Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tour: The El Rosa Hotel

Home of the Screaming Queens who create the Compton's Cafeteria riot and one of the locations reported to be the origin of Vanguard.

Oral History Excerpt from the Original Vanguard, Adrian Ravarou. Interview by Joey Plaster 2010:
“Billy Garrison described himself as a hair fairy—which meant that the clothing he wore was heterosexual, you know, guys clothes—jeans and a shirt—but then he had his hair ratted up and hair sprayed so it was stacked like a beehive almost. And he then had on make-up eye, brow pencil, rouge, some lipstick, foundation, he did his nails. And one of the things that happened in the community was that, because people were looking different and didn’t pass as women, they would often get snide and rude comments, being called names and so-forth— and so Billy was talking about well—how can we overcome this? And I think it was over a period of about a couple weeks that we were talking [in the El Rosa hotel] that he pointed out that he had come from Seattle, and when he had been in Seattle he said he was a straight male—he was heterosexual—and he had been a member of a gang, he said he had been a leader in a gang. He said there were problems within a particular Seattle neighborhood between the community and the gang and that a particular minister had reached out to both communities, brought them together and created a dialogue and actually had some of the members helping each other so that it mitigated the friction and people began to understand one another and create tolerance, and to—programs around that. And Billy was wondering, is this something that we could do in the Tenderloin?”

Vanguard Magazine Reading: Vol. 1, Issue 9, 1967 [reading from video #2] This document was republished in our Vanguard Revisited Magazine in 2011. (click on the image to see it in a larger size)

Contemporary Question:

How do we have systems of support and community like at the El Rosa hotel today?

The answers of the young adults participating on 2/21/2011on were intentionally left out of the online tour, in order to protect their confidentiality. We encourage virtual participants of the Vanguard Tour to answer the contemporary questions in the comment section. You can post anonymously if you would like to protect your confidentiality.

[continue to the next stop in the tour: The Compton's Cafeteria Riot]

* Tour materials collected by Joey Plaster with Mia Tu Mutch, Completed 2/21/2011 with the new Vanguard as a part of the LGBT Center's Youth Program. Vanguard Magazine appears here courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society.

Tour: The Central City Hospitality House

The first Vanguard handout read:

The time is here to bring together the youth of the TENDERLOIN to form a more unified community among ourselves. We find that no one has room for us in their society, therefore we must work together to form our own society to meet our OWN needs. Our needs and goals are:

1) Coffee House and meeting center

2) Emergency Housing

3) Medical aid, area VD clinic, etc.

4) Employment counseling.

5) Police cooperation

6) Financial aid (if possible)

We are willing to work with interested groups, but, who can be more trusted and relied upon than ourselves. To find satisfaction we found one another. [1]

Citizens News Volume 3 #9 (2/10/1964) The Undesirables -- calls Jesus the ultimate undesirable. Talks about a move to enforce vice laws. “VICE should be defined as anything that does not fit into the picture of those that are too old to engage in such things; or activities that seem to be too much fun for those who in engage in them; or anything that does not add to the economic wealth of the ‘civic-minded citizens.’” “There is always a group of persons who have undesirable practices, beliefs or traits. These are the people who indulge in VICE. Now those in the Establishment may do the same things as the undesirables, but since they are responsible members of the Community it is never thought of as VICE. There is a difference.” He goes on to call Jesus, Ben Franklin, and others undesirables. “We, the undesirables of 1964, are prone to forgive the people who would deprive us of our freedom. We remember that the most famous undesirable of all time also had forgiveness in his heart, for did He not say: ‘Forgive them for they know not what they do.’”

Citizen News Volume 4, #4 (Jan 1965???)

You Fellahs Should be Discreet

San Francisco News Call-Bulletin, Guy Wright, article on hair faeries. Quoting from article: “Today’s column is addressed to the homosexuals of our city. Its message is simple: Please, gentlemen, try to be a bit more discreet. The other day at a magazine stand on Market Street I encountered a young male wearing women’s ski pants and a woman’s car coat. His hair was tinted a pinkish blonde unknown to nature….it seems to be that this unfortunate was taking a delicious pleasure in the distaste which he caused among the other customers.” “It has become almost common-place to see young men holding hands as they stroll down the street. One section of the Tenderloin has been taken over by homosexuals.”

* Tour materials collected by Joey Plaster with Mia Tu Much, Completed 2/21/2011 with the new Vanguard as a part of the LGBT Center's Youth Program.

[1] “Exiles of Sin, Incorporated,” By Laurence Tate, Berkeley Barb, November 11, 1966

Tour: Compton's Cafeteria

Rev. Ray Broshears text

Young homos Picket Compton’s Restaurant

VANGUARD, the organization whose membership is drawn from ‘kids on the street,’ tested out its muscle on one of the worst offenders against human dignity in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco.
Compton’s at Turk and Taylor has long treated the younger residents as if they were not at all human.

On various occasions, according to spokesmen of VANGUARD, the Rent-A-Cop (Pinkerton Men) have manhandled innocent customers because they did not drink their coffee fast enough to suit the Rent-A-Cop.

On the 18th of July VANGUARD had bout 25 persons carrying picket signs from 10 pm til 12 pm. The action was televised by ABC and a fair presentation of the cause of VANGUARD was telecast.

Specifically VANGUARD was protesting:
We of the Tenderloin are picketing and boycotting this Gene Compton Restaurant for the following reasons:

1. We of the Tenderloin are continuously subjected to physical and verbal abuse by both the management and the Pinkerton Special Officers assigned there.

2. We feel that the 25 cent “Service” charge was put into effect to keep out those of us who have little or no money.

Until the management of this restaurant changes its policies of harassment and discrimination of the homosexuals, hustlers, etc., of the Tenderloin Area, we will boycott and picket this restaurant.”

Tour: Chuckers Coffee House

In March of 1965, The Chuckkers coffeehouse was raided, charged with municipal ordinance 440 (wearing apparel of opposite sex with intent to deceive) and California penal code 650 (openly outrages public decency). …..”[1]

Citizen News Volume 4 No. 12 " And then Sgt Ludlow, of past fame decided the cut of the hair was still not sufficient at the Chukker. The Chukker is an after hours coffee shop in San Francisco's infamous Tenderloin operated by on of San Francisco's most colorful characters, Carlo. Carlo was one of the participants in the recent Chanel 4 film on homosexuality. Anyhow Sgt. Ludlow let the word drift down that if the hair faeries did not cut their hair by Good Friday that they would be hauled in for impersonation. Promplty at 3:30AM, the good sergeant with banners flying arrived at the Chukker to check out the hair-do's. He arrested about 19 people for various sundry things, all as valid as a LBJ half-dollar, and took them to the Jail.... This raid apparently is tied into the current police drive to gain control of the after-hours places and the statistics of this raid will be apart of the reasons cited for such control."

The owner, Carlos Lara, or Carlo, Raids had become so commonplace by early 1966 that in February of 1966 Carlos posted a signs in the over-the-top style of carnie show announcements in front of the business[2] In 1965, a letter about SIR activities mentions the The Chuckkers, likely written by Forrester. A SIR document, likely from 1965, read:

“I suspect that the element represented by C. Laura represents an element from which we can learn much and for which we can do much. After all, in truth, they are free to fight through the courts and do, while so many of the other more respectable people, can’t or won’t. Mr. Laura is much freerer [sic] than most of us and can indeed show some the example of courage in living up to and being true to ‘his nature.’ Carlos Laura is responsible. He is also free, brave, and true to what he feels he is. And he is willing to fight to prove it.”[3]

Forrester gave the talk on the immediate eve of the sensational press coverage that followed the release of the Tenderloin Report and noted that the publicity and campaign “has become a matter of some controversy in the homophile movement.” Many felt it was an “undesirable image,” he said. He said that the publicity decisions were his, in consultation with Ed Hansen, because it “cannot be swept under the rug.” At a March 1966 CRH meeting, “Mr. Forrester announced that in the future it was likely that homosexuals from the Tenderloin would be publicly demonstrating for their rights under the law and that unfortunately that might undermine the image of the so-called respectable homosexual the organizations are trying so fervently to propagandize.”[4]

Oral History Excerpt of original Vanguard Member Joel Roberts:

by Joey Plaster, 2010

JOEL: You had the butches and the femmes, [00:33:57] and the queens like Dixie and you had the butch ones and then you had the rough trade, those kids were probably juvenile delinquents or just young criminals and they were hot, I mean no doubt about it and [00:34:15] you had to be a little bit S&M to make it with them you had to understand that when you’re giving a rough trade guy a blowjob, he’s using a little verbal abuse but which is music to your ears, he’s going, suck it really good whatever [00:34:23] you little bastard, and so it’s wow, as far as the fairies, and that is one of the words people used for us, chuckers were fairies, [00:35:07] but there, mostly were service, soldiers and sailors going there to make it with the queens. [00:35:11] So you definitely had a butch femme thing

* Tour materials collected by Joey Plaster with Mia Tu Much, Completed 2/21/2011 with the new Vanguard as a part of the LGBT Center's Youth Program.

[1] Citizen News Volume 4 No. 12

[2] Citizen News Volume V No. 4 (Feb 1966). We had heard of the raids that have become commonplace there and that Carlos intended to supplement his signs ibn front. So we went over with camera and flash unit to get pictures for our readers.

[3] Report to the President and Board of SIR. [date unknown, before community house opens] -- 1965?

[4] Don Lucas papers, Box 9 of 21, Folder 9/10, Minutes of Board of meeting of CRH held on March 29, 1966 at 870 Market Street

Tour: the Meat Rack (Street Sweep)

Street Sweep action text

Tonight a ‘clean sweep’ will be made on Market St; not by the POLICE, but by the street people who are often the object of police harassment,” read a press release. “The drug addicts, pillheads, teenage hustlers, lesbians, and homosexuals who make San Francisco’s ‘MEAT RACK’ their home are tired of living in the midst of the filth thrown out onto the sidewalks and into the streets by nearby businessmen….This VANGUARD demonstration indicates the willingness of societies [sic] outcasts to work openly for an improvement in their own socio-economic power. WE HAVE HEARD TO [sic] MUCH ABOUT “WHITE POWER” AND ‘BLACK POWER’ SO GET READY TO HEAR ABOUT ‘STREET POWER.’” AP and KGO radio: JP MARAT said “we’re considered trash by much of society, and we wanted to show the rest of society that we want to work and can work.[1]

* Tour materials collected by Joey Plaster with Mia Tu Much, Completed 2/21/2011 with the new Vanguard as a part of the LGBT Center's Youth Program.

[1] Vanguard Vol. 1, No. 2, October 1966

Tour: Glide Memorial Methodist Church

also the Glide Foundation

"spiritual home" of SF homophile movement, urban ministers operated out of site, Vanguard held first meetings here, held office space here, Vanguard dances in basement.

SF Chron and Examiner, 1/23/66
Church’s New Approach to Religion in Cities
Intersection Coffee House, at 150 Ellis. Comprises “one dimension of the City’s life with which Bay Area churches are now attempting to communicate on the theory that if religion fails to meet the realities of urban civilization it is bound to be weakened. To cope with these realities, a new ‘Urban ministry’ is developing, and with it a new style of clergyman who leaps in where once angels feared to tread – into the dens of the Tendelroin area, the coffee-houses of North Beach, homosexual hangouts, racial ghettos – wherever there are people.”

“In the City, Issues, Not Symptoms” 1966?
“In every big city, bars, taverns, night clubs, ‘adult’ movie theaters flash neon and photographic come-ons to the young—the footloose, the bored, the confused, the lonely, the thrill-seeker. Glide has its own come-on: an interdenominational coffee house called Intersection.” “improvisational theater, painting, and other creative arts.”

“we are concerned with people and enabling them to live humanly in a culture which makes humanness a difficult goal to attain.”

“In every big city, bars, taverns, night clubs, ‘adult’ movie theaters flash neon and photographic come-ons to the young – the footloose, the bored, the confused, the lonely, the thrill-seeker. Glide has its own come-on: an interdenominational coffee house called Intersection.” Coffeehouse with theater, painting, and other creative arts.

“For such ‘city issues’ – police brutality, homosexuality, mental illness, human relations, loneliness, alienation, civil rights – Glide seeks solutions, exerting pressure here, speaking out there (‘when Glide Foundation speaks, people usually listen’), lending moral, other support (‘it helps people and groups to make responsible decisions’)—a catalyst in the city’s hard-set mix.”

By Jerry Wood
Feb 25, 2:05 AM, Glide Memorial Church
Even the drags were there. Food for anyone in the basement. I saw pornographic movies in a room while a political discussion was in progress. We moved to Indian Chanting in the Sanctuary. The neo-American church. Jazz or free expression in the primary room. A real free expression press and we kissed over typewriters….Vaughn Marlow in the sanctuary has called for…volunteer medics to assist in the Vietnamese conflict. A girl doing one topless in the typing room. Everyone turning on. People with coats still on who checked on people turning on in the basement. People to people halls. Color people. Orange and red and green and different people. The church as a live building….The Community Police Relations Officer was there. Gentlemen from the Chronicle wandered from floor to floor in some dazed condition…Playroom for kids…No one uniformity of opinion. Hot people checking on people screwing in the basement, in the bell tower, and in the men’s’ rooms….Lights and colors and people. A man searched for homosexuals to interview…I.W.W. people from New York played recorders…Excited long hair belles, hunchbacked animation kids in creation….A good fuck-for-peace argument was given. I felt more like I did now than before I came in!...I saw a nude man on the alter….Things carried out into the street and Claude’s bustable barn versus unbustable Glide. We, the people wanted to do our thing there. A masturbation type of thing. But wax on cushions, heel cuts and shit blew the Church’s mind. 548 Commercial up and off. Dispersing persons gloom.

* Tour materials collected by Joey Plaster with Mia Tu Much, Completed 2/21/2011 with the new Vanguard as a part of the LGBT Center's Youth Program.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

30 Types of Cereal: Clay Johnson 2011

Sex and consumerism should have a parade of their own. After all it does seem like they’ve tied the knot in the states.

“Captain crunch is living the Life and counting his Frosted Flakes with none other than the Count himself, Chocula. They’re after me Lucky Charms he’d always yell at the Trix bunny who was busy getting Kix from the Honeycomb.” Walking towards the grocery store we would often play this verbal story game. It’s just to pass time or uncertainty, whichever is less in demand.

Approaching the buildings automated sliding gateway we both look at each other…knowing what was to come. We had only talked about doing it in the past but now we had taken the first faithful step on a staircase of which we couldn’t quite make out the end.

Inside the speaker box voice from above is blaring/glaring a mush soup of warbled words and either broken or muddled sentiments lost in the haze of suburban hub. It sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher saying, “Important message for all shoppers; Wiggly womp fruit buried in sun blasted raw profiles of strained optimism and feigned relativism.” We laugh as we walk past the detergent and barbed wire.

The magazines say the word so much and yet avoid it directly. Proper posture and the crass laughs of class stringing deep, line the magazine racks just covered in it. They seemingly scream, SEX!

“This week on sale; a new product called Visa that lets YOU consume virtually and with a brush less guilt.”

Love is a verb that implies doing. The act of love being communicated through various forms of language. In aisle 14 the making of this particular verb includes us naked. You (the reader) and me (the writer). After all what are love and reading both if not communion? So we are in the store, on the floor sprawled out in sublime ecstasy. People pass like ships in the night. They never glance directly down the aisle and through their blinders that both lead and bewilder. It’s cozy to put up defense mechanisms I suppose.

Gender lost in an androgynous gel that heats the scene. Approaching the arc of an eternal climax we look up and notice 30 different types of cereal. I think to myself, “that’s a fairly absurd number of cereal choices” then shrug as we’re putting our pants back on.

All of a sudden I can for the first time clearly discern what is playing on the loudspeaker. It’s “Lost in the Supermarket” by the Clash. You just gotta love that voice from about right? We walk away whistling.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Political Notebook: Queer youth revive 1960s magazine

San Francisco in the 1960s was a beacon for LGBT youth from across the country. Yet it was far from being a safe haven for those young adults who were runaways and landed on the streets of the city's Polk and Tenderloin neighborhoods.

Back then that area of town was the Castro of its day, with numerous gay bars and residents. It was also a magnet for the queer youth moving to the city.

Once there, some turned to prostitution as a way to earn money, while others became addicted to drugs. Homosexuality was still considered a criminal act, and a sense of community was lacking for many of the youth.

The increasing numbers of queer kids on the streets soon caught the attention of both community organizers and local religious leaders. They formed some of the first gay liberation organizations as a way to provide support and services to the youth.

One such group that emerged in 1964 was the Council for Religion and the Homosexual. A collaboration between the early homophile organizations and urban ministers, its leaders secured federal War on Poverty funding that was used to start several programs for Tenderloin youth.

One of the first projects was Vanguard, the nation's first GLBT youth organization, which debuted in 1966. The following year saw the launch of Conversion Our Goal, an early transgender group, and the social services nonprofit Hospitality House, which remains in operation today.

"Vanguard was a street gang that was established. When I came the church adopted Vanguard as its youth group," recalled former Glide church pastor Larry Mamiya, who was 24 years old at the time. "We hosted dances and socials Friday and Saturday nights in the church basement. It was a mixture of straight, gay, lesbian. There were also transvestites and some transsexuals."

Looking for an outlet to express their feelings of isolation, abandonment and rage at the society at large, the Vanguard youth published their own magazine. The zine-like publication was a mixture of artwork, essays, and news reports. It sold for 25 cents.

It covered everything from opposition to the Vietnam War and the emergent hippie culture to the struggles and challenges the youth faced. Many, using pseudonyms, wrote first person accounts of their lives.

"I think Vanguard was one of the groups in the forefront of the gay movement that helped to push society to re-examine its views of gay people," said Mamiya, who is straight.

Copies of Vanguard from 1966 through 1969 remain in the archives of the GLBT Historical Society. They had been mostly overlooked, until now.

A new project has unearthed this important period of LGBT history, and a group of youth has revived Vanguard . They produced a new version of the publication called Vanguard Revisited that mixes vintage artwork and writings from the 1960s editions with their own contemporary pieces.

It will be officially released at a launch party tonight (Thursday, February 3). The 1,000 copies of the new 60-page edition will then be handed out to young adults from across the city for free.

"These aren't scripts from movies. It is real life. This is how some of these young adults are feeling about this," said Sergio Sandoval, 21, who moved to San Francisco five months ago from Atlanta.

While Sandoval, who is gay, doesn't have housing, he said he is "sheltered," meaning he relies on "nice friends" who offer him a place to stay.

He is also an artist, and created several artworks for Vanguard Revisited, including the cover art. He also interviewed a fellow youth and penned an "Open Letter to the Fags" using the alias Gotti.

The project was a way for him to express both his frustrations with the larger LGBT community and his hopefulness for the future.

"The whole project it has been super emotional," he said. "Being the transformer that I am, I just think people really need to realize that everything is not just how it seems. They really need to open their minds. People are so shallow; I need them to be a little deeper."

The genesis for the Vanguard Revisited project grew out of the Polk Street Oral History project spearheaded by Joey Plaster , 32, a consultant to the LGBT historical society and the volunteer director of its oral history program. His research led him to the archived Vanguards .

"I was immediately struck by their beauty and bluntness, and by the ways they combine themes of poverty, sex, and religion. I was also struck by how familiar the people were: I could imagine a modern-day Polk Street equivalent of each 1960s Tenderloin figure I read about in the archive," wrote Plaster in an e-mailed response to questions.

Plaster approached Megan Rohrer , 30, a transgender dyke and pastor in the Lutheran Church, about exploring the Tenderloin's queer history. They then decided to revive the Vanguard magazine and worked with Larkin Street Youth Services to find young adults interested in being part of the project.

The youth, assisted by Rohrer and Plaster, spent three months to "create a magazine that spoke to their expressed desire to enlighten youth, celebrate the queer history of the Tenderloin, and create a voice for the unheard," explained Rohrer.

They raised $23,500 from various foundations and LGBT agencies to fund their work. And the LGBT Community Center, through its youth program, signed on and provided space for the youth to meet each week.

The center and the Faithful Fools Street Ministry will continue to work with the youth Monday nights through June to determine how to move forward. One possibility is creating a second issue of Vanguard Revisited.

"If San Francisco's LGBT community knew what it was really like to be homeless queer youth, they would get motivated to fund organizations and to protest unjust laws and to give voices to those who are the most vulnerable in our community," said Rohrer, who with Plaster will bring a traveling exhibit about the Vanguard project to other cities this summer. "We were able to do that during the AIDS crisis. There are still problems happening in our community and we can do something positive about it."

Tonight's magazine release party will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Francis Lutheran Church, 152 Church Street across from Safeway. It is free and open to the public.

For more information about the Vanguard project, including PDF versions of the original publications and the 2011 edition as well as recorded interviews with the youth involved, visit