Russel R. Windes Home  Resume   Family  Lives  Time  Love   Homes  Friends  Memory  Index       

  

  

,

San Francisco State

I paid my first long visit to San Francisco State College in September 1960. The college had moved two years before from a crowded downtown location to a new and spacious campus of fifteen buildings at the corner of l9th Avenue and Holloway, near Lake Merced and Parkmerced, and immediately south of the Stonestown shopping mall.

The physical setting of San Francisco State was lovely with views to the lake and to Mt. Davidson to the east. The architecture was tacky and ugly, if functional. The grounds, however, were something else, with an abundance of beautiful evergreens and eucalyptus trees and flower gardens everywhere.

The building for the division of Humanities, Language and Literature, my division, was on the corner of l9th and Holloway Avenue, directly across from the "M" street car line which went to West Portal and thence for a fun ride through the tunnel under Twin Peaks to Market Street and downtown San Francisco. The fare was still a dime.

I met Stan Paulson that day for lunch. Stan was the Chairman of a newly created Department of Communication, which department included journalism but not television and film. The departments in the Division--literature, creative writing, semantics and linguistics, communication, and radio-television--were "independent" in name only. Prof. Caroline Shrodes presided over the division like a true benevolent and enlightened despot. Stan Paulson had power only when Caroline wanted him to have power. She kept absolute veto power over everyone and everything.

Caroline in fact made the decision to hire me, primarily because of my "association" with Adlai Stevenson whom she adored. When a new president from UCLA came to State in the summer or l962, for reasons unclear to me, Caroline was summarily removed as Division Head, and was replaced by a true klunkhead dweeb from Wyoming, Baird Whitlock, who administered quite poorly, if at all, for only two years until Caroline was reinstated by Stan Paulson when he became Acting President. (Whitlock spent his time writing horrid poetry and trying to find an audience, who would listen to it. Although his term lasted only a short time, it was to cause me endless grief, as we shall see.)

My academic Division at State had many excellent faculty, including some with esteemed reputations: S.I. Hayakawa, Mark Harris, Walter Van Tilberg Clark, Clay Putnam, Ray West, and Shrodes herself.

Unfortunately, the earlier San Francisco State, prior to its becoming a campus of the California State College System in l958 and embracing higher standards for recruiting and tenuring faculty, tenured a great many faculty who should not have been tenured, since they lacked the terminal doctorate degree and/or had never published. The Humanities Division, including our department, suffered vastly from ill-educated, non-productive M.A.'s who couldn't publish or didn't want to publish. (Our department, alas, had tenured one person with only an A.B. degree.) My appointment as an Associate Professor at age 29, eligible for tenure after three years, did not, as they say, "sit well" with a number of faculty in the department and division.

I had come from a Big Ten university, Northwestern, where I was an assistant professor. I was the only member of the department at San Francisco State ever to have published refereed articles in national professional journals. I had completed a book which was soon to be published, and had given a number of convention papers. I was viewed as both an asset and a threat, a constant reminder that no other department faculty member had written anything, nor even planned to do so.

Paulson and I spent lunch at the campus cafeteria discussing the college, the state college system, and the new department, the division, the faculty, and my teaching assignment for fall term. I had a pleasant enough schedule, Monday, Wednesday, Friday until one in the afternoon, and a Wednesday evening graduate class, a seminar in Argument and Persuasion. The undergraduate classes included introduction to small group communication, persuasion, and political communication.

The delightful aspect of the teaching and office schedule was that is allowed me gorgeous autumn afternoons to explore San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Stan Paulson received his PH.D. in l952 from the University of Minnesota after he had spent a number of years as a Baptist minister in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was still pretty much an affable and lazy minister, a non-publisher who moved ahead very well on the academic ladder through being a nice, friendly, supportive, non-intimidating schmoozer and politician, lunching and laughing with the right people.

When I began teaching at age nineteen, some of my students were my age. And for the first decade and a half of my teaching, the age difference was minimal, as I moved from high school to college teaching. In San Francisco I taught students who were often only four or five years younger. My predisposition to social and romantic closeness with many of my students found a sympathetic place and fertile soil at San Francisco State College.

Chicago and Northwestern University had been socially upper midwest conservative, a conservatism reinforced by the cold Eisenhower years of the l950s. Northwestern University, a distinguished university, was very conservative politically, socially and culturally, with emotional ties still in place with the Methodist Church.

top of page

San Francisco State College, population 22,000, had no such ties and existed in the most liberal of all areas in the country. My conservative students at Northwestern were replaced by liberal to radical northern California students, who were not afraid of sex nor were they guilt ridden by engaging in it. They were non-judgmental of others and tried to avoid moral imperatives whenever possible.

The ambitious and driven Northwestern student could not possibly understand, muchless sympathize with, the San Francisco State student. Given the choice of Alexander the Great, "Heads I conquer the world; tails I stay home and enjoy life," the Northwestern student would take heads and set out to conquer the world. The San Francisco State student would have chosen happily to stay at home, engaging in no crusades, nor directing others how to live and behave.

Socially, the San Francisco students were fun loving and hyper gregarious, full of emotion and adventure good humor, wit and good will. The Northwestern student took life very seriously indeed, and each day was a Calvinist struggle to live up to one's potential. At those prices, perhaps, they had little choice.

The San Francisco Staters were less serious and intent. They wanted their degrees but they also wanted the joys and pleasures along the way. This meant a behavioral liberalism somewhere between nonchalance and anarchy, a kind of pre-beatnik, post-beat cluster of values and behaviors.

The San Francisco students were slightly older by a couple or more years, and they usually held a job and did not take a full schedule of courses. The Staters drank heavily and smoked cigarettes. Dope, including pot, was a weekend must. They led an active sex life, or at least pursued one. The students cared little for formal religion, moral prescriptions and judgments about the behaviors of others. I discovered in San Francisco a true "live and let live" spirit on campus, just as I discovered a similar spirit in the city. This was the San Francisco tradition, and this tradition produced a student who respected and liked faculty, both in the classroom and in the bedroom.

top of page

The silly new attitudes today regard student-faculty social contact as unwise, and student-faculty romantic and sexual contact as a tragedy in which everyone gets hurt in the end. My many years of teaching and relating to students allow me to say of this prescription that it denies young people closeness and adventures and experiences which could be highly valuable to them, both in the short and the long run.

That the modeling behavior in such relations is priceless and constitutes an exceptionally effective assist to maturity and self-confidence, as well as series of fulfilling peak experiences that may never again come in a lifetime.

Given all of these attributes, the "liberal" San Francisco student clearly had enormous appeal for me. I was as hyper-gregarious as my students for a change; I wanted relational situations as much as the students did; I believed a student could be a student and a friend or even a lover or sex mate at the same time, just as a teacher could be a professor and a very close or even intimate friend at the same time.

From l960 to l964 my San Francisco theatre was the right one. The stage was the place to be. The play was written by a kindred soul. The setting was designed by the gods I loved and trusted; the actors were chosen straight from my night-time fantasies; The moment had finally come. The curtains parted, and all of us seemed to be saying, "Let the good times roll."

Classes for fall term began the week of September l2th, and I was very pleased with all of my classes, including the Wednesday evening graduate course, which included two attorneys, two high school teachers, two older ladies from Parkmerced who had earned their undergraduate degrees years earlier but had returned to get their graduate degrees; two young navy officers from the naval base on Treasure Island, and a social worker who hated social work. My friend, Dick Platt, was also in the course.

The undergraduate classes contained students who were exceedingly talky and schmoozey. I could never shut them up. Moreover, most of them wanted to have lunch or dinner with me, or invite me to their homes, and this became a burden as they learned of my predispositions toward socializing with students.

I went to Oakland to have dinner with Admiral and Mrs. Walthal, whose twenty year old son, Stacey, was in one of my courses. I journeyed to a large and elegant home at Fort Mason, home of the Army's JAG corps, to have a fine dinner with Colonel and Mrs. Rasco, whose son, Bill, was in one of my classes. I went with Molly Minehan, another student, for an evening at the Black Cat (gay/lesbian) bar where her father was a bartender.

Mildred Borden, who daily made the round of offices in the department telling each faculty member how he or she "looked" that day, and dispensing coffee, danish and cinnamon roles from her father's bakery, had weekly "day old" parties at which she fed the multitudes all sorts of pastries her father's customers had not bought.

And I went to Friday night prayers and dinner at the homes of Dave Fractenberg and Doris Simon. Quite easily I had become once more irretrievably and very pleasantly involved with students.

Remembrances of faculty friends starts with an historian named Ray Kelch who taught courses in British history and culture and was the unofficial "head gay" of a group of gay teachers and friends everyone called "Gay Group," or the "Mercy, Mary!" group.
Ray was an original midwesterner from Logan, Ohio, where his family were prominent members of the small community where they had lived for decades. He had served in World War II and was stationed for several months at Camp Crowder, Missouri, while I was in high school in Neosho. Like so many others there, Ray was an active gay and became involved in the gay culture of Crowder, which as a teen-ager I constantly experienced in Neosho during the war years.

Ray denies any extensive same-sex sexual behavior during his busy Crowder days, but it is believed that, in spite of his protests to the contrary, during his stay at Crowder he had sucked the dicks of dozens of Crowder soldiers and been sucked by even more than he sucked. In spite of his protests to the contrary, it is believed moreover that Ray also sucked the dicks of a good number of Neosho boys and probably many in Joplin, too, and was given head in return in most cases.

top of page

It was my often-stated belief that when I worked at the Orpheum Theatre in Neosho, I often observed Ray at work on a happy young lad sitting in the seat next to him, and I used to kid Ray that he and I doubtlessly enjoyed sex in Big Spring Park on many spring and summer nights.

When I worked at the Orpheum, Carroll Mace and I used to observe a nearly manic gay soldier at the late, late movie. He went from row to row, downstairs to balcony, making out with whatever guys were aroused. We called him "Vacuum." Early in my friendship with Ray in San Francisco, I started referring to him as "Big V" or "V" or, indeed, "The Vacuum." The name stuck among some friends, and I became V-2, a title I resented, since my "sucks" for our war effort generously exceeded those of dear Ray.

During World War II, Ray was a radio operator (Signal Corps) in England, stationed at Dover to observe ship traffic in the channel before and after D Day, June, l944. When World War II ended and Ray was discharged from the Army, he earned both his undergraduate degree, his M.A. and his Ph.D. in History at Ohio State University in Columbus. His area of interest was British history. During the early and mid-l950s, he taught history at Stevens College in Columbia, Missouri. And in l957, he was appointed an Associate Professor of History at San Francisco State College, where he remained on the faculty until l994.

Ray was an utterly charming and highly enjoyable, exceedingly bright and knowledgeable individual, a sweet, kind, generous man whose superior lectures on British history and culture attracted hundreds of San Francisco State students to his classes each year. He was exceedingly popular, exceptionally well liked and respected by both faculty and students. Ray was popularly known as the person to go to when one needed help. He never refused a friend in trouble; nor did he ever abandon one.

I met Ray in September, l960, at the first general faculty meeting at San Francisco State, and almost instantly our "gaydars" told each of us that the other was gay. We began talking about the gay scene in the city, and, within a week of that first meeting, Ray invited me to his Parkmerced apartment, 9K, at 310 Arballo Drive, for a "small" cocktail party at which party I met a dozen other gay faculty and students, and almost immediately had a built-in circle of campus friends. Those "gay family" friends included the man about to become president of the college, the registrar of the college, the heads of various programs on the campus, the director of teacher education, and some very hunky students.

I
Ray became Chairman of the History Department at State for several years in the l960s, during those turbulent years of campus unrest and protests in the late sixties. At San Francisco State the protests were frequent and often alarming. During a student "sit in" at the building in which the department was housed, Ray was "held hostage" in his office for an evening and a night.

For thirty years Ray, and occasionally his long-time lover, Slibe Abanounder, of Phoenix, visited me, and lover R, at virtually our every residence, and met dozens of our friends in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and San Diego.

Al Jensen was another Gay Group and "Mercy Mary" member. He was in charge of teacher education at the college and later became Dean of the School of Education. I met Al through Ray Kelch, of course, and, like the friendship with Ray, the friendship with Al was to last for decades.

Al was somewhat older than the rest of the gay group. He was a "Jack Mormon" from Nebraska and had been an outstanding football player at the University of Nebraska in the l930s when Nebraska beat the University of Southern California at the Rose Bowl, a crowning achievement in Al's life.

Al taught school in Nebraska and was in UCLA's graduate program in education in l942 when he was commissioned an officer in the Army's Special Services Corps. In that capacity he was an impresario, managing for almost four years, army entertainment for millions of soldiers. He retired a major at war's end, and returned to his graduate studies at UCLA where he was awarded his doctorate in l950.

After working as an administrator in a community college district in Los Angeles for a few years, Al accepted a position in the education program at San Francisco State in l955. There he taught until his death in l983.

Al was a gentle and dear soul, a highly supportive man who loved to do things for his friends. He was the first person to call whenever a friend encountered trouble or bad luck. Al was a bit more conservative than Ray Kelch and less gregarious, and like many gays, he was reluctant to settle down with any one person. He was tall and good looking and had a football player's build.

When I first met him he wore a toupee to cover his loss of hair which began when he was in his twenties. His toupees were expensive and so real that I did not suspect or know he wore one for a year.

Al's sexual modus operandi were of three kinds: (1) He loved to travel and loved being on board both commercial ships and cruise ships. He frequently toured the west coast and Latin America on commercial ships having sex with the crew members, and he was a frequent summer "tour guide" for the cruise lines, where, on such tours he also had sex with the crew members. (2) He cruised bars and especially the all night porno movie houses. (3) He established a close liaison with many members of the police and fire departments, (and truck drivers, too) who were bisexual and needed safe gay sex from time to time.

Al had built an extensive collection of straight porno films and had converted one of his bedrooms into a sumptuous projection room and sex studio. To his house at Parkmerced, on Diamond Heights Boulevard, or at l75 Melrose Avenue, the uniformed men would come, sometimes nightly, to view the films and get off, one way or another, with the help of Professor Jensen.

top of page

Police would hang their gun belts and guns on the rack at the front door. Firemen would hang their helmets and wetware in Al's front hall closet. I presume the truckers would hang something somewhere. They would all take off their boots and uniforms, put on a robe, have a drink and a shower and lie in bed to wait those erotic and stimulating films and the sex that would accompany them, courtesy of the John Wayne of San Francisco State, the macho, ex-football player, army major, Professor Jensen.

Once Al was arrested in a porno theatre on Market Street. He asked the arresting officers to radio headquarters and speak to one of Al's stable of friends, Captain someone. The arresting officers did. Al reported that it took them only a minute to apologize, release him, and escort him and his companion back to their seats. "They even brought popcorn," Al added.

Al was a very fine organist and had a massive Wurlitzer Theater Organ in his living room which he played nightly for fun and for happy hours and parties. He was a professional organist playing for years for Sunday services at a Jack Mormon church in Ingleside.

At home on his Wurlitzer Al played for his own enjoyment. There were several of his policemen and firemen who liked to stay after sex for an a different kind of organ concert. Al had a medley of tunes, or requests, his uniformed sex partners loved to hear, and as he played each tune he would identify it with the officer, his favorite film, and his sexual interests. "La Marquita," from an early John Wayne film was the choice of a vice squad officer trick; "As Time Goes By" belonged to a detective; "The Third Man Theme," was the favorite, of course, of an officer on the narcotics squad. One thing dear Al could be certain of. His house was the safest house in San Francisco; No robber would dare come close.

John DeCecco was another Gay Group member for a number of years, although John could never bring himself to belong to the "Mercy Mary" group. John was a professor of psychology and had gotten degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan State University.

He was a little round Italian from western New York, who had a puckish and animated face which, in dyadic conversation, ended up only inches from your face, while one or the other of his stubby index fingers punctuated each important point of his monologue by drawing imaginary circles and exclamation points in the air.

John also wore tops or toupees, since he, like Jensen, had been bald as an eagle for years. The only difference in the head pieces worn by John and those worn by Al was the fact that Al's were expensive and very good; John's were cheap and looked like they had been fashioned out of stringy metal or some other porous and hard substance, a Phyllis Diller spaghetti dinner gone wrong. Once on his head these pieces of cast iron required the strength of thousands to remove. For years John associated closely with the Gay Group and depended on them for his non-sexual social life. He was a very desired and desirable member with much animated warmth and insights into gay life the group badly needed. He had a wonderful sense of humor and kept any group laughing at his lengthy stories. Like the great comics John could take the events of almost any evening and fashion them into a series of beguiling and witty anecdotes.

John cruised every weekend night, and his favorite targets were the thousands of sailors who, in those days, roamed the San Francisco downtown from Friday evening to Monday morning. These handsome hunks were, to John, not sailors but "seafood," as he preferred to call them, and he loved to pick them up and dine at home on their lovely bodies.

He had an unerring sense of where to find them, how to talk to them, and how to arrange to have sex with them. He liked sailors who hustled for money as well as sailors who hustled for fun. He was convinced that, late on a weekend night, no sailor could resist the call to climax and orgasm, even if the call were from a fast talking, stout little Italian with a brittle and funny toupee who had more moxie than a New York street vendor.

John developed a repertoire of exceedingly funny and hilarious stories about "life among the tricks and hustlers," stories of searches for them, stories of decisions to accept or reject a candidate for "bed duty," stories of hagling over prices if the "seafood" were hustling for money, stories of bewildering and unorthodox foreplay and the sex acts themselves; stories of post-sex traumas and surprises; stories of personalities and psychological profiles.

All of John's stories, old and new, were much in demand at parties and dinners, and he became the gay faculty's Italian Mark Twain. Al Jensen, for a long time John's neighbor and close friend, would not think of sponsoring a party or even going to one unless John was there to do his schtick.

John had developed an interesting method of operation. He would pick up his tricks and then drive around with them until he determined whether or not they wanted to have sex with him, and, if they did, whether or not they were safe to take home.

top of page

These determinations or decisions came only after psychologist John had orally administered a battery of tests to the young man, a series of a couple of dozen or more interchangeable questions, an abbreviated, gay-cruiser's MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test), plus a short "predictability certain" test.

Armed with the results of these tests, plus judgments from personal appearance, looks and degree of intensity, John could weigh the answers carefully and either take home the trick to his Twin Peaks, Westlake, or Buena Vista apartment for a night of sex, or dismiss him, give him a dime for a cup of coffee, promise to see him the following weekend, and take him back to point of origin. This professional test was very effective and John perfected it to within a ninety-nine percent certainty.

John's problems and troubles occurred when he ignored the results because his desires for the sailor overwhelmed his rational judgments. "It's override!" he would yell. "And I override because the Testee (his word for them) is too tantalizing. Tantalizing Testees! That's the problem."

And so John would ignore his test results and take his "seafood testees" home for orgies. Even then he did not throw caution to the wind.

Navy kids, "seafood," would. according to Prof. DeDecco, often become upset after orgies and climaxes. In part it was let down; in part it was guilt over what had happened; in part it was related to "fag bashing." But this post-orgasm trauma was, John believed, in large measure related to a great fear that somehow the navy would discover what they had done.

To deal with their traumas and guilts and fears, sailors would occassionally physically attack the gay they had just had sex with; they would occassionally vandalize the apartment or home; they would steal valuables. Or they might do all three.

John developed a scenario, a defense, for dealing with potential violence. He insisted his tricks take a shower prior to sex, and during the shower he "borrowed" the sailor's identification and placed it in some secret and safe place. Should they later begin to cause trouble, he simply told them their identifications were in a safe with a combination lock in a neighbor's apartment, and the friendly neighbor knew John had a visitor.

If the sailor committed violence or vandalism his identification would be forwarded to the commanding officer and the police along with a letter. If he left quietly he would get back his i.d. outside the locked gates.

John's approach almost always worked except when the sailor was too drunk or too high on drugs. If all else failed, John called his friend, Al Jensen, who lived nearby, and Al's quick arrival, and his football hulk and bravado, without his hairpiece, of course, caused the upset sailor to become as calm and peaceful as San Pedro Bay on a lazy autumn afternoon.

John told one story of a night when he was not so lucky. He brought home two sailors in violation of his rule number one: Never bring home more than one sailor at a time. He had just given an orgasm by mouth to one of the sailors, who was in the bathroom showering. Meantime, he was busy screwing the other sailor who was lying on his stomach in a semi-darkened bedroom on John's kingsized bed.

Just as John and his sex partner were nearing climax, the first sailor returned to the scene. He had in his hand a ketchup bottle he had just picked up off the cabinet in John's darkened kitchen, a bottle that John had just that day purchased from Safeway and which he planned to take back the next day because he found a crack in the glass.

The sailor brought down this cracked full bottle of Heinz ketchup on John's toupee. The collision of the cracked bottle and the brittle and rigid toupee caused thirty-six ounces of bright red fast flowing ketchup to cascade all over John's head, back and arms and the head, back, and butt of the young sailor sex-partner being screwed on the now very stained bed in that darkened room. Everyone, including John and especially the bottle wielder, saw blood, not catsup, and assumed the worst. The ketchup bottle wielding sailor believed he had seriously injured both his intended victim and his buddy who, by this time looked like he had been in the way of a World War I trench attack and had been piled, with the other victims, in a triage to await his inevitable death.

Virtually naked, the bottle wielding sailor he fled the apartment and, unable to unlock the gate to escape to the outside world, he began running around the large patio and swimming pool area in front of John's apartment.

Meanwhile, John rushed to his bathroom, fearing the worst, but happily discovered no cuts at all. His sailor sex companion, both dazed and in the middle of an orgasm, thinking perhaps an earthquake was about to end his life, struggled to find his clothes. In the darkened room, he could find only his shoes and sox. John, in panic, had mistaken the sailor's civilian clothes for his own and had taken them with him when he went to the bathroom to see if he were still alive. When he discovered they didn't fit, he hurriedly threw the sailor's clothes into the shower stall, and fled the apartment.

top of page

Meantime, the also panic stricken, fucked and still dripping young sailor, believing he was bleeding so profusely from unidentified wounds that death was imminent, and still utterly naked except for shoes, disappeared out the front door in pursuit of medical attention and possibly his companion.

Meanwhile, John, naked and minus his toupee which fell into the swimming pool as he ran by, was hiding in some corner of the apartment building's patio and gardens. Not yet fully rational, his blood pressure and pulse still off the board, John, for reasons unknown to him, decided to pursue the two sailors, and, at the same time, open the outside gate.

The picture of two naked sailors, bodies covered with ketchup, and a naked and bald college professor dripping ketchup from his bald head, all running amok in Laurel and Hardy and Marx Brothers fashion, around and around an apartment house patio and swimming pool at two in the morning while a dozen tenants looked on in wonderment and disbelief created hilarious stories for John to tell at parties for years to come.

John did, by the way, recover his precious and battle scarred toupee only to discover it was irretrievably wounded, both by the ketchup and the chlorine. Its remains today rest in his trophy case along with side by side Polaroid photographs of his two sailor tricks, their jockey shorts, and their identification cards, all gentle reminders of a most memorable evening.

John DeCecco came to New York for two years, from l967 to l969, to work at Columbia University at the Center for Research and Education in American Liberties, a center headed by Alan Westin. During these two years John developed an acute interest in devoting the rest of his life, in part, to ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in American society.

He and Ralph and I were close companions those years, and he lived in the building next door to ours on Central Park West. Ralph worked for Alan and John those two years while pursuing graduate work at Columbia.

When John returned to San Francisco in l969, he wrote to us that he was no longer interested in "the giddy queens' life is a ball" approach to gay life:

"I am tired of their parties, their hoots and hedonism, and their "Mercys and Marys," all the while not caring one whit about the serious issues homosexuals must face and deal with in American society, most notably repression and denial of basic rights all citizens are entitled to. My closeted sisters lack seriousness and purpose about our real problems and needs. I will sit with them no longer telling funny stories and listening to them laugh when there is so much serious work to be done."

Thus, John broke with the gay group at San Francisco State and never went back. In the early l970s he obtained a large grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study discrimination against homosexuals, the first federal grant on the subject. Over time, he received more than a million dollars for such studies.

At San Francisco State he founded the Center for Research and Education in Sexuality, and in doing these things he assumed a most significant role in the movement to secure rights and liberties for all gay and lesbian people.

John became openly gay, one of the first professors brave enough to announce that fact publicly, thus helping to pave the way for professors all over the country to declare themselves and "come out of the closet."

At the Center John began publication of the Journal of Homosexuality (l976), a journal of scholarly research and studies on gay and lesbian life and contributions made to society by those groups, as well as studies of bigotry and societal discrimination against them. The Journal helped to make gay studies a legitimate area of research.

John, his Center, and his journal all combined to pave the way for many professors in such disciplines as psychology, sociology, communications and public policy to to build successful careers based on the scholarly study of homosexuality.

At the same time other professors in American colleges and universities have brought their perceptions and sensibilities, as gays and lesbians, to many areas of study, like classics, criticism, social movements, literature, art, music, dance, theatre and drama, and history, proving that the previous academic suppression of gay presence in research and publications would no longer be tolerated.

Today's openly gay scholars are not only uncovering previously hidden gay subject matter, but they also are bringing their perspectives as gay scholars to the entire spectrum of their disciplines. Our friend, John DeCecco, deserves substantial credit for this. John's honesty in a world that is hostile, his stature and integrity, took enormous courage and drive.

John came a long way from Michigan State University where, he used to tell, the university used graduate students as decoys in the gay student bars near the campus to identify gay faculty members, who were summarily fired.

top of page

Ray Kelch, hurt by John's turnabout, could never understand why DeCecco left his gay support group, or why he couldn't keep his membership in the group while leading the battle for gay rights. Al Jensen was hurt by John's decision to leave the group, but he understood in his own way that John could never be a part of two opposing philosophies and cultures. "It had to be one or the other," Al believed, "and I am sure John made the choice he had to make and very likely the correct choice, but I will miss his friendship very much." There were many others in that Gay Group who mourned the loss of John, at least briefly.

Cal Bowman and Lee McCormick were public school teachers, who owned a series of handsome homes handsomely furnished in the Marina and in Forest Hill. Cal, also a war veteran, was a teacher in Hillsborough, and Lee, a career navy officer, had retired to become an administrator in the San Francisco public school's main office.

Their New Year's Eve parties were the envy of the gay community. At those all night occasions forty or more gays were treated to food, grog, fun people and the most erotic collection of gay films in San Francisco.

In the early l960s mere possession of gay porno films could lead to arrest, conviction and imprisonment. Cal and Lee hid and locked up their collection in some safe place, and no one but the two of them ever knew the location. But once or twice a year that collection had a select and private viewing, and only the chosen were invited. I was invited the second year in San Francisco, and the evening was well worth the wait.

Ed Kaufman was another Gay Group member. A University of Chicago Ph.D., Ed war a brilliant young man, a brilliant lecturer, and a joy to spend an evening with. He was perhaps the most knowledgeable person I met at the college. He taught both literature and philosophy in wonderfully surreal classes. And he had brilliant soirees at his Victorian home on Franklin Street with interesting and exciting guests from both the intellectual and artistic communities.

Most of Ed's soirees were indeed les soirees musicale, including programs featuring string quartets, harpsichord and piano recitals and, one night, a flute and clarinet duet. Ed later built a beautiful home on Martha, a short little street in Merced Heights that looked out over the east bay.

He was one of the founders of the "Alice Faye" group, a group of twenty or so guys who met regularly at a house off Portola Drive near Mount Davidson to view the films of Alice Faye and other films of that genre. (Ed's favorites were old Shirley Temple films, and he had written a lengthy scholarly paper on their metaphoric and symbolic meanings.)

Ed confirmed that the Alice Faye Group had one evening reached the sainted actress by phone, and that Alice had sent to them both "Alice Water," to be used to sanctify, so to speak, the viewing room, and copies of some of her records including "You'll Never Know," and, of course, "Hello Frisco, Hello" Ed would not confirm the persistent rumor that some members wept openly when the recordings were played the Thursday night after they were received and ordained. Nor could he confirm the para-religious effects of the Alice Water.

Later, Ed retired from San Francisco State and bought a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived a pleasant life for several years. In the l990s he returned to San Francisco, buying a penthouse apartment in the Telegraph Hill area.

Other members of the college Gay Group those years included Adam Petrillo, who was a retired chef from Chicago and who lived in a Spanish type home in the Marina. Just as gays would kill for an invitation to parties given by Lee and Cal, they would also kill for invitations to dinner, given sparingly, by the great Chef Adam. I went only once to one of those dinners, and that was with my new and young lover, Ralph. The nine course dinner would have put Julia Child and other great chefs to shame.

Dave Hassel, a real estate developer, and Chuck Erlenbaugh, the college Registrar, were likewise members of Gay Group. They owned an incredibly beautiful home in Pacific Heights not far from the old Spreckles mansion on Lafayette Square and the home of former U.S. Senator, James Phelan.

The Chuck and Dave house was an indulgent Corinthian classic place built in l9l6. It was wonderfully large and had views of the city, bridge and bay. Not bad for a gay college registrar, I thought at the time.

Briefly, other members of that Gay Group included Rollie Wick administrator of Children's Hospital, a friend and sex-mate of Al Jensen, although definitely not a policeman; Ben Gendloff, close companion to Ray Kelch who was on a leave of absence from his position in the Los Angeles schools to research the teaching of languages in the public schools at San Francisco State; George Eliot, another teacher who had emigrated from Canada and had a home in Santa Rosa and taught at Sonoma State College; Frank Fenton, who was Dean of the Fine Arts Division, and who was to become Acting President.

Frank was a "biker," in love with motorcycles, leather bars and all sorts of leather sex. Although Frank was in his early sixties at the time, that did not bother him in the least from his pursuit of tricks and leather bars. Frank was a pussy cat at heart. Like John DeCecco, he loved "seafood," especially sailors into leather and cock rings and motorcycle culture.

He had amazing luck picking up the young beauties, and no one knew his secrets. But pick them up he would, and he and his trick would both climb on to his cycle and head off up Market Street with one gigantic roar, for a night of leather passion.

top of page

When Frank became Acting President of the college in l962, he had to curtail his cruising schedule, but he did not abandon his sex life altogether. I often wonder just how many "seafoods" knew they were having sex with the President of a state college, or even how many would have cared had they known. It all suggests a Robin Williams comedy routine, or a Bob Newhardt telephone conversation.

There were, of course, more members of Gay Group than I have written of. But the preceding above were the hard core of a charming and eccentric group of gays who loved each other and supported each other for a very long time, through good days and days that were painful and even tragic.

They all had dignity and courage, and they cared mightily about other gays, even though John DeCecco could not see that they did. Each worked within the frameworks of his own abilities and limitations, his own assets and liabilities, his own perceptions of reality. And each tried to avoid the ever present hostile outside world by making a comfortable and safe nest for himself inside a kind and sympathetic and helpful group of gays, all of whom understood only too full well what outside hatred can do to an individual.

I like to believe that each member of Gay Group made a significant contributions to the improvement of the culture and world he had found himself in, as well as a significant contribution to the people whose lives they crossed and touched. I like to believe that all of us are richer for having known them and loved them.

They struggled through years prejudice and bigotry during which they were the perpetual victims of ignorance and hate and cruelty, and they kept on fighting back, kept on living, and kept on growing and embracing the good things of life. Like true Mummers, they laughed and they cried and they made the best of whatever they encountered in life as well as what overtook them. One should not expect any more of anyone. L'chaim, my dears, L'chaim and "Mercy! Mary!"

Most of my faculty friends were not gay, of course, and I have already talked about many of them. I developed a number of close friendships within my department those years, including a friendship with Stan Paulson and his wife, Peggy.

The Paulsons gave a number of lovely dinner parties that first year before Stan became a college administrator and had to move on to a different circle of friends. The Paulsons lived nearby in St.Francis Woods and were great hosts. One dinner party that year in their garden brought out fifty or more faculty.

Lloyd Crisp was my office mate that first year. Lloyd had been an undergraduate at State, and a good friend of Stan Paulson; Lloyd went off to University of Denver for an M.A., but had not completed it when Stan asked him to come back to teach. Years later Crisp finished his degree and moved to Oregon State.

Lloyd and his wife, Anne, who was a nurse, lived in Pacifica, and my first year I dined occasionally at their home. On one such occasion I met Lloyd's younger brother, Dennis, who had just turned twenty-one and was tall and lean and an outrageously attractive and sexy fellow. He crashed with Lloyd and Anne once in awhile, but most of the time he lived in Pacific Grove with a group of pre-hippie guys in a kind of communal situation.

Dennis, and his friend from Pacific Grove, Doug Thomas, came to visit me one night about a week after I met him, and they became drop-ins at 200 Westgate Drive for the next two years.

Dennis and I were to become fast friends and warm and exciting sex companions. He and Doug would come for some pot, some booze, some conversation and some sex. A few times they would bring other friends, and their friends were likewise always ready for booze, weed, and sex.

I remember only first names now. Rick was a Stanford drop out, Tom a University of Michigan drop-out, and Dick always claimed he was still "a student" at Berkeley, but I never saw evidence to support his assertion.

Henry was diabetic, I remember, and on one trip with him to a party in Marin he stopped to pay his toll on the Golden Gate Bridge and then sat there and sat there in catatonic state. No one knew what was wrong. He finally pointed to some candy on the dashboard, and I handed him a piece. In a minute or so he was able to drive. Henry was working on his doctorate at Stanford when he was hired by Paulson to teach in the department. He did not finish the degree for several years, even though he was named Assistant Professor before it was completed.

My campus only friends also included two married closet gays, Joe Miksak and Ray Grovenor, who were close friends and theatre buffs, but who refused to disclose to me any of their orientation, interests, or behaviors. Helen Heinz, Kay De Clark, Justine Van Gundy and George Dell were other departmental members I knew only from chats and luncheons at school.

Michael Schramm was my first close student friend at San Francisco State. I met him the first week of school that fall of l960, and for years he was to be a close young gay friends and provide many hundreds of hours of challenging companionship.

Mike was the son of Wilbur Schramm, a professor of mass communications at Stanford University, and a noted scholar in that field of study. Mike was a brilliant young man, another Mensa member with an incredibly high I.Q. and a sophomore at State when I arrived.

Mike had one of the fastest and most retentive minds I ever encountered. He was also a very attractive young man, slender and rosy cheeked, with blonde hair, and very blue eyes at the top of a very pretty face. Mike was also gay. He was also neurotic, hyper active, a self-styled psychologist who loved to wallow in other people's minds and lives.

Mike seemed to remember everything his life had exposed him to. He forgot nothing. He was extraordinarily sensitive both to his own behaviors and to the behaviors and predispositions of others. He fell in love weekly, sometimes daily, and never really knew how to pursue his loves. From the first time I met him, he sensed I was gay, and told me of at least half-a-dozen loves he had experienced during his first year at college.

His major love and sex interest at the beginning of his second year was a young activist named Jefferson F. Poland. Jefferson was a beautiful smallish young man with a muscular and slender build, dark piercing eyes, a sweet and inviting smile when he wanted, and a great little compact body. He was a political and social activist; no cause or movement escaped Jefferson's attentions.

top of page

When the infamous House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) came to San Francisco in the spring of l960 to hold hearings investigating "subversive communist plots and threats in the Bay Area," Jefferson Poland, and hundreds of other students, protested vigorously at the San Francisco City Hall. As a result, Jefferson had been washed down the half a hundred marble City Hall steps by police and firemen trying to "restore order."

In falling down those marble steps he had suffered a broken ankle and was still limping a little when I first met him in September. He and I had a number of conversations over lunch and in my office, and I was attracted to him, especially when he produced a birth certificate "proving" to me that his middle initial, "F," actually stood for "Fuck."

Jefferson was also quite at home in the gay world, because he believed in the power and the beauty and the joys of sex, no matter the gender, the age, or the kind and type of sexual activity. Jefferson was a devoted and zealous believer in nudity. The first time he visited my Westgate home, he stripped to his cute bare body after his first drink, and after my permission, of course.

From then on he didn't even ask. And I always enjoyed the cute Jefferson. He was indeed very attractive and had a huge dick and a huge set of balls.

Most of the time Jefferson wanted to talk and plan protests and campaigns, not have sex. In the fall of l960 Jefferson had gotten involved with issues relating to his commitment to sexual freedom, "the right of anyone to have any kind of sex with anyone else whenever the two want, and the responsibility of the government to stay out of all matters pertaining to sex between and among people, including adult sex with so-called minors." Jefferson's agenda was an extensive and exhausting one. He championed more causes than a dozen people could have managed. During my first year at State I worked with him to get the funds for and build an outdoor "Free Speech Center" in the heart of the campus, a center with a large platform and public address equipment which would provide opportunity for all people who had messages they wanted the public to hear to present those messages.

We finally did get our Platform, and a budget for it, and during the years I was there we had an array of interesting public speakers at the Platform during the two noon hours it was available and during the late afternoon hours.

I remember Malcolm X, Norman Thomas, Governor Pat Brown, Richard Nixon, Eric Hoffer, Martin Luther King, Harry Bridges, and Fred Schwartz, among the better known guests. I remember also dozens, if not hundreds, of students and non-students who just wanted to stand on a platform to advocate something or reject something. The idea was a wonderful one for a college campus, and the Free Speech Center was a lively place indeed to spend a lunch hour. Jefferson Poland gets a doff of the hat for helping found it. I did not maintain contact with Jefferson after l965, but later in the decade he did found and head the "League for Sexual Freedom," and he was involved extensively with most of the protest movements of the l960's, the countercultural protests against the Vietnam War, the draft, and even, according to Martin Duberman, in the Stonewall protests in New York in l969.

In his book, Stonewall, Duberman recalled that Jefferson showed up at both the protests in l969 and at the first Gay Liberation Front parade in Los Angeles on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, June, l970: "Karla....ran into two male genderfuck friends, Mother Boats and Jefferson Fuck Poland: Jeff was wearing a woman's bikini bottom, long hair--and nothing else." (Stonewall, pp.8l and 278).

Included in my collection is a photograph of Jefferson, taken in San Francisco, April, l963, which shows Jefferson holding two signs, one of which says "Legalize Cunnilingus and Fellatio;" the other, "Support our picket. Write to Governor Brown." Jefferson Fuck Poland, with a big smile and twinkling eyes, is naked except for a bra and a g-string. The place, our Free Speech Platform at San Francisco State College.

But back to Mike Schramm, and Jefferson Poland. In l960-6l Mike's big objective was to woo and win the heart of Jefferson and to settle in to a life in which all of Mike's sexual fantasies about Jeff would be fulfilled. When Mike inaugurated a crusade, he did so with great fervor and dedication, and only after an abundance of preparation and materials.

That year, Jefferson lived in an apartment a block or two from city hall. Mike staked out the apartment for weeks, compiling an hour to hour dossier on Jefferson's goings, and, Mike hoped, comings. Mike followed Jeff to school, to meetings, to classes, and back home. Mike came to know almost everyone Jefferson knew and knew Jefferson's schedule probably even better than Jefferson. After a few weeks, Mike had several spring-binders full of Jeffersonia. Their purposes and contributions to the quest I was never certain of, but I didn't have to be, since Mike knew precisely how his collected materials would be used to win the battle for the mind and body of Jefferson Poland. Having done such extensive preparation, how could he fail in his quest even if the use of the preparation were vague? Jefferson would be so overwhelmed that someone cared so much to know him so well that he would surrender immediately and completely.

I want to speak about the young man mentioned briefly earlier in a letter from Mike Schramm. His name was John Vega. He was a first a friend of mine, then a lover of Mike for a year.

John Vega entered San Francisco State in the fall of l96l as an eighteen year old freshman. He came from Merced, California, in the central valley south of Modesto and north of Fresno. He was first generation American from Mexican American parents who did not speak English in the home. The family lived in poverty, and Johnny Mae Vega grew up minus many of the givens in American life.

If he ever felt resentment and anger over having been denied "the good things" while growing up, he never spoke of it. But he did resolve "to rise above it" and make his life a much better life than what he had known.

I first met him when he enrolled in my course in argument and debate. John was a handsome, if skinny, angelic looking young man who had a constant puzzled, quizzical look on his face. John probably had a good mind, but whatever his native intelligence, his environment had reduced his chances for success in college and in life. He lacked knowledge, acquired analytic abilities and verbal fluency. But he had innocence and ambition, and he had a nearly infallible intuition that told him how other people wanted him to relate to them.

Moreover, what he lacked in background John more than made up for in drive and determination and a sweetness of personality that caused almost everyone to want to help him.

He always carried with him a small notebook. As you spoke to John, he often grabbed his notebook and wrote words and phrases he thought were important. He flattered you constantly, not as a ploy but because he genuinely believed what he felt. When favors came his way John could embarrass you with gestures of appreciation. John spent much of his time playing catch-up, acquiring the missing information. He wanted to make at least two new friends each day. And at the end of the day he would put on his reading glasses, which he wore for effect, and read from his notes what he had written about each person.

He would read a passage, smile, and push those glasses higher on his nose before reading the next paragraph. How could one not feel affection for such a soul and want to help him move ahead in life? John, of course, was without money most of the time. Every first of the month he had to struggle to put together the few dollars needed to pay his rent for another month.

His sad meager little wardrobe was a bit of tragi-comedy. Every garment was a patched, recycled, non-fitting effrontery, and the kid's garage sale shoes were either so tight he took them off at every opportunity to massage his feet, or so loose they came off if he walked too fast.

top of page

John had some natural physical assets. He was six feet and slender and lean; he had a trim waist and a cute ass. His face was quite pretty and innocent looking, and he had the most beautiful onyx eyes imaginable with thick eyebrows and long eye lashes. Those eyes were so mesmerizing he could hold your attention by just staring at you. He had lots of very curly black hair which he wore long because haircuts cost too much. He had evolved a type of "I would like for you to seduce me" look about him.

Consciously or unconsciously he flirted with every person he met, batting his eye lashes and smiling and nodding his head like a Hyman Kaplan as he took out his pen and vigorously jotted a message to himself in his constant-companion notebook. Five minutes into my first office visit with Johnny I concluded that he wanted to seduce me and would not rest until that task had been accomplished, even though I am sure Johnny was just being Johnny and, at that particular moment was thinking nothing of the kind. As I said, he was an easy guy to misinterpret.

Gays in particular always read him as coming on to them. I recall a happening one late afternoon in the fall of l96l. John and I had been visiting in my office, and when I began to pack my briefcase to go home, he asked if he could walk with me. On our way home we were caught in a rain shower and soaked. Johnny was wearing the most awful color of purple pants I had ever seen; someone must have dyed them. And the rain caused them to leak vast quantities of purple water for several blocks, all the way to my front door.

I made him take them off before he entered my kitchen, and when he did I saw that his jockey briefs had likewise turned from white to purple, as had his white sox and his undershirt. I told him to strip and he did, revealing a monstrous unclipped dick by the way. I re-dressed him, sox, undershirt, shorts, a pair of my slax and a pair of my shoes. And I took him then and there down to the Emporium, determined to give that struggling kid, with a big heart and a big determination to succeed in life, at least some decent clothes to wear, including pants that would not run purple when they were wet.

t the men's department in the Emporium we met a sweet and concerned little gay clerk, who, true to form became quickly convinced that Johnny Vega was flirting with him, even though Johnny's eyes were twinkling at the thought of acquiring a pair of non-purple pants. The three of us chose two pairs of khaki slax and a couple of pairs of better pants for evenings. We picked out some shirts, some sox and some shorts, and Johnny decided on a new pair of shoes. We even found an inexpensive dress coat, but we decided to save that and a couple of nice sweaters he liked, for some other day. I didn't have that much money.

I left John with our purchases and our clerk and went off to the liquor department to buy some gin for Gerry Reid and scotch for myself. When I returned John and the clerk were chatting away and the boxes of clothing were ready to be taken home. The clerk by now was visibly aroused by the prospects of seeing sexy Johnny again, and John was doing his conscious or unconscious flirting and eye blinking and smiling.

We left the store and headed for Westgate in the continuing rain. At home we unpacked the boxes, and I discovered a number of items I did not think we had purchased, like two more pairs of slax, like two more shirts, like that dress coat we had put off buying and like those two beautiful sweaters we had also postponed purchasing.

Johnny was as surprised as I was and quickly assumed I had told the clerk to toss them in anyway. I had assumed that Johnny had told the clerk to add them anyway, and I felt ashamed even thinking it. I grabbed the charge bill and looked at it. And I discovered that our sweet gay salesperson had made Johnny a present of those added items and had, as a matter of fact, not even charged me for all of the original items.

Startled, I asked Johnny what he had done to the clerk to elicit such generous and needed gifts. "Nothing," said John, "Except we have a date for Friday night." John threw his arms around me and cried and thanked me over and over again for being so good to him.

Johnny wanted to make up for past lost time growing up in poverty in the central valley. He wanted to learn as much about life as possible and learn it as quickly as possible. He was particularly interested in gay life, since he claimed he knew nothing at all about it before he came to San Francisco State and he found it fascinating.

top of page

We spent three hours one evening talking about gays and gay culture and what gay sex and romance and love were about. John concluded that he had always been gay and wanted to try gay sex as soon as he could find someone who wanted to do it with him, learn as much about life, especially the gay life, as quickly as possible. To what degree Johnny was gay or straight or just oversexed, I never knew for sure, though I was convinced at the time that he was essentially gay and easily aroused by men. He had never dated in high school, girls or boys. But he did have strong sex drives, and satisfied them by jacking off daily. One thing for sure, his experiences with me and the Emporium clerk and the clerk's friends at a party John went to the following Friday night, gave him a quick and apparently satisfying introduction to the gay world and sex with others.

A couple of weeks after the Emporium incident, Johnny dropped by one evening when I was home alone. He wanted so much to have sex with me, he said, so that I could teach him just how to have sex with other guys, like the people he met at the party given by the Emporium clerk. He had put off those fellows that night because he didn't want to try gay sex until he knew he could do it and do it well.

I cared for John very much, but I was not sure he was ready for sex with me. But I was curious about that big dick of his and I was horny, so I agreed that we would initiate classes preparing John to be a good same-sex sex partner.
I had him undress me, and I stripped him naked, and, sure enough, that big dick of his stood at full erection. No doubt about it, John was tuned on by men.

During the course of sex that evening I noticed that he winced with pain every so often. John had not been circumcised, and he had an exceedingly tight foreskin. Each time that foreskin was forced back from over the head of his big shaft, there was pain. And since any sex activity, by hand or insertion into a cavity, caused that foreskin to push forward and backward like a piston, John experienced pain while having sex.

I sent John to a physician friend of mine in Stonestown, Norris Fellows, and Fellows arranged for John to have out-patient surgery at a nearby hospital.

On the day of surgery, Mike Schramm took John to the out patient facility, and I picked him up that evening and kept him overnight at my place. He had a quick recovery from the circumcision, and his new dick was back in action within a very short time. No pain; no problems.

When he was recovered sufficiently to have sex for the first time with his renovated equipment, he wanted me to be the first partner. We did only hand and mouth, and he had a wonderful and long orgasm, the best of his life, he reported. Johnny was on his way to success!

He thanked me in every conceivable way for giving him a new life. And, indeed, Johnny fairly quickly became obsessed with having gay sex. He had the new equipment; he had mastered the technique; there was no restraining him.
Sometime that year Johnny Vega discovered the Broadway Musical, probably from one of the many older gay guys he dated and had sex with. He was especially attracted to the role of Lucille Ball in Wildcat, and liked to sing that Lucille Ball song, "Hey, Look Me Over."

But then he heard the original cast recording of Meredith Willson's, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and he fell in love with the song sung by Tammy Grimes in that musical play about a poor lower class, uncultured, uneducated person who defies the odds and makes a success of her life through drive and determination and an unwillingness to settle for life's seconds.

That song, of course, was "I Ain't Down Yet," and John Vega memorized the words and made them his call to arms, his rallying song, his new found philosophy of life which was to inspire and propel John into success he had only dreamed of. The spunky and determined up-by-my-boot straps John Vega would sing:

"I hate that word "down;"; I love that word "up;"
Up where the people are; Up where the talking is;
Up where the joke's going on; Up where things are better, cleaner, shinier;
Hell, If I got to eat catfish heads all my life,
Can't I have them on a plate, just once?"
And then our Central Valley Horatio Alger would launch into the chorus with great gusto:
I'm going to learn to read and write;
I'm going to see what there is to see;
So, if you go from nowhere on the road to somewhere
And you meet anyone, you'll know it's me.
I'm going to move from place to place;
And find a house with a golden stairs.

For almost three years Johnny Mae gave it his damndest. He passed all his courses; he debated in intercollegiate tournaments; He wrote papers he had never believed or even hoped he could write. He acquired friends he had believed impossible to acquire. For those years Johnny was indeed up "where the talking was, up where the joke was going on."
Mike Schramm fell in love with him, and he and Mike lived together at Mike's Nineteenth Street house for several months. And then John had a succession of older gay lovers, most of them with good jobs and good incomes.
He became Molly Brown; he drove Cadillacs home to visit his parents; he took trips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles and up to Tahoe to gamble with the rich and famous. Every time he changed sugar daddies he brought them by to meet me and get my opinion about them.

John was tempted to measure his successes and status in life by the quality and cost of the car he could drive. When in l963 he finally reached a Jaguar and a sugar daddy who bought him a motorcycle, he believed he had succeeded in reinventing himself.

top of page

However well John's ascent was going, he never forgot his roots nor his friends. He stayed close to me, and to Ralph, and to Mike Schramm. And he never stopped thanking us, still blinking those long eye lashes and smiling that mischievous grin. And he never stopped talking about his circumcision and what a difference that had made in his life. He would hug and kiss me and say, "Here's one for the Clipper."

But every play must have a finale, even musicals about people who deserve good things and love life very much. John Vega's upward trip, unlike Molly Brown's, never reached the top.

John's hope and quest for "something better, cleaner, shinier" tragically ended the wrong way on April 9, l964, when he crashed a motorcycle into the railings while driving down Upper Market Street in San Francisco. He died that night at age twenty-one, without ever reaching that "house with a golden stairs" that his favorite song had promised him.

Mike Schramm was at the hospital when John died. His last words to Mike were, "Don't let them forget me."
Forget you, John dear? Don't worry. Piece of cake!



I am convinced that the teacher's job is to free students from pagan, unenlightened, primitive, superstitious institutions and dogmas, from the restraints and slavery of the family, the religion, societal and cultural norms, peer group pressures and psychological and sociological straight jackets which repress the mind, which inculcate fear of learning something new and experimentation, which create a dysfunctional personality, self-destructive mental claustrophobia and which destroys initiative, the right to develop one's own mind and live one's own life. “Follow your bliss," the advise given by Joseph Campbell to his students, should be incorporated into "Free your mind to go where it wants to go, where it needs to go." Eliminate the restraints to learning and being what you want to be.

Such advice has often been taken to heart by students with a soul and a spirit, and they have found a world and a life in which they have freed themselves to explore knowledge and experience with a minimum of interference from guilt and anxiety producing institutions and past relationships.

I am convinced that the teacher/professor must unshackle his students and, at the same time, teach them how to unshackle themselves, so that they can become and be the greatest of all possible things, themselves.
"Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien!"

 

 

 

 

 

Home   Resume    Family   Lives    Time    Love    Homes    Friends    Memory   Index