My life starts off during World War II in 1943, written in 2 sections, this memoir reflects the first 19 years of my life as a native of San Francisco growing up in the homophobic prejudice of the 1950s as a sissy boy. Often bullied, always trying to hide my same sex attraction, even at a very early age. Recounting my 5th generation California heritage from Mendocino County, reminiscing my boyhood experiences of San Francisco’s past: Sutro Baths, Playland at the Beach, Golden Gate Park and hustle and bustle of Market Street full of service men in the 1950s. My childhood was tumultuous from the abandonment suffered by being moved around from one family member to another, I was a survivor.
The big change came in 1962, I could no longer hide and suppress my homosexuality, my closet door was ripped off at the hinges and I found myself in an unfamiliar world as my family and friends alienated me. Temporarily on the streets, the early struggles of being gay in 1962, even in San Francisco, there were no gay role models; it was a world of fear of being found out, a cat and mouse game with the police. But it wasn’t long before I found new friends and a whole new world opened to me. Initially, I frequented the coffee houses on lower Market St. and the Embarcadero, still under 21, successfully sneaking into bars like the Rendezvous, the D’Oak Room and Club Dori, it wasn’t long before I was in my first gay relationship, short lived as it was. In 1965, I was drafted into the Army, seeking adventure, chose not to check the box, consequently, spending 2 successful years in Germany as an active, but discreet, gay man in the military.
The second part of my memoir takes place when I return from the military in 1967 and the amazing transformation San Francisco had gone through, the Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love were in full bloom. New gay bars had opened all around town and I had a new boyfriend in the leather community and became a member of the Koalas buddy-riding club and a member of S.I.R. (Society for Individual Rights). My background in printing landed me job at one of the early porn magazine printers in San Francisco, when publishing full frontal male nudes magazines first became legal and also worked on Vector Magazine in 67 and 68 as a layout and graphic artist. Briefly, I moved to the Haight-Ashbury, discovering sex, drugs and alcohol and produced an alternative lifestyle publication, The Organic Morning Glory Message, but The Castro was calling, eventually moved to 651 Castro St. in 1971, a 4 bedroom Victorian flat was owned by Herb Donaldson, we paid $160 month, all happening just as the big migration to The Castro started, in the middle of all the excitement and innocence of those early Castro days with all those starry eyed gay men. We referred to the Midnight Sun bar as the “temple in the ghetto.” I worked with Pristine Condition of the Cockettes on her calendar, with Wakefield Poole on one of his films and knew both Harvey Milk and Scott as neighbors down the street, although I was politically apathetic at the time, more interested partying. I opened a graphic design studio across the street from Harvey Milk’s camera store at 556 Castro St. in 1973, investing in a typesetting computer. Bob Ross being one of my first clients, I began typesetting for the B.A.R. until 1977, when I was offered a high paying job as marketing art directory at Sonoma Vineyards in the wine country. I left my beloved city and moved to the Russian River where I experienced what we called Castro north until 1984. I returned to San Francisco into the face of AIDS. I got clean and sober; thanks to the Castro Country Club and fortunate enough of have escaped the epidemic through sheer luck. I helped friends and lovers some dying in my arms and watched some of the rapacious homophobic families swoop in and grab victims’ assets out from under the noses of long-term partners, leaving them with nothing, which spawned the early domestic partners legislation by Harry Britt, where I end the book.
In those 50 years of my struggle, I still see the same common treads of hope we still fight for today. 50 years ago, homosexuals were struggling just to congregate in public places; today we are closer than ever to full equality. I think the most important thing to remember about our struggle: like life, it’s a journey, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the experience of the journey, its joys and tribulations we have experienced together that gives us winning strength.