I lived in a ten dollar a week room in what was essentially a hotel above the gay Rainbow Cattle Company at the corner of Duboce and Valencia. It was full of hippies, drag queens and drug addicts.
I was putting applications in for work as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician at various hospitals around town. My hair came down to the middle of my back but when I went on job interviews, I would pin it all up on top of my head and wear a short haired wig. I don’t know if it was obvious to anyone or not but I thought it looked pretty realistic. Eventually I got a job on the psychiatric unit at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. I don’t think most people were expecting a twenty-something year old to be wearing a wig and so they didn’t tend to look very close.
The phone at the Rainbow Cattle Company was a communal pay phone down the hall and I remember being shocked when I received the call from Saint Francis that I had actually been hired. Somebody would have come to my room and I would have gone down the hall to the communal phone to discover I had been hired. I was 24 years old.
My room was probably about ten feet by ten feet. I bought an electric skillet to cook in but I mostly ate out. There was a communal kitchen in the hotel but I never used it. Each floor had a bathroom and showers that were shared by everyone on that floor. Bands would play in the bar below on Friday and Saturday nights but I never went to sleep before three in the morning anyway. I was working from about three in the afternoon until midnight and then would go to the bars or the baths.
Initially, I pinned up my hair and wore the short haired wig to work every day at Saint Francis. Nobody said anything about it initially. Finally, after working for about six months, I took it off at work and people were shocked at how long my hair really was. The manager of the psychiatric unit they called 4-East at the time was a woman named Pat. She seemed to take a liking to me and even invited me to go see The Who at the Oakland Coliseum. Here is some video that I took that day:
There were several people on the unit that were into paganism and referred to themselves as witches and warlocks. For being relatively educated people, they were into a lot of superstition and other nonsense, but they were all accepting of homosexuality. The American Psychiatric Association had just decided that homosexuality was not a mental disease and San Francisco was becoming a magnet for gay men.
4-East was a locked psychiatric unit. Some of the patients were there voluntarily but many were there involuntarily because they were a danger to themselves or others or could not provide food, clothing or shelter for themselves. Some of the patients were so depressed that the only thing that was thought to be helpful was electro-shock therapy. There were two doctors that specialized in this type of controversial therapy. Some of the patients were violent and there were three rooms called “seclusion” rooms where patients could be isolated from the other patients and locked up and restraned if necessary. It was often left up to the males to handle the violent patients. Most of the female staff wore high heels at that time.
It was while living in this small room that my sixteen year old brother came to visit. Actually, I think at the time he was running away from the police in Washington. I think his girlfriend was with him. She left but he stayed and we got some wood and built a loft in the room. One of us could sleep above, while the other slept below. I would come home from working and find my sisteen year old brother partying with transvestite, transexuals and other various freaks that lived in the hotel.
I was finally getting real paychecks for the first time in my life and David was going to stay in San Francisco with me and so we started looking for a bigger apartment and found a two bedroom on Larkin Street. I think that it was about the same week that we were going to move, that I was hospitalized with Hepatitis B. I had continued to be promiscuous and made regular visits to the “clinic” for antibiotics but wasn’t sure what was happening when my eyes and skin turned yellow, my stools turned white and I had no energy. One of the guys in the hotel knew what it was immediately. I was hospitalized on the same day that my healthcare insurance had kicked in at my new job.
As I mentioned previously, live bands played in the Rainbow Cattle Company and so it never got quiet before the bar closed at 2am. Most of the time it didn’t really matter since I got off work at around midnight. After David came to live with me, he would sometimes have a little “party” going when I got home and I had to throw out the drag queens and freaks he had invited in.
The band that I remember hearing the most while living over the Rainbow Cattle Company was Pearl Heart. He was essentially a Janis Joplin impersonator… although I guess impersonator is not really quite accurate. He mostly sang Janis Joplin songs at various venues around San Francisco at the time. He was also in the Bette Midler film, “The Rose” in a brief scene with Sylvester. I have some video of him on a float at one of the Gay Pride parades of the seventies. After all these years, I found these videos of him on youtube from 1989 which was over ten years after I had last seen him in the seventies. Apparently he had passed away a couple of years after these videos were taken at the Full Moon Saloon.