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Nob Hill Theatre Is the Latest Famed Gay Space to Close

Nob Hill Theatre

The gay strip club had survived in an era when dozens of LGBTQ businesses were closing. 

Joining the growing trend of gay spaces shuttering, San Francisco's famed gay strip club, the Nob Hill Theatre, took its final bow on Sunday after 50 years in business.

"This is another nail in the coffin of gay San Francisco," Shelly Steward who ran Nob Hill Theatre's front desk for 13 years told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's the end of an era."

The establishment, with its sign that's inspired dozens of Instagrammed photos read "Touch Our Junk!" offered semi-private rooms and hundreds of adult videos for a $15 entry fee. At $20 patrons were privy to strippers who would take off their clothes and stroll through the audience, according to the Chronicle.

The theater was part of an era when San Francisco was considered the "Smut Capital of America" but it also offered a haven for exploring sexuality.

When a businessman named Shan Sayles bought the Nob Hill Theatre in 1968, he showed European art films for a time before turning to gay porn, current co-owner Larry Hoover said.

"They stopped showing the B movies and started showing gay porn," Hoover told the Chronicle. "According to Shan, the line was around the corner overnight."

While Nob Hill Theatre still drew decent crowds, Hoover and co-owner Gary Luce owned it for eight years and were ready to sell. It was a long time to run a business, they said.

For those interested in keeping a piece of this part of LGBTQ history, the owners are planning an estate sale to over Labor Day weekend to sell theater chairs, signed posters, and a disco ball. But Hoover and Luce have already set aside artifacts to donate to the GLBT Historical Society, they said.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist