Fellow Book Benders
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This is the 18th edition of Fellow Book Benders, a free monthly online newsletter about the ridiculous truth and historical tidbits of San Francisco, the Russian River and beyond.  Can you spy a glimmer of your yesteryear from these tales?   Better yet, are you willing to confess to it?

October, 2017                                               Vol. 2, No. 10
Cow Palace, Part II:

         The Geneva Drive-In was erected on Geneva Avenue in Daly City in 1950 and soon expanded to a four-screen multiplex.  The sloped arena sat next to the Cow Palace and could handle some 770 vehicles.  In the hopes that midget-car and dog races would return, the original owner did not tear down the grandstands.  Local kids would climb the fence and sit in the bleachers to watch a freebie.  The Geneva 4 closed down in 1999 and stayed open as a flea market for another year until Century Theaters unceremoniously bulldozed it for good in 2002.
          Located in a downscale neighborhood, it was not uncommon to see wayward youths chasing each other with firearms through the lanes of cars.   Hunter S. Thompson frequented the drive-in, mentioning the shit-storm that would occasionally visit the place.  Besides the criminal wannabees from the nearby projects, some of your less mischievous attendees included truckloads of teens trying to slip past the entrance.  Margo O'Hare remembers stuffing six of her friends in the rear of her GTO. 
         With lust on their minds, teens ventured there in droves.  Steam blanketed vehicles while a subtle rocking motion told all who was in the thralls of eternal bliss.  With sweat pouring from your brow, you exited in a daze and headed for the snack bar.  Loaded down with Abba Zaba, Necco Wafers, popcorn and Diet-Rite Colas, you begin your return trip to your betrothed only to realize that your brain is not up to such a task.  Wander you did, up one row and down another, searching for nirvana.  To finish off a not-so-perfect night, you forget to replace the speaker box into its cradle and drive off with an unintended souvenir. 

          From the religious protesters outside the Cow Palace to the vast array of half-clad party animals inside, the Exotic Erotic Ball & Expo was a feast for the eyes from 1979 to 2009.  Multiple stages held various musical acts, all blasting out their melodic sounds at once.  Thousands danced and writhed under the laser lights while an orgasmic glow completed the craziness. 
            Besides the lure of unchained lust, the main draw was the parade of costumes, or the lack of.  Pieces of outfits were missing with fleshy parts hanging from the strangest of places.  Some of my favorites were skimpy sheer lingerie donned ladies; gold body-painted masturbators; topless Egyptian goddesses; Native Americans in loincloths; porn star girls; and bondage-gear dominatrices. Yours truly (2nd photo from left) went as a WWI ace pilot replete with authentic era hat, goggles, trench coat and medals. However, I seem to have forgotten the remainder of my uniform. Bob Deusterhoft had one complaint: too many gawkers (or perhaps stalkers) went dressed in their comb-overs, khakis, horn-rimmed glasses and plaid shirts.  Leave the school-boy attire at home and get jiggy! 
      The first thing that struck Ruth McGinnis on that night of November 28, 1976 was those piercing blue eyes.  She was no different than the other seventeen thousand patrons at the Cow Palace, each feeling as if Elvis Presley was paying homage to her and her alone. 
        With slow suggestive gyrations and a wicked smile, Elvis caressed the stand-up mic.  "Teddy Bear" and "Love Letters" brought the throng off their feet.  With a dramatic pelvic thrust, he belted out "Fever" and the crowd could no longer contain itself. On no less than six different occasions, hordes of young girls stampeded the stage only to be thwarted by security guards.  At age forty-one, the King had them  eating out of his hand.  Joanna Dexter recalls the look on Elvis as if he enjoyed every second of the tease. 

Sidebar: Elvis passed away the next year in 1977.  Or has he?  Many believe that he faked his death and went into hiding.  Some even claim that he appeared as an extra in the 1990 blockbuster, Home Alone.  In 1989 the Elvis Presley Sighting Society was formed to monitor the many observances of "the King".

On August 19, 1964, The Beatles took the stage at the Cow Palace for opening night of their first-ever American concert tour.  Most of the Fab Four shows lasted on average thirty-three minutes but that night was different.  Halfway through the first number ("Twist and Shout"), the boys sprinted off stage to the sanctuary of the dressing rooms while police stemmed the growing pandemonium.  One journalist was trampled to the ground along with a fan who broke her leg in the melee.  A modicum of civility returned (American style) as the Beatles played "She's a Woman" and "I Feel Fine".  But then it started up again.  Remembering George Harrison's comments about the band's favorite candy, the crowd pelted the boys with flying jelly beans throughout the remainder of that night's set.  Though Paul, John, George and Ringo were uninjured, they discreetly departed (British style) via an ambulance.

Sidebar:  In 1959 the band was known as Johnny and the Moondogs, but Lennon soon changed the name to The Beatles, which was a nod to their favorite American band, Buddy Holly's The Crickets.  The Beatles took America by storm with their inaugural visit, showcasing their wares on The Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964.  Their final U.S. concert was at Candlestick Park two years later.

           What do Gene Simmons of KISS and Billy Graham have in common?  They are both Trump supporters.  I don't believe, however, that that bit of knowledge would have deterred a young Sean McCarty from attending his first KISS concert at the Cow Palace in 1985.  He remembers making his way toward the stage where Simmons tossed him a sweaty towel, which he still possesses.  I would tell the lad to burn it immediately or be prepared for the consequences. 
             The band played previously at the venue in 1977 striking fear into conservative parents.  Greg Proops recalls pulling up in the parking lot with a jug of vodka and a bag of rolled joints.  Station wagons motored in as dads flipped open the rear doors.  Kids, not teenagers, spilled out---as many as fifteen from a single vehicle all wearing KISS T-shirts. 
               The band rose to meteoric prominence with their extravagant performances, which featured fire-breathing, blood spitting, flaming guitars, levitating drums and pyrotechnic showpieces.

Sidebar: With makeup and costumes, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley created comic book characters: The Demon, the Starchild, the Space Ace and the Catman.  The above 1977 concert featured a tribute to the fallen Elvis Presley who had passed away just hours before.

The Bill Graham Crusade came to the Cow Palace in 1958 drawing a crowd that spilled into the parking lot.  Eighteen thousand waited inside while another five thousand stood outside. The CHP was clearing a traffic jam, which strung out some six miles.       
             Graham's sermon began with the words from the prophet Isaiah, "Ah, sinful nation."  Singing followed, after which there was an altar call.  A hundred or so people came forward to be prayed over by Billy to "make their decision for Christ."   
                 Bob Jones was a seminary student at the time and helped with the ushering of the newly christened to the basement, which reeked with urine and feces and all matter of foulness from recently visited circus elephants.  Bob asked one fellow what he thought of his "decision for Christ."  The man responded, saying that he followed his friend to the altar, not wanting to lose track of his ride home, when, without warning, the good Lord descended upon him.
          The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus has been performing at the Cow Palace since 1966.  With attacks from animal groups across the globe, it has deleted the elephants from its act.  Ever since its inception in 1919, this traveling circus has showcased its cavalcade of clowns, high-flying trapezists, escape artists, canonball men, and trick-defying animals.
          The fearless Fernandez brothers performed jumpy twists on the twin turbines of steel.  The Human Fuze set the sky ablaze, rocketing sixty miles per hour from a human crossbow.  Animal trainer Tabayara tamed wild stallions and ferocious tigers while making elephants dance (hmm, I wonder how he managed that?).  Strongmen, as wide as they were tall, exhibited unbelievable feats of strength. 

Sidebar:  The circus will stop using animals altogether in 2018.

          There are always many quirky things to observe at the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Shows at the Cow Palace.  Beauticians blow-dry and chalk the fluffy hair of cocker spaniels.  A proud owner dresses his Doberman in a leopard print bikini while another refers to his petite basset griffon as Fear the Beard, named after former Giants pitcher Brian Wilson.  Vince Mulligan of Petaluma (upper right photo) sits with Patrick, one of his three Great Danes.  A longtime exhibitor at the show, Mulligan has seen the popularity of the big dogs wane. 
            Or perhaps you might catch the "dog-powered scooter" (bottom right photo).  The metal frame bicycle possesses harnesses in the rear for two dogs who propel the rider along.  Mark Schuette calls it "urban mushing", circulating through the lower-level exhibition halls to the amusement of onlookers.
             If you have enjoyed reading one of my novels, a short review with Amazon would be appreciated.  As Red Skelton used to say, "Good night and may God bless."

Next Time:
     In November, we will return to the Russian River area to visit eateries of the past.  If you have a story pertaining to your favorite river restaurant of yesteryear, I would love to publish it in next month's newsletter.  You can reach me through my website or email me directly at  Thanks and stay tuned. 

Where to purchase my latest novel:
        Don't Stop the Music is an action/adventure story that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love.  It is a wild ride through the streets of the Haight and Fillmore Districts of San Francisco culminating in the historic Grateful Dead concert in Rio Nido along the Russian River in 1967. The paperback as well as the kindle version are available on Amazon.  If you want to save on shipping and handling charges, you can purchase a signed copy through my website at

Buy Now!

If you would like to buy a signed copy directly from the author:
Click here to buy Don't Stop the Music


Reviews are trickling in:
     “A wonderful romp from San Francisco to its northern satrapy of the Russian River area in Sonoma County. For those who remember the era (Summer of Love), Don't Stop the Music is a delicious summary of memory.”
         San Francisco Museum and Historical Society
"If one is looking for honest government, honest people, honest anything, this is not the book to read.  But, on the other hand, John McCarty has put together a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love (1967) that is cheerful and entertaining and even pays tribute to the beauty of west Sonoma County..."
         Sonoma County Historical Society

"The author's novel captures the city's sixties cultures: hippies, Hell's Angels, crooked politicians, druggies, prostitutes and draft-dodgers.  Somehow McCarty manages to build sympathy for his motley crew as they embark on a classic road trip from San Francisco to rural northern California."
         Northern California Fulbright Association

         "A tasty well-paced read with colorful characters you might have, or wish you had known, discovering themselves amid the denizens of America's Left Bank during the most loving and eye-opening revolution in America's history.  Familiar folks, home-grown scenery, and candid attitudes will put you happily in the middle of all the action."
          Stephen Gross, The Press Democrat

Attributions & Asides:
       A special thank you is due to anonymous subscribers for sharing their memories of the Cow Palace.   Also, a note of appreciation goes to the following individuals and organizations: Sean McCarty, Bob Jones, Bob Deusterhoft, Joanna Dexter, Margo O'Hare, Mark Schuette, Vince Mulligan, Marsee Henon, Friends of Rio Nido ( Card Cow Vintage Postcards (, Sonoma County Historical Society, Russian River Historical Society, San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, and Wikipedia.
                To subscribe a friend to this newsletter (Fellow Book Benders) or to discover more information regarding John McCarty's novels, go to
                 Your privacy is important to me.  Be assured that I am not sharing your email or any other personal information.  JMc
Copyright © 2017 John McCarty, All rights reserved.

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