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Gay San Francisco: Lost Film, 1965-1970

On December 1, the Tenderloin Museum will screen a piece of rediscovered history: Gay San Francisco by Jonathan Raymond, 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 it’s doors long ago.

Filmmakers Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman unearthed this film while researching their Emmy-winning documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria, which included footage from Gay San Francisco. Victor Silverman will be on hand to discuss this period in San Francisco history, and why this footage became an integral part of Screaming Queens.

This screening compliments the Tenderloin Museum’s first major temporary exhibition, The Unseen World of the Tenderloin: Rare Historic Photographs 1907-71.


Victor Silverman’s career has spanned history, politics, theater, writing, and film. He is a Professor and past Chair of the History Department and  the American Studies Program at Pomona College. His latest film, “Getting High,” (2016) is a provocative, feature-length documentary about his family’s collision with drugs and alcohol set against a backdrop of our society’s bitter conflicts about the “War on Drugs.” Silverman co-directed, co-produced, and co-wrote with Susan Stryker the Emmy-winning film “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria,” which aired on nationally on PBS in 2006. He is the author of three books and many articles.  His most recent book, California: On the Road Histories (Interlink 2012), traces many stories and places of the golden state in prose and images. His other written works include Los Angeles Times Front Page and Imagining Internationalism. Often quoted in the press for his expertise in politics and history, his scholarly work encompasses a diversity of topics including US, international politics, labor, Jewish, queer, and environmental history. He earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1990 and has taught at universities in the US and China.


The Tenderloin Museum’s first major temporary exhibition, The Unseen World of the Tenderloin highlights both historic neighborhood scenes and the intimate spaces familiar to its inhabitants. Rare photos of backstage dressing rooms, streetscapes, legendary clubs, and daily hangouts together form a kaleidescopic view, showcasing the diversity and energy that the neighborhood is still known for today.

The Tenderloin is where San Francisco keeps its secrets – home to underground gay bars, illicit nightclubs, and the core of the vice industry. It’s also where everyday people have lived, worked, and made art for generations. Over the decades, these unlikely neighbors have created one of the city’s most tightly-knit communities, wrought by the Tenderloin’s dynamism, chaos, and unique beauty.

Directed by Jonathan Raymond

Running Time: 30 minutes


Admission: Free, thanks to Grants for the Arts & The Neighborhood Arts Collaborative

This event is sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts/General Fund Portion of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.