In all the time I worked in the music industry in San Francisco (!967-1980), I was never groped, kissed, patted on the butt or forced upon without explicit permission. And neither were the women singer/songwriters that I managed, two of whom were extraordinarily beautiful.
In the late nineteen sixties and seventies, free love reigned in the music business and among the hippies that moved into San Francisco’s Haight district. It did seem to me, that everyone was shagging everyone, talking about it, celebrating it, in the most outrageous manner possible. And maybe that kept lewd and lascivious behavior, at least in this business, confined to the bedroom.
After one of my first Fillmore West shows, my boyfriend took me for dessert at Magnolia Thunderpussy’s near Haight and Ashbury. I burst out laughing at the menu of erotic deserts. My boyfriend ordered up a “Pineapple Pussy” (hollowed out pineapple filled with strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, topped with chocolate shavings and a cherry). I ordered up “The Montana Banana,” a salacious version of the banana split: upright peeled banana, two scoops of ice cream, artfully placed at the bottom of the banana, surrounded by a little shredded coconut, and a dollop of whipped cream at the discretely split end of the banana.
Herb Caen, famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist was an ardent fan of Magnlia’s and so were rock bands and hippies. I went there often for Magnolias’s concoctions and her free-wheeling, rambunctious sense of humor.
Margot St. James; Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics
Margot St. James was arguably San Francisco’s most outspoken and famous hooker, I met her when graphic designer David Wills and I were hatching up the magazine Music Works: a Manual for Musicians. Margot had an office next to ours: I knew her then only as a licensed private investigator that gave her access to women imprisoned for sex crimes. She wanted these women to be given equal treatment under the law as their male counterparts, including access to therapists, medicines and doctors.
Margot hired me to be the producer of the first Coyote Hooker’s Masquerade Ball in San Francisco at Longshoreman’s Hall in 1974, just around Halloween. The profits would fund legal fees for the women arrested for sex crimes.
My job was to hire the bands, the sound and light crew, write the press releases, and on the night of the dance, hold a street parade, and make sure no one got out of hand. No big deal, I figured.
Margot thought I could do this because I had just quit working as an artist’s manager for legendary rock ‘n roll concert producer Bill Graham. I struck out of my own to teach busness to musicians and was called a revolutionary by a well-known Bay Area rag. Who would have thought that empowerment for musicians was revolutionary?
But empowerment for hookers and for women jailed for sex crimes—that was much more revolutionary. I had great respect for Margot’s cause, as I did (and still do) for anyone that stuck out their neck for disenfranchised people.
That ball was one wild rockin’ San Francisco event, in a city known for them. It’s theme on all the posters: “Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.”
It began with me watching the Marin County firemen that Margot talked into helping rig Longshoreman’s Hall, while I helped a bevy of gorgeous hookers assemble mailings and lick stamps.
Just before the ball, there was a pre ‘get-it-up’ fund-raising party with the same bevy of women serving canapés to many of San Francisco’s politicos, rumored to be their clients. Sally Stanford was there—she ran one of the city’s most notorious brothels, and so was Linda Lovelace, the famous porn star.
The dance itself was a huge costume party of San Francisco’s gay men and women, bisexuals, transgenders, queens, and cross dressers. The mayor and police chief came, and the only incident was a lavishly dressed clown with a cane who had climbed on top of one of the speaker stacks and was trying to ‘hook’ the chandelier. I don’t remember how one of my crew talked him safely down.
I went on to produce the next four ‘balls,’ which became among the largest of Bay Area’s fundraisers—and the wildest. The one I loved the most was the fourth, which took place at what is now called the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. In the entry hall were tables laden with marijuana (illegal then). Inside the ceiling was hung with balloons made of condoms that were donated by manufactuers. Margo rode into the hall on an elephant to announce her candidacy of Presidency of the U.S. I wish I had a copy of the press release I wrote.
Margot raised a lot of money; and she spent in on the causes she espoused,
Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party
“The Dinner Party” was held in 1979 at San Francisco’s Modern Museum of Art. A triangular table was lavishly set with thirty-nine place settings, each celebrating a famous woman of mythology and history, such as Sappho or Joan of Arc.
What was served up was an art installation that drew more people than any other art show up to that time. Each setting had the motif of the era lived in by each woman that was honored.
Other rooms in that installation honored women’s home arts: crochet, lace, china painting, weavings—some of the finest I have ever seen.
The ‘draw’ of that show, however, which had people waiting in line for many blocks and for many months, were Judy Chicago’s fourteen-inch china-painted sculptured plates that were modeled on women’s vaginas.
The Dinner Party has a permanent home at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Musuem, New York.
My friend Stella, who lived in San Francisco in the nineteen seventies, was just beginning her career as a clinical psychologist specializing in sexual enrichment in relationships.
When she moved to Los Angeles, she grew a large private practice and wrote two ground-breaking books: The Heart of Desire: Keys to the Pleasures of Love and The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings. www.drstellaresnick.com
Stella and I often talked about those free-wheeling days in San Francisco, often in her outdoor redwood hot tub. I credit her for saying, “We had ten years of free love,”
That was before the tragic aids epidemic that hit so many cities like an out of control freight train.
And perhaps before the lewd behavior of men and sexual harassment of women that has crept into all walks of life and dominates media news.
I applaud the women speaking out. It can’t be easy.