San Pablo

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This article is part of
"Robin's Personal Memories Project"
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<- Redwood City -- Club History -- Carson City ->

San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley - February 1981


This clubhouse ended up being a challenge to end all challenges.

It was a two story building with two store fronts and a three bed-room apartment on the ground floor, with a two bedroom and two one bed-room apartments on the second floor. Also on the property, there was a two bedroom house behind it. The one thing that made the property really interesting was the fact that the store fronts faced San Pablo avenue and the apartments and the house Carlton Street. Now you ask, "What could make that interesting?" The front of the building had one zip code while the side had another!

When I found the building, it had been empty for almost three years. All of the windows of the building facing San Pablo had been broken out, and there were squatters living in the building. After calling the police and have the squatters "forcibly removed', we boarded up all the windows and changed all the locks on the building.

We started painting the building (inside and out); cleaning all of the bathrooms; patched a few holes in the roof; started equipping session rooms and building equipment. We were in the third week when Pacific Gas & Electric shows up and removes all the gas and electric meters from the building pursuant to an order from the Berkeley Building Department. It seems that the current owner has done all type of repairs and installations, all with out building permits.

When I try to bargain with the city, there answer was pretty straight forward: the owner has not filed building permits, and he owes a bundle in property taxes. Unless he comes forward, "The City" says, I'm out of luck.

I call my attorney who talks to the owner. "Unless you sell the building to Robin at this totally unreasonable, inexpensive price, he is going to sue you and he will end up with the building and you end up with no money." He sells. I get a loan by getting my parents to co-sign.

Armed with a deed and money, "The City" and I come to an understanding and construction began in earnest. New bathrooms are installed; hot water heaters were removed and installed correctly. Electrical wiring and panels upgraded. It was a grand building. Monique and I lived in the downstairs apartment. The two store fronts were turned into session space. The three apartments upstairs were converted into Club space: a library; an office; and classroom space.

I sold the sessions business (but not BackDrop) to Duke Skinner. Using that money, I started the first of two electronic businesses in Carson City, Nevada, where I lived for just over a year.

Incidents that come to mind and bring smiles.

  • We had a session client call and ask for sex, and he was politely told no. He was given directions to the building, and he again asked for sex, and again he was told no. He went into session, continuously pushing for sex. Forty five minutes into the session, he has figured out that it wasn't going to get sexual. He ends the session and becomes quite belligerent and demands his money back.
He begins yelling that BackDrop is a total f**king rip-off, and that he is planning on calling the police unless he gets his money back. My response was, "Here. Here is a quarter. Please call the police and tell them that we didn't break the law, and that you didn't get a blow-job!" He left, never to return.
  • One Sunday morning, we are sitting around the breakfast table when I hear an explosion. I do a little investigation and find a pipe bomb had been detonated in front of an ATM at the Bank of America, a block from the club house. I call the police and report the bombing. Without touching anything, (Honest!!!) I look around. Minutes later the police, the fire department and the bomb squad all show up.
When they ask what happened, I respond, "It was a two inch piece of pipe with threaded end-caps. The explosive was black powder; I'd say about two pounds. It was placed to break glass without doing much further damage." They ask, "And what is your name and address, and why do YOU know so much about this bomb?"
  • Monique was one of our “headliners” in Berkeley.
  • Dave Z., Doug H. (both in the Navy) and I got to be very good friends.
  • I was teaching Electronics at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose. (It was so much fun that I really didn't mind the two hour commute.)
  • 'Uncle Duke' Skinner was everyone's uncle. He like to think of himself as this tougher than nails, Mafioso Don. He would grant audiences at Enricos (the cafe beneath Finoccios on Broadway) at 'his table'. I designed and installed almost all of the telephone and computer systems in his, and almost all of the other adult, businesses along Broadway in San Francisco.
Duke decided he wanted to become a professional gambler. He would put teams together to break the bank in Vegas. He made substantial money, but never broke the bank. When he was told that he was dying of cancer, he flew to Vegas for one last trip. He died, almost as the plane landed in Vegas. He died doing the one thing he loved most. I think of him occasionally, and will always remember him for the gentleman he was.

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