Everybody is talking about gay stuff this weekend. For a variety of reasons. Here’s a gay story for you.
In 1976 I hit the streets of San Francisco for the first time. I was a fucked up 19-year-old bum, basically. Sleeping on the Fremont St. off-ramp and eating at St. Anthony’s every day, this soup kitchen in the Tenderloin. Somehow I hooked up with this guy named Fearless Frank. He was another homeless bum on the scene. But he was kind and gentle and harmless. Which is something you couldn’t say about a lot of the specimens in the Tenderloin. And he had a good sense of humor. So we hit it off. Physically he reminded me a lot of Andy Warhol. Or a cracked toymaker. And he played up the swishy fag routine.
Originally he was from Utah from a strict Mormon family. His family spent a lot of money on various therapies to “cure” him of his homosexuality. To no avail. When he was 17 he got in a drunken car crash and severely fucked up the people he hit. His parents got sued and lost every penny they had. So he’s 17-years-old and he’s bankrupted his family. That was the kind of luck he had. Fearless Frank.
So he moved to San Francisco. The great gay mecca. He had a couple thousand bucks in his pocket. So he rented out a room at the Fairmont Hotel — this ultra-ritzy hotel on Nob Hill. He ordered champagne and caviar from room service every day for a couple of days until his money ran out. Then he hit the streets.
By the time I met him, Fearless Frank had pretty much given up on life. He’d panhandle enough money to buy a little bottle of Thunderbird wine — which was the skid row rot-gut booze of choice during that period — and drink himself into oblivion.
After eating at St. Anthony’s we used to like to hang out and talk at this park bench at the Benjamin Swig Pavilion at 5th and Market. In spite of it all, Frank was still bemused by life. And he kind of accepted with equanimity that he was doomed. And he had the fearlessness that comes from Not Giving A Flying Fuck. I was completely fucked up myself at the time. I Had Issues. But I genuinely enjoyed Fearless Frank’s company. We were just a couple of kooks. And he had more soul than a lot of people. If you know what I mean.
Every afternoon Fearless Frank liked to walk from the Tenderloin to the Golden Gate Bridge. Just for something to do. To kill time.
“When I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge I’d look down and think of jumping off the bridge and killing myself,” said Fearless Frank. “But the view was so beautiful I’d always decide to walk back downtown to the Tenderloin.”
Then one afternoon, Fearless Frank didn’t come back.