The golden age of cruising… No one has quite pinpointed the exact years of this magical era, but the 70s were definitely a part of it. It was post-Stonewall, so there was a new kind of hope and enthusiasm, and it was pre-AIDs and HIV, which meant there was less shame attached to sex.
And, it was at the tail end of the 70s that this week’s guest, the award winning filmmaker Glenn Gaylord first moved to LA from Ohio. At this point he was too young to go to the clubs, but too horny to stay home, and so he found himself gravitating towards the gay bookshop Drake’s. There was tonnes of cruising that happened inside Drake’s, but there was also a LOT that happened on the streets surrounding the business… Like, a lot a lot… like, hard to believe how much sex was happening.
But, don’t take my word for it! Listen to the episode to find out from Glenn.
Glenn Gaylord 00:00
What am I supposed to tell you? I’m enjoying leaning up against a come soaked wall with people jacking off in an alley.
K Anderson 00:07
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past their memories that they created there and the people that they used to know the golden age of cruising. Now as far as I know, no one has quite pinpointed the exact years of this magical magical era. But the 70s were definitely definitely part of it. It was post Stonewall, so there was a new kind of hope and enthusiasm and confidence within the community. And crucially, it was also pre AIDS and HIV, which meant that there was less shame attached to sex. It was at the tail end of the 70s that this week’s guest the award winning filmmaker Glen Gaylord first moved to LA. At this point, he was too young to go to the clubs, but he was also too horny to stay at home. And so he found himself gravitating towards the gay bookshop. Drake’s now there was tonnes of cruising that was happening inside Drake’s at the back of the store. But there was also a lot that happened on the street in the neighbourhood surrounding the shop. Like a lot, like you’re gonna find it hard to believe how much was actually happening. But don’t take my word for it. Why don’t we see what Glen has to say?
Glenn Gaylord 02:11
I was tired of scooting around West Hollywood, and I was too afraid to go into the bars. Because now I’m in college. And I’m like, what if I run into one of my classmates? I was scared of that.
K Anderson 02:20
Isn’t that funny? Like if they saw you and they’re in a gay bar, then there’s a reason why they’re in the gay bar. So why would you be afraid of them seeing you?
Glenn Gaylord 02:28
Oh, I didn’t think through your playing logic to a 17 year old brain.
Sorry, I’m sorry, of course.
So I decided to venture out and I had read pre internet. There were these publications like the Damron guides, which is ramrod spelled backwards. And they would just tell you all the gay places where bars, cruising areas, restaurants all over the chi, and it told me about this bookstore on Melrose Avenue called Drake’s, which is no longer there. But it was one of those porno shops that sold videos, gay porn and lube and poppers and accoutrements, and sex toys of all shapes and sizes. And they had these video booths in the back where you put quarters and you watched five minutes of the porn and they keep putting more quarters in, and people would check off or have sex in those booths. And so I thought, Oh, well, I’m going to check that out. Because I’m too afraid to go to the bars. And again,
K Anderson 03:24
Tim afraid to go to the bars. So I’m gonna go somewhere where I’m going to have sex with someone in public.
Glenn Gaylord 03:28
No, no, I wasn’t going into the store. Oh, okay. So let me let me give you the picture of this. So off Melrose, which is like just a bunch of shops are all these suburban streets where most of the houses are like Mid Century Modern single storey bungalows, tree lines, very cosy. So there’s Melrose dentistry called Sierra bonita, and then another street called Kherson. And I forget the street down below, maybe Clinton, and people would circle the block all night long cruising. Most people wouldn’t go into the bookstore, but they knew there’s a store nearby. So there must be action. And there was all night long cars in both directions circling and circling. So I thought this is like a perfect opportunity to get laid without having to go into a bow.
K Anderson 04:15
And so was this information readily available in the dam? What’s the books? What are the books? The damn
Glenn Gaylord 04:21
right Damn, yeah, maybe we’ll talk about cruising spots. So the Damron listed all the different gay bookstores and sex shops. And so that was on there. And it talked about this crusade. Wow, just around the hay. So I checked it out. I parked my moped. And I was too scared to go into the store. But I’d walk around the block, and it was insane. Everybody driving around would check you out. You’d get eyes on you from the cars. And then if you looked really carefully, you just see men having sex and people’s yards in the alleyways just everywhere, right? So I would start to meet guys this way. I would, you know, get picked up go to their place have sex which was crazy. You know, just let a total stranger take me in their car and not kill me, like, how does this happen in LA? But it was just me being young and dumb and you know, when he wanted to have adventure, and so I would start to nickname guys. You know, there’s the guy in the alley who was a hot mess. So I called him alley oops. There was a guy that was really into he was dressed like a cowboy. And he was really into using his fist for sex. And so I called him Fistful of Dollars.
K Anderson 05:28
Wait, really? Wait, I need some clarification. Yes, he was really into using his fist for sex. You mean? He was interesting? Yes. Oh, okay. Cool. That was
Glenn Gaylord 05:37
just my, that was my adventurous which.
K Anderson 05:40
I was like, Oh, my God, if I missed out on something, there
Glenn Gaylord 05:43
was a guy with little blonde tips in his house. I called him frosty. I didn’t call them directly. I just didn’t, yes, yeah, he’s nicknames. And I wouldn’t have the best encounters with these folks who were, you know, cruising in a neighbourhood like this. There was one guy I’ll never forget, who told me he was a dancer. And I went into his car. And he was telling me like, you know, it’s like 1718 years old at this point. He’s like, Oh, you’re so young and fresh, and you’ve got such beautiful eyes, and that he grabbed my stomach. And he squeezed it. And I don’t know if you know, the Pillsbury Doughboy commercials. But he squeezed in when he goes, what happened, which are three words, a gay guy never wants to get asked, what happened. So that kind of traumatised me from walking around the neighbourhood anymore, I just Oh my god, I guess I gotta go into this bookstore for the real encounters, because this is grossing me out. So I finally got the nerve to go in. And I immediately retreated to one of the booths in the back because I didn’t want to be seen. But I knew that there was like action going on back. And so I would meet people. And again, I would just trust them and go to their places. I wouldn’t have sex in the back. I just thought that was not something.
K Anderson 06:54
Oh, but isn’t it just more convenient to do it there?
Glenn Gaylord 06:57
I guess I was looking for more than convenience. I’ve just got some more of a romantic interest. And I would encounter people that are new every now and then. And one of them was a classmate of mine, who just went What are you doing here? And yet, because he didn’t know I was gay. And I just went, same thing you’re doing here. And we never talked about it again. And so this area was just teeming with this. And you know, eventually there were sting operations, the cops would come and poses civilians and would arrest people for public sex and things like that, or soliciting sex. Yeah, it was rough. I mean, I, I parked on a moped on the side street. So no one would see me chaining it up on Melrose Avenue. So I went to like a darker place, and I found a place to change it up. And then I just observed for a while making sure like, Who’s going into the store? Who’s you know, who are these people? Do I know any of them? So I’d watch for a couple of hours. You know, I would be there like, really late. Wow. on a Saturday, you know, I’d get there like at 10 o’clock. And I’d be there till like three, four in the morning. Sometimes. It was fascinating as well, just watching this, you know, pre internet, pre apps, pre aids culture. Yeah, yeah, that was the riving. And cruising you know, this cruising does not exist like this anymore. And it was fascinating to me. And so I just did a lot of observing. And when I finally mustered up the courage to walk into that store, I did it one slow section at a time each visit. So I walked in, and there are a bunch of magazine racks. So I just stand there and look at the magazines for ever. Next visit I go look at the porno videotapes of all the 1980s shaved bodies and ridiculous
K Anderson 08:42
tans like coconut oil, right? Like really shine lots of coconut oil.
Glenn Gaylord 08:48
And I’d look at the magazines later than the booths that I would go into. I make my way to them. The one area that I always got freaked out about was the counter at the cashier. I just did not want to interact with it. But I was going in there and freeloading off of them every had to have noticed. And so I eventually would like, buy some stupid thing, you know, buy a magazine, or I buy like some type of nondescript sex toy that you couldn’t even tell it’s a sex toy. Open like why? Well, there were things where if you didn’t know that there were sex toys like Benoit balls, you might just think about a bunch of marbles that were silver. So yeah, it was scary.
K Anderson 09:31
Do you remember like how many visits before you plucked up the courage to go into the back room?
Glenn Gaylord 09:38
Well, I think I went in the first time I went in, actually. Oh, and then I figured the lay of the land and figured Oh, I’m gonna run into someone that way. Let me next time pull it back. I think I went into the back room the first visit.
K Anderson 09:49
Ah, well, that’s interesting because you This is me making lots of assumptions. So correct me if I’m wrong, but you were kind of going there to have sex and if If the back room was too crazy on that first visit, what was the compulsion to go back?
Glenn Gaylord 10:06
Well, first of all, I could hide in a booth. And then I could kind of look out onto the main floor and see who’s there. So it’s a good spot for that. And, you know, silly me, I thought I’d meet somebody that would want to go on another date. You know, that’s just didn’t happen. This is where you went, if you were closeted, and you want to hook up?
K Anderson 10:25
Yeah. And can we talk a bit about that? Because you have talked already in the conversation about how you were romantic, how you were looking for that kind of connection? Yeah. And I suppose that the age thing is, is an element of this, because you were not old enough to get into bars. But why did you think that going to this space, in particular, was somewhere where you can meet people?
Glenn Gaylord 10:48
Well, it was also part of the culture. This was a culture of romanticism, there were no, no legalised gay marriage, there wasn’t a lot out there that you could find to live up to. And so the culture was very sex based, and the talk was very sex based, and everyone sexualized each other. And that seemed to be the extent of it from what I had experienced. I was too afraid to go into the gay bars at this point, because I thought I’d run into people I knew, and this seemed to be a place that might be safer. You know, I just, I didn’t have anything to compare it to, to know that this wasn’t a romantic zone. And, you know, clearly they existed at the time, it’s just I was not evolved enough to seek that out or feel comfortable enough to seek it.
K Anderson 11:35
Is it? So I’m just thinking about my own experiences here. And again, it might not be your experience, do correct me if I’m wrong? Or if it doesn’t chime with your experience, rather? I think for me, when I was younger, rushing into sex was kind of a way of trying to establish closeness quickly.
Glenn Gaylord 11:59
Yeah. And I would take it further in my head than it was, in actuality. Yeah, I would think um, for me, this amazing Bond was somebody when they just wanted to get off.
K Anderson 12:08
Yeah, yeah. And they’ll say anything in the moment, of course, because they’re hot and ready, and they don’t want to scupper anything from happening. Yeah, I think that happened to me a lot as well. And I was just so ready to believe. So talk me through your approach to cruising, like, what do you do? Are you the aggressor? Or are you the opposite of aggressive? What’s the opposite of aggressive? Are you the passive person? Yeah,
Glenn Gaylord 12:38
yeah, I was more passive. Because I didn’t have the car, I would be the one walking around guys driving around might stop and roll the window down and invite me in. So I had to be the one that came to, I couldn’t just jump in front of their cars. So yeah, I took a much more passive approach, because that was safer as well. For in my head, you know, I’m not the one who’s taking a chance and might run into someone I knew. I could check out look in the car, see if it was someone I knew or not. And then if I was attracted and felt safe,
K Anderson 13:13
but it was a snap decision, it was like, I’ve got to get in this car. Before I come along. Let’s imagine I’m driving my car, and I’ve pulled up next to you. I’ve rolled my window down. And I’m like, hey, I want to get in. What’s your decision making process?
Glenn Gaylord 13:30
Well, I would have a conversation for, you know, a long two minutes.
K Anderson 13:35
I would say you do my whole backstory by then. Yeah.
Glenn Gaylord 13:38
I mean, you know, we always start with how’s your night? And you know, they’ve asked me how my night is like, what am I supposed to tell you? I’m enjoying leaning up against a console wall with people jacking off in an alley. Like that’s in my head, but I’m just like, oh, yeah, it’s a hot morning night tonight, you know, like some stupid porno talk like that, which I learned to get to quickly. You know, hoping against hope that they’d say, you know, would you like to grab a nice meal first? We talk about this over some, you know, chicken medallions.
K Anderson 14:12
Romance that way. Yeah.
Glenn Gaylord 14:15
I don’t think that was made for the cruising.
K Anderson 14:19
Okay, so So you’ve had this conversation, and then you’ve made the decision to get in the car? Yeah. Are you then? Like, how often do you have sex right then and there? And how often do you go to the person’s house or somewhere else?
Glenn Gaylord 14:31
Well, at first, I would ask them to pull over, I wouldn’t want them to drive somewhere, right? Say, Hey, pull over. Let’s have a chat. And so we would just kind of figure out a little bit about them, see if they’re making eye contact, see if they feel genuine. And then you know, they’d either want to just jerk off in the car or go back to their place. It’s usually one or the other
K Anderson 14:54
out, okay, but like the only sexual act if you were doing it right then and there was jerking off and
Glenn Gaylord 15:00
Take it out, check it off. Now did have an incident that’s really kind of apropos of all this, that there were two incidents encounters with guys that kind of lit a fire under being away. One was this guy who was walking around, and he came up to me. And he told me that he was bisexual, and that he gets the best of both worlds. He’s like, the women are fun and all that, but you can’t get a guy pregnant. In fact, you can only get crabs from a guy. Now think about this is like 1980. And I’m thinking, I’m not so sure if he’s right, and, you know, little ping in my head should have been, there’s something horrible coming into this culture soon. But how would I know? You know, certainly, uh, you know, that was the dawning of the age zero. And here, he was talking about the benefits of, you know, being with guys, because you can only get crabs. So that stuck with me, for obvious reasons, you know, as my life progressed. And then the other one was, you know, there was a bus bench nearby. And sometimes I’d just be tired of walking around, and I’d sit on the bench at a bus stop. And this guy came up to me in sweatpants, and he had a Chinese takeout container. And he’s like, Hey, how have you been? Like, as if I knew him? And then he would say, so? Are we still on that agreed amount, and I go, what mount? And he’s like, You know what we discussed? I’m like, I never met you before. Come on, you know, we talked about a price. And so I pulled up my quarters that I had in a pocket. And he’s like, Oh, you really are waiting for the bus, aren’t you? And I realised he was an undercover cop tried to, you know, bust me for being a prostitute. Oh, wow, wow. So that kind of lit a fire under me that I’ve got to stop doing this. I should not be hanging around here. This is not working for me. I’m not getting dates, you know. So it was like, that’s kind of the era ending portion of the story of when I kind of stopped at all, I finally mustered up the courage to go into bars and meet people that way. And then also, I was in film school, and half the students were gay. And we would go out even though they didn’t know my sexual orientation at the time, we’d go to gay bars, and we go dancing, ready to hang out. And so I got more and more comfortable as time went on. But what happened to that area is eventually there were a lot of neighbours complaining about people having sex on their lawns, and there were cops that would, you know, ticket people or arrest people. And so they started putting up signs that said, No turns 10pm, to 6am, all through the neighbourhood, to keep people from driving in circles on it. And so that kind of ended that whole cruising area, and then the bookstore closed. And strangely enough, those signs are still there. Now those signs went up, like in the early 90s. And they’ve been there for 22 plus years, and counting the signs of their but cruising died, you know, with apps and with COVID. And with everything else, people do not cruise around bookstores in the same way that they did back then it still happens here and there, and parks and places like that, but not to the extent that it was this was insane back then. Whereas it’s gone. But the signs remain as a little relic of that time. So every time I drive by them, it just makes me think about that era.
K Anderson 18:13
And like, How common is having a sign that says no turns totally uncommon?
Glenn Gaylord 18:17
Okay, okay, two areas, it la that area, and then an area nearby called Vaseline Alley, which is around another bookstore called circus of books. And it’s off Santa Monica Boulevard. Same thing. There used to be signs around that area as well, because Vaseline Valley is where people hooked up. Those signs are gone. But the Drake signs in the Drake’s area are still
K Anderson 18:39
there. Yeah, I mean, the reason I asked that is because if I was driving around and I saw a sign that said no turns, I wouldn’t really understand what it meant. Right?
Glenn Gaylord 18:46
Back then you would have because you would have seen cruising that was happening. And now Yeah, I mean, maybe they’re still up because just to keep people from taking side streets to get somewhere late at night and waking the neighbours. So maybe it’s just part of that now. But I have a funny story about this whole note turns thing in the whole cruising. Are you familiar with the actress and I’m Debbie Mazur.
K Anderson 19:13
She an old white lady.
Glenn Gaylord 19:14
I don’t know about old I don’t define old but no So Debbie Mazur is a strikingly beautiful she’s got Siberian Husky blue eyes. Oh, yeah, I’m looking her up. Brooklyn accent. Well, I met her because we work together on a movie called Little Man Tate that Jodie Foster directed. She and I became friends and discovered later that we were neighbours. And so she lived, I think four blocks from me. And she lived in the Vaseline Alley area at the time. So I asked her one time. What’s it like with all the guys that cruise around here? She goes, Oh gods because people are sucking each other off on my front lawn. jacket off. They’re having sex. Some of them are fucking on my front lawn. And so every now and then I’d have to come out late at night and say excuse me, fellas. I’ve got my daughter in here. I got a little did they know that my daughter was my poodle Dolores, but it got them away. And then I have an ex who also still lives in that area of the Vaseline Alley area. And he got tired of guys hopping his backyard fence to have sex in his backyard at night. And so he rigged his tree that people would climb over with bricks, so that the bricks could possibly fall on them while they’re shopping in his yard. And I said, You can’t do that. If a brick hit someone in the head, they could die and you’d be charged with manslaughter. And so I think he eventually got motion sensor lights to scare them away I go, that’s much stiffer. But people would go to drastic measures to try to deter this is the point of this, whether you claim you have a daughter or you put up lethal weapons in your trees.
K Anderson 20:48
I just can’t imagine people being that brazen. Like, I can’t imagine you’d be like, oh, yeah, this person’s backyard. That’s a great idea.
Glenn Gaylord 20:58
Well, whether it’s closeted or not, you know, sexual urges are very powerful things for people, and especially if they were closeted, or living in a environment of shame, and that they will get it any way they can.
K Anderson 21:11
Sure. But like, if you get caught in someone’s backyard, and by the person whose garden it is, that’s a bit more shameful than,
Glenn Gaylord 21:18
Oh, it’s trespassing.
K Anderson 21:20
It’s illegal. There’s that as well. But like you’re being seen doing the secretary like it’s hardly discreet as what I’m trying to say.
Glenn Gaylord 21:29
No, would would have been discreet. Had he not put up lights. I mean, there was it was very dark back there. Probably was as good as places me in LA. I mean, it’s not like we have rolling hills and grass, like we did back in Ohio. It’s just, you know, a lot of cement and palm trees.
K Anderson 21:45
Well, I yeah, I still find it difficult to understand people’s thought processes. And like, oh, yeah, let’s go with this person’s back. God,
Glenn Gaylord 21:52
I also think you have to take your self back to that era, we did not have the conveniences that we have now, you know, now you can use your finger to find somebody on your phone. And then you had to really make an effort. And if you weren’t given positive images in media, or being taught in school, what your life could be, like, not being given examples of happy lives, you know, you’re only seeing gay people, you know, ending up killing themselves or dead in movies, or being the butt of jokes. So in that kind of culture, you don’t think that you’re going to have a happy ending. And so you’re just taking chances and petty at how you can.
K Anderson 22:33
So in your experiences of walking along those streets, and around the block all night, when you were 17 year old. What do you think cruising taught you about life?
Glenn Gaylord 22:50
Well, other than the later lesson that I learned that it was a waste of my time, it wasn’t serving me. Well. It taught me that. I’m much bolder than I thought I was. That this took a lot of guts, and we’re not smart decisions. Anything could have happened to me. And I could be buried in the mountain somewhere. Right now, for what what I was doing, you know, there are serial killers out there, especially in Los Angeles. It’s not a safe place. You know, there has been a lot of creepy crazy stuff happening in this big giant city. And so it made me feel like maybe I’m stupidly bolder, but I, I have a lot of guts doing that. That’s really the takeaway for me, that I can’t believe I trusted people and went out there and put myself on the line when I was 17 years old. I was just a baby.
K Anderson 23:41
Sometimes you have to be like stupidly bold. You have to take that leap of faith. Not that I’m like advocating getting in cars with strangers. But no,
Glenn Gaylord 23:50
I mean, I do have regrets of that. I mean, I wish I were bolder five years later, that it didn’t start when I was 17. I wish I had started when I was 23. Because then I would have known that guys were condoms too, and that there’s something out there that you need to avoid. And I didn’t know that we didn’t have a name for it. Didn’t know it was out there. So yeah, I feel like I was born five years too early.
K Anderson 24:14
So what are you saying? You’re saying that you wish that you had just not explored the sex part of your identity until you were older?
Glenn Gaylord 24:24
No, I just wish I was born later. I still might have done it at the age of 17. But okay, just 17 in the mid 80s. And not in the late 70s. Yeah, I never trust people who say they have no regrets. Like, so you learn nothing in your life. Nothing really. You’ve got to regret something. I regret something on a daily basis. Like, you know, if I lose my temper or swear in front of a baby at a park, you know, and so this is one of those regrets Wait,
K Anderson 24:50
are you swearing at the baby or just in front of the room? I
Glenn Gaylord 24:53
gotta tell you that.
K Anderson 24:56
But I see I guess this just depends on how you look at regret. I mean,
Glenn Gaylord 25:00
yeah, but I, I think that regrets are honest. And that, you know, it’s okay to have regrets. You learn from, you can identify areas that you need to learn and grow from.
K Anderson 25:12
Yeah, but I think that’s why a lot of people say that they don’t regret things because they’ve taken the opportunity to learn and grow from it. Yeah.
Glenn Gaylord 25:19
And that’s, that’s great, that’s healthy. But there’s still things I wish that I hadn’t done. You know, if I could go back, I would have had somebody even told me, like, gay guy should wear condoms. You know, back then it was the only thing you can catch from them as crabs was that guy said so long ago. You know, I wish that there was recognition and that you were taught these things in sex education in schools, but a world that’s so hung up on, you know, what their religious leaders tell them is acceptable in this life because of a book that was given to them and they were indoctrinated. And I don’t want to get into a whole anti religious thing, because I think there’s good and bad there. But I wish that all of these educational opportunities were available to me, because I absolutely would be telling a different story.
K Anderson 26:07
I guess that’s, but then you would just be a totally different person.
Glenn Gaylord 26:10
Yeah, that’s exciting, isn’t it? Like, Oh, I wonder like a sliding doors. Sorry. I wonder what my life would have been had I done that.
K Anderson 26:17
What have you were just a total douche bag there.
Glenn Gaylord 26:19
Maybe. But then like, then I could learn and grow from that.
K Anderson 26:25
Could you did douche bags grow? I don’t know. Sure.
Glenn Gaylord 26:28
I know some douche bags and became good people.
K Anderson 26:33
Do you have any memories of Drake’s or clubbing from your own queer scene that you want to share? Well, if you do, I would love to hear from you. Go to La spaces podcast.com and find the section share a lost space and tell me all about what it is you got up to. You can also reach out to me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at Lost spaces pod. Find out more about Glenn by following him on Instagram Gleb Rama g l e BB o ra MA or on Twitter at Glen Gaylord and that’s two ends and Glen okay. If you enjoyed this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on your podcast platform or just told someone who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.