and life on Henry Street in the 1970's

I discovered San Francisco in 1969 thanks to an Electronics Firm in Washington D.C. They sent me out here on a five month project. When it was over, I went back east, quit my job, said goodbye to my family in New Jersey, bought a VW Bus, and headed west to a new life.

A few months later I was living on Haight Street, letting my hair grow, volunteering at Haight-Ashbury Switchboard and the Free Clinic. It didn't take long for my philosophy and politics to shift far to the left of their original positions.

Everything in S.F. was so much more relaxed, informal, untamed. exciting! I fell in love with the City-By-The-Bay. My new lifestyle allowed plenty of time for travel, and California is blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. I've driven from coast to coast thirteen times, and passed through 46 of the 50 United States. I still drive that VW Bus!

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In 1972 I spent 5 months travelling around Europe and North Africa. When I returned to SF, the Castro District was beginning to evolve into the Gay Neighborhood that it is today. That was where I wanted to live. My first apartment in the Castro was on 17th Street, about 3 blocks uphill to the west from Castro and Market. San Francisco's many hills are responsible for the callipygian appearance of many of its residents.

At about that time, I met FRANK, my soulmate, and we lived together until 1980. Under his guidance, I developed an interest in Photography. I enjoyed it so much that I studied photography at City College for the next three years. Coincidentally, a new photo store named "CASTRO CAMERA" was opened on Castro Street by a man named HARVEY MILK and his partner SCOTT SMITH. They had recently migrated here from New York.

Frank and I moved to Henry Street, (between 14th and 15th and a few doors east of Castro) in 1976. Henry is a 2 block long, quiet, tree-lined residential neighborhood of its own. We had a nice comfortable one-bedroom second-floor apartment for $155 per month. There was a nice view from our windows, and a garden in the yard. I converted the back porch into a darkroom, and there was a large empty room in the basement that I used for a studio. We knew all the neighbors and we all got along fine. Leon and Marcia, in their sixties, had the other apartment on our floor. He worked nights and she was lonely and drank too much. She'd hear us coming up the stairs and stick her head out: "Frank! Don! Would you run to the corner store for me?" She wanted vodka. That was the easy part. Getting away without having to drink with her was the hard part. Downstairs were two gay couples and next door lived the guys who made the movie "WORD IS OUT", a documentary about the gay movement. Upstairs from them were Bo and Dennis, and Casey. Bo was the neighborhood authority on exotic pets, an amateur vet. His household included 2 huge pythons, a rattlesnake, monitor lizard, Lorelei the squawking parrot, and assorted tarantulas and scorpions.
Bo and Casey
You could depend on seeing him at all the neighborhood outdoor events, shirtless, with one of his pythons draped over his shoulders. The picture on the left shows Bo and Casey at a gay parade. Bo always had a crowd around him and his snake, and I often saw the cutest of them hanging around his house later in the day.
Frank and Dennis
Dennis was the community leather seamstress. He and Frank are shown at a Street Fair in the picture on the right. Casey was just adorable! Young, blond, buff, and beautiful, he could often be seen sunning himself naked in the back yard. Next to us on the other side was an elderly couple, the Hansens, who had lived there for 30 years. They seemed quite content with the new community forming around them. Harvey and Scott moved to Henry Street shortly after we did. They were on the next block, close to Sanchez Street. Those were exciting times. There was every reason to be optimistic about the future of our community. We were enthusiastic, energetic, and a bond of trust in our friends and neighbors constantly grew stronger. We began to realize that an incredible set of circumstances were influencing our course. One-third of the voters in S.F. were gay. As a group, we were better educated, had more disposable income, and fewer responsibilities than any other emerging sub-culture These forces came together so swiftly that except for a handful of visionaries, we were caught by surprise. Almost all in our community had recently broken free from the oppression that we had lived with back in our hometowns. We were busy celebrating our good fortune in finding more freedom than we had expected. And, equally important was the fact that this was all taking place in the proverbial "candy store". We were surrounded by beautiful men who had similar needs and similar desires; and we had all just emerged from a sexual wasteland where we were starving and stumbled into an oasis where the banquet was just getting started. We might not have heard opportunity knocking, but fortunately, we had one of those visionaries, and he was paying attention. We had a strong, dedicated, clever, charismatic leader who saw it all coming; Harvey Milk.

That's Frankie buying flowers on Castro Street. We always seemed to have cut flowers in the house and there were so many potted plants that it took half-an-hour to water them. Frank had a flair for tasteful color coordinating and all our rooms were painted in at least 3 colors. He also made curtains to match. This is what our kitchen looked like in 1979.

Kitchen on Henry St.

I have such fond memories of Henry Street. There was always a warm and cozy feeling to our house, a pot of coffee on the stove, and always company! Here are a couple shots of our bedroom which Frank referred to as the "LOVE CHAMBER"! I guess you could say we were into 'clutter'. There was hardly a square foot of wall space in any room of the house that wasn't covered with something.

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Frank and I decided to separate in 1980 and he moved to Tucson, where he still lives today. We are still best friends and soul mates. In 1982 I was forced to move from Henry Street. My new home on Collingwood Street, around the corner from 18th and Castro, was a lovely place but didn't have space for a darkroom. This seriously affected my photographic pursuits. You see, the photographer-as-artist needs the intimate control over production of his images that can only come from within. Photomat doesn't quite meet the criteria! Fortunately for me, I had recently bought a Video Camera, and my focus shifted in that direction. I often took the camera to the streets and I was pretty much the only video man there. Now that I have a good Macintosh computer, I'm beginning to realize that dream I had so many years ago; to see photography merge with the computer; to have control over image manipulation that photographers in the darkroom can only dream of.


This page created June 19, 1996 and updated June 7, 2000
• Text and Graphics © 1972 - 1999 • UD Graphics • San Francisco •