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On the Barbary Coast
Much has been said and more printed regarding San Francisco's Barbary Coast - much of truth and much mythical. Probably no other individual district has been so instrumental in giving to people of other parts of the country an erroneous idea of San Francisco. It is generally accepted as a fact that in Barbary Coast Vice flaunted itself in reckless abandon before the eyes of the world, showing those things usually concealed behind walls and under cover of the darkness. According to the purists here youth of both sexes was debauched, losing both money and souls. To speak of seeing Barbary Coast brought furtive looks and lowered voices, as if contamination even from the thought were possible. No slumming party was completed without a visit to the "Coast," after Chinatown's manufactured horrors had been shuddered at.
One cannot well speak of the Barbary Coast without bringing into consideration the Social Evil, for here was concentrated dozens of the poor unfortunates of the underworld, compelled to eke out miserable existence through playing on the foibles and vanities of men, or seek oblivion in a suicide's grave. We do not propose to discuss this phase of Barbary Coast as that is not a part of Bohemianism.
We have visited the Coast many times, at all hours of the night, and beyond the unconcealed license of open caresses we have seen nothing shocking to our moral sense that equaled what we have seen in Broadway, New York, or in some of the most fashionable hotels and restaurants of San Francisco on New Year's Eve. Dancing, singing and music - all that is embodied in the "wine, women and song" of the poets, was to be found there, but it was open, and had none of the veiled suggestion to be found in places considered among the best.
In Barbary Coast we have seen more beautiful dancing than on any stage, or in the famous Moulin Rouge, or Jardin Mabile of Paris. In fact, many of the modern dances that have become the vogue all over the country, even being carried to Europe, had their origin in Pacific street dance halls. Texas Tommy, the Grizzly Bear, and many others were first danced here, and some of the finest Texas Tommy dancers on eastern stages went from the dance halls of San Francisco's Barbary Coast.
Vice was there - yes. It was open - yes. But there was the attraction of light and life and laughter that drew crowds nightly.
Barbary Coast was a part of San Francisco's Bohemianism because of its unconventionality, for, you know, there is conventionality even in Vice. Here was the rendezvous of sailor men from all parts of the world, for here they found companionship and joviality.
Up to the time of the closing of Barbary Coast molestation of women on the streets of San Francisco was almost unheard of. Since its closing it is becoming more and more hazardous for women to walk alone at night in the only large city in the world that always had the reputation of guarding its womankind.