An Alphabet Soup of Powders and Pills

By Will Seagers
 
Big handful of pills

 

From as far back as I can remember the use of drugs was inextricably woven into the fabric of gay sex and clubbing. Although trends and the drugs of choice for that day have changed over the decades, there is still an unspoken need for their presence.

The chronology for all of this is not meant to be exact. But, having been there personally for a lot of this, it will be anecdotally close to the mark.

Weed was and still remains the favorite for the widest audience. Its effects were calming (for the most part). In the "Summer of Love" - 1969 - with Woodstock and the ever expanding gay bar scene in the major cities, it became ubiquitous as part of a good time.

For myself, my episode with marijuana (by itself) was rather short lived. I liked it in conjunction with LSD to take off some the harsh edges that were encountered. That was one of the first combos that I can remember.

 

Assortment of drugs

 

LSD was one of my favorite adventures. On my first trip with orange sunshine at the age of 18 or so, I remember being at my friend's house and being so high that I was watching cartoons in my cupped hands! Acid in the early days was QUITE powerful and should have been done in small doses. Hey, what did I know? I'll tell you what I didn't know at first. It took a good 45 minutes to come on. So, if you were an impatient kiddo like me... you took another hit! Ha. And, then the space ship took off! I found sex on acid was very bizarre - I did not like my partners morphing in front of me! Lol.

In the early 70's, some RXs were handy - if you liked downers. Seconals, Tuinols, Placidyls, and of course the ever popular Quaalude! One could get quite messy on any of these. And, there was no such thing as inhibitions either. If you could remain alert enough... the sex could be a lot of fun. I also need to mention Valium. Although a downer itself, it was quite a rescue pill in the case of a bad trip. I always remember them being brought out at the end of a long Saturday night/Sunday morning on Fire Island!

 

Seconal pills

RX had nothing to do with it!

 

On the other side of the rainbow were the "stimulants." In the early days, the good ones required an RX, too. Black Beauties were first prescribed by "Diet Doctors" as a quick way to shed pounds. Side effects - life in the (very) fast lane and no need to sleep for at least a day or so. "Christmas Trees" - Dexamil - were more fun in that they were half an upper and half a downer. From that you attained a pleasant "sideways" condition that lasted for hours. I was given my first of these Bi-Phetamines by a fellow flight attendant. They did the trick on overnight flights! Recreationally, they were taken with acid for a little additional color!

Edging into the 80s, another chapter unfolded - MDA and all of it sister derivatives. This had to be the best drug for sex and dancing that ever rolled down the pike. Being the ancient grandmother to ecstasy, it did race up the heart to achieve its goals. Regardless of the injury rate, it remained at the top of the list for the first few years of the 80s.

Looking back at all of this, it was amazing to see what new drugs came out and how they changed the culture. As nightlife became "morning life," cocaine and speed became more and more popular as the need to stay up increased. Cocaine supplanted weed for many as their drug of choice. Its "rush" coincided with the more rapid pace of the mid to late 80s. Valiums to the rescue at the end of a coke weekend!

Right on the heels of the coke phenomenon came crystal in the mid to late 80s. It was the ultimate expression of the "up for three days" culture. Although its primary feeling was that of raw sex, it had the downside of creating a lot of impotence! So, out of necessity a little blue pill (Viagra) came on the scene - to bring everyone back to life! More than any other drug, crystal was extremely dangerous. It was highly addictive and destructive to major systems in the body. I speak with experience with regard to this "ex-friend." I literally moved away from S.F. to save myself from what could have been my demise. I had been a member of the "up for three days club." With some soul searching and brief moments of sanity, I made arrangements to move back east and rehabilitate myself. It worked!

I am looking back at this and sharing this in almost disbelief... How did I make it through all of this? It was the most decadent of times with no guard rails to be seen anywhere! I am just glad that with a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other, the angel prevailed! That alphabet soup of powders and pills is all in the past... with some astonishing memories!

 

 

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

 

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Tales of the City: I Read It, Finally!

posted by Madame Bubby

Oh wow, this summer has certainly been a summer or reading for me, in addition to the process of assembling many of these blogs into a book format. I guess I am lucky, to enjoy such large amounts of time to sit there and read. For hours.

As usual, I am way behind the trends. I tend to get interested in media after it is popular (for example, I only got interested in Seinfeld in reruns). I've known about Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City for some time, I know there was a miniseries in 1993 based on the books, and now there's one on Netflix (I don't get it, yet). But I just wasn't that interested.

Until a friend loaned me a huge volume that contains the first three novels, Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, and Further Tales of the City. I read all three Sunday night through last night. For someone who reads much dense scholarly material, it was a quick read, and I don't imply it is superficial. It actually read much like a screenplay, and I mean that as a compliment; less is more in the description, and the dialogue shapes the characters and moves along the action.
 

Cover of Maupin's 28 Barbary Lane

The 1978 one, the first one, was most interesting, as it really gave one a slice of the “sex and the city” life in San Francisco during the swinging seventies. The place was certainly comparable in some ways to the “blue bubble” cities (a scary thought in hindsight) of today.
 

Ad for 21st St. Baths, captioned Definitely for the Discriminiating Male
Ad for gay bathhouse in Mission District, definitely for the discriminating male, from: http://www.missionmission.org/2010/09/17/the-21st-street-baths-were-definitely-for-the-discriminating-male/

But it wasn't just LGBTQ persons who flocked to the city like the young ones did in the 1960s to the Summer of Love; they often were persons perhaps a little more daring than Mary Tyler Moore (who ended up in Minneapolis, not exactly the Babylon of Sodom of the 1970s) trying to figure out how to shape an identity that didn't necessarily conform to that of their Greatest and Silent Generation parents, who themselves, especially if they had the money to do so, were swinging themselves in their suburban sprawl.

But by 1978, the Summer of Love had degenerated into drug abuse, Milk had been assassinated, and Anita Bryant was vomiting her orange juice of bigotry on a national level. Liberation had come at a cost, but Maupin explores these times in a range from biting satire to gentle humor to bittersweet melancholy. Ultimately, the tales are about persons caught up in the wildest and even dangerous escapades (Jim Jones did not die at Jonestown? Oh, that's in the the third one I read) but still, somehow, never losing their ability to laugh at themselves.

One incident in the first novel that happens to the oh so hot straight guy who lives in the wonderful building of Mrs. Anna Madrigal at 28 Barbary Lane (Maupin gives us so many titillating descriptions of him sliding in and out of jeans and various forms of undergear) I found most interesting. Apparently, in San Francisco at that time, “the tubs” or the gay baths weren't the only places to enjoy no strings attached sex. Brian goes to some kind of co-ed bathhoue on Valencia Street. And there was The Party on Monday night, and also that night women were admitted free.
 

Valencia Street, San Francisco in the '70s
Valencia and Market Streets, San Francisco, 1970s, from: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/northern-california/san-francisco/1970s-san-francisco/

He does meet a woman in her private room, (she invites him), but she assumes he is at least bi, and she builds on the fact that most of the guys who go to this bath are bi or gay (but of course!). And I find one ends up feeling sorry for Brian. Yes, he is the heterosexual equivalent of a gay “slut" and he knows it, and he want to get laid, not psychoanalyzed at the baths.

But Maupin's description of the main space is telling, perfectly selective detail, with a real zinger at the end:

There were twice as many men, mingling with the women in a space that seemed strangely reminiscent of a rumpus room in Walnut Creek; rosy-shaded lamps, mis-matched furniture, and a miniature electric train that chugged noisily along a shelf around the perimeter of the room.
A television set mounted on the wall offered Phyllis to the partygoers.
On the opposite wall a movie screen flickered with vintage pornography.
The partygoers were naked, though some of them chose the shelter of a bath towel.
And most of them were watching Phyllis.


Yes, Phyllis, a spin off the Mary Tyler Moore show. Mary's middle-aged friend Phyllis Lindstrom played by Cloris Leachman ends up in San Francisco after her husband dies to start over. And it's got one of the campiest beginnings to any sit com, ever. (Think the big number Hello, Dolly reworked by someone on acid.)
 

Phyllis oepning credits
Phyllis opening credits

But that allusion pretty much says it all about Maupin's take on the topsy-turvy, paradoxical yet also wild and wonderfully campy world that was San Francisco in the late seventies. A world where persons of any orientation could still afford to live in an apartment with a view of the wharfs and where they party with the neighbors and go out to diners at all hours and their landlady tapes a joint to the front door as a welcoming gift.

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