Who Was Bob Damron?

When Professor Amanda Regan and I began working on what would become Mapping the Gay Guides, we were shocked by just how much incredible data the actual guidebooks contained. But we also had questions about the man behind the publication. Just who was Bob Damron? Why did he start publishing travel guides in 1964? For a guy who created such a remarkable resource for generations of LGBTQ folks, it’s odd that “Bob Damron” is not a household name (at least in gay households.) Few if any of the other contemporary gay travel guides used the names of their founder in their titles (the Gay Yellowpages, Gaia’s Guide, Spartacus International, or Places of Interest to name just some.) Dr. Regan and I have begun investigating Bob Damron’s life, hoping to learn more about him and the publishing company he led through the 1980s.

Bob Damron was born and raised in Los Angeles in 1928. After graduating high school and spending a year at Los Angeles Community College, he decided to become a bar owner. At the age of 22, Damron bought his first bar, the Gaiety. Ironically, it was a straight bar until Bob’s many friends helped slowly convert the site into a gay space. He later moved to San Francisco and worked to open more gay bars, becoming a successful gay entrepreneur and a prominent member of the Castro community.

While operating his gay bars, Damron started a side project cataloging gay spaces. In 1964, he published the Damron Address Book, one of the earliest travel guides meant explicitly for homosexual men. Damron printed 3,000 copies of that first guide. It became an annual thing and Damron regularly updated the listings of gay friendly establishments across the United States and eventually included international listings. By the time the company was sold in 1987, 100,000 copies were being circulated annually.

Damron planned to fill his retirement years writing biographies of notable people in history. Unfortunately, Bob Damon died of AIDS on June 20, 1989, his ashes scattered to the sea. His friends and family held a memorial service for him, hosted appropriately at the San Francisco Eagle, one of the nearly dozen bars he had owned or co-owned throughout his life.

We are always looking to learn more about Bob Damron. If you knew him or know more about him, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at info@mappingthegayguides.org

-Dr. Eric Gonzaba

Originally Published: October 7, 2022 | Last modified: October 7, 2022