Into the Past

I spent an entire day perusing Bay Area Reporter archives, 1980 through 1985. This San Francisco weekly is the oldest continuously published LGBTQ newspaper in the United States.

Due to its proximity to the state’s capital, coverage of Sacramento is frequently included. My reason for researching is to intertwine LGBTQ history into my memoir trilogy.

Interesting to note are similarities found in response to the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics. These include reluctance of gay men to be tested for the virus (due to stigma), officials considered a quarantine of gay men, and both law enforcement and the military’s response. I was shocked to read headlines following a sheriff’s announcement that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation would not be performed on gay men due to a fear of deputies contracting AIDS.

Not surprising were also allegations of redlining in the Castro; preventing minorities from securing mortgages in the predominately white neighborhood. Yes, racism also existed in the gay community.

In-fact, discrimination would continue to the 1990s, until protests ensued once it was learned one of the Castro’s most-popular bars, Badlands, selectively denied entrance.

For many years, the only Castro bar people of color felt comfortable and welcome in was Pendulum.

On a more-personal note, I was subjected to racial prejudice (i.e. denied entry) at Midnight Sun, but spared whatever was occurring at Badlands. At the time, I was part of an entourage which included DJ’s from Trocadero and EndUp, therefore bypassing the Badlands doorman and always heading straight to the bar’s DJ booth.

I spent many years living in Sacramento and partying in San Francisco, cities less than a two-hour drive between each other; whether hitching a ride, borrowing someone’s car, or catching the Greyhound bus. My trek into the gayest city in the world occurred during pivotal moments in LGBTQ history.

Bay Area Reporter ad for Sacramento’s Wreck Room; November 6, 1980.

Sacramento

Wreck Room was my hangout during the 1980s. I was almost always at its notorious weekly beer bust, Pig Out. Lost my 501’s during Sunday’s debauchery once, leaving the bar in only my briefs, but went back the following day to retrieve them. I found my beer encrusted jeans on top of the Pac Man machine!

Another time, I threw a pitcher of beer in a guy’s face, but being a staple at the place (and very friendly with the bartenders), wasn’t 86ed. Unfortunately, I was just being a dick and wanted to see if I could get away with it.

Had some great times at the leather bar, especially in the narrow alleyway which led to the back patio. One literally had to squeeze through dozens of daddies to get to a secluded area behind the bar, which reeked of poppers and four-twenty!

The low-down dirty dive later relocated to Broadway, next to an adult bookstore, also near the site of the defunct Underpass biker bar (another fun place). Before Wreck Room, Sacramento’s Valley Knights motorcycle club would hang out at Underpass. Despite being underage, I partied many nights on its elevated dance floor.

There was a late night/early morning coffee shop between Underpass and Wreck Room, frequented by patrons of both bars (and the nearby Steamworks bathhouse), where I ran into one of my high school teachers once. He was with a couple of teenage boys.

We never spoke about it, but after I ditched the remainder of that school year he still gave me a passing grade. Small price for silence, considering the Briggs Initiative only two years earlier, which sought to ban gays and lesbians from working in public schools. Decades later my best friend would confess to being molested by him during our freshman year.

Me, working-out in 2019 and still wearing Wreck Room t-shirt, 39 years later.

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