Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Club Life..."Hit me with your Rhythm Stick!”

By Will Seagers

 

Hi folks! Will here. Today's stroll back through memory lane will put a little bounce in your step - it's time to look back at some of the famous and infamous dance clubs in our "Dive" into Soma/Folsom history!

Although the South of Market area hosted some of the biggest and most popular discos and dance clubs like Trocadero Transfer, Dreamland and The End Up, it would not be fair to the history of San Francisco not to mention some of the clubs that started the whole phenomenon. The City, Dance Your Ass Off, Bones, and The I Beam come to mind... just to name a few. These were some fantastic dance venues in other parts of town back in the day.

 

Dance Your Ass Off button (L); I Beam sign (R)

Dance Your Ass Off button (L); I Beam sign (R)

 

Just off Folsom and down the street from Hamburger Mary's and The Stud was The Oasis. This bar with its unique swimming pool made for an exotic backdrop for the equally exotic and talented Timmy Rivers, its first DJ. Timmy was famous for his very sophisticated taste in music as well as legendary mixing skill. Still open and featuring great drag and cabaret, it has weathered several decades in SoMa!

 

 

Oasis SF, present era

Oasis SF, present era

 

Although huge in popularity, The End Up was a modestly sized venue located at 6th and Harrison that was opened in 1973. You could always count on great music from DJ talents like George Ferren (listen to his current music here), Steve Fabus and Peter Struvy - just to name a few. Although it had its own attraction for the late night/early morning crowd, it became an infamous after hours club catching the "still wired" revelers from Trocadero and Dreamland - which closed at 2 AM. The DJs took full advantage of this crowd and played amazing classics as well as breaking a lot of hot new tunes. Yours truly had the privilege (albeit sort of brief) of being one of their sound techs. Together with Tom Junnell in the late 80s, we revitalized the sound system with state of the art JBL Cabaret series speakers and some vital new electronics. It seemed that the DJs and the dancers noticed and responded with joy! This was truly one of San Francisco's one of a kind experiences.

 

End Up ads including a flyer for its 8th Anniversary party (1981) featuring Steve Fabus with producer George Ferren

End Up ads

 

Now on to the big time... Trocadero Transfer! Built in 1977, it was owned and created by Dick Collier of Baltimore. This club broke new ground in terms of size and sound. Graebar Sound was brought in from NYC. Peter Spar and Barry Lederer of Graebar brought to the table the kind of sound found in 12 West and Fire Island Pines' Sandpiper and John Whyte's Boatel (the home of the original Tea Dance), just to name a few. The hardwood dancefloor was vast and specially built as not to fatigue the dancers through the long nights. After a parade of talent made its way up those steps of the mirrored pyramid (the DJ booth), a young man originally from Masapequa, Long Island made his way up those steps to be one of the most famed DJs in the country: Bobby Viteritti. He was a massive success for the club and had an immense following. And, it gave rise for yet another Goliath – Dreamland.

 

Trocadero Transfer ad (L); Will Seagers' Dreamland membership card (R)

Trocadero Transfer ad (L); Will Seagers' Dreamland membership card (R)

 

Dreamland! Born in the late 70s (circa 1979), was the "dream" and creation of Michael Maier, formerly of Cincinnati. I had the pleasure of meeting and having a rather torrid affair with Michael during the summer of 1978. We both worked on Fire Island. He worked for The Sandpiper and I worked for the Boatel. After work we would go out dancing in our "neighborhood bar," The Sandpiper. The music was always great - with the likes of Robbie Leslie, Richie Rivera, and many of the other top name NYC DJs. A funny thing... we both liked to play tambourines to the music... even while dancing. It was not uncommon back in the late 70s to bring a percussion instrument onto the dance floor. Michael surprised me by moving to San Francisco that next fall.

As for the "birth" of Dreamland... some of it happened right in my little 10th St. San Francisco apartment as I mentioned in a prior blog. Blueprints were unfurled right on my coffee table and investors were invited to get this ball rolling. So, just months later with yet another Graebar sound system and another specially engineered vast hardwood dancefloor installed, the doors were ready to welcome the dancers and night life of San Francisco. I was among its first employees. With the talented Roy Shapiro we did the light show.

Opening night was memorable. The immense four foot diameter mirror ball was lowered to the floor in a non-spinning mode. Opening night's DJ was Vincent Carleo - of Flamingo (NYC) fame. As patrons filtered in, he started with "The Land of Make Believe" by Chuck Mangione and that enormous mirror ball started to spin and raise into the heavens. This tasteful start was followed by lots of the very urban and gutsy music that Vincent was known for. Dreamland was a hit!

 

Mirror ball

 

My DJ debut took place at Dreamland. It was the Tea Dance of Easter Sunday 1980. Having played lights there and being an integral part of the "family," both Michael and Roy learned of my budding taped music career. After hearing my tapes, they decided it was time to move off the lights and onto The Wheels of Steel! It was a marvelous event attended by lots of friends and fellow DJs. I was scared to death... but rose to the occasion with tons of familiar tunes. The roar of the dance floor kept me going!

I started off by mentioning there were too many wonderful places all over San Francisco to list all of them. My co-author, Josh, and I will do our best to do highlights for you! Life is a Dance!


 

Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted careers and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model, film performer, and DJ, just to name a few. 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.

George Ferren, a close friend of Will's frequently mentioned in his blogs, was a major figure in the San Francisco music scene in the '70s/'80s. His current music is available for your pleasure on Soundcloud: BY GEORGE

 

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
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: Long Live the Stud!

 

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DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: Moby Dick Bar

By Will Seagers

 

Hi Guys! Will Seagers here to share some more Castro Neighborhood memories from the past. The focal point is the Moby Dick Bar, which I'm glad to report is still open. Once again this comes from the perspective of having been an employee. Hope you enjoy reminiscing!

 

Moby Dick Bar in the '80s

Moby Dick Bar in the '80s

 

It is sort of strange that I wound up DJing at three of the Castro Neighborhood's most prestigious bars when I was never a bar person. I did dabble in it back in my early 20s when I lived in New York City. I enjoyed the music and sexual energy of bars like The Eagle and The Anvil in particular. This was a good thing to have in my memory banks as when you are playing at stand up bars rather than dance clubs, you are creating background music to help the guys "achieve their goals!"

Routinely, as I mentioned in a prior blog about The Badlands, I played Sunday evenings right after Timmy Rivers. I had a nice little SAAB sedan that I drove from my apartment in the South of Market area to work. Parking was always a nightmare. My first choice was always on Hartford Street... just down the block from the Moby Dick Bar and two blocks from The Badlands. Frequently I lucked out. With my smart canvas bags full of records, I would pass by Moby Dick and notice the crowd. That wonderful music that spilled out the front doors sure helped me get in the party mood to play my shift at Badlands!

Moby Dick was a popular spot. Both music and people were to be found spilling outside of the place! Physically it was charming, a converted turn of the century retail store that had been painted in very Gay Colors. It's key feature was an enormous aquarium behind the bar... hence the name. There were two levels; the main level where the bar was located and surrounded by major windows. Then up a few steps was a gaming area with pool table and pinball machines. Off to the side of this upper level was a nearly hidden DJ booth.

 

Two views of Moby Dick Bar's aquarium

Two views of Moby Dick Bar's aquarium

 

I think how I started there is almost a blog in itself! My dear friend Michael Goglia, Moby Dick bar manager and former bartender at the Badlands, called me in a panic on New Year's Eve 1990 in the afternoon. He said his main DJ, Vincent Carleo (who was also a friend and who I greatly admired as a DJ for decades), had taken ill and could not play that night. I hadn't played out for several years but leapt at the opportunity! Needless to say, the rest of that afternoon I spent putting together my New Year's Eve ensemble. I have always kept a fully functional mixing system in my homes including a Technics RS-1506 open reel deck upon which I recorded my ensemble.

So, I arrived at the bar which was already partying and festive with my bags of records and my New Year's Eve mix. I was slightly nervous - but ready to take on the night! I was familiar with all of the equipment. At first, I was a bit put off by the location of this booth - there was no view of the bar or main floor. Up until this point I had always gauged how and what I was going to play by watching the crowd. That all changed very abruptly! So, midnight was quickly approaching and I got my program cued up on their open reel deck. At the stroke of 12, I started with the bells and alarm clocks from "Time" from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." As the bells faded into the heartbeats, I brought in "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copeland and followed that with a very popular disco hit by Thelma Houston - "Don't Leave Me this Way." The crowd went nuts and the cheering was even loud in my remote booth. Soon after the midnight celebration, Michael came rushing to the booth with a shot (and a line) to congratulate me on rocking the crowd. I do have my own rather unusual musical style. But, I had no idea that it would have been so well received. Michael was so happy that he was teary-eyed. He relayed to me the brilliance of using "Fanfare" followed by "Don't Leave Me this Way" - Aaron Copeland had just recently passed and I never even knew it! I know that my guardian angel was looking out for me! Michael then asked me to be a permanent member of the staff. After accepting, I enjoyed my final year and a half in San Francisco playing my heart out at Moby Dick Bar!

 

Moby Dick Bar's contemporary exterior

Moby Dick Bar's contemporary exterior
 

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

 

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