Life at Buzzby’s

Buzzby's opened in 1975
Buzzby’s opened in 1975

Buzzby’s was the first great dance bar in San Francisco. It was also the first gay bar I remember that wasn’t hostile to admitting women. If they weren’t wearing open-toed shoes. Ann Getty was known to frequent the place so I’m sure they made an exception for her custom Vivier’s.

I had drinks with my upstairs neighbor Jim a week ago. We hadn’t seen each other since he moved out last June. We met at the Cinch on Polk, one of the last gay bars standing on the Strasse. Jim and I didn’t know each other in the ’70s but it turns out we had shared many of the same Polk Street experiences.

We talked about how ground-breaking Buzzby’s was, how it changed the whole scene. He told me stories about his best friend Steve who was a DJ there. DJ’s really were the heart of this dramatic new club life. He remembered his friend as a brilliant sound mixer way ahead of his time musically.

Before discos came along hits were made on the radio largely by the payola and sleaze associated with the record business. After the club DJ’s took charge, songs became popular on the dance floor then made it to the airwaves.

Disco would eventually become a mutli-billion dollar business and probably was as corrupt as the radio days. But in the 70’s you felt it first in the clubs.  As Jim said, “Steve always knew what was coming before it actually happened.”

Soon after Buzzby’s the Trocadero Transfer opened and become the ne plus ultra of  dance venues.  The largest space in town with the most modern equipment, it was usually only open Saturdays. It became infamous for its theme parties like the first White Party I’d ever heard of. The head to toe white dress code was strictly enforced while wall sized ice sculptures decorated the room. The staff all wore “iced hair.” For Easter, they flooded the dance floor with hundreds of lilies just as dawn broke. Halleluh, Halleluh.

The Trocadero was really an event that you anticipated and planned for. Buzzby’s was available nightly, there for the taking whenever you needed it.

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8 thoughts on “Life at Buzzby’s

  1. HI, I was wondering where could I get the rights to those Buzzby’s old photo? Can I use them for a documentary?

  2. Buzzbys was always a go to place for drinks and dancing, especially on nights other clubs were closed. I remember Barry, Liz and Donna well. Anyone know where they are?

  3. I came out there, very good club and it was active both at the bar & dance floor early afternoons. Late evenings there was a share of druggies but it was still fun. Early afternoons were sometimes best for a group of friends as prime disco mixes were playing at danceable sound level.

  4. When I moved to San Francisco the summer of 75′ Buzzby’s was my living room for about 4 years. My best buddies were Ernie Aladino and his boy friend Gary, I adored Liz and the waiter on roller skates who’s name escapes me now. I was a magical wonderful time and place. On weekends we would dance until 10pm then hit The Grubstake to refuel then dance until closing..then it was off to Pam Pam East for stuffed potato’s followed by a few more hours at an after hours club South of Market. Thank you for taking me back there. My other haunts were The Tracadero Transfer, The End Up, Oil Can Harry’s Alfie’s, and the I-Beam… oh yes and Dreamland…finally took my final bow at Club Universe…and at the Hell Ball… Oh brother this is dredging up memories… I used to also participate in the Muscle Sisters Halloween Drag Party in the 1990’s… those were amazing.
    Cheers to you all and much love,
    Michael Smith
    aka Lanier Smith

  5. I moved to San Francisco in Oct. 1974 and Buzzbys was already open. What killed Buzzbys was gays bringing in their fag hags. Same thing happened to I-Beam on haight. The fag hags and then they started to bring their straight friends.

  6. It was that as you state, Bob, and more; there was the infusion of cocaine and crystal meth around 1979 making the scene harder (pardon the expression) and meaner, then AIDS on top of that in 1981; in other words, one negative thing pancaking onto another.

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