September 8, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 36
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Saturday, Dec 05, 2020



Seattle History Part IV: Historic First Avenue (circa 1930 -1970)
Seattle History Part IV: Historic First Avenue (circa 1930 -1970)
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

Historic Gay First Avenue was the now forgotten 'street of sin' before many of the old buildings were replaced with skyscrapers, condos, hotels and interesting shops. But who would care about yesterday except those who lived it and thoughtful citizens - Gay and straight - with a healthy respect for anthropology, even with a small a. But to the good myopic citizens, First Avenue was full of "Queers, creeps and whatever the tide brought in."

Gay bar owner Bill Parkin said, "The Ave represented all the things your parents didn't want you to know about." No wonder it's forgotten. Vanilla history loves a pretty picture but secretly people want to hear about sex and gritty human behavior. Instead of saying, "There by the grace of God go I." They say, "I'm glad I'm not that way" (But you are Blanche!) The so called prurient along with the good happened too, but who wants to hear about the good?

First Avenue had a little bit of everything and everybody. I call it "a social steam vent" for relieving the pressure from a judgmental society.

Cruising was good in ca. 1950 First Avenue. Paul hung out on First and Pike and picked up cute tricks. He acted like no one knew he was Gay. One day he was stopped by the beat cop and told the cop he wasn't Gay. The cop said, "Not Gay? Jesus Christ Paul, everyone knows you're the biggest fucking fruit on First Avenue!"

Jimmy Kelly remembers: "There was this cute 14 year old hustler who just came over from Italy. He hustled the parks there and was decided to becoming a professional Gigolo. He'd do anything for money but he got in trouble and was sent to juvenile detention. His parents were aghast. When he was released I said, 'Too bad you got arrested." He said, "Oh no, that was good. I'm a hero now in my group. I've been to jail, all the girls love me and I'm not all that Gay anyway, now I'm cool.'

"For a brief time in 1963, three teenage brothers hustled First Ave. Two were straight and one was Bisexual. They were abused kids of alcoholic parents and were eventually dumped on Seattle streets to survive. Their injuries in life were deep, but their surface was surprisingly nonviolent and even sweet. One street urchin offered to pimp them out as a three brothers sex package, but it never happened."

D.G. remembers: "The youngest brother, Jimmy - a strong and playful pisces was 15 when we first met. He had a beautiful hairless body, a spectacular derriere and was the star attraction Go-Go Dancer at the Submarine Room in the basement of the Smith Tower. Even though tickling someone is mostly negative, he enjoyed affectionately tickling me. He said I was his Leprechaun. Once in front of the Showbox Theater he nailed me to the cement tickling me. It wasn't aggressive but it displayed his quirky nature. He eventually married, had a child, remarried and had more kids.

"He seemed to be a good father but the Child Protective Services came into the picture when they saw Jimmy and his wife panhandling on Pike Street with four young kids in tow. Passersby were shocked. Nobody knows what happened to Jimmy and his older brother, but his middle brother is still on and off the streets of Seattle. Jimmy told me a story that made my hair stand on end. Before he was married he was in the park one night walking his large dog when a guy approached and asked him if he could suck off his dog for $50. He said he held the dog to quiet him and let the man proceed. He said, 'I was 14, homeless and hungry'."

Jimmy Kelly remembers the 1950s: "Another Gay guy who lived on First Avenue got married when he was too young but got a divorce when the baby was born. He kept in touch and paid child support but the boy had mental problems. He beat his father up twice and the third time he put him in the hospital where he remained in a coma for three weeks. The boy went into a mental hospital and the father moved away.

"There was an older Gay man with a wooden leg who had a newspaper stand on First and Columbia. He loved the punk kids and bought them all the time. One day a car came rolling down the hill and killed him. Also in the 1940s 'Dollar Max' was another well liked character. He was short and stocky, very masculine and well dressed in a gangster sort of way. He was famous for cruising First Avenue and for a compulsive desire to get screwed. He made no bones about it. As many times as possible. For this he gave one dollar, his namesake. Max had Diabetes and lost both legs but continued tricking in his wheel chair. He moved to San Francisco and became 'Two Dollar Max.' Max was a proud man and worked well into his eighties, turning tricks right up to the end.

" 'Tiny the Clown' was a well known Seattle professional clown who liked older men. One night at the South End Baths the attendant asked an elderly customer why he looked sad. He said, 'I'm attracted to Tiny but he won't have anything to do with me. I'm not old enough.'

"Another fixture on First Avenue in the 1940s was this old Swede from the Midwest who fathered twelve children and didn't realize he was Gay until he was seventy. His wife died so he sold his farm and moved to Seattle and totally embraced the Gay life and his preference, fellatio. He was so funny when he camped with his thick Swedish accent. When he met 'Tiny the Clown' they fell in love and had a long and tender relationship.

"Ca. 1945, there was a hustler who met this slave guy who liked to be dominated. One night at a Gay hangout 'Clarke's Round the Clock' restaurant the two came in and sat down. The slave was on a leash, which the hustler tied to the table leg. His eyes were lowered in submission and was not permitted to look at anyone. He had to sit there in silence while his master ate a steak."

Jimmy Kelly met a similar slave type in 1947. "Now Johnny was a sweet person but he needed to be knocked around. I didn't know it at first but he would purposely irritate me so I'd be mean to him. I soon terminated the relationship. He met this other guy who beat him up regularly. One day the master threatened to leave him so he jumped out of a second story window and was badly injured. Someone said he was institutionalized and no one saw him again.

"At the same time there was a pimp on First Avenue who worked his girls and even a couple she-males. They hustled the Ave and gave all their money to their pimp. One night they had a big fight and one she-male threatened to jump out of a second story window. Her pimp suggested she do it from a higher window. When she wouldn't jump the pimp grabbed her by the hair, kicked her back on the street and told her to bring him $100 before she could come back.

"Ca. 1960, another couple shared a hotel room on First Avenue. One was masochistic but the other just wanted his money. The slave said, 'I had to sleep under the bed with the cockroaches and spiders with only a thin blanket for cover. I don't know why he was so mean to me.' He was always complaining about how badly he was treated but he would say and do things to provoke getting hit. He got hit so much that he'd say something and automatically put his arm up to avoid a blow.

"At the old Atlas Steam Bath I heard this hard spanking in the room next to mine and this kid begging his trick to stop. It alarmed me and I was about to call the manager when the cries stopped. I asked the kid when he came out of the room if he was okay and why he let the beating go on so long. His reply was, 'Well that's what he wanted me to do so I had to let him do it'."

In 1964 Bryan had an apartment in the Howard Building and threw parties where everyone would climb a dangerous ladder on the outside of the building to the roof, climb through a window into the vacant Pioneer Building before it's restoration. With candles the party-goers explored it like exploring an ancient castle. One of the party-goers was Bill, a 20-year-old pianist with extraordinary talent who fell three floors to the alley below. He was severely injured and eventually took an overdose of pills.

On a lighter note, Steve recalls when he first came out (ca. 1970): "When I was sixteen I got nerve enough to go into the Gay X-rated Lavender Cinema and Bookstore. I was quaking. It was my first Gay experience and my solar plexus was about to explode. It was cultural shock, especially looking at the sexually explicit magazines. The man at the desk asked, 'How old are you?' 'Eighteen,' I answered unconvincingly. 'Step back here for a minute,' he said. I thought I was going to be arrested. 'Look,' he said, 'I know you're not eighteen but can I give you a blow job?' I was in shock and said, 'I gotta go!' and practically ran out of the place. At home I was as lonely and horny as ever and I knew I had to go back to my only option at the time. The next week I went back, got my first blow job and my life took a new turn upward."

Issac Monroe, ca. 1947: "There was this guy who bragged about all the Sailors he blew in the alleys. My friends and I were on our way to the Garden of Allah and out of an alley he appeared with a grin on his face and a glob of spittle drooling from his mouth. He sucked it in, swallowed it and said, "Well that's the last of that Sailor."

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