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."
LOL! You're a sport!
How about my old pervert-obsessed buddy? Are you going to light a candle for him too?
And the poor wittle lez-beans?
And my kid's dog? (bladder problems)
And PLEASE don't forget my car's transmission...
I think it may be becoming 'bitter & twisted' too.
LOL! Maybe their parents were able to put them on the "right track".
One important detail remains though:
Were the lesbians attractive?
No, it's just that neither one of us is willing to let the other have the last word.
Cato and Flyvet's 'pretty panties in a wad' angst has piqued my curiosity about this event. I was generally aware of what happened at the time, but was not privy to a great deal in the way of detail. (and it's been over 30 years)
I've got one project that has to be wrapped up before I do anything else this morning, but if I can make the time today I'm going to call my old friend and see what more I can learn about 'Operation Lesbo'.
Both Cato and Flyvet have been kind enough to carve time from their doubtless busy schedules to post opinions and theories regarding this tragic incident. It'll be interesting to see whether my friend, who I must now officially label Mr. X, looks back with fond memories or foul with regard to his youthful cruddiness.
"...One important detail remains though:
Were the lesbians attractive?...
The daughter of the car dealers was. She was the only one of the lesbian league that I knew personally.
My memory of the others is that the rest of these daughters of Sappho were all reasonably attractive, certainly no worse than high utility-grade average.
Now that you mention it, I can sympathize with my friend just a little...
After all... He just wanted to see them in their teddies, on the bed, having a pillow fight, bumping into each other, getting angry, having a catfight, maybe kissing...
I guess the days of attractive lesbians are long over. We've gone from "high utility-grade" to "Hitlery".
The damn liberals have even managed to screw that up (which is not to say it was ever right to start with).
After all... He just wanted to see them in their teddies, on the bed, having a pillow fight, bumping into each other, getting angry, having a catfight, maybe kissing
LOL! I don't see the harm in that.... sounds like these chicks should have let your friend watch.
Nowadays, it would be difficult to do what "Mr.X" did, and come out in good shape.
If the lesbians refused to let him watch, and he told their parents, Mr.X likely would have been forced to take "sensitivity" and "tolerance" classes, while the lesbos collected millions telling their sob stories on Pravda.
If the lesbians did let him watch, considering the looks and apparent mindset of today's lesbians, Mr.X might have wound up in "strap-on hell".
A losing proposition, either way you cut it.
She was pretty fuzzy on details, but did have one tidbit...
They heard at his 30 year reunion that one of the lez-beans had taken a job as a teacher/girl's coach after college and quickly gotten crosswise of a couple of parents regarding alleged improprieties involving their daughters. (huge surprise there, eh?)
She was reputedly hounded, discreetly of course, from the faculty of that school and her current whereabouts are unknown.
More when I get it...
It sounds like you had a lot of fun high school memories. Those must have been before the days of ritalin, nazi school boards, and communist teachers.
He'd have taken the strap-on and spanked their bottoms with it until they were as red as plump, ripe tomatoes. Leaving them frustrated, full of tension and looking for someone to kiss...
LOL! It might have even "straightened" them out.
At a minimum, your friend would (if he taped it) have had some interesting footage to sell off (to the highest bidder, of course) some pay-per-view porn.
But, of course, I'm certain he would have destroyed the tape ;-)
of course, I don't feel one bit sorry for him.....I guess men need to drink alot to do what they do....
Hey! Wait a minute... I normally order water, tea or diet drinks when I go into a bar or restraunt... *ponders the implications* ;-)
Well, it's been awhile since high school for me.
In those days, although dinosaurs no longer ruled the earth, the wheel was still fairly new.
Back then the only people pushing narcotics to school kids were acknowledged as criminals and existed primarily in mythical places like New York and LA. School boards were accountable to parents in those days and a communist teacher would be hounded not only from their job, but likely from the community as well.
And queers, of all stripes, stayed under their rocks. (even when, like my friend, you asked for a peek!)
I tell my kids that one of my biggest regrets for them is that they didn't have the chance to grow up in my time. They'd have enjoyed those days better than the whorehouse world we live in today.
No word from my buddy. He's taken a few days to do some work on a cabin they've got in the hills downstate.
I have a mental image of him sitting in a lounge chair, with ice clinking against glass in the adult beverage in his hand, his feet propped up on a footstool made from something stuffed that was endangered until he shot the last one (and is therefor now extinct) while a crew of scantily clad teen lesbians wearing super skimpy coveralls and rainbow emblazoned hardhats attend to the work, sing lesbian songs and -of course- find time to occasionally kiss one another.
Please Note: This post certified 100% weenie-offense free.
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."
So let me get this straight (*ahem* - so to speak)
To satisfy his pornographic fantasies your 'friend' terrorized a group of young women because they would not agree to take part in a sex act with/for him, when they declined he sought revenge by seeing to it that he made life a living hell for every one of these women and probably was responsible for some parents disowning their children...and you think it's all quite funny.
To blackmail people into having sex is the equivalent of mental rape and I think it's disgusting that your attitude is "hey, he just wanted to see them in their teddies kissing and "performing" for him.
In essence he was saying "Submit to my perverted sexual desires or I will stalk your mind and make you and your family's life as miserable and painful as possible.
Did you ever stop to think that it's people like your friend (and by extension, you and your callous attitude towards it) that may cause some women to turn into feminazi-types more than 1000 woman studies courses ever could?
Don't bother answering.
Because I'm demonstrative, and an incorrigible, in-your-face smart-ass?
Thanks for the concern, if it's legitimate, but I'll put my faith in the good report I got after my last physical.
PS, You should see some of the things I do when I'm actually upset with someone.
OK, I won't.
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