PHOTOS: The Fairoaks Project

Photographer Frank Melleno must have intuited the once-in-a-lifetime magic of the moment when he took these candid Polaroid pictures at the Fairoaks Hotel.

BY Mark Thompson

July 24 2010 3:00 AM ET

A day and a night at the Fairoaks could mean a lot of things. The acrid smell of popper fumes and stale marijuana smoke. The clank of an eight ball in a rear pocket, the rattle of chains. Low moans and orgasmic shouts heard over an endlessly played Sylvester tune, “Do You Want to Funk With Me?” Giggles. Grunts. And whispers. The passing drifts of another cool fog spied through a curtained bay window. The happy laughter of good friends getting together. The slapping flesh of one-time lovers lustily gettin’ it on.

Those were the times to remember, not to ever forget--as if one could in their fleeting glory. Dateline: San Francisco, 1978. Life seemed never better in this fabled City-by-the-Bay. The gay revolution was in full flower—sexy, charged with itself, admitting no shadows. This brief zenith would be over in a blink. But for the denizens of the Fairoaks Hotel and other places like it all over town, it was eyes wide-open, as if every second counted. Because they did. The ticking of the clock of youthful beauty and passion was about to chime midnight and who knew what another morning would bring?

Photographer Frank Melleno must have intuited the once-in-a-lifetime magic of the moment when he took these candid Polaroid pictures. He’d been a member of the ‘70s gay commune that went on to purchase and convert a faded but wonderfully intact Victorian apartment building on the edge of a black neighborhood into a gay bathhouse.

Tags: Art

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