’m not 100% sure he wrote and recorded it for me or if he had used it for something in the past and gave it to me as “new for you.”)

Again I found myself wondering what was going on “behind that door” of his to cause such a delay of my request. I’m pretty certain that it wasn’t as exciting as what was going on behind Marilyn Chambers' Green Door! (If he was living there, where did he shower?) About a year later, the Catalina offices moved to a smaller facility in Reseda. During the move, I actually saw Costello Presley for the first time! He was leaving with a couple of knapsacks filled with his belongings, as he wasn’t allowed to “shack-up” in the new building. That day, the music stopped; Costello Presley walked out of the Catalina offices and we never heard from him again. It was kind of sad. We continued re-using music from his cassette tape collection and credited “Music by Rock Hard” on the movies, until we met Sonic Seduction, who scored our movies until the company was sold to Channel 1.

 


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?

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