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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CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone

By Josh Eliot

 

I remember my first Tom DeSimone movie: Reform School Girls. A large group of us were going on a Friday night and the film was a lot of fun, especially when Wendy O. Williams rode on top of a bus after barreling through the gates. In San Francisco, 1980s, when you had moments like that on film, the whole audience would scream and applaud in delight. My friends and I were constantly at the Castro or Market Street movie houses that would regularly show John Waters, Andy Warhol and other cult movies. When I saw actress Pat Ast was in Reform School Girls, I knew we were in for a good time. I remembered her from Andy Warhol’s movie Heat, shot mostly at the old Tropicana Motel in West Hollywood, where my friends and I stayed on previous visits to L.A. Tom made many popular mainstream movies including The Concrete Jungle, Hell Night, Prison Girls and the cult classic Chatterbox, to name a few.

 

Reform School Girls poster and stars Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams
Reform School Girls poster and stars Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams
 
Posters for The Concrete Jungle and Chatterbox

Posters for The Concrete Jungle and Chatterbox

 

Once I moved from San Francisco to West Hollywood and got settled into the Catalina offices, it was a fun surprise to find out that Catalina released and distributed gay adult movies made by Tom DeSimone, under the name Lancer Brooks. In my first blog: “Coming Out Of My Wet Shorts” I wrote about how much that movie poster influenced me. Wet Shorts, Flesh & Fantasy, The Dirty Picture Show, Skin Deep, NightCrawler and Bi Bi Love (with one of my favorite scenes ever in a bisexual movie, featuring Crystal Evans) were all sold by Catalina. I would say my VHS tapes of Tom’s movies were like a “video tutorial” on how to make a great adult movie. His movies had just the right combination of comedy, drama, and titillation, seamlessly edited to create these gems. In Wet Shorts it was the traveling salesman scene, Flesh & Fantasy the jacuzzi scene and Skin Deep’s minimalist yet multilayered story of a writer who befriends a sex worker spoke volumes about his internal thought process. It goes without saying that I was truly inspired. Where John Travis taught me the value of lighting and cinematography, Tom DeSimone’s movies inspired me to write and direct stories with a quirky flair to them. I know the adult movies of today don’t really embrace the “storyline” concept, but we did back then and I always tried to make the most of it.

 

Tom DeSimone DVDs from Catalina

Tom DeSimone DVDs from Catalina

 

After completing my final movie for Catalina Video called Hot Buttered Cop Porn in 2006, my partner Tony and I moved to Palm Desert and continued editing and remastering Catalina movies for release on DVD, until the company was sold to Channel 1. One random afternoon, I spoke to my friend Kurt about how I was remastering Skin Deep for DVD release and out of the blue he told me that he knew Tom DeSimone from The Desert Film Society, as Tom was a founding member and served on the board. I was shocked and elated when Kurt followed up to tell me that Tom said I could contact him. The order of things is a little fuzzy but meeting Tom was so exciting for me, and Chi Chi LaRue (who of course I told immediately when this all came about). I was working for Channel 1 Releasing at this point and Chi Chi was part owner. In addition to being a warm and wonderful guy, Tom was very generous in sharing his experiences within the adult and mainstream industry. Channel 1 gave me the go ahead to set up video interviews with Tom discussing the behind the scenes working of his movies released by Catalina. We shot four interviews, one for each movie - Wet Shorts, Flesh & Fantasy, The Dirty Picture Show and Skin Deep - which were added to the DVD releases of each movie as “Bonus Extras.” Chi Chi and Tom sat on my couch and we recorded them conversing with each other while watching NightCrawler, which then became a “Bonus Director’s Commentary” on that DVD. It was all very exciting to have our Idol (excuse the pun) spending time with us. Tom even invited us to a party at his house where he projected a classic old movie on the big screen in his backyard to a large group of partygoers. I have both the Skin Deep interview and full interview on my YouTube channel if you would like to view them.

 

Tom DeSimone's Skin Deep interview

Tom DeSimone's Skin Deep interview

 

Having access to Bijou Video's amazing streaming service, I recently watched the restored and remastered version of The Idol, and now I know what all the hype is about. This is one great, timeless classic which felt very much like a mainstream movie. Bijou’s streaming catalog also includes many other Tom DeSimone movies like: Dust unto Dust, Confessions of a Male Groupie, The Frenchman & The Lovers (formally titled: The Harder They Fall), Station to Station, and of course my personal favorite Hot Truckin', with Gordon Grant! The Bijou catalog’s vast number of movies never ceases to amaze me! So much content! I’ve heard through the grape-vine that Tom DeSimone’s Catching Up is a real crowd pleaser as well. That is the next one on my list to stream this weekend. Look at this, here I am retired from adult video making and yet I am still obsessed with watching more Tom DeSimone movies to see if I can still learn more from one of the best!

 

Catching Up poster and Tom DeSimone editing

Catching Up poster and Tom DeSimone editing

 

For more on Tom DeSimone's career, see also Bijou's 2019 interview with him: Part 1 and Part 2

 

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

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