Frisco Beat: Stanley C. Sargent

Counting down to the showing of Lon Chaney’s The Penalty in the Old Mint next Thursday — which I chalk up as one of the successful ideas I pitched to the Tenderloin Museum when they were asking what other programs we could do, above and beyond me just coming in and talking about Hammett. (Even so, I can’t give myself too much credit. Yeah, I had the idea, but the Museum and now the Old Mint are doing the heavy lifting.)

And you may be interested in another idea I pitched to the Museum — one of the first things I thought of back in 2015. A talk on how the Tenderloin intersection of Geary and Hyde somehow — by complete coincidence or the nudging of eldritch forces — became a center for horror writing in San Francisco. In the 1970s Fritz Leiber lived just west of the intersection in 811 Geary Street, where he wrote The Pale Brown Thing — which with an expansion and a few changes became the award-winning novel Our Lady of Darkness.

Just south of the intersection, west side of Hyde, Stan McNail lived in the 1960s — in the period he wrote his Arkham House poetry collection Something Breathing (and also edited the poetry journal Galley Sail Review, and so on).

Just north of the intersection, east side of Hyde, Stan Sargent — or Stanley C. Sargent — was living, and he had a couple of collections of Lovecraftian stories out, The Taint of Lovecraft and Ancient Exhumations. Plus more stories here and there. He seems to have written only in the horror form.

So, I suggested we could do a talk, where I’d blurb Fritz and Stan Mac, and drag Stan Sargent in as a living representative of the idea.

Too late now. I got news that Stan died March 6. Light on details. But he’d been living with HIV/AIDS for years, and believe he mentioned once that he had congestive heart failure under treatment, too. Guess it could have been anything.

(Once, walking along in San Francisco near the Powell Street BART Station with Stan and Dick and Pat Lupoff, a street preacher exhorted us, “Trust in the Lord!” Stan looked at us and said, “I did. . . . it didn’t work out.”)

Seasoned hikers around San Francisco no doubt noticed Stan’s windows, the inner sills stacked with various oddities, but notably a saber-toothed tiger skull.

Shot at the top is of Stan in recent years, looking the way I knew him. Shot below is Stan during a month he spent in Iran in 1979, which shows “me sauntering through Xerxes’ palace at Persepolis, Iran. I have a shot of me standing by the colossal winged-bull statues of the ‘Gateway to All Lands’ somewhere too. I spent two entire days exploring the palaces of Cyrus the Great, his son Darius the Great, and Xerxes at Persepolis, all of which were (accidentally?) burned by Alexander the Great. WONDERFUL PLACE! Also spent a couple days at Khomeini’s compound, which was interesting.”

Stan’s interest in such time-lost antiquities really jumped his weird fiction up, when he finally began to write.

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