Many of the photos on this site came from old boxes and cards I have found in storage, or sent on-line by friends and acquaintances.
I am not totally sure which photos were taken by whom, or if I actually have photos by some of the artists...?
So, I have listed the names of photographers I can remember took photos of the Hula Palace Salon, Artists and the Cockettes.
I hope I haven't forgotten nor misrepresented anyone...!
If I have and there are any necessary changes or deletions, I will be happy to abide...!
Lee Black Childers
"The Princess of Castro Street"
"Short Stories from Fast Times"
By HRH Lee Mentley
"Short Stories from Fast Times”, “The Princess of Castro Street”
This is an Introduction to
A collection of written images of fleeting intentions of my deranged mind. The pictures I draw with my words are as true to the characters in them, as a photographer's are, to a model in front of a blue screen, with few exceptions, events in these stories did not all happened in any chronological order, all characters have been changed into a composite of perpetual motion of dramatic impossibilities that mixes the genders & sexual orientations, where the word GIRLLL can pertain to the same male or female paper doll as if they were stretched out across a multiverse of time..., this is a fictional memoir.
The stories are solely from my youthful experiences and inner perspective, a simple personal reflective shard of crystalline images that you may find in a distorted house of mirrors. I say this because although I have many stories to tell I am not really a writer, its just that I am still alive, having escaped the plague and long knives. Some one had to tell that there was tremendous joy before there was despair and politics...!
The Princess Of Castro Street, is not meant to be an intellectual history of the secular humanistic homosexual and gay movement, as Mr. Randy Shilts presented in his so-called definitive book, "The Mayor of Castro Street", in which he chronicled what he called the life and times of Harvey Milk, who in the first world is seen as the first openly homosexual elected to public office in San Francisco. In my humble opinion, Randy was sadly lost in a world of hero worship his notion of glamour was wrapped in a shroud of power he hung over the native asphalt islanders as a self described glitter rock queen but had no idea who Harvey Milk the artist was or how the cultural change had occurred, "In The Castro"…!
Harvey Milk was Our Mayor, I was the Hair Suit Princess. We lived as make believe royalty. This was a whole different world from mainstream reality, our characters lived an exotic erotic dream of universal archetypes colliding on a world stage where we met with all known universal controls and boldly contradicted and halted them by illusions of variable truths.
Harvey and his sweetheart Scotty Smith approached the Hula Palace Salon and asked if I would chair a new organization named "The Eureka Valley Artist's Coalition" and start "The Castro Street Fair". This was a positive signal to the creative community that Harvey understood that change takes place at the cultural level and that the political was the vehicle for the legal dimensions of the movement and that they had to work together to make enduring change. Etta Linda designed the layout for the first fair, Perez did the first poster and I approached over 350 artists from The Castro, Noe Valley, other San Francisco neighborhoods, and the Radical Fairies from North of the Bay. It was a huge success and the fair still lives on today despite my immediate catholic neighbors who tried to stop us by calling us rat fucking hippies...!
In The Mayor of Castro Street, Randy presents what the San Francisco's militant Politically Correct, Left and Right wanted to promote for their personal political and economic gain. The artists were not political nor politically correct by any of these standards. Randy wrote a, 'this is how the world should remember our story, book: What I call the white picket fence Gayourgeois Agenda, void of real life juicy gritty glittered dirt that we lived through daily, although he does attempt to tell you a few nasty silly details about San Francisco, he missed the point of the cultural movement and how we sought to change our world at the heart level entirely.
During the time of the sexual revolution, I witnessed the birth of the San Francisco so-called gay movement. These stories are a reflection of my point of view of that public process, a conversation from my future with the past. It was a time of glorious conflict and shimmering change. It was a time when girlish "Vamp" was in vogue for men and women and everyone else in-between, when there was nostalgia for the early 1900's, The Roaring Twenty's, The Thirty's German Cabaret Society, The Glamorized Forty's Pin Up Girls, Fifties Poodle Skirts, Cole Porter, Loretta Young, Dale Evans, MGM, Snow White, Jeanette McDonald, Gore Vidal & the not yet over with Sixties - the wild beasts of the 18th century, and all interesting times past, present and future as they related to sexual allure and the ability to lounge beautifully.
Everyone involved wanted to be "festive" by day and pantheistic rogues by night, or visa versa. We were very big on visa versa, boys being girls, girls being boys, the guilty rich being poor, and the poor feigning wealth. Being Gay is a spirit not a sexuality, there were homosexuals, heterosexuals, indeterminate sexual identity's, the non-sexual. The artists who passed through the Hula Palace Salons in San Francisco in the 1970’s were rebel outlaws from the mainstream, living in non traditional tribes who created life as art in haunted Victorian flats & store fronts, in what had been an Irish Catholic working neighborhood, that eventually became know as "The Castro" and eventually marketed as, The Gay Community.
Artists moved to The Castro, to escape the drug and political violence of the Haight Ashbury scene of the 1960's & the dullness of main stream thought across the United States and the world. They were, and many still are, extraordinarily talented and magical people, who the world now knows as those who created a frighteningly warm life in the mist of the cold fog of the Nixon Reagan Bush Era. How we lived. How much fun was had. How much love there was in this gritty glittering time, is the feelings I hope to express in, my,
"Short Stories From Fast Times"
Much of what you see today, in clothing design, jewelry, graphics, and other art forms, were given new perspectives by this zany movement of intensely creative angels who twisted and reused everything they could find from hardware and thrift stores, to gutters, and trash cans in a new way: Talents of Bette Midler, Robin Williams, The Pointer Sisters, Cher, Steven Arnold, Sylvester, Annie Lebowitz, Peter Minton, John Waters, Mink Stole & the impact of the independent aberration of Divine, The Village People as gay clones, Queen, KD Lang, Donna Sommers, Bowie, Annie Lennox, the heart felt passion of a Harvey Firestein, Lilly Tomlin, Patrick Cowley, Ellen are all children basking in the insanity created on the streets by this off beat nostalgia, given new meaning, by the infamous gender-fuck theatrical troupe, The Cockettes, and The Angels of Light with their glittered beards & girlish attitudes that eventually lead to men like Anderson Cooper to be comfortable in pastel business suits & media suave women powerfully attired in news anchor chairs like Rachel Maddow, who now lives above the glass ceiling shattered by women like the Goddess of the Beats ruth weiss and Mink Stole who could make any old alley look glamorous by their mere presence...!
The grand arrival of monstrous magnificent artists from strange and unusual places like Baltimore, of America's newest and most exciting film maker, John Waters with his stars Divine, Mink Stole, Eddie The Egg Lady, and Divine's incredible make-up artist Van, thrilled and scared us all…!
Divine and Mink made us all grow up instantly. They showed us what it was to play with reality. I have never enjoyed anything in theater, as much, as I have enjoyed the talents of Divine and Mink Stole. Life was Divine. They turned us mere girls into divas and when Divine met my mother Sarah at the Castro Cafe with Goldie Glitters. I realized that Divine had played out my life's story in Pink Flamingoes and didn’t even know it …!
So, as I sat years later on the remote island of Kaua`i on this planet blue, I asked myself, if I don't write my stories down, who would remember the joy, the glittered beards worn by strange sisters purchased from the crafts counter at Cliffs Variety on Castro Street, and how; what eventually became Glitter Rock and Disco emerged in great part from this village of mystical artists. A time when Punk Rock left London, traveled through New York City, arrived in San Francisco, & left as New Wave with Winston Tong, Tuxedomoon, The Mutants, the Dead Kennedy's & Noh Mercy.
If it wasn't for the flamboyance of Hibiscus emerging as Jesus parading down through The Castro from the top of the hill as a pageant unto himself & the radical gender-fuck drag queens doing their antics in the streets - with their multi-pierced ears, and brightly colored hair and clothing - there wouldn't be Regular Joe's feeling stable and normal in haunt contour & diamond & pearl ear rings bouncing off the walls to the Amy Wienheart and RAP today.
Who were we…? What were we…? We were the Mad Hatters…!
We Were Baby Boomer Goddess on soiled streets creating new universes…!
We were Alice's in our own Wonderlands. Like Isadora Duncan, we were dancers at the end of time. What became known as “The Gay Movement" came later, after the excitement of the artist's in The Castro. When the artists became media popular chic, everyone wanted to be seen on Castro Street, it had become the HOT place to be…! It was getting time to leave…! Disaster was around the corner...?
Our Mad Hatter characters were winding their way into the daily papers. All the queens had Herb Cane’s phone number inked on their wrists and would kill to be mentioned in his gossip column.
Then as a result of all the publicity, visibility, and media spin, we were attacked by bored intolerant homophobic young thugs from the South Bay and the Mission, usually the sons of police officers and closeted sissy’s from archaic religious orders. They would joy ride through the recently discovered "gay ghetto". We were literally beaten in the streets for being too fashionable.
Then, one holiday weekend, Labor Day I believe, The San Francisco Police came into the loosely formed community and attempted to close it down @ Andy's Donuts on Castro Street. A 24 hour haunt of the emerging fashionable gay community. They arrested several fairies that were fluttering about on the street.
That was when one exuberant New York artist, Harvey Milk came to the rescue & became our neighborhood hero. He seized the moment. The S.F.P.D. backed down. We had the first ever Gay/Police conference. Then when Anita Bryant attacked us from Florida, Milk brought The Castro onto the world stage. Milk was an accomplished, polished performer with a heart of gold. He opened our collective closet doors so wide they will never close again. We all owe him our right hand, or which ever hand you use…!
It seems trite to say it, but, there were good times…, there were bad times…!
The politics that seeped into our reality was both exciting, dangerous and repulsive.
There were many, unnecessary, nasty political fights. There was a lot of power to be had. Harvey knew how to bring all the various factions together. We had our noble leader.
His theme was “Harvey Milk Verses the Machine” but the gayourgeois sycophants were everywhere behind Harvey's back creating a new machine based on gay power and money, thus danger was ahead…!
Then in an instant, just as quickly, we had our bloodied martyr. Unfortunately, there has been no one to replace Harvey. It was no secret that after George Moscone was elected Mayor and Harvey Milk elected Supervisor, the power structure of San Francisco changed radically & the jealous old guard wanted it back.
The Good Old Boys in the San Francisco Police Department had to dance to a new tune, played by the new socially liberal pyridine & outside Police Chief. Newly elected Mayor Moscone had put a stop to the good old boy machine all over town, or so he thought. The Chinese where coming of age. The Mission was filled to the brim with refugees from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras who were escaping the demented C.I.A. Reagan, Bush, Negroponte, Oliver North & Elliot Abrams plots to destroy them at home, so they moved to the United States to fight the right wing repression in their own 3rd World countries from right here under the red, white and blue and the cocaine snow nose of Uncle Sam's illegal wars.
Along side all of this political activity was the emerging Gay political, and increasing economic clout. This was brought to center stage by Milk, when he called for boycotts of Florida Orange Juice & the Coors Beer Company. By working with Cesar Chavez, he solidified the labor and then the old school environmental vote. The old guard homosexual power base funny enough did not elect Harvey Milk, they didn’t like him until he was dead; Harvey was way too far to the left for the Gayourgeois.
Labor elected Harvey Milk, Supervisor along with Preservationists, Blacks, Street Gays, Dykes on Bikes, community activists and Sixties Rice and Beans Leftovers from the Haight Ashbury, who were still recovering from bad drugs and CIA plots to take over their world; politics once again had changed San Francisco through political art.
The Gayourgeois and their real estate speculators came into the community of grand illusions from their up-town ivory towers to buy, buy, & buy to speculate and sell, sell, & sell…! It ruined everything…! The prices went through the ceiling. They called themselves Gay Professionals, what ever that meant; for the artists the rents went up. The activist were sickened by the conspicuous marketing of greed and power, the color was fading, then gone commercial, they sold the rainbow to the highest bidder in buff tee-shirts & slowly the artists moved on to a new edge in more romantic locals and cities.
Of course there was plenty of money to be made on sex and this new gender identification school of contradiction to cover up the subtleties of the changes going on in plain sight. Dirty little stories of betrayal and exploitation of blood in the streets for ill gotten gain were on everyone’s lips. Friends asked, when you write these stories princess, "You’re not going to tell them what I did..? Are you princess..?" Talking about sex, sex & money, men in dresses, political intrigue, drugs, and power, sex and religion. as we all know, is such a messy business.
The biggest misconception in the mainstream over brain concerning homosexual men and women is that we really wanted to be the other gender. This is absolutely not true; I have never wanted to have a baby or a period for instance. It would be more appropriate to say that I am comfortable with the vulnerable varieties of the energy I have within and there are some who are not, and they may wish to change everything about their gender and they did with remarkable and glorious success…! However there is nothing more masculine than two men or a dozen or so, making love or just sport fucking...! Its all testosterone, its all man...! The same holds true for women's community...!
The eclectic dressing of the early seventies was all about bringing the male and female, yin and yang energies together within ourselves, and not as opposite energies but as manifestations of oneness, light itself would have to be rearranged from going towards the often referenced white-light of religious traditions to slipping in-between all light that glitters in a multitude of colors.
I preferred red light, especially once I reached a 32 inch waist …!
The famous glittered beards, evening gowns, black leather were just an outward manifestation of that balancing act. We were in the hay-day of the sexual revolution. We were sexual warriors. We had more sex than anyone, anywhere, ever, that is how we fought the revolution. We had it all & the bewildered mainstream wanted it all go away…! It was to messy...! Yet, secretly they all wanted to play...!
This decade long party was 2000 years in the making. Nothing but royalty attended…! For me, Cock was King…! & I took the plunge into the sexuality of the seventies with the same fervor of any ambitious individual seeking a prosperous career. There were slaves, masters, lovers young & old. All were welcome to enhance the experimentation, exploration and the endless need for satisfaction denied for centuries under the guise of false morality and religion. Sex had finally become a positive expression...!
Religion and politics, sex and politics, sex and religion were all in bed together. The creatures of the night that prowled the shadows of the belly of Market Street, parks, beaches, abandoned buildings, busy department stores, alleys, bathhouses and glory holes South of Market were the same creatures who worked in other universes at other times in the citadels of power that claimed moral righteousness with snarky attitudes in well appointed suites.
From casual blow jobs in the corporate offices atop the Bank America Building, to the corridors of the State and Federal Buildings, to the Market Street tunnels of the yet to be finished Bay Area Rapid Transit, the City Hall Dome or under the cross of the cathedrals themselves, there was politics, sex, corruption, sex, and more sex, good & bad sex…!
In "Short Stories from Fast Times" I have jotted down glimpses into this remarkable break with convention. The lives of the artists who passed through The Hula Palace Salons were heavenly players living a dream, life as art, Children of Paradise. Our lives mirrored all the great artists of time renowned. There was a classic romantic character for every scene to be played - from the dark era of Caligula & Genet to Dr. Seuss & Disney, Jimmy Dean and Ms. Monroe were standing on every corner.
The Madwoman of Challot once said, "A Lady must change her name as often as her hat, on the hour." We did just that. We all had many exotic and common names and wore many hats, you met some one as one person in the afternoon & gave them a blow job just to meet them at dinner with their wife where they were another person with a totally separate life, & no one ever missed a beat.
My perspective from the Hula Palace Salon 3rd floor bay window, at 19th Street @ 590 Castro, was my private window on a very public sexual revolution. I would sit, fan, and watch beautiful boys saunter by, while sitting in my Queen's Wicker from early morn and through the day and night. They walked, I fanned. We fucked and fucked and fucked...!
I watched them turn into men. Some became my Prince for a while. Once I had a Duke, the Princess Etta felt that made me a Duchess, at least for the evening.
How did we become the Hula Palace…? Well..., One afternoon, The Princess Ela Lee, aka Lee Lee, aka Master Bastard, that's me, was strolling with Iory Allison, aka the Tibetan Princess, aka Starr, aka sissy & bitch and novelist. We had just come from seeing a bizarre satire on a dead musician from the old world at a matinee in the Cannery, I think it was the Music Lovers, it made me dizzy, & I threw up...!
We trolled up Market and walked through Castro Village to 19th Street. We walked up the long stairs to more dizziness. As the door opened we could hear THE GIRLLLS…! Arguing in the front salon, there was The Handsome Prince, Cowboy Robert Kirk, aka Cirby's room. He was clamoring, "I don't want to call my home, the Blue Swan Hotel. This is a man's house; it's a Five Star Dude Ranch." We walked down the hall and peaked in at demure Etta, who was listening to Cirby, Rachael, and Ms. Blue going at it in her pink poke-a-dot dress, he loved that dress. These were the boy/girl menagerie I reluctantly called roommates.
The Tibetan Princess asked, “What’s all the fuss about girls,
Girllls…? GIRLLLS…! ATTENTION…!
Finally recognizing that we were there, they told us why they wanted the different names for our lovely Victorian flat. Cirby wanted it to be a real man's man name, home on the range kind of thing, arm up the ass and all that…? Rachel, the decorator from Gumps wanted it "to be..., just..., ever so..., shi..., shi..., “He’s was such a crystal queen. I said to my sister, get your Bitch out girl, "Do something; before I throw up again…! I won't have either of those names."
Starr's eyes sparkled. His eyebrows raised and lowered. She told them, " Get over it Girllls, you too Dale Evans," wagging his finger at Cirby. "Dude Ranch indeed…! Get a grip ladies, this is just a Hula Palace and you're all a bunch of lovely little Hula Maidens…!
The Princess Etta and I screamed, "Yes....! Yes....!" We knew it was true! It was true! This was The Hula Palace...! We were Matson Line Girls...! No one could deny it, just look at the 100’s of Aloha shirts both Etta and I had in our closets…! It was true; the bitch from Tibet had nailed it…!
We would have to have a debut, a celebration, a prom, a luau, a coming out befitting Gay Hawaiian Faux Royalty...!
We planned our first Hula Palace Salon to correspond with the arrival of the pagan holiday, winter solstice and the forth coming arrival of the comet Kahoutek. Soon, museum directors were attending our salons. Something was happening. We got rid of Rachael & Miss Blue…? They moved to some gawd awful place named Oakland...?
Many of the homes in Castro Village now had titles. It was time for us to join in the fun. There was the Upper Market Street Gallery, where you could usually find the chanteuse diva Sylvester sprawled across the grand piano in thirties femme fatale drag - gardenias in her hair straight from swap meets & the ghetto of La La Land. There was Glitters Castle, where I lived for short times with sculpture Bobby Burnside, Goldie Glitters of Trish Nixon’s Wedding, Cockettes' fame. We breakfast daily with her best new friend the awesome Divine, until there was this horrible reoccurring infestation of crabs & a cute little blonde hitchhiker with fleas that he got from blowing a dog...? GAWD…!
Remember when all we had to worry about was crabs, but I never had fleas…?
Let’s see...? There were the homes of Flo Airways, Cafe Ole, Nocturnal Dreams, Magdalena Montezuma's Mansion with Pola Del Vecchio, Candy Ass plus Mother and Baby, Lena the Leopard Lady, and Sally Swell, The Film Madness Club, Madd Helen's Emporium, and La Casa Chica. There was lovely Joe Morocco and the brillant Janice Sukaitis at The Ranch. The Bourgeois Palace, The Ritz Place, The Ho Chi Mien Palace filled with gorgeous men, Jano’s "Collett's Salon", the Marquise’s Maison Vingt-Nues, Kaliflower Commune, The Pink Palace, Chatty Cathy's House, Aunty Emm’s and Mona's Hideaway among many more interesting haunts all the way down to the Secret Cinema and Steven Arnold.
There were new Gay bars reflecting sexual desires such as Todd Hall, The Pendulum, and the popular Mid-Night Sun plus a fabulous Gay Bookstore named Paperback Traffic & a dark nasty hole called the Jaguar Bookstore with playroom in the back for quick encounters and instant temporary marriages.
It is important to know that at this time Gay People were of all genders & sexual orientations, everyone was Gay, only when the term became predominantly political & profitable were Gay People of "Gay Spirit" regardless of gender or sexual orientation brushed aside for the dollar....! Not until Same Sex Marriage was introduced in Hawai`i in the early 1990's was the term re-examined. The only others to challenge this exclusive homogenous crap was Queer Nation...!
San Francisco was new, fresh, an exciting Petri dish of lushes’ filth. Painters painting, poets in the streets, music in the air, and dancing everywhere, & did we ever dance. Isadora Duncan would have been proud after all she had lived in The Castro and The Mission as a child & Gertrude Stein just across the The Bay where I heard again and again, there was absolutely nothing, nothing at all...?
Theater was alive and doing well..., on the streets..., in the salons..., small houses opened everywhere, basements, garages, old firehouses, cardboard boxes, there must have been hundreds. New material was being written as we spoke. New lines, new colors, and new attitudes; we were having an informal costume ball and everyone was invited to partake.
Little did we know that by 1977 all of this would change abruptly…? Anita Bryant, Pat Buchanan, Gay Bashing, Robert Hillsborough's murder, Mass Murders in Guyana, The Briggs Initiative, the Assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by Dan White, Dianne Feinstein’s Lap Dog, Massive Political Corruption, Gay Nazi's, The Trial, The White Night Riot, Robert Opel’s murder, the attempts on my life, the AIDS pandemic, suicides, more funerals than we could count & maggots everywhere profiting off the sorrow of a lost dream leaving many of us dead &/or damaged goods searching for a new edge and relief from the consequences of success.
San Francisco would reeled from joy to sorrow, from victory to defeat, from bright colored flowers in the window boxes to The Gay Widows mourning on floats in parades throughout The City streets. Warren Hinkel of the San Francisco Examiner the author of "Gay Slayer" asks why no one within the gay community has ever spoken out on all the conspiracy theories on the assassinations, murders, HIV/AIDS…?
I am here to say we did speak out. When we did we were either threatened into silence by the politically correct or murdered like Robert Opel. Yes, they could get away with anything in San Francisco, including murder. And they did…!
But now the time has come to lift the veil on the Gay Seventies. “Short Stories from Fast Times” is a collection of selected episodes, essays and letters. The volume of characters is so vast that all of them have been consolidated into several personages and time it self is warped to conform to the conventional idea of day and night because of how one thing definitely leads to another down the smelly brick road.
Everything I write happened and nothing happened at all, because everything was real, just not as it appeared…! Believe nothing because it is all to true…! Every day was a good day because it was only to get worse...! Everything was always okay because it was always out of control...!
We were now on the other side of forever.
The sun came up early every morning in an endless repetition at the end of time, why was that...?
What Happened To Joy…? Where's The Damn Glitter...!
It has returned to City Hall with the unveiling of the statue of Harvey Milk and the smiles on the youth that unveiled his image in 2008 The Year of The Rat, which symbolizes a new beginning...!
Thank you Danny Nicoletta for keeping the dream alive...!
The collection of short stories will periodically share on this site one at a time.
“The Princess of Castro Street”
“Short Stories from Fast Times”
War of Décor
Hula @ Night
Gay is Passé
The Knight Was a Pawn
Un-Masking the Monkey
Hula Palace Salon: Princess of Castro Street: HRH LeeMentley@sbcglobal.net