Last night a DJ saved my life

Weekdays in Sacramento, I was a pseudo-husband (and father). Weekends in San Francisco, a hustler.

But my nights on Polk Street were coming to an end. I was no longer a teenager and couldn’t compete with fourteen or sixteen-year-olds, or even eighteen-year-olds.

Now, weekends consisted of dancing all night at Trocadero, and continuing the party at EndUp. I started dating a DJ who lived in the Castro, Ed, a short twenty-something with premature baldness. He’d spin disco while I danced with hundreds of sweaty shirtless men until the wee hours of morning.

Graphic: Me wearing Trocadero Transfer t-shirt.

Sound, light, space
Trocadero Transfer, once a television studio, was a popular after-hours dance club for decades; most-notably during the late 1970s/early 1980s. Legendary DJ’s Bobby Viteritti and Patrick Crowley (pioneers of disco, house, and electronic dance music) played Troc, as did trailblazing LGBTQ artists Sylvester, Paul Parker, and Divine.

A long list of artists who have performed at the massive Fourth Street club includes Grace Jones, The Misfits, Village People…

Here comes Pia
“I stayed up late for you!” Pia Zadora yelled to us, atop a palanquin held by several very-muscular scantily-clad men, carried to the stage as if she were Cleopatra. It was quite the sight.
Wearing a skintight extremely short dress, the recently-awarded Golden Globe actress and singer began the words to her latest hit, The Clapping Song.
And there I was again, in the middle of the night surrounded by a throng of gay men under a cloud of amyl nitrate, reciting her lyric. It was communal.

Pictured: Bay Area Reporter full-page newspaper ad from March 17, 1983.

Weekends, a line always formed to enter Troc, but dating a DJ I managed to avoid any wait. Having gone to gay bars and clubs since a teenager, I’d learnt the quickest way in: “date” the doorman, bartender, or DJ (sometimes all three if you’re shameless).

Those who made the Trocadero scene had a routine: arrive between ten and midnight, dance until five or six, before walking a few blocks to EndUp (where the party would usually extend until noon).

In the foggy mist that permeates the city most mornings, there would literally be a parade of partiers from Troc to EndUp. The path, passing under a freeway entering San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge. Both the after-hours nightclub and early morning dance bar in the shadow of the giant structure.

EndUp’s dance-floor extended outdoors via sliding glass doors. Noise from traffic above failed to interfere or distract from the outdoor groove, with the sound of the city coming alive adding to its ambience.

Sometimes our party detoured to Badlands in the Castro.

“We can’t go home,” Ed’s roommate (also a DJ) said. Huddling around a payphone at 18th and Castro, we waited patiently for their landlord to give the all-clear, once the police were gone.
Ed, his roommate, and I stopped at Badlands so they could exchange vinyl with the bar’s DJ, who warned them not to go home, just yet. The police were talking to the landlord.
“They think you’re selling MDA,” Ed whispered to his roommate; clutching a locked box containing the latest twelve-inch, and apparently what the men in blue were after.
However, the landlord liked to party with the boys at Troc, enjoyed an occasional pass to the front of the line (courtesy his tenants), sending the law on its way.

That weekend ended with the two DJ’s and myself, standing in a claw-foot tub totally nude laughing our asses off, having dodged misfortune. I remember fearing the Victorian’s third-floor bathroom would collapse!

It was a gay life despite having a wife and kids in another city. From Friday night until Sunday late, I was free to be my true self, express my sexuality, and not pretend to be what I wasn’t.