Caldron (sex club)

The Caldron (often misspelled Cauldron), at 853 Natoma Street in San Francisco, in the South of Market St. area, was a gay sex club which opened in 1980 and closed in 1984.[1] It was called "the epitome of the uninhibited, abandoned, 'sleazy' sex club."[2]


Located in a converted warehouse, the site was unabashedly a place where men went to have sex. Patrons were required to be naked except for footwear; a clothes check was provided.[3] Like other similar venues, it had no alcohol license; patrons brought their own alcohol, usually beer, and this was stored in a cooler and patrons given chits that they could turn in for a can of the brand of beer they had brought. It was described as "exemplary" as one of the first venues to promote safe sex as the AIDS crisis hit.[4][5]

The owners were Hal Slate[6] and Stephen Gilman.[7] The club had two bathtubs for those who wanted to be urinated on. The lights were not dimmed.[8] There were tables and benches for having sex on, and slings.[9] The Caldron featured thematic nights: Tuesdays were for water sports, Thursday for fisting; it also set aside nights for masturbation. A poster announcing its First Anniversary Orgy has been preserved.[10] The name Caldron, according to owner Gilman, was the I Ching's commentary on itself.

Slate and Gilman were members of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, which after Monday chorus rehearsals sometimes repaired to the Caldron for a private party. Opera music was the background.[11][12] The San Francisco Jacks, a masturbation club, met at the Caldron.[13]


  1. Gayle S. Rubin, "Elegy for the Valley of the Kings: AIDS and the Leather Community in San Francisco, 1981-1996", in In Changing Times: Gay Men and Lesbians Encounter HIV/AIDS, University of Chicago Press, 1997, ISBN 0226278573, pp. 101-144, at page 116.
  2. Jennifer Brier, Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Responses to the AIDS Crisis, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2009, ISBN 0807833142, p. 40.
  3. Jack Boulware, San Francisco Bizarro: A Guide to Notorious Sites, Lusty Pursuits, and Downright Freakiness in the City by the Bay, St. Martin's, 2000, ISBN 0312206712, p. 70.
  4. Rubin, p. 197.
  5. Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, New York, Viking Press, 1987, ISBN 0312009941, pp. 304-305.
  6. Mick Sinclair, San Francisco: A Cultural and Literary History, Interlink, 2003, ISBN 1566564891, p. 329
  7. Bob Thomas, interviewed 3/12/77, in Eric Rofes, A Walking Tour of South of Market in the 1970s, n.p., 2005, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2014-11-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), p. 12, retrieved 11/20/2014.
  8. Joe Mayo, interviewed 3/28/97, in Rofes, p. 12, retrieved 11/20/2014.
  9. Rofes, pp. 11-13.
  10. "The Caldron's First Anniversary Orgy". Bolerium. Archived from the original on 4 February 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  11. Matthew S. Bajko. "The Bay Area Reporter Online - Tour digs up SOMA's gay past". Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  12. Rofes, pp. 12-13.
  13. "San Francisco Jacks Newsletter" (PDF). January 1984. Retrieved September 27, 2017.

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