Artist Spotlight: Chuck Arnett
Best known for the most celebrated element of the Tool Box bar in San Francisco, a huge mural painted by Chuck, a local artist who worked at the bar and whose paintings and posters were also featured at such later bars as the Red Star Saloon and the Ambush. The mural was a massive black-and-white painting that depicted a variety of tough-looking, masculine men. In 1964, when Life magazine did a story on homosexuality in America, a photograph of the Tool Box was spread across the two opening pages.
In it we see the mural and some of the bar patrons, including Arnett and several others who would play significant roles in San Francisco’s early leather history, as the managers, bartenders, bouncers, and above all, the artists and decorators of local leather establishments. Chuck Arnett, died March 2, 1988, at age 60..
HOMOSEXUALITY IN AMERICA
Below, part of the 14 Page Report in Life June, 1964.
A secret world grows open and bolder. Society is forced to look at it — and try to understand it.
These brawny young men in their leather caps, shirts, jackets and pants are practicing homosexuals, men who turn to other men for affection and satisfaction. They are part of what they call the “gay world,” which is actually a sad and often sordid world. On these pages, LIFE reports on homosexuality in America, on its locale and habits and sums up what science knows and seeks to know about it.
Homosexuality shears across the spectrum of American life — the professions, the arts, business and labor. It always has. But today, especially in big cities, homosexuals are discarding their furtive ways and openly admitting, even flaunting, their deviation. Homosexuals have their own drinking places, their special assignation streets, even their own organizations. And for every obvious homosexual, there are probably nine nearly impossible to detect. This social disorder, which society tries to suppress, has forced itself into the public eye because it does present a problem — and parents especially are concerned. The myth and misconception with which homosexuality has so long been clothed must be cleared away, not to condone it but to cope with it.
The story continued with a look at various cities across the United States:
In New York City, swarms of young, college-age homosexuals wearing tight pants, baggy sweaters and sneakers cluster in a ragged phalanx along Greenwich Avenue in the Village. By their numbers and by their casual attitude they are saying that the street — and the hour — is theirs. Farther uptown, in the block west of Times Square on 42nd Street, their tough-looking counterparts, dressed in dirty jackets and denims, loiter in front of the cheap movie theaters and sleazy bookstores. Few of the passers-by recognize them as male hustlers.
By Chicago’s Bughouse Square, a small park near the city’s fashionable Gold Coast on the North Side, a suburban husband drives his car slowly down the street, searching for a “contact” with one of the homosexuals who drift around the square. A sergeant on Chicago’s vice squad explains: “These guys tell their wives they’re just going to the corner for the evening paper. Why, they even come down here in their slippers!”
In Hollywood, after the bars close for the night, Selma Avenue, which parallels Hollywood Boulevard, becomes a dark promenade for homosexuals. Two men approach one another tentatively, stop for a brief exchange of words, then walk away together. In the shadows that reach out beyond the streetlights, the vignette is repeated again and again until the last homosexual gives up for the night and goes home.