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Storied: San Francisco


Jun 18, 2024

I'm super-stoked to do a podcast all about The Stud and folks from the collective who run the place!
 
In Part 1, we start with Marke B. Many longtime listeners will remember Marke from his Season 3 Storied episode. In this go-round, we get a condensed version of his life story and how he made his way to San Francisco.
 
In his hometown of Detroit, Marke threw raves and made enough money on that to put himself through college. Sometime in those four years of school, he realized that his dream of writing for a local newspaper or weekly was damn near impossible. Also, it was the height of AIDS and Detroit didn't have much of an infrastructure around that.
 
His best friend bought two train tickets and told Marke, "Pack your bags, we're leaving for San Francisco tomorrow." That didn't sit well with Marke at the time. He wasn't crazy about SF back then—he hated hippies, hated the Beats. He had visited with his family at 14, when he tried to run away from his parents and take a cable car to the Castro. That, of course, didn't work out so well (try the F-Market trains, kid).
 
Despite his dislike of The City, his desire to get out of Detroit got him on that train. Two-and-a-half days and a couple bags of potato chips later, Marke arrived. It was the day after Pride 1994, and he's been here ever since.
 
He saw a gay scene that was too white and mainstreamy. But he found his people—other people of color, into alternative music—at The End Up. His first time at The Stud was on a Monday hip-hop night. Immediately, he felt he had truly arrived.
 
Years later, in 2016, Rachel Ryan and another co-op member asked Marke and his husband, David, to join their collective. They've both been members since then.
 
Then we turn to Rachel Ryan. Rachel grew up in The City, Noe Valley specifically. Her parents put her in Live Oak School, back when it was located in the Castro. That experience helped to shape Rachel—her kindergarten teacher was young and gay and had bleach-blonde hair. He was an early role model for her.
 
Her liberal family moved to Marin for that oh-so familiar reason: San Francisco became too expensive for them. But her dad's work was headquartered near The Eagle in South of Market, and Rachel spent some time with him in that area when she was young.
 
She thinks back on her time in Marin fondly, from the access to nature to the freedoms her parents were able to grant her. But at the same time, her parents were protective of their daughter—she was free as long as she was with her older brother.
 
Rachel got into swing dancing at a young age. She'd come to The City to go to swing clubs in the Nineties. But once her older brother and his friend graduated high school and went to college, that ended.
 
College for her meant UC Santa Cruz. And after graduating there, she moved back to San Francisco right away. Today, she lives really close to where she grew up.
 
Growing up, Rachel carried bisexual shame. She felt at times that she wasn't gay enough, but also found herself immersed in queer culture through friends. Then, in 2009, a trip to The Stud changed everything. "These are my people," she thought.
 
Years later, Rachel and her people started noticing the closure of more and more queer bars and spaces around The City. Their friends were getting priced out of San Francisco more and more frequently, and they were fed up. The previous owner of The Stud, Michael McElheney, announced that he wanted to retire and sell the bar, and Rachel, Nate Albee, and some other of those friends seized the opportunity. The newly formed Stud Collective took over in 2016.
 
Next up is Honey Mahogany. Honey's parents fled Ethiopia for San Francisco as refugees. She grew up in the Outer Sunset just off Taraval in the Eighties and Nineties. Her parents put her through Catholic school for K–12. It was a rather sheltered, quiet childhood, one where she could walk to aunts' and uncles' houses in the same neighborhood.
 
For college, Honey moved to Los Angeles to attend USC. She came out down there around this time, and became, in her words, "super queer." She started doing drag in LA, in fact. She found her true self in those experiences and being away from home, where she was able to establish her identity apart from her family.
 
But her family still didn't know about her queerness. One of her cousins outed her to her fairly conservative, Catholic parents, who reacted negatively. After she graduated college, they sent her to Ethiopia to "get away from negative influences." While in Africa, she interned for the UN. "I've always been involved in social justice," she says, and the UN was a natural fit ... or so she imagined. And so Honey came back to The Bay to study social work at UC Berkeley.
 
Her dad became ill around this time, and so the move back doubled as a chance to help take care of him. She found social justice work in Contra Costa County, got a spot on Ru Paul's Drag Race, and joined the newly formed Stud Collective.
 
The Stud was near where Honey worked in the late 2000s. A friendly bartender endeared her and a drag queen named Virginia Suicide hypnotized her. She was hooked.
 
Please check back next week for Part 2 of my episode on The Stud.
 
We recorded this episode at The Stud in South of Market in June 2024.
 
Photography by Jeff Hunt