Today we released the news that Mission Control has lost its lease. To honor the memory of this amazing space where I’ve hosted parties for nearly 14 years, here’s the story from my soon-to-be-released memoir of how it all started….
Destiny pushed us together—me and thirty five hundred square feet of San Francisco dream come true. I wasn’t expecting it. I thought I was travelling light, floating on the breeze, but this building anchored me here. Can bricks and mortar have a soul? If they did, then this place would be my soul-mate. Here’s the story of how we met:
“Happy Birthday honey!” The person on the end of the phone sounds like they just drank a bottle of whisky and smoked a pack of cigarettes. I know that voice.
“Hi Flash. It’s not my birthday today!” Flash is one of those San Francisco eccentrics who made me fall in love with the place. He taught me how to shoot a gun by blasting teddy bears out of trees with an AK-47.
“Well, I’m celebrating your birthday today. Come on. Let me take you out for an adventure.”
“I’m working! I can’t!” I always have an intense sense of responsibility when I’m working. I guess you could call me ‘driven’. Or maybe a workaholic.
“What have you got going on today that can’t wait till tomorrow? COME ON. I’m going to Kabuki Hot Springs. COME WITH ME. Relax. You need a day off. It’s your birthday! You gonna make me celebrate on my own?” We both laugh.
I contemplate this proposal as I look around my office overflowing with papers and bright little square sticky notes everywhere. I haven’t had a day off in months.
“Okay, fine. Sure. I can take a little time today.” I pause, grateful for my persuasive friend. “Thank you Flash.”
In the car on the way to the spa we make a quick pit stop. A friend of Flash has a building over on Mission Street, which he is trying to rent out and Flash is helping because he’s stuck in New York on family business. When we arrive there’s a group of bohemian looking people standing in front of a nondescript black iron gate. Flash does some quick introductions and unlocks the gate.
“It’ll just take a few minutes,” he reassures me as we walk up the stairs, but I’m fascinated by this adventure, and as we step into the lobby of a gigantic Victorian apartment excitement rising in me. The people checking it out are circus performers, and they need high ceilings for their aerialists, so they’re not interested. But I can see its potential. It has floral wainscoting and gorgeous Victorian details. There are four big rooms that make up the communal areas, and then another seven private rooms of various sizes, and a sun drenched patio. The building had recently been used by a dot com company, so it looks generic, with white walls, gray carpets, and high-speed DSL access in every room, but I’m seeing it in my minds eye flooded with color and soft fabrics.
My mind is whirring. I could rent out the rooms to artists as studios. Host sexy parties to pay the rent. I could create an exciting new hub for the sex-positive art scene in San Francisco. I could get out of my sketchy neighborhood. I’ve always loved the Mission. I have no idea how I’m going to get the money together for the deposit, or who I’m going to find to join forces with me, but a voice comes to me, clear and simple. “Follow your dreams and magic will happen.”
“I didn’t know you were in the market for a new place, Polly,” Flash says as we drive to Kabuki Hot Springs.
“Neither did I, Flash. Neither did I.”
When I first moved to San Francisco Zari showed me around the neighborhoods. “Once you’ve lived here for a while you’ll never leave the Mission,” she said. I didn’t believe her. It seemed like all the interesting stuff was north of Market Street: Chinatown, City Lights Bookstore, Downtown, The Wharf. The Mission seemed like a grotty little neighborhood with dirty streets and Mexican gangs. The charm of its colorful bodegas and abandoned theaters didn’t sink in until I had been there for a few months. Then I couldn’t tear myself away from the place. Its bars and coffee shops were the liveliest in town, filled with artists and intellectuals—it felt like a movement was happening here. Then I discovered the Odeon bar, run by the infamous Chicken John, and I had no reason to leave.
I moved in the day before New Years Eve. I told the landlord I needed to have a couch delivered so I got the keys a day before my lease started. Instead, I brought in DJ equipment, blacklight art, and beanbags. I put neon duct tape in designs on the walls and projected black and white movies at exaggerated angles. I hired Scott to book the performers. The first party happened before I had even moved in.
I named the place Mission Control not just because it was in the Mission District, but also because the name suggests the central hub for something bigger than itself. I was motivated by loftier ideals. What started as a spoof, harnessing the concept of the sexual revolution as an irreverent marketing tool, was becoming a genuine passion. I understood that sex could be about pleasure and connection, but it was so much more than that to me. As an angry teenager I had seen it as a tool for rebellion, but as I was becoming a woman, I started to appreciate the potential sex had as a tool for personal transformation. I had a vision: a global network of creative, sexy parties, helping to restore health and balance to culture’s understanding of sexuality.