Bob Damron and His Secret Codes


Graphite drawing by Danny Jauregui of a page from Bob Damron's "The Address Book", a precursor to widely known "Damron Guide"
Explanation of Listings, 2016 - Graphite on Paper

There are many reasons why as an artist I am attracted to Bob Damron's The Address Book, but one of the main ones is his use of "secret" codes. The image above is a drawing I made for my exhibition "Piss Elegant/Some Motorcycle" in 2016 that depicts the explanation page at the beginning of every book.


The Address Book was divided by city and state, and listed the address and phone number of each location, but it also had a code next to it, letting users know what they might expect at this particular location. Prior to the 1970s, the information listed needed to be covert, because if you were inadvertently caught carrying overtly homosexual paraphernalia, you would have outed yourself and exposed yourself to arrest. So although the book has codes, even the codes are cleverly "coded".


So for instance, SM is listed as "Some Motorcycle" but those in the scene would have instantly recognized it as standing for Sadomasochism. Listings with an S indicated that shows occurred, often impersonators, which is very likely a reference to drag shows. PE is listed as Pretty Elegant, though connected homosexuals would recognize that as Piss Elegant, a derogatory term for wealthy homosexuals.


I always thought of these disguised codes as a form of drag--the symbols are performing an illusion, a masquerade. For those not in the subculture, the codes "pass" and signify on one level of meaning, but for those homosexuals in know, the codes perform an entirely different secret meaning.