San Francisco Smut Map

SEX ISSUE: A peep at our fair city's filthy-gorgeous history

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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.

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