BARchive :: The Slot
In 1976, before the Folsom Street Fair became the iconic festival it is today, among the bars, baths, and blue-collar joints South of Market, at 979 Folsom Street, stood the South-of-the-Slot bathhouse.
Built in 1906 and licensed as a hotel, the Slot’s three stories catered to homomasculine concupiscence. The Slot was for those who kept their fingernails clipped short and carried a can of Crisco. It was for men who knew their way through minefields of drugs and implements of pain and pleasure.
"Want to go to the Slot Saturday?" Sheldon said.
"What’s happening?" I said. I’d planned on salooning Saturday night.
"I’m going to shave John’s head," he said. John Ely was Sheldon’s latest boyfriend.
"Can I bring my Nikon?" I asked.
"I don’t care," Sheldon said, "as long as Tony doesn’t mind."
Tony Tavarossi was Slot manager for owner Jack Haines. This was back in the day when undercover vice cops could end careers and ruin lives. But it was arranged with Tony. The camera stayed in the room on the second floor. You entered the room, you took your chances.
Word spread; a head-shaving at the Slot; a sexual happening in a private room; indoor street theater.
Jack Fritscher, in room 326 - his Saturday night pied-a-terre - with Russ Van Leer, came down to the second floor, saw what was happening, and called David Sparrow to join. Steve Prokaski walked by the open door, saw me, and joined us.
Voyeurs peeked in, liked what they saw, and joined the gathering. Each made the event unique. There was Sheldon with barber tools and John with a head itching to be shaved; Jack in his Air Force jump suit, pocket-loaded with toys; Russ with his special suppositories; Steve, All-American boy, in a baseball cap; and watching just inside the door were buff voyeurs with big tools, practicing their own version of S&M: Standing & Modeling.
After John’s head was shaved and anointed with witch hazel, I thought it was over. Time to stash the camera, cruise the sticky hallways, gaze through open doorways, and get it on. But I was gently pushed back onto the Crisco-slick mattress.
"Now it’s your turn," Jack Fritscher said in my ear.
"Yes," I said, surprised at my own desires.
Jack got out his clothespin clips. Sheldon approached with his barber tools. I was ready. Later, as John and I each stroked the smoothness of the other’s skull I heard a voice say "Look at those billiard balls getting it on!"
A 1966 city directory listed 979 Folsom Street as Kim’s Hula Shack, Tavern. By 1971 a poster featuring a drawing by Bill Tellman of a hunk posed with towel advertised "The Slot Hotel for Gentlemen: Open 24 Hours."
A later poster by Al Shapiro aka A. Jay, in his iconic Harry Chess cartoon style, featured a nude dude in hardhat and rubber gloves spilling his goods. The caption read "The Slot: Inquire about Our Early Cum Special, Call for Details," followed by the address and phone number.
On October 10, 1984, the Slot was included in People vs. Owen, filed by City Attorney George Agnost and Director of Public Health Mervyn Silverman in an effort to close several San Francisco bath houses, hoping it would stop the spread of AIDS. Today 979 and 977 Folsom are listed as one property with twenty-nine rooms and eight bathrooms.
© 2013 writerJimStewart@hotmail.com For further true gay adventures check out the award-winning "Folsom Street Blues: A Memoir of 1970s SoMa and Leatherfolk in Gay San Francisco" by Jim Stewart.