Tenderloin San Francisco

Hard-boiled stories from San Francisco's 1960s and 1970s Tenderloin

Tenderloin San Francisco

Hard-boiled stories from San Francisco's 1960s and 1970s Tenderloin

Birth of a Queen

Spring, 1966

     Chantelle was a looker and more so than the others, especially if you liked the cutesy little blonde type.  And that image was played to the max – blonde hair worn down, very light makeup, an almost beach-bunny look.  Throw in a short skirt (which she was always adjusting), dark stockings, a Lauren Bacall voice, and you have Chantelle.  She was a well-known regular in some of the afterhour’s clubs in the Tenderloin.  Chantelle's favorite club was 'Kenny’s Upstairs' at Turk and Leavenworth - she even had her own seat there at a table facing the door.  

     The tattoo read, “Charlie, USN, 1964.”  He said it was the year he went in and he was so excited to be going in the navy that he had it tattooed on his thigh.  Charlie had come to San Francisco from somewhere that didn’t have a Tenderloin.  As soon as he hit port and found the Tenderloin, he knew he was home.  He went on about how the navy threw him out when he was picked up downtown for prostitution and AWOL.  The Navy took charge of the case.  Even though Charlie and the navy captain were very close friends, the navy still booted poor Charlie out.  

     The $400 Charlie got out with paid three months rent in a Tenderloin apartment and a trip to Market Street to look for bargains in makeup, skirts, stockings, shoes, and other such items.  Pots and pans (Charlie liked to cook) were next on his list.  The pharmacy was the last stop for personal items and two bottles of paregoric.  Charlie knew how to distill opium from the paregoric.  That night Charlie slept soundly.

      Charlie awoke at three the next afternoon and spent the rest of the day getting himself together - and he did a very good job.  A few hours after dark and with a wry smile Charlie opened the door to walk the streets of the Tenderloin.  He was never seen nor heard from ever again.  You see although it was Charlie who opened the door in front of him, it was Chantelle who closed the door behind her . . .