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. ^ Boulware, Jack (2000). San Francisco Bizarro: A Guide to Notorious Sites, Lusty Pursuits, and Downright Freakiness in the City by the Bay'. St. Martin's Press. p. 70. ISBN 0312206712.
  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.((cite web)): 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". Archived from the original on 29 September 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  12. ^ Rofes, pp. 12-13.
  13. ^ "San Francisco Jacks Newsletter" (PDF). January 1984. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 11, 2017. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
37°46′28″N 122°25′02″W / 37.7744852°N 122.4171509°W / 37.7744852; -122.4171509