BART, bathhouses, and beyond: The friendship behind “The Cruising Diaries”

East Bay Yesterday show

Summary: Two decades ago, Brontez Purnell fled his Christian family in Alabama, landed in a warehouse full of punks in East Oakland, and quickly got to work hooking up with as many guys as he could get his hands on. Janelle Hessig, creator of influential zines like Tales of Blarg and Desperate Times, urged Brontez to chronicle his eclectic trysts, and in 2014 they published an illustrated compilation of this self-described “anti-erotica.” The combination of Brontez’s gleeful debauchery and Janelle’s laughably lurid drawings made “The Cruising Diaries” an instant Bay Area underground classic, with the first print run (that Janelle financed with settlement money from getting hit by a car) selling out rapidly. Since then, Brontez has written three acclaimed novels and been celebrated by the New York Times as an essential “Black male writer for our time.” In this episode, Brontez and Janelle recall the roots of the friendship that helped launch this distinguished career. First, we discuss the thriving 1990s/2000s warehouse culture that incubated a generation of broke Bay Area artists and musicians. Then, Brontez takes us on a tour of some notable East Bay cruising spots of yesteryear. Listen now to hear stories of nefarious potlucks, horny wizards, landfill parties, go-go boys, and more. Images for this story can be found at: East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: