March 09 only

A Q&A with Meat Rack director Michael Thomas will follow the screening!

The Tenderloin Museum presents a double feature screening of the lost documentary Gay San Francisco (1965-1970, 30 mins) by Jonathan Raymond, and the underground cult film Meat Rack by Michael Thomas (1970, 70 mins). Both films depict the early queer movements in the Tenderloin, unveiling the district as being pivotal in the gay rights movement as the first gay neighborhood in San Francisco.


Gay San Francisco by Jonathan Raymond, is a previously lost documentary depicting queer life in San Francisco five decades ago. Shot between 1965-1970, Gay San Francisco features a collection of incredible footage of San Francisco’s thriving LGBTQ culture, with a focus on the Tenderloin, San Francisco’s first queer neighborhood. Scenes from gay bars are intercut with fascinating interviews featuring gay men, lesbians, and trans women discussing issues from harassment to sex to job security. The film also includes a not-to-be missed Halloween drag show at On The Levee, one of SF’s many historic gay bars that closed their doors long ago.

Filmmakers Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman unearthed Gay San Francisco while researching their Emmy-winning documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, which included footage from Gay San Francisco. The Tenderloin Museum screened this film for the first time in 30 years to a sold out audience.


The softcore rarity Meat Rack was originally produced and released by Sherpix, the company that brought underground films like Lonesome Cowboys, Pink Narcissus, and Invocation of My Demon Brother to a nationwide circuit of art house theaters. Shot mostly on the mean streets of San Francisco, this is a gritty, brooding tale of a bisexual hustler who’ll go to bed with any man or woman who offers him enough money and sexual kicks. Using both sexploitation and art film aesthetics, Meat Rack is an essential and compelling artifact of pre-hardcore adult cinema.

Meat Rack’s then-21-year-old director saw the film as an opportunity to portray San Francisco’s increasingly vibrant gay demimonde; after this, his only film, Thomas would later go on to co-found Strand Releasing, one of the most important American independent distributors and a central force behind the New Queer Cinema of the 1990s. The strange tension displayed in Meat Rack—between its tortured protagonist, struggling with the vagaries of his own desires, and the burgeoning sexual freedoms of the city he finds himself in—now reveals itself as the emblematic conflict of a film about a community on the eve of liberation.


After graduating from San Francisco State College with a film major in 1968, Thomas managed the Presidio Theatre for Art Theatre Guild where such transgressive films as Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys and Russ Meyer’s Vixen had long engagements. The company had a desire to dabble in film production and offered Thomas the opportunity to direct Meat Rack from a script by a local playwright. It was to be shot for about $12,000 in 16mm on a very tight schedule, and aimed for the same arthouse-exploitation niche as the Presidio’s. Meat Rack was shot in the summer of 1969 and released in 1970.

After the closing of the Times, Thomas acquired the lease to operate the Strand Theatre on Market Street for ten years, where he booked double and triple features with a daily show change policy, in addition to an eight year midnight show run of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Thomas also programmed several dozen art and repertory houses around Northern California and was a partner in theatres in Arcata/Eureka.

Thereafter Thomas moved to Los Angeles and co-founded Strand Releasing with Marcus Hu, the vanguard distributer of gay-themed films around the country starting with Macho Dancer in 1988. Eventually handling such successful titles as Wild Reeds, Claire of the Moon, and Stonewall,Thomas also was the executive producer of The Living End, Hustler White, and Newcastle.


About the Tenderloin Museum:

The Tenderloin Museum celebrates the rich history of one of San Francisco’s most overlooked neighborhoods. Through history exhibitions, resident-led walking tours, community programs, and the presentation of original artwork, the Tenderloin Museum invites all comers to learn about the roots of our dynamic neighborhood, and reclaim our city’s past and future. The 31 blocks of the Tenderloin District are a microcosm of San Francisco, peopled by immigrants and iconoclasts, artists and activists, sinners and saints. All are welcome to join us in telling its story.