Monday, February 16, 2009

In the beginning... The Castro of the 70's

There was a period starting in the early 1970's that I felt like I was sitting on top of the new gay world... well, at least heading in that direction. The Castro neighborhood was turning into the Greenwich Village of the West. Many new gay-owned stores and bars were replacing the old Eureka Valley mom and pop stores and taverns. It seemed like the old time residents were moving, too. And a never ending supply of new arrivals of gay men of all ages took their place. Store fronts, apartments and homes were cheap to rent or buy. I was renting a 2 bedroom house on Alpine Terrace, half way between the Haight-Ashbury and the Castro, that had a view, a front and back yard, an in-law apartment and a couple of garages for $250. I subleased the in-law to a student for a hundred bucks, and both garages for $50 dollars... that reduced my rent to $100 dollars a month. A lid of pot cost $7. and papers were a nickel... and I had an educated thumb that got me rides to Stinson Beach, Mt. Tam or the nude beaches south of the city... and my constant companion was my Canon camera.

In 1973, I talked the owner of Georgianna's Bakery at 420 Castro Street into allowing me to have an ongoing exhibit in her shop's window, just a short distance away from today's Harvey Milk Plaza. The window had a built in audience, because it was located near a popular transfer-stop for the busses and streetcars... and later the subway. I began buying and developing my film at the newly opened Castro Camera Shop, a block away, owned by New York transplants Harvey Milk and Scott Smith. We became friends. It slowly became a popular place that had the feeling of a small town's general store... without the potbelly stove. People came in to talk politics, pet Harvey's dog, or comment on the never ending parade of good looking guys passing by the shop's store front window.

I managed to get my name in a few Herb Caen columns, and worked part time at Sidney Mobell's Jewelry store downtown. My friend Jay "Golda" Platt, a fellow Chicagoan introduced me to Al Hanken, who owned 2 bars south of Market Street. Jay was managing Hanken's new Round Up team in the 3 year old Gay Community Softball League. The C.S.L. was the first gay organized league in the country (now over 50 cities have gay sports associations and leagues.) Jay talked me into playing 12" slow pitch softball ( I was a 38 year old rookie) and in returned Al hired me to do the PR for both his bars, including the End-Up at 6th and Harrison... I also handled Jay's PR for several of his businesses.

By the mid-70's... the Castro was Center Earth... 24 hours a gay day. Seldom was heard a discouraging word... Harvey Milk began to dabble in politics, and I entered a few photo contest with good results, and began to make a name for myself, too. I was beginning to sell a few of my ideas, as well as give some away for free. The city was also very much alive with changes that seem to be for the good... beginning with George Moscone's being elected as Mayor in 1975... I WAS AT THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE!

I'll be filling you in on events and happening that forever changed my life...
it will not be in timeline order, but more important... it will give you a look
into what was to become my future... and I now called those adventures "The Reversible Light-Year Train"... that will take you back to the time that train was pulling into those adventures... in my life... The next stop COMING UP will be...
ORANGE TUESDAY JUNE 7,1977... that also changed Harvey Milk's destiny as a spokesman for gay rights based on one of my images...

1 comment:

sydneyleung said...

Hi Jerry: I came across this blog from Google alert. I took over the Endup 3 years ago from Carl, Al's brother.

Just thought I'd drop a line and would love to learn more about the 70s of the Endup!


Sydney Leung

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