Skip to comments.Where's a girl to go?- The demise of lesbian bars in SF
Posted on 08/20/2002 3:01:35 AM PDT by chance33_98
Where's a girl to go? BY DAVID KIEFER Of The Examiner Staff
Society's take on lesbians is a little like voyeurism.
A peak through a bar window, a glance at a flier posted on a street corner, a guilty read of the Women seeking Women personals.
We know Dykes on Bikes lead the Pride parade. Or maybe even that last month's Ladyfest Bay Area drew lesbians from around the country, or that a woman named Des is remembered on a makeshift memorial on a Dolores Street traffic island.
But scratch the surface of San Francisco's lesbian community and another perspective is revealed -- bars and cafes catering to lesbians are fading in the nation's gayest city. Last month, the Bearded Lady CafÈ closed. Two years ago, it was the CoCo Club. Long before that, Amelia's, Clementina's, Francine's, Sophia's, and the Artemis CafÈ all cashed out.
In The City, lesbian hangouts have struggled to survive. Currently, there are only two strictly lesbian bars, the Lexington Club in the Mission and Wild Side West in Bernal Heights.
Many say it's a financial issue. Most women either don't have disposable income or are not willing to spend it.
"Women have a tendency to be in long-term monogamous relationships, and most likely won't be found in bars and nightclubs," said longtime lesbian nightclub promoter Mariah Hanson. "Then, when they break up, they're back in the bars and nightclubs."
But is it enough to prevent a lesbian hangout from succeeding?
Lila Thirkield can shoot down that theory. Her bar, the Lexington Club, has provided a window for the subculture, to a lifestyle many don't see or are not willing to.
Seeing a need for a full-time lesbian bar in the Valencia Corridor when there was none, Thirkield was scared when she opened the place in 1997. But since then, the Lexington has flourished.
She found a formula that worked: Small place, low prices, no cover charge, and a sense that the place is essential to the community.
"We've totally created this world when there wasn't one," she said. "We've always taken care of our own."
Need an example? Take Christmas Day. The bar was nearly empty, and Thirkield probably spent more money to keep it open then she made all day.
But she didn't think of closing, because, "It's important to have a place to be when there isn't anywhere else to go."
The Lexington Club has taken over where the Bearded Lady left off, as a dynamic place where women were inspired enough by the creativity of the owners to open a window into their own souls--through readings, music, theater, and art.
It's about expression, passion and feelings. A community is marginalized no longer, at least on these nights among friends.
Today, a layer of grime covers old fliers attached to the door of the Bearded Lady's vacant storefront. A "closed" sign is slowly becoming bleached by the sun.
During its heyday, things were different.
"The vibrant art scene that grew up in and around the cafÈ was a real blossoming of confidence and talent for a generation or up and coming artists," said the original Bearded Lady herself, Harriet Dodge. "We became a hub of sorts. Many people found their voices with us."
It didn't hurt to have creative minds such as herself and Silas Flipper Howard, a guitar player for the legendary lesbian punk band Tribe 8.
In addition, the women they met at the cafÈ inspired them in their own projects, such as the film "By Hook or By Crook," co-starring, co-written, and co-directed by Dodge and Howard. The film, funded by the lesbian community, was critically acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival and will be coming to San Francisco in October.
"We were just so broke when we started the place, we were selling the bakery samples," said Howard, who now runs a hauling business and works as a garbage collector, carpenter and house painter. "But if we needed something, people donated it. People were really ready for something."
Though the cafÈ was sold to allow Dodge and Howard to concentrate on the film, its days seem numbered anyway. The energy to keep it open in the evolving dot.com environment wasn't what it used to be.
Today, much of the lesbian social scene comes from weekly or monthly clubs at various venues. A promoter organizes, a DJ plays, women dance, and the owner makes money -- an owner who is most likely not a lesbian and cares little about anything other than the bottom line.
"We're seeing greed all around us," Hanson said. "There comes a point where enough is enough," which is why Hanson and Thirkield, at least, are doing their part to take back control.
Hanson is planning on opening her own full-time lesbian nightclub, the Cherry Bar and Lounge, in October.
"These clubs have become our meeting places, our places to check in community, a celebratory atmosphere for an oppressed group to meet and feel safe," said Hanson, who also admits to some trepidation.
"Everybody tells me I'm crazy to do this," she said. "I don't believe that."
He called them 'lez-beans', and was constantly on the lookout for any comments or behavior by girls or women which he thought hinted, in even the slightest way, that the females in question might be so inclined.
His peculiar vigilance was rewarded during our senior year in high school, when he uncovered a small circle of our female classmates who were actively experimenting with lesbian sex.
He tried to blackmail them into letting him watch the festivities, but they refused.
So he called their parents and dropped a dime on each of them.
There was, as I recall, quite a stink as a result.
This is the biggest load of sh*t that I've read in a while. Like the lesbians weren't out to make a buck. "take control"? Get a freakin' clue, Hanson.
On a lighter note, I've got some marketing ideas. Let's try one named 'The Bearded Clam', that ought to be a real hoot. What about 'Carpet Craver's Cafe'? Eh, what do I know, I'm just a white male oppressor.
Juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust a bit into themselves, as usual, aren't they????
Fercryinoutloud. "Essential to the.."................what tripe.
"We've always taken care of our own."
spent more money to keep it open then she made all day
"It's important to have a place to be when there isn't anywhere else to go."
We are all about altruism.
owner makes money -- an owner who is most likely not a lesbian and cares little about anything other than the bottom line
"We're seeing greed all around us,"
They are all about exploitation.
"There comes a point where enough is enough," which is why Hanson and Thirkield, at least, are doing their part to take back control.
Time to take back the bars!!! Let honest motives rule!!
"Everybody tells me I'm crazy to do this," she said. "I don't believe that."
He was always a good friend to me, I had no complaint with him.
The lesbians, however, probably did!
What I can't understand is your buddy trying blackmail, and then outing them. From what you wrote, it doesn't sound like the girls had done him any harm, unless you consider not wanting to have sex with him harm, which I don't. You don't have to believe in karma or anything like that to consider 'what goes around, comes around' and wonder what the blazes he was thinking. Repulsive, I find it.
It's a good thing I wasn't one of those girls' parents, because after I got through dealing with my kid, I'd have pressed charges on the blackmail, which is a crime.
Sounds exclusive to me....Uh...isn't this a Politically Correct No-No?
I'm not sure whether, "Let me watch you munching a muffin or I'll tell your dad." rises to the level of a crime...
Ethically that's blackmail, yes. But, with regard to pressing charges, you'd grow old and gray cooling your heels in the waiting room of any DA that I've ever known.
And, even if you found an protector of the perverse activist DA, it would be an unwinnable 'He Said, She Said' case.
And remember, this took place back in the 1960's... Lesbians enjoyed virtually zero sympathy in this neck of the woods back then.
My friend chose to burn a pack of nasty-ass perverts for his own reasons, good, bad or indifferent. It seems as though you want for me to share your outrage.
Truth be told Cato, I didn't care what happened to those freaks then, and I still don't.
Of all the things going these days and all the writer can write about is lesbian bars, but I'll have to admit the tittle hooked me in.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.