BARchive :: Thanksgiving High

  • by Jim Stewart
  • Saturday November 23, 2013
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Leatherneck bartender Rocky in 1978
Leatherneck bartender Rocky in 1978

It was November 1978.

"Got any plans for Turkey Day?" Allan said.

"None," I said.

"David and I are putting on a turkey dinner with fixings for the bar crew," Allan said. "You better be there."

"Thanks," I said. Single men frequently flew home to family for Thanksgiving. That year Allan Lowery's bar crew was family.

Business at Lowery's Leatherneck at 11th and Folsom had declined after a year or so of being the best bitching bar South of Market. Allan and I had put our heads together and came up with ideas to redo the place, to make it new again. Folks always wanted to check out a new bar. It worked. Crowds again jammed the place. Lines of men waiting to get in snaked down 11th Street.

To thank the crew of bartenders, bottleboys, and doormen who had hung with him through hard times, Allan threw a Thanksgiving feast at his apartment. His lover David Studach played chef. David's feast included two gigantic turkeys each stuffed with mounds of a different dressing. Like Alice's brownies, one dressing packed a wallop. One didn't. The crew sat down at the makeshift table. The turkeys were carved. The dressings were passed. So were the sweet potato pie and green-bean casserole.

That platter had the Acapulco Gold dressing. This platter of turkey came from the herbed bird. Didn't it? The small platter of dark meat came from the other bird. Or was it the other way around? Our hunger could not be sated. More dressing. More turkey. Munchies for pumpkin pie.

Later we lay on the floor watching football. Dallas Cowboys or Washington Redskins. It didn't matter. Who scored didn't matter. Great butt shots, tight ends, and team grab-assing mattered. The hours lingered while the afternoon sped by. Time to open the bar.

"Jim," Allan said. "Can you open the bar? I'm zonked." With a couple of toots and a promise Allan and crew would be by shortly, I steered my truck toward 11th and Folsom.

I unlocked the bar and flipped on the reel-to-reel tape player. Willie Nelson told me what was on his mind. The place stayed empty.

Half an hour later, my first customer slipped in and ordered a longneck. My bartender's ear heard his tale of woe while my mind wondered if the bar was back on a downward slide. Barbara Mandrell reminded us she was "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed." Another customer came in. The three of us huddled at the bar listening to the soap-operatic tales of country music.

The double doors burst open. Allan and David came in. Each carried a large platter wrapped in aluminum foil. The rest of the crew followed, together with a few customers.

"We decided to bring the rest of the turkey and dressing with us," Allan said. He set his platter on the bar. David did likewise then pulled off the foil. There was a mound of dressing on one platter and a mound of turkey on the other.

"Which dressing and what turkey?" I said.

"It's mixed," David said. "You want some you take your chances."

"Happy Thanksgiving!" Allan said to the growing number of customers. "Free turkey and dressing." The turkey and dressing didn't last long, but the men all lingered, bought beer, cruised the back room, and left satisfied.

By the following Thanksgiving the Leatherneck had closed permanently.

2013 writerJimStewart@hotmail.com For further true gay adventures check out the award-winning Folsom Street Blues: A Memoir of 1970s SoMa and Leatherfolk in Gay San Francisco by Jim Stewart