San Francisco Smut Map

culture@sfbg.com

SEX ISSUE 2011 In 1969, San Francisco became the first city in the country to permit the exhibition and sale of hardcore pornography. Although “permit” isn’t exactly right. The city’s vice squad (with the help of Supervisor Dianne Feinstein) fought it every step of the way. But by the time a rag-tag band of hippies with cameras began harnessing the Free Speech movement to challenge obscenity laws, San Francisco had already become, in the words of the New York Times, “a sort of Smut Capital of the United States.”

Earlier this year, director Ben Leon and I produced Smut Capital of America, a documentary short about San Francisco’s flesh-filled reign as the center of U.S. hardcore. (The skin flick industry didn’t move down to San Fernando Valley until the 1980s, when VHS took over and Los Angeles stopped arresting filmmakers.) The film industry itself may have been shaved and plucked, but San Francisco never lost its filthy patina, thank god.

Here are a few of the filthy great places, classic and new, that any self-respecting San Francisco pervert and/or fan might want to map.

1. The Condor Club

560 Broadway

The first topless dance took place in 1964 at the Condor when Carol Doda took to the stage in designer Rudi Gernreich’s revolutionary “monokini.” The bathing suit never really caught on, but topless dancing became an export that would become synonymous with San Francisco.

2. The Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre

895 O’Farrell

The good ol’ boys from Antioch made a fortune with movies like Behind the Green Door, but when obscenity busts began taking their toll, they moved to live shows. The place still give a great lap dance, but the days when you could eat a girl out for a dollar are long gone.

3. The Strand

1127 Market

I once heard it referred to as a stop on the underground gay railroad — and for good reason. While this theater showed big Hollywood movies and noir retrospectives, the balcony was the cruisiest, bleachiest-smelling place in town.

4. The Magazine

920 Larkin

This still-operational vintage magazine shop has never shied away from porn. And since few museums find it palatable to save smut, it’s a living archive of the sexual revolution, balls, and all.

5. The Screening Room

220 Jones

In 1970, the Screening Room became the first theater in America to show hardcore pornography, with a law-skirting documentary about the free-loving Danes called Pornography in Denmark. Director Alex deRenzy set off a cinematic revolution, and earned a profile in Time magazine. Perhaps fittingly, it’s now the Power Exchange sex club.

6. The Roxie and the New Follies

3117 16th Street and 2961 16th Street

Long before it was an indie movie rep house, the Roxie showed soft-and hardcore 16mm loops shot by the Mitchell Brothers, then just out of college. The New Follies, just down the street on then smut-filled 16th Street (it’s now the Victoria), pioneered bottomless dancing, and later, live sex shows.

7. The Sutter Theatre

369 Sutter

Arlene Elster and Lowell Pickett plotted the International Erotic Film Festival at their theater off Union Square in 1970, when the area was still known as the downtown Tenderloin. The films themselves screened at the prestigious Presidio Theater in the Marina with a red carpet covered by KPIX. Even smut-opponent Dianne Feinstin showed up to rant against the duo’s “very depraved wares.”

8. Le Salon

1118 Polk Street.

“There out to be a plaque on the building,” says Bay Area Reporter porn critic John Karr, who went to this bookstore to cruise and flip through dirty magazines. Store owner Roland Boudreaux eventually opened a non-smut operation next door with a connecting doorway so that customers could leave and enter without attracting stares from high-society queens.

9. The Lusty Lady

1033 Kearny

The original Lusty Lady showed 16mm films, but by the early ’80s this North Beach smut center had live dancers as well. In 1997, the dancers organized an Exotic Dancers Union to make it the first unionized sex club business in the United States. In 2003, they bought the business, making it a worker-owned cooperative.

10. The Gordon Getty Mansion

2050 Jackson

During the ’80s and ’90s, this Pacific Heights mansion was the home of smut merchant and Falcon Studios honcho Chuck Holmes, whose name now graces the LGBT community center on Market Street. In the afternoons, he shot gay porn in the basement. In the evenings, he hosted spectacular galas to raise money for visiting politicians.

11. The Armory

1800 Mission Street

Does anyone not realize that this former munitions warehouse now houses an arsenal of dildo-equipped robots and that the National Guard training hall is used to film “Wired Pussy” episodes? Thanks, Kink.com for making sure San Francisco is still known as the Smut Capital of America.