Melleno: The Fairoaks Project
by Gary Freeman
Reception June 12th, 2010 7-10pm
collection of Polaroids was put in a box shortly after they were shot
and have not been seen until now. Many of the images contain nudity and
frank erotic scenes, but they also capture men dressed in festive attire
and engaged in other aspects of the counter-culture lifestyle the Fairoaks
promoted. Many artists lived at the hotel, and ongoing therapy-support
groups and monthly theme parties enhanced the Fairoaks’ reputation
as a neighborhood center for gay men as much as a bathhouse.
"Like a string of black pearls, San Francisco’s bathhouses adorned the city with a touch of louche glamour. The Hothouse. The Barracks. The Handball Express. Animals. The Club, Bulldog, Sutro and, down by the tracks, the Ritch Street Baths. The ever-notorious South-of-the-Slot, and so many more. (They were all officially closed in October 1984.) Each claimed a distinct character and clientele. But no place had quite the feeling of coming home once through the front door as did the Fairoaks... More than a pictorial record of a by-gone scene--or even of passing strangers with sticky feet--these photographs open a door into a secret gay world of sexual encounter and sweet innocence the likes of which will never be seen again."
--Mark Thompson, from the introduction to the exhibition catalog