The rise and fall of a Polk Street hustler - Page 2

Corey Longseeker is a telling remnant of this gentrifying neighborhood's colorful past
Image by Mirissa Neff

Corey's flashes of clarity alternate with moments in which memories blend into different times and places, and seemingly into dreams and fantasy: "I've been trying to protect my little self and my little brother and I'm about 500 homicides behind and I don't know how to bump and grind to pick up the little morsels and the pieces of the people I liked and loved the way I used to know how to." He paused. "So I just keep on."

Dan Diez, now the co-chair of LPN, believes that homeless on the street such as Corey are negatively affecting businesses and residents who "should not have to put up with people sleeping in their doorways." He even talks of moving the homeless to facilities on Treasure Island as one solution. "I think it's one of the reasons why these condos that have gone up have not been filled."

Corey and Diez may seem to have little in common, but they maintained a close relationship with each other for more than a decade, and Diez felt so close to him that he characterized himself as part of Corey's "surrogate family."

It was 19 years ago that Diez first laid eyes on Corey, then a fresh-faced 19-year-old who had just moved to San Francisco. Diez, then a city government employee living in the East Bay, was sitting in the Q.T. II, Polk Street's premier hustler bar — on the very plot of land where protesters later clashed with the LPN meeting.

Corey "wasn't what I expected someone like a hustler to look like," Diez said. "I cannot tell you, this kid had movie star written all over him. He was extremely clean and very attractive and he just looked like somebody who walked out one of these suburban towns."

Dan befriended Corey, taking him to Burger King, listening to rock music in his car while Corey drew and writing poetry. Dan slipped him $20 bills and took him to movies. With time, he also brought him to the spas to clean Corey up, took care of his laundry, and bought him clean underwear and food.

"A lot of the kids on the street were hustling," Diez said, "but I did not pick up at that time. Corey was the only person I was really interested [in] 'cuz he was something different. He was a person with a creative bent, which I really admired."

Diez says their relationship was not sexual, though he did enjoy being physically close with Corey. "He was someone I liked being around. It was just really a nice relationship."

In a letter Corey wrote in the late 1990s, he calls Dan one of his "sponcers" [sic], along with another man Diez said is a "multi-multimillionaire" and "very well known in San Francisco." This man bought Corey a car and provided him with plenty of cash and drugs as one of his clients. In Corey's letter, he says the man "made me into a liveing legand [sic] at the age of twenty two years old by letting me have enough money." Corey listed as his "Boss" a bartender at the Q.T., widely known for facilitating hookups between johns and hustlers, and spoken of warmly by many as being a "big mama" to kids on the street.

By this time, many of the buildings that had held thriving businesses in the '70s and '80s were shuttered, leaving sex work and drug sales as a few of the street's dominant economies. People such as Corey, widely considered to be the most beautiful and lucrative sex worker at the time, were Polk Street's economic engines.

In fact, Q.T. manager Marv Warren was president of the merchant's association in the 1990s. The sex trade turned profits on the streets and in the bars. "Most of us didn't like the idea of these kids hanging out because it didn't look good," Steve Cornell, owner of Brownies Hardware, recalled.