Lives in the Gulch

If there’s a local neighborhood with a better name than Polk Gulch, we haven’t heard it. Once featuring a grand accumulation of marginalized characters tottering around on cheap heels and barbiturates, the perineum lying between Van Ness and the Tenderloin has become sanitized, sadly, nearly to the point that a gay male hustler might not know what corner to stand on. As notorious bars like the Polk Gulch Saloon closed (it became the Lush Lounge, insanely), the main marginalized group — the unaffluent queer community, which dominated the scene for decades — got swept to the winds or to the Tenderloin. And as they went, so did their stories. Oral historian Joey Plaster has been finding them with his Polk Street Stories Project, putting out a call for submissions and tracking down the perpetrators. Today’s multimedia presentation, “Street Families: Homeless Queer Youth in San Francisco,” covers the area’s history of male sex work and the homelessness that sometimes went with it, reaching all the way back to the ’60s. It’s presented in conjunction with the drama of homelessness writ large, the exhibit “Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present.” The survey pulls from a range of artists, from iconic figures like Dorothea Lange and Rockwell Kent to contemporary artists like Sandow Birk.
Wed., March 18, 6 p.m., 2009

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