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Jerry Pritikin's '70s Show

While many people know me as the Bleacher Preacher, very few are aware of my years that I was a "Chicagoan living in Exile" in S.F from the early 1960s until the late 1980s. In 1953, I quit high school because being or knowing someone "queer" in Chicago was taboo! I spent several years selling appliances at Marshall Field's. When I applied for that job I was told that I had three strikes against me to start: I had quit school, I had no experience, and I was Jewish! They hired me on a straight commission in 1955, and after the third week I was making $200 to $400 a week selling fans during a heat-wave because most apartments and homes had no air conditioners.

Opening Tonight
  • Pritikin's Time Capsule: A Glimpse of San Francisco in the '70s
  • I arrived in San Francisco at the tail end of the beatnik era. I bought a cheap Kodak instamatic camera to send tourist-like images of the bridges, cable cars and wharfs back to friends and family. Soon, though, photographs of leftover beatniks, soon-to-be hippies, flower children and peace-mongers became my favorite photographic pastimes. I was able to see the Grateful Dead play in an upstairs, downtown gay bar with no cover charge and 25-cent beers in a bottle. To start the 1970s, I moved between the Haight-Ashbury and a lazy neighborhood called The Castro and rented a 2-bedroom house with a front and back yard on Alpine Terrace for $250 a month. I learned from a recent Google search that a 2-bedroom apartment on the same street now goes for $3,800 a month.


    I was lucky to have arrived in San Francisco in the early 60's, when it was a great small town. A lid of pot sold for seven bucks! Today, like a bleacher ticket at Wrigley, you almost have to file for bankruptcy to buy one.

    I bought a better camera and became a freelance photographer and publicist specializing in gay clients and businesses at a time when it was not yet fashionable to be openly gay - even in San Francisco!

    Fonda.jpgBy osmosis, I was involved in early gay politics and sports. I used to display my photos in a bakery shop window a few doors away from today's Harvey Milk Plaza. I used to have my film developed at Harvey's camera shop. His store was like a small town's general store without the potbelly stove. Customers came in to talk politics, pet Harvey's dog or make comments on the good-looking chaps walking in front of store window. Harvey and I became friends. I wrote sports for a few gay rags, and in time created timely t-shirts including "ANITA BRYANT'S HUSBAND IS A HOMO-SAPIEN!" I even got Jane Fonda to wear one. I outed myself nationally in 1977 via the UPI wires.

    This month happens to be the 30th anniversary of the assassinations of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone; I knew them well. (This year also marks the 30th anniversary of when I played on the championship Oil Can Harry's Oilers, who won the right to represent S.F. in the 1978 Gay World Series in N.Y. but was kicked out for having too many "straights" on our roster!)

    HarveyMilk.jpgRecently, the movie Milk was recreated in the San Francisco's Castro district. It is due out this fall. One of the scenes re-created was from one of my images, that was originally on the AP wires and then in Randy Shilts' The Mayor of Castro Street. Only in the movie they changed the location . . . in baseball lingo . . . it would be like recreating the babe's pointed shot . . . except the background is Comiskey Park!

    But this is not a gay/straight story, it's a documentation of a place and time.


    On Monday, Pritikin tells a Mike Royko story.


    See also: The Lament Of The Bleacher Preacher.


    Posted on June 6, 2008

    MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
    TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
    POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
    SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

    BOOKS - All About Poop.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Don't Let Your Pet OD.

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