Friday, September 26, 2014

Memories of Wolfs, the San Diego Leather Bar

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If you have memories or pictures of Wolfs to share, send them to me at papatony, and I will add them below.

Papa Tony:
For decades, San Diego's largest leather bar was called Wolfs, located at the corner of 30th and Upas in North Park. At various times, Moose Leather (a tailoring-shop for leather gear) was across the street to the south, and Ringold Alley (a shop that sold exotic and trendy new toys and gear from across the world, along with lube, porn and dildos) was next door to the north.

Image stolen from Vintage San Diego's Facebook page.

The Crypt leather shop mentioned in the poster was INSIDE the bar. It was nothing much - Just various toys, lube and small items of gear. Armbands, rings for fingers and cock-rings, minor stuff like that.

This picture shows the inside of the Crypt inside Wolfs bar. Taken September 1999.

The chain-link fencing provided a small enclosure around the glass case, and a SMALL space for men standing in front and behind the case, with camouflage netting over everything.

Back in the days before the Internet, bars like Wolfs were our biggest social centers, with 400-600 men showing up during the course of a busy Friday or Saturday night.

I used to love going there, but it was very lonely for me until I figured out what I was doing wrong. I would go through the internal doorway in full leather (flagging Top in every visible way), ducking my head because I am so tall, and then stop to shoot the cuffs on my leather jacket while I looked the crowd over.

Nobody would look at me. Nobody.

I'd push my way through the crowd, looking from side to side with a big, inviting smile. No responses. If anything, men around me would freeze in position, like stuffed animals in a diorama. This would baffle me, because I am an extreme extrovert, with high-level social skills. I just could NOT break through.

After taking several lonely circuits of the bar, I'd leave and go home frustrated.

Then, one time, I brought a buddy. Since I am so huge, I would push through the crowd ahead of him, making an easy path for him. When we came to a stop, he couldn't stop marveling at how everybody STARED at me. I was astonished, because I saw no such thing. He said "They are waiting until you go past, and then they whip their heads around."

I realized that each man was waiting for the Big Top to choose him, and was freezing in place, showing me his best side.

I've told many men this story as a parable for how NOT to snare a big Sir, or that cute boy. Passivity, stoicism and wishful thinking (in both directions) doesn't do anybody any good. Channel your inner slut and POUNCE upon the object of your desire. Yes, it increases the odds of a hurtful rejection, but it also vastly cuts down on the loneliness that divides us too often.

This photo was taken in August 1999, as decorative filler for the leather column I wrote for the Gay & Lesbian Times back then.

Wolfs was legendary for hosting "Back Room Parties" once a month. Toward the end of the bar's life, that was the ONLY profit-making night. There was a general opinion that the man who owned Wolfs was using it as a tax dodge for the many other properties that he owned in Palm Springs.

About the Back Room parties:

Wolfs was divided in half, with a door at each end of the bar to allow traffic between the two rooms. On the Back Room nights, guards were stationed at the two doors. Men were only allowed entry into the back room if:

- They were in some sort of clearly-identifiable leather or fetish gear, or,

- They were shirtless.

Naturally, many men chose to go shirtless. It saved money!

This image shows the Slave Auction at Wolfs, on Saturday, March 3, 2001. The man who is tied up is being flogged to raise money for AIDS charities.

Wolfs had a stage for contests and benefit auctions inside the back room by the Crypt mini-store, which you can see in the back of this photo. Look for the chain-link fencing.

The very first Leather Pride started the ball rolling in 1998, and it all started in San Diego. This moved the Mr. San Diego Leather contest to March of each year - the best time of the year, weather-wise, for this of us who like to WEAR LEATHER. I'm hoping that the powers that be move it back from AUGUST, which is the worst time of year for gearing-up.

To explain the photo - We always held a full week of events designed to celebrate leaders, volunteers, artists and artisans, affinity-group and businesses that catered to the kink/leather/fetish community. To spread the glory around, we would have events at various venues with different themes.

This pic shows two of the contestants for Mr. San Diego Leather 1999. Mike Hargiss is in the center, and he won the contest handily. The gentleman in the white shirt is wearing gear that belonged entirely to me, because I felt sorry for the poor schnook. He had no gear, and he wanted to run for the title!

That's me on the far left, many years (and pounds) ago. The gentleman on the far right was a buddy of mine, and I include him because he KNEW how to dress up right for a night on the town!

Promotional text:

Meet 'n Greet at Wolfs for Mr. San Diego Leather Contestants, January 9, 1999. Official "Meet and Greet," on Friday the 19th at 9PM at Wolfs. This where the judges for the contest meet the contestants, and so can you!

Wear your favorite leather-levi attire and meet some of the finest leathermen and leatherwomen anywhere, and have a great time of fellowship and fun.

Wolf's will be celebrating its anniversary on Friday, April 2, 1999, from 11PM to 2AM with a party including drink specials and food. This wonderful bar has filled an important function in our community for 12 years!

For those of us who REALLY like leathermen, there were some seriously flirtatious, humpy men at the Meet and Greet Party (and Backroom Night Plus) at Wolf's.

JUST before the end of Wolfs:

These are some of the happy men who made the Fetish party complete

I was doing everything I could to save the leather bars in San Diego, because the Internet was strip-mining our community at an ever-increasing rate. We were losing our social centers, and I was in full panic mode.

I tried to get a dance-party started at Wolfs, once they acquired a cabaret license, but it simply didn't take off like my Rampart Party at Shooterz.

Here was the publicity from August 29, 2004:


We now have a new place to dance - Wolfs got its cabaret license recently (after years of paperwork) and has a surprisingly well-laid-out dance-floor. Nobody can figure out where the pool-tables went! I attended the first official dance-party there last Friday, and it went very well - a lot of my buddies from the old days at Rampart showed up, sniffing around to see if they'd fit in - Sure enough, we all did!

It's a welcoming, satisfying place to dance, and the folks at Wolfs are happy to accommodate ideas and requests. Show up any Friday night from now on, and boogie with a bunch of nice guys. I've asked if I can host the first Friday of each month, and I sure hope that I can - I miss hosting parties!

On the following night, Perry and the crew from Ringold Alley hosted yet another successful Fetish party at Wolfs.

Once again, the party was very well-attended and fun - In fact, it was so crowded that the St. Andrew's Cross was difficult to use (it's hard to swing a flogger without unintentionally hitting a by-stander), but a few men succeeded!

Just like the first one, it was a smash hit - Perry is the kind of Daddy that knows how to bring everything together. John, Carl, Scott and the rest of the crew from Wolfs are really changing things for the better.


  1. I so miss Wolf's had my 1st look into the leather community there since I lived right around the corner on 29th :-)

  2. Back in '92, I had a small BnB (The Quince St Trolley) a cpl blocks from Wolf's. I would get my guests settled in on Sat nite's and then head up 30th to Wolf's to party til closing (or sometimes I got lucky and brought someone back to my place, lol). Those oh-so-vanilla BnB guests never knew why my happy "smiles over the muffins" I served them the next mornings were so wide! I miss those wild and nasty good times at the old bar, too.

  3. I lived in one of the courtyard cottages on 30th in 1991/92, and spent many Saturday nights in Wolf's.

    Steve of Moose Leather was a buddy.

    We won't discuss Bob, temporary owner of The Crypt here.

  4. I live around the corner from Wolf's for many years and prior to that I managed the Crypt for a short time. It was really a great place to meet and be yourself.

  5. My youth enjoyed Wolfs, and especially Carl Maxwell who was the friendly bartender