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Sex, Drugs & Disco: San Francisco Diaries from the Pre-AIDS Era

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In the 1970s, thousands of young gay men flocked to San Francisco. Mark Abramson, author of the best-selling “Beach Reading” mystery series and the AIDS memoir “For My Brothers,” was one of them. In a time and place where sex was free, drugs were cheap, and the driving disco beat felt like it would go on forever, he landed in the great gay Mecca fresh out of college, recon In the 1970s, thousands of young gay men flocked to San Francisco. Mark Abramson, author of the best-selling “Beach Reading” mystery series and the AIDS memoir “For My Brothers,” was one of them. In a time and place where sex was free, drugs were cheap, and the driving disco beat felt like it would go on forever, he landed in the great gay Mecca fresh out of college, reconnected with his old friend, the writer John Preston and soon encountered such interesting people as Harvey Milk, Sylvester, Rock Hudson, Natalie Wood and Vincent Price. These are his raw, uncensored diaries.


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In the 1970s, thousands of young gay men flocked to San Francisco. Mark Abramson, author of the best-selling “Beach Reading” mystery series and the AIDS memoir “For My Brothers,” was one of them. In a time and place where sex was free, drugs were cheap, and the driving disco beat felt like it would go on forever, he landed in the great gay Mecca fresh out of college, recon In the 1970s, thousands of young gay men flocked to San Francisco. Mark Abramson, author of the best-selling “Beach Reading” mystery series and the AIDS memoir “For My Brothers,” was one of them. In a time and place where sex was free, drugs were cheap, and the driving disco beat felt like it would go on forever, he landed in the great gay Mecca fresh out of college, reconnected with his old friend, the writer John Preston and soon encountered such interesting people as Harvey Milk, Sylvester, Rock Hudson, Natalie Wood and Vincent Price. These are his raw, uncensored diaries.

30 review for Sex, Drugs & Disco: San Francisco Diaries from the Pre-AIDS Era

  1. 4 out of 5

    Love Bytes Reviews

    5 Heart Review by Tidal If you are not old enough to remember the Pre-AIDS days of San Francisco, jump on and take a magick carpet ride. If you are, you will find that Mark Abramson is not only telling his story but also telling our stories. I love this book. It is a memoir of life in San Francisco in the 1970’s from Mark Abramson’s personal diary. Reading his private memories you are quickly reminded that the gay community has a wonderful rich history, and it is fading. It needs to be preserved a 5 Heart Review by Tidal If you are not old enough to remember the Pre-AIDS days of San Francisco, jump on and take a magick carpet ride. If you are, you will find that Mark Abramson is not only telling his story but also telling our stories. I love this book. It is a memoir of life in San Francisco in the 1970’s from Mark Abramson’s personal diary. Reading his private memories you are quickly reminded that the gay community has a wonderful rich history, and it is fading. It needs to be preserved and he has made an amazing offering in doing so with this book. We revisit a wonderful place in time now melted into history and the memories of those who were there. Back then having a “Dick of Death” meant something entirely different than it does today. Sex was not dirty, but one big celebration. Men and women came from all over to Gay Mecca to explore themselves and each other. That was before people had access to porn on demand on their computer, or DVD or VCR. People went to the theaters both gay and straight to see porn movies. The bars had playrooms. There were sex clubs and bathhouses, sex was very important then but that was only part of what life was like. Reading the diary account of the murder of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, by Dan White is chilling. I remember feeling the exact same degree of anger, helplessness, outrage, and the riots. That is what makes this book special because it connects the threads and how those places, experiences and events changed us forever. Experiencing these memories is like sitting down with an old friend who still remembers, Liberty Baths, Bull Dog Baths, the 1808 Club, hustlers, The Riots, Lady Di, Harvey Milk, the Star Pharmacy, Polk Street, South of Market, the Tenderloin, Drag Queens. I have not read many books written in dated journal format style. I did not feel voyeuristic while reading it and that did surprised me. I think writing in that powerful style offers a special point of view. It gives the facts just as they happened in a neat chronological order coupled with the personal impact on the writer’s life. I enjoyed watching his life change and seeing him evolve, and meeting the wonderful friends, some famous, some not, that he introduced us to throughout the book. Observing how that blended with the other events of the time offers the readers so much more than a snapshot but a full tapestry of what life was like in that era. The stories of sex are fun because I remember those places very well. I love the tales of the celebrities. We witness the written record of the different people who came together to make it a rainbow of diversity, ideas by heroic people and actions that shaped who we are as a GLTB community. Many wonderful books have been written to tell the history, of who we are, who we were, and who we are. This book definitely belongs there. A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review. Please visit www.lovebytesreviews.com to see this and many more reviews, author interviews, guestposts and giveaways!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Lowe

    Mark Abramson’s SEX, DRUGS & DISCO: SAN FRANCISCO DIARIES FROM THE PRE-AIDS ERA is a fun read. And it’s an absorbing read. I read it, happily entertained, for uninterrupted stretches until I had finished it. The book is comprised of excerpts from Abramson’s diary, chronicling his life from the day he arrived in San Francisco from Minnesota in summer 1975 through New Year’s Eve 1979. Since the entries are presented chronologically, there is a narrative through-line telling the story of Abramson’s Mark Abramson’s SEX, DRUGS & DISCO: SAN FRANCISCO DIARIES FROM THE PRE-AIDS ERA is a fun read. And it’s an absorbing read. I read it, happily entertained, for uninterrupted stretches until I had finished it. The book is comprised of excerpts from Abramson’s diary, chronicling his life from the day he arrived in San Francisco from Minnesota in summer 1975 through New Year’s Eve 1979. Since the entries are presented chronologically, there is a narrative through-line telling the story of Abramson’s life. The story is fleshed out, however, and given context through other, more episodic, entries that highlight moments in gay history and/or in San Francisco history. Each entry is dated, so part of the fun for me was thinking back to what I was doing on that same date—and realizing how much more fun Abramson was having. My personal recollections, along with Abramson’s detailed memories of the 70s, transported me back to a time when I was coming of age, and also allowed me to experience things I had missed, seeing them through his eyes. Though the book tells the story of a more carefree time in gay history, a time before AIDS changed the narrative, it’s difficult not to read the stories without knowing where things would lead—especially if you have read Abramson’s earlier book, FOR MY BROTHERS—which I highly recommend—which picks up Abramson’s story during the AIDS era, a few years after the events in SEX, DRUGS & DISCO. That knowledge does not take away from the sense of fun; it merely adds a layer of subtext or maybe just poignancy, since the reader may see something that was not evident, of course, to Abramson when he was originally chronicling his life. In arranging and editing the entries, Abramson inserts very welcome contemporary comments after selected entries to provide context or to give updates of the lives of people we have met in the pages of his diary. In the diary entries themselves, the mature writer resists the temptation to explain or comment on some of the more naïve musings of a young man in his early twenties, which only serves to make the character of Mark more endearing. At the end, Abramson promises MORE SEX, DRUGS & DISCO is coming soon. It better be.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Just as the title says, this is a collection of diary entries of a young man who moved to San Francisco from Minnesota in 1976. The book wraps up on December 31, 1979, the unofficial close of what can be considered the pre-AIDS era. There's lots of sex, drugs, and disco, for sure, but there is also celebrity, a search for love and connection, self-reflection, historical events, and the banalities of everyday life. Often the pre-AIDS era is associated by gay men who did not live through it with a Just as the title says, this is a collection of diary entries of a young man who moved to San Francisco from Minnesota in 1976. The book wraps up on December 31, 1979, the unofficial close of what can be considered the pre-AIDS era. There's lots of sex, drugs, and disco, for sure, but there is also celebrity, a search for love and connection, self-reflection, historical events, and the banalities of everyday life. Often the pre-AIDS era is associated by gay men who did not live through it with a kind of magical aura of hedonism and carelessness. But I enjoy reading memoirs and diary collections from this time because it shows just how similar things still are today. People still had jobs, many of them still longed and searched for love, and the daily stresses of life occupied most of their time. The one main difference is the fearless sex that was possible before the plague hit. It's also interesting to read this now, with the rise of PrEP and the resulting significant decrease (or management) of sexual fear, because I think there are increasingly more similarities between that time and this one. This book is filled with references to places, both gay spaces and general public locations. Parks where men went for sex, long-gone bathhouses, restaurants, gay bars, discos, and even neighborhoods (Polk Street is no longer associated with gays in any way). I love learning about the gay spaces that have gone and it gives me hope when I read about those that are still here. In the end, this book was a celebration of living life in all its exciting and boring ways. As the author says in one of his entries, "It is NOW! It's TODAY! I am ALIVE!"

  4. 5 out of 5

    Charles Barragan

    Excellent memoir by Mark Abramson detailing his life in the heady gay days of San Francisco. A breezy and entertaining read, Mark shares excerpts from his diary and brings us up to speed on the whereabouts of certain places and people today. Overall a beautiful snapshot of a man and his community - well worth a read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Don Browne

    Excellent tale of San Francisco in the 70's Excellent tale of San Francisco in the 70's

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ron Monteiro

  7. 5 out of 5

    kristi pottichen

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Monet

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bob Young Jr.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mr GJ Davidson

  11. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  12. 5 out of 5

    RomanticComedyLover

  13. 4 out of 5

    N.A. Diaman

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary Galant

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike Heyl

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ryal Woods

  18. 4 out of 5

    Armando C.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  21. 4 out of 5

    Peter Ang

  22. 5 out of 5

    Grahame Perry

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pedro

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jody

  26. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  27. 5 out of 5

    George Masters

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael P. Novelli

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zombierus

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Vercillo

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