Entertainment » Culture

BARchive :: Sinbad’s & Sailors

by Jim Stewart
Tuesday Jul 23, 2013

"That one must have spent last night at the baths," Bill Essex said. He nodded at a handsome but tired-looking navy officer.

"I'd remember him if he'd been at the Slot," Jack Fritscher said. Jack sported a newly shaved head.

It was Sunday, July 4, 1976. The City was celebrating a twin bicentennial; the American Revolution and the Spanish founding of the Presidio and Mission Dolores.

Our group spent the morning touring the USS Coral Sea, "San Francisco's Own" aircraft carrier docked at Pier 27. The USS Halsey and USS Niagara Falls were docked at nearby piers. Sailors were in town! We meandered the Embarcadero, loading our cameras with "seafood" until lunchtime.

"There's Sinbad's," David Wycoff said. Sinbad's Pier 2 Restaurant was just south of the Ferry Building. It was straight. We made our way through the crowd of locals, tourists, and sailors to Sinbad's outdoor sundeck and sat at un-cleared tables. We ordered seafood baskets and beer.

Three sailors in Cracker Jack blues followed the waiter to a table nearby. Trying not to stare at their thirteen crotch-buttons, I gazed instead at the Gathering of Eagles Regatta tacking across the Bay.

"Look! Seafood!" someone from the Embarcadero crowd yelled. Four Castro clones in alligator polo shirts headed our way.

Beer pitchers and overflowing ashtrays soon filled the tables. More sailors on shore leave joined the crowd, as did men from Folsom and Castro. The sundeck soon hosted an all-male crowd.

Some wandered off for celebrations at the Presidio, the Polk Gulch Art Fair, or a quickly rented room in the Tenderloin. Others joined friends on Sinbad's sundeck. Tables were moved and shared until it seemed one large crowd. There was a steady, constant line for the head.

Perfect weather. No fog. I stayed all afternoon. By dusk my face was flushed from sun, bay, and beer. During a hushed moment someone called out, "When do the fireworks start?"

It was after nine. Thunder. High in the sky to the south, a few foggy bursts of pink gauze above Candlestick Park. Nothing. A burst of white lit the sky across the bay by Berkeley. Then four bright green star-bursts lit Treasure Island. A dimmer display fell to earth north on Angel Island. All was visible from tables on Sinbad's sundeck.

Then it happened. The roar of thunder as fireworks erupted above Alcatraz in high-stepping marches across the sky. White lightning shot into the night, then burst and slowly fell in showers of electric red and yellow, green and blue. Berkeley again. And Angel Island! Alcatraz! Big balls of fire shot up and exploded above the Treasure Island Naval Base. They came bigger and faster until the entire sky was lit. "Ohs" and "ahs" were heard from civilians and sailors alike. Then in a staccato climax it was over.

On Alcatraz alone, more than 500 shells and rockets - some 12-inchers - were fired off. The crowd on the sundeck wahoo-ed, whistled, stamped their feet, and applauded while cannon fire, sirens, and bells sounded across the Bay. Slowly bellbottoms, leather-chaps, and Levis left together in pairs or threesomes, sometimes fours.

Although Sinbad's Pier 2 Restaurant was straight, on Bicentennial Fourth of July, 1976, it hosted a critical mass of gays and sailors, not mutually exclusive. The sundeck is now a glass terrace room with an upscale menu, white tablecloths, and the same great view.

© 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

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com


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