John-Ivan Palmer writes about the Tenderloin in SF.

Late one night in the Tenderloin, 1968, my girlfriend (if you could call her that) was talking to one of her topless-bottomless dancing friends at an unlicensed bottle club deceptively called Coffee Ron. I ignored the riffraff staring at me for reading a book. Suddenly three men pulled a gun on the manager, and beat up the bartender who tried to intervene. Panic, screaming. My two lady escorts rushed behind me for protection. I held the Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnotism (1947) over my chest in an equally absurd attempt to protect myself from bullets.

It was horrible what happened next. The manager, a naive ex-prize fighter named Gene Echols, was beaten almost to death. In the hospital for weeks. Of course no one called the police, and when they asked questions afterward, no one talked. This was a typical night in the Tenderloin shortly after the Summer of Love.

Around the time I was living in that black hole, a San Francisco journalist wrote, "The Tenderloin seems overwhelming and eternal and no one can really say for sure what is happening within its sprawling reaches." As close as most people got was reading about it in the paper - salacious stories of sordid sex, thug wars, and murder. Having lived there, I can tell you it was indeed a horrific place. But the cost of living was cheap.


Posted By johannes to <>monochrom at 3/05/2007 01:44:00 PM
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