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YESTERQUEER AND TOGAY

PHOTOS: Take A Tour Of San Francisco’s Forgotten Gay Bars

Bandstand

PHOTOS: There was a time when men — and some women — wore suits while drinking 35-cent whiskeys in bars with names such as Connie’s “Why Not?”, Cissy’s Saloon and The Purple Pickle. That time was San Francisco some 50, 60 years ago — before Ellen, before Elton, before Stonewall.

Mike Stabile from the Pop-Up Queer Museum set about mapping out these bars after pouring over the withered pages of defunct gay rags like Vector, After Dark and David, resulting in the Lost Gay Bars of San Francisco.

While we certainly don’t yearn for the impromptu police raids and a life lived in the shadows, there’s something to be said about the gay old times depicted in these ads and photos from that “lost” era.

And there’s also something to be said for this drink menu:

Black-Cat-Menu-1950

Those kids must have known how to party back then because a dollar and some change could probably get you wrecked.

Check out more photos from the San Fran’s queer history and to find out more about the who, what, where and werq of the city’s forgotten gay bar scene, visit the Lost Gay Bars of San Francisco project.

Toad-Hall-Cut

Jeannie-Sullivan-&-Tommy-Vasu-far-rt.Taken-at-Mona's-

Gold-street-SF

Folk-Watkins

Nothing Special

Gay1$impersonators

lost-gay-bars-of-sf

Photos: Found SF, The Pop-Up Queer Museum

By:           Les Fabian Brathwaite
On:           Apr 13, 2013
Tagged: , , , , ,
  • 27 Comments
    • Elaine Lancaster
      Elaine Lancaster

      How wonderful to look at those who helped to pave the way………Wonderful. Tks for this post.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • watching1
      watching1

      Fantastic. Really beautiful, thank you.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Peter
      Peter

      whoa. this is so cool.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • longpastdue
      longpastdue

      This is really cool and it does kind of make the time seem a bit glorified, that being said I hate to be the immature asshole but I have to ask… “catburger?”

      Apr 13, 2013 at 1:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Taurox
      Taurox

      Love these. Anyone know what a “Catburger” was? I tried looking it up but just came up with a ton of lolz cat stuff. No wiki on it.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris-MI
      Chris-MI

      I found one reference to a catfish sandwich as a catburger, but nothing definitive. I’d go for the fish and chips instead.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gppm1103
      gppm1103

      They forgot the Pacific Exchange, on Upper Fillmore and Numbers down the street.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • timelord89
      timelord89

      North Beach used to be filled with lesbian and gay bars, and had quite a few drag acts. Well Mona’s was certainly one of the most popular places. It made San Francisco a tourist destination. San Francisco’s Queer Neighborhood wasn’t always the Castro, prior to that it was the Haight Ashbury, and prior to that it was North Beach, and prior to that it was along waterfront.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sanfranca1
      sanfranca1

      That (quite long) list of bars brought back a lot of memories. The Frolic Room was my first gay bar way back in ’68 or ’69.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 6:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Wilberforce
      Wilberforce

      I actually remember Toad Hall. What a bad name, unless there’s a double meaning that I’m missing.

      Apr 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • reesielover
      reesielover

      I sure miss the good old days in the late 70’s when I first came out in lovely San Francisco. My 18th birthday was spent in a wonderful bar where you could be with as many guys as you could handle and have endless encounters in dark corners of the bar. Much safer and carefree back then. I sure miss those days.

      Apr 14, 2013 at 12:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • niles
      niles

      @Taurox: the “Black Cat” was one of the oldest gay bars (I believe also quite notorious) anyway hence, the “cat burger” at that establishment.

      Isn’t Toad Hall still around?

      I seem to remember some seedy bars on Market Street, wonder if they are still around.

      Apr 14, 2013 at 7:40 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Benz
      Benz

      The Golden Gate was one of the oldest gay bars in St. Louis

      Apr 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tookietookie
      tookietookie

      Hello bartender!

      Apr 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Nakdndfw
      Nakdndfw

      What bar had naked bartenders? Nes hot

      Apr 15, 2013 at 4:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bob LaBlah
      Bob LaBlah

      This is a bit off subject but for those of you who remember San Francisco but no longer live or visit there might remember her.
      *
      May “she” RIP:www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Jack-Fertig-Sister-Boom-Boom-dies-3770649.php

      Apr 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • HopeSpringsATurtle
      HopeSpringsATurtle

      How could it be that “Clementina’s BAybrick Inn” is not on this notorious list? Certainly the most fun and genre-changing establishment for lesbians ever in San Francisco! 1190 Folsom@ 7th St.

      Apr 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Victor_in_PA
      Victor_in_PA

      I’m just old enough (52 as of this past Saturday) to remember the “good ole days” when it was still fun to go out to a gay bar. These pics bring back a lot of memories and a lot of sadness at the culture lost. We’re now mainstream and can line up to buy a minivan with the other breeders. Equality is good but, I’d prefer the fun of the past. It’s not that fun anymore. I never wanted to have to deal with a family, marriage, in-laws, etc. I might as well just go to a PTA meeting. Oh well, progress happens.

      Apr 15, 2013 at 7:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jmmartin
      jmmartin

      I recall meeting the great Peter Berlin in one of the S&M bars. He was a nice guy, no pretentions, but quickly implied he was looking for someone at least as hot as he was. San Francisco was where evil L.A. people went to be wicked.

      Apr 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kenny1948
      Kenny1948

      @longpastdue: The place was the “Black Cat” a catburger was it’s specialty. Not made of cat or catfish, just their signature burger with all the fixins.
      @Chris-MI:

      Apr 15, 2013 at 9:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kenny1948
      Kenny1948

      I enjoyed going down “memory lane” here, as many of these bars were old hangouts. Especially Toad Hall. Named after the story ” Wind in the Willows”. I guess the younguns aren’t familar with the Disney cartoon movie of the same name. The guy who did the woodwork and stained glass was a very good friend of mine. It’s a shame they gutted it, and turned it into a stainless steel monstrosity.

      Re: The Balcony, it is not “now the Cafe Du Nord” the Cafe Du Nord is a Basque restaurant that was there long before, just on the same block. the Bal ony, is next door to it. Too bad that wasn’t mentioned. That was it’s nickname. The C fell of the sign shortly after the place opened. Now that name, had a double meaning! It was one hell of a fun place, and always packed. They also made the best drinks in the Castro, which were served in red plastic cups.

      Apr 15, 2013 at 9:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • lkeels
      lkeels

      @longpastdue: Really? The name of the place was the Black Cat!

      Apr 16, 2013 at 4:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • lkeels
      lkeels

      @Taurox: You can’t be serious. The name of the place was the Black Cat!

      Apr 16, 2013 at 4:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • streeteditions
      streeteditions

      Toad Hall was also referenced in the Firesign Theatre’s routine “Toad Aweigh.”

      Apr 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • trabster
      trabster

      Does anyone remember The Cabaret? It seems to have been missed on this long list of lost bars.

      It had three levels: (1) dancing [huge], (2) entertainment [the actual cabaret] and (3) eating [small restaurant area] … and, of course, a bar on every level, if I remember correctly.

      It was on either Kearny or Montgomery Street, the first block off Broadway, not far from Columbus … and I believe the Playboy Club was just a few doors down on the same side of the street.

      It was probably the first of its kind, an incredible club, and well before cover charges came into play.

      Apr 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mhb1954
      Mhb1954

      It wasn’t a bar and I see other sex clubs like ritch street and others mentioned so how could we omit the 1808? This was at 1808 Market and I and other men left quite a bit of DNA in that place over a ten year period before it closed and they tore it down to build the LGBT Center. Our DNA serves as the foundation of the easterly part of that building. Literally!

      May 3, 2013 at 1:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • atseainaraft2
      atseainaraft2

      @trabster I recall The Cabaret; it was the first huge disco I went to (circa 1972 or 1973). Still in college and a bit underage, they let me in anyway. It was awesome. And, yes, I believe it was on Montgomery St. headed up a hill from the straight strip clubs.

      Jun 16, 2013 at 10:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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