Many of our friends have much more interesting sex lives. But over the Labor Day weekend, a number of them, sadly, had trouble getting laid. Their solution? Hauling their tipsy, post2 a.m. selves to a sex club. Most left personal items behind, forcing them to sheepishly retrieve their Banana Republic scarf, thrift-store jacket, or whatever the following morning.
Their humiliation gave us an idea. We decided to find out for ourselves what people leave behind after a night of heavy cruising, sucking, screwing, etc. To do so, we visited several clubs and asked if we could rummage through their lost-and-found bins.
Back during San Francisco's golden age of disco debauchery (aka the late '70s), sex clubs were called bathhouses. They were popular and plentiful venues in which to have an orgasm. But by the early '80s, said bathhouses had turned perilous. They functioned as vehicles for HIV/STD propagation, increased drug use, and furthering the career of Bette Midler. In response, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein declared a public health emergency and shut down more than 20 bathhouses. Today, a mere fistful of clubs have found their way back into our urban life, but they generally are dingier and edgier than the bathhouses of yesteryear.
Our first stop is Eros, located at 2051 Market in the Castro. We follow General Manager Steve Gaynes into his office to discuss the club, stunned at its brightness during the day.
We talk too much about sex, which leads to too much quiet staring, which leads to too much crotch rubbing on the part of our host. To ruin the mood, we ask if we can tour the place, posthaste.
Gaynes takes us to the lost-and-found box. Inside are socks, sandals, cock rings, tennis balls, and a Members Only jacket -- left behind by either a Mission hipster type or an old-man type. We also find copies of a thesaurus, Frederik Pohl's A Plague of Pythons, and Anne Rice's Violin. (The latter, we think, was intentionally ditched.) Why people choose to read at a sex club makes little sense to us. Then again, why people invite strangers to shit on them at a sex club mystifies us as well.
Dog Bites asks if Gaynes ever has celebrities as clients. Yes, both local and not-so-local personalities come in from time to time. We ask if any are straight or married; Gaynes responds with a quiet "Correct." Asked if he'll name names, he responds with a firm "No."
Damn. We were hoping to hear of a Matt Gonzalez/Gavin Newsom dominant/submissive scene. Alas.
Gaynes admits that the Internet has put a dent in his business. Why go out and pay $10 or more to get into a club for some dimly lit sex when you can draft a bulleted list of your rankest sexual desires on your laptop and hook up with someone in the comfort of your own home?
Next we interview George Jimenez, former doorman at Blow Buddies, located at 933 Harrison in SOMA. The club, Jimenez says, has monthly theme parties with names like "Bondage Buddies," "Golden Shower Buddies," and "Leather Buddies." Such niche markets, he points out, have helped Blow Buddies weather the Internet storm. The club also is "fragrance free" -- no colognes or leave-in hair conditioner, please -- in keeping with its self-styled macho image.
The club's big lost-and-found score, Jimenez recalls, was "a pair of dentures and bridges" -- perhaps not surprising at an establishment that specializes in fellatio.
Blow Buddies' polar opposite, the new 333 Linden -- so cool it goes only by its address -- sits in the heart of Hayes Valley. Its enchantingly dark-haired, dark-eyed proprietor, Adrian English, tells us he caters to "a more urban ... cosmopolitan crowd." Clearly, no Blow Buddiesstyle discrimination against scented patrons will be allowed here. We immediately feel more comfortable about wearing just a hint of our new Yves Saint Laurent M7.
But getting back to Adrian, he's Australian and used to work as an emergency planner for the Aussie Defense Department. We find him absolutely dreamy, and fervently hope our tour of his establishment will include a little groping. Sadly, none occurs.
Adrian seems undaunted by Internet competition. He has set aside a section of 333 Linden for computers with Webcams where nekkid customers can go online and look for partners via Craigslist or M4M4sex.com. Solicitees are rewarded with discounted entry fees to the club, which is the most comfortable we've seen. The carpeted upstairs floor, though, concerns us for, well, obvious reasons.
But 333 Linden is a preemie compared to the other clubs, and its lost-and-found is empty. Before departing, however, we manage to slip our number to Adrian for a follow-up interview. Or a cocktail.
Now, don't think we forgot the Power Exchange at 74 Otis in SOMA, which caters to gays and straights of both genders. We were unable to connect with any employees to discuss the finer aspects of their three-story sex palace. We did encounter a doorman named Eric, but he'd neither talk to us about the club's lost-and-found nor look us directly in the eye. In fact, his shiftiness worried us. And with night falling in a less than safe neighborhood, we thought it best to scram.
So we end our journey in a state of perplexity. Why would people abandon books, false teeth, and a Members Only jacket at a sex club, especially since most clubs provide lockers? With our unsightly chest hair and bright white body, we would be too self-conscious and acutely aware of everything going on around us to forget anything.
The answer, of course, is drugs. Our friend, local artist and sex club authority Tyler Ingolia, breaks it down for us, explaining, "Child, they're all tweaked out; they just do [drugs] before going in. They say it's a drug-free environment, but most people who go there are fucked up before getting there anyway." And dope-addled people aren't particularly good at remembering where they put their stuff.
The Internet may be cutting into their trade, but sex clubs are likely to be with us as long as there are people willing to pay to get peed on. In the end, though, our tour of the clubs leaves us feeling a bit unfulfilled. We didn't leave anything behind, but something's still missing. Maybe it's that we just didn't get any.