Neighborhoods change. Once a dozen Leather bars lined Folsom. And then there were none. The Eagle Tavern has been a longtime mainstay of San Francisco’s diverse Leather communities. A friendly, informal place with a large patio, the Eagle has also been unique in being able to support a generous mix of queer subcultures in relative harmony. Sunday afternoons would see Leathermen and drag queens, queer stoners, musicians, hipsters and quipsters all sharing the same sunny patio.
Now the owner of the building and the site won’t renew the lease. The new year brought rumors that it would be sold to developers, and this latest news supports that. Money talks. The Eagle is a one-story sprawling quirky thing under the freeway. The above rendition is the slick new multi-use building that is proposed for the site. Joe Jervis of the popular gay blog Joe. My. God. said: “I’ve had some fantastic times at the ramshackle, broke down, SF Eagle. Most of my favorite bars have been in that sort of condition.” But when money talks, neighborhoods clean up. Soon it will even be safe for the children. Isn’t that nice?
A community action planning meeting to brainstorm ways to save the Eagle is taking place TONIGHT, Monday, 2011, at The Eagle. The ad hoc committee is organizing on Facebook here. The Eagle is located at 398 12th Street at Harrison, by the freeway.
South of Market has been changing for a long time. For a historical perspective on the shifts, and the political attitudes that shape them them, Leather historian Gayle Rubin has considerable insight. This is from 1989:
“South of Market has been undergoing so much rapid change in recent years that many of its current habitues are unaware of or uneasy about its recent past. The newspapers endlessly repeat a mantra of how brave pioneers — usually restauranteurs catering to an “upscale” crowd — have wrested the area away from the “lowlife” elements that once made the area “undesirable.” This point of view rests on the assumption that it is “right” and “good” when “disreputable” populations such as gay people, the poor, or people of color are displaced by wealthier, whiter, straighter, more “respectable” folk.
Gay “leathermen” are one of the most visible and least understood of the ostensibly vanishing groups of SOMA aboriginals. Reading about the world of leather in the straight press is a bit like reading the reports about indigenous peoples written by dumbfounded missionaries in the heyday of colonialism.
When I see the disappearance of its gay population used an indicator of the South of Market “renaissance,” I am reminded of the ways white settlers in North America spoke of the Native Americans they displaced.”
Excerpted from “Requiem for the Valley of the Leather Kings,” originally published in Southern Oracle, 1989