Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END

By Josh Eliot

 

When I read Will Seagers' blog last week, it got me reminiscing about my years in San Francisco and, even though I was there nearly a decade after Will, I fell in love with the city just as much. So… Flashback, 1981. When I ended my second blog, FRANK ROSS: The Boss, I was still working for the Screening Room Theater in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and the summer of 1981 was approaching. It’s a little fuzzy as to whether the theater had an ownership change to Savages at this point, but I do remember Frank Ross being in a very different head space. One day on his way to work, Frank was walking down Jones Street and, when he was just a block away, a man jumped from the top of a building and landed not more than five feet in front of him. This messed him up immensely, and justifiably so. I was in the ticket booth when he came in trembling and with a face full of tears as he told me what happened. I jumped up from the stool and just hugged him, while he shook uncontrollably. It took a long time for Frank to get over what had happened; some things you just can’t “un-see.” My on-again, off-again quickies with TK, the hot stripper from the theater, had settled into the off-again stage permanently as he became involved with an equally hot blond stripper more around his age.

 

Savages Theater, formerly the Screening Room Theater

Savages Theater, formerly the Screening Room Theater

 

I was 18 years old and could count on one hand how many sexual trysts I'd had. I didn’t count the customers at the theater who would cruise me from the lobby while I sat in the ticket booth. Occasionally when the coast was clear I would step back into the theater, during a ten-minute break, and let one of them blow me if they were cute enough. That didn’t count as sex in my book, just customer service at it’s finest. I was still settling into the fact that I was now out of the closet and not very experienced. On one of my days off, I decided to throw caution to the wind and set off for a day trip to Lands End. Months earlier, TK and the strippers took me there after a night at the Trocadero Transfer Disco and filled me in on its history. There was a nude beach you could hike to on a path that started at the Cliff House and old Sutro Bathhouse. It was a downhill trail all the way to a cove, and supposedly along the way there were men in the bushes going at it.

I’m embarrassed to say, I put on my favorite corduroy brown cut off, “short shorts” and headed to the beach, knapsack attached, on the #38 Geary street bus to Lands End. The ride there was uneventful and when I arrived, I basically used my “gay-dar” to follow a group of men to help me find the right path. It worked like a charm, and before I knew it I was on the trail headed to the cove. What a “wonderland” of excitement, as the trail did not disappoint. Clusters of men in circle jerks, blowjobs and more. Single men sporting big bulges, with the help of cock-rings, inviting the passers by to have a feel. I bypassed all of them, probably because I was too intimidated, and spent the day at the cove. I spread my blanket, got some sun, went up to my waist in the frigid water and at one point talked with a guy who came up and sat with me. We exchanged numbers, but I never called him. Not really my fantasy Lands End experience, but I wasn’t exactly an aggressor either.

Around 4pm, I hiked back up the trail and to the bus stop to catch the #38 Geary home to the Tenderloin. The bus was packed, standing room only, because everyone was leaving the coast. It wasn’t until we got several blocks into our trip that things took a turn. At one of the stops, a tall gentleman came aboard and shimmied his way through the isle where we were all standing there crammed against each other. I thought to myself, OMG this guy looks just like JOHN BECK. John Beck starred alongside Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier in what was my favorite book and movie of the time. The Other Side of Midnight was a #1 bestseller and hit movie with very controversial content, and I just loved it! Anyway, John Beck, to me, was the hottest thing since sliced bread.

 

John Beck with Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier

John Beck with Susan Sarandon and Marie-France Pisier in The Other Side of Midnight

 

I must have been gawking at him because on his way down the aisle our eyes met and he ended up stopping right next to me. The bus continued on its journey and he kind of just stood there, one arm on the bar to keep balance and the other arm holding a book at his waist. He refused to make eye contact, just kept staring off into space, when suddenly (and this was impressive to me) he started rubbing his knuckles back and forth over my crotch, using the book he was holding as a shield. All the time not making contact but knuckling me non-stop which, at 18 years of age, immediately caused me to get a full boner. I was mortified when I saw a lady in one of the seats looking at me with judgment on her face because these shorts were so fucking short my underwear was pushing below the fringe, exposing my cloth covered boner. Oh the depravity! But it wasn’t enough to make me to move away from those knuckles. Finally, my own personal John Beck was making eye contact with me and cracked a very sexy smile. I was jumping out of my skin, but no words were exchanged. At some point seats opened up and we both took separate seats, still eyeballing each other. We both rode the bus until the end of the line and it wasn’t until we un-boarded that we first spoke. I told you I was shy.

 

Crowded #38 Geary bus

Crowded #38 Geary bus

 

We both over-shot our stops, had a laugh about it, then he invited me to his place. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. All too often when someone pops their cherry, like I did that day, it’s an uneventful situation. This one had it all: the anticipation, the courting, the foreplay (in silence), then the foreplay in bed followed by my first time bottoming. There was even a follow-up dinner date at his place, but that was it, I moved on. Of course, the first time hurt like hell and I really didn’t enjoy most of it, but he was very sweet and even bathed me in his tub afterwards because I was trembling. I guess it’s normal for middle-aged men to bathe their children!

I’m not saying, “Don’t Wear Short-Shorts on the #38 Geary to LANDS END,” but if you do, you might just get your anal cherry popped! (Again.)


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?

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FRANK ROSS, The Boss

By Josh Eliot

 

I spent hours at a time staring across the street at a filthy looking restaurant called the Go-Go Kitchen. It wasn’t the restaurant that caught my attention so much, but the exterior door next to it. A door leading to an upstairs apartment where every shade of rabbit fur coat was walking through it, sometimes with a man, sometimes without. It couldn’t have been more obvious. I’m no fool, I saw Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway starring “Jan Brady” on NBC in 1976. In that movie, Dawn became a sex worker, and she always wore a rabbit fur coat while walking the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. I’m not sure whose name was on the lease for that apartment, but he must have had a lot of “daughters” with a suspiciously similar dress code.

It was 1980 and I was working in the ticket booth at the Screening Room Theater, a place with quite a history. The first full-length adult hardcore feature legally shown in the United States premiered there in 1970, and today there’s a plaque on the building stating so. The film was Alex de Renzy’s Pornography in Denmark: A New Approach. It was billed as a documentary, which helped it avoid legal troubles.

 

Screening Room Theater exterior and plaque

Screening Room Theater exterior and plaque

 

In the 1980s, the Screening Room was a XXX Gay Cinema with live shows on stage. As I sat there analyzing the sex workers' behaviors, I felt two hands begin to rub my shoulders; it was my boss, Frank Ross. In addition to managing the theater, Frank became well known as an actor, producer and director. Some of his features include: Face to Face (aka San Francisco), Black Pack, Black and Bi and Made in the Shade and its sequel. He was a true New Yorker, a bit intimidating, with handsome looks and a tattooed muscular body.

 

Face to Face poster and Made in the Shade VHS cover

Vintage poster for Face to Face (aka San Francisco) and VHS cover for Made in the Shade 1

 

When he interviewed me for the job, he struggled with the idea of whether or not to hire me, because I had just turned 18 the week before. He was very protective of my naivete and took time before exposing me to all the different areas of the theater and its playrooms. As weeks passed and we became more comfortable with each other, he started sharing stories of his sexual adventures. His trysts blew my mind but helped me get more comfortable with accepting myself. I envied my co-worker who was already comfortable in his own skin and would go up to the projection booth and play around with Frank regularly. A dancer named TK, who would talk with me in the booth after the live shows, invited me to go to the Trocadero Transfer with all the dancers. He knew the doorman, so I got in no problem.

 

Trocodero Transfer exterior, Divine's honorary membership card, and a fan dancer

Trocodero Transfer exterior, Divine's honorary membership card, and a fan dancer

 

It was my first time seeing fan dancers, being in a club this size and bonding through party favors with the dancers. At sunrise, we were all at the beach where TK and I went into a cave by the Sutro Baths and played around. Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach are notorious gay cruising spots. When I came into work the next day, Frank had this shit eating grin on his face, like a proud papa. I guess strippers do kiss and tell. Frank totally patted himself on the back for kicking my ass out of the closet, and I guess after months of his influence, he did.

 

Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach images

Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach

 

Frank’s most infamous film as producer was made while I worked for him. He was excited to tell me the details, about a prison guard and convict who are handcuffed together during an escape. “Oh, like The Defiant Ones,” I said, “I love that movie.” He was impressed that I made the connection and invited me to watch them film on the movie set. The shoot was the next day, around the corner at the Bulldog Baths on Turk Street.

 

Bulldog Baths ad and token

 

Bulldog Baths ad and token

 

The infamous bathhouse had a real prison cell set, and he was very excited about it. It was too nerve-wracking for me, so I never went to the set. What a huge mistake! The feature turned out to be Wanted, starring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler. Frank Ross was producing and Steve Scott (Inches, Performance, A Few Good Men, Screenplay) was directing! Let me put this in perspective… this is how I see it: you have Steve Scott who is like the Martin Scorsese of gay porn, Al Parker is the Robert De Niro, and Jack Wrangler is Leonardo DiCaprio. The best of the best for that era, there is no topping that cast or crew. A huge regret not going to that set! FUCK!

 

Wanted DVD cover featuring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler

Wanted DVD cover featuring Al Parker and Jack Wrangler

 

I don’t know if my life would have taken a different direction had I gone to that set or not, but after leaving my Screening Room job in 1981, I wasn’t exposed to the Adult Film Industry again until I was hired at Catalina Video in 1987. Sadly, I recently found out that Frank Ross passed away on May 20th 2021, which made me think back about our time working together. Because we worked on different coasts, he never knew that I ended up working in the same industry as him. I wonder how he would have reacted.

But do you know what the real burning question in my mind is?

Are there still girls going in and out of that door next to the Go-Go Kitchen?

 

 

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.  

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The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, Still There in Chicago!

posted by Madame Bubby

Lucky Horseshoe exterior

Yes, it is still there. I had to ask, especially now that that the area around it is gentrified and homogenized in so many ways since the last time I was there, early 1990s.

Why was I there? The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, known to its regulars as the “Shoe,” is a gay bar yes, but one that features dancers. Not strippers (no nudity), and they usually are already stripped down to something skimpy that barely covers up the cock.
 

Lucky Horseshoe dancer in jockstrap

Jason Heidemann, a while ago, wrote a piece in the Chicago Reader describing his experiences in detail, and he also makes the point that the place actually seems to be evoke a feeling of “shame-based resistance” for many gay guys. Like, oops, why are you there? What's really going on with you? Or even, in an online exchange, a LOL.

It's an exotic dance club, and I am thinking perhaps there could be a couple underlying cultural stigmas. First, the whole go-go girl men's club business that caters to heterosexual men contains some obvious structurally exploitative/misognynistic dynamics. Whether this dynamic strictly applies to what goes on gay male strip clubs is open to question, and I also think it ties closely into the stigmas associated with sex workers in general.

Secondly, in the gay community itself, there's a stereotype that the types of customers the place attracts tend to be “dirty old men” desperate for copping a feel on a young, lithe body. Heidemann makes the point that the place for many couples serves “as a compromise between one partner who wants monogamy and the other who has an insatiable libido.”

That dynamic reminds of me of my experiences there in the early 90s. I was involved with the LGBTQ Catholic group, Dignity, and I sang tenor in its amateur choir. After church, the choir director, the priest, one religious brother who sang in the choir, and whoever else wanted to tag along, hit the Shoe. (In fact, we were at the Shoe when the Bulls won their famous “threepeat” game!)

It turns out, that Sunday night at the Shoe was called “priests' night out.” One could say that in many cases, sticking dollar bills in the lush baskets of the dancers was a way of not literally violating a promise of celibacy or a vow of chastity. The choir director I think just liked the dancers, a lot, and I also think, because he was partnered, he would hang out there to “blow off steam.” (I'm not sure if he ever hooked up with one of the dancers, but I vaguely remember hearing he did invite one over to his house.)

I must admit, most of the dancers were too thin, smooth, and “twinkish” for my taste, but one night, an anomaly. A particularly beefy muscle guy wearing heavy boots appeared, and I was smitten. I not only got to touch his basket, but we even made out a bit. We had one date. He worked in sales at Marshall Fields full time, days. In real life gear he looked much less imposing. Too “nice” for me, alas.

And I did hook up with a real hot number, beard, blue collar, cowboy boots, there one night, an out of town guy on a conference. A weekend romance ensued. I looked him up on the internet. He is still working at the same job he did in the 1990s. He looks older and grayer. It happens to everyone, even the dancers.

Overall, I'm glad the place is still there, and given its longevity, I gather it has probably adapted to the bachelorette party culture, which has created some controversy lately in gay male bars. In fact, given the vicissitudes of social and cultural change, it's perhaps an even more unique space that still keeps the dancers dancing and a diverse array of customers coming/cumming.
 

Lucky Horseshoe dancer
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