squeezing around a tiny dinner table at a friend-of-a-friend’s 3rd story apartment in the mission, i loaded up my plate with some delicious mexican stew, and the host topped up my wine glass with some slosh from trader joe’s. as i settled into my second helping, conversation bounced from inside jokes to san francisco politics to gossip about mutual friends to tales of gay debauchery from the 70s and 80s.
it was exactly my type of dinner party… 9 or 10 smiling, laughing, witty faces, brought together for a casual sunday evening, most of whom knew each other, but none of whom made a particular effort go get to know me. that’s perfect… there’s no need for us to share life stories, when we’re all pretty certain we won’t be crossing paths again. you had the single gays, the gay couple, the straight couple and the newlyweds.
for me, though, i was most intrigued with rod, the older gent sat in the corner. he remained silent for the first part of the evening, but after the plates were cleared, his stories started to percolate up, dominating the conversation for most of the evening.
stories of how fun, how outrageous gay life was like in the 70s and 80s before the aids crisis. the wild 3000-person 3-day long party with 14 grand pianos, a vip an v-vip and v-v-vip room, where everyone did everything and nobody batted an eye. his amazing apartment which had disco balls and a fog machine and dancers. the porn films that would be filmed in his apartment, and how he had to repaint the outside so that fans wouldn’t come knocking on his door. his stories of debauchery at studio 54, his gentle namedropping of friends from back then, such as frankie knuckles
he wasn’t showing off, he wasn’t bragging, he was just sharing. proving to me that san francisco used to be a very different place, and that i’m justified for feeling disappointed and let down by the supposed gay mecca. life in san francisco is a bit better than when i lived there 1999-2001, but it’s still pretty sad, relative to, say, chicago or austin or san diego.
reading tales of the city and hearing stories from guys like rod confirms that people used to know how to have fun. i’m not talking just sex and drugs and hedonistic clubbing… i’m talking about a general fun-loving, adventurous attitude, from social groups to political rallys to big parties to having a sense of community. san francisco still doesn’t feel like a gay mecca to me—it smells much more like a homogenized, corporate version of gay life… more like a gay starbucks than a gay mecca.