Gary first came to San Francisco in 1968 following a friend, Sutton Breiding. He lived at 800 Shrader Street in San Francisco, a corner house, near Golden Gate Park, with several friends.
In the 70s, the Free University Movement was going strong, and San Francisco State University was sponsoring “Communiversity”, a series of tuition-free classes.
In April 1974, Gary started his own Communiversity class studying the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The class met Sunday evenings in Gary’s bedroom, the large attic at 800 Shrader.
William M. Breiding recalls these days:
Each week we piled into Gary’s romantically decorated garret to discuss a previously read Poe story or poem. The Poe group was diverse and interesting. Our range of activities went far beyond Edgar Allan to dinners and outings throughout San Francisco, including each other’s homes. Carter was a poet who organised readings. I met John Fugazzi there, fresh from Cincinnati, who was to become a lifelong friend. … John R., Gary’s old friend and roommate, was also a part of the class, and brought a vibrancy and humour to the class that might have otherwise been missing.
In September. 1974, Gary and some friends formed the idea to do a practical jokes class. Gary wrote:
This event was to signal a new era for Communiversity, the Free University Movement and many of us individually. As soon as it hit the streets we were told [by the SFSU that the class] was “Not educational, in poor taste and probably illegal from the sound of it.” Preliminary discussions went on among the top brass at State about withdrawing our pay checks until threats and coercion failed. At the end of the year we withdrew the school from State forming a non-profit. A hundred people signed up for the practical jokes class, making it the most popular class in the history of the school….
By the end of 1974, the student leaders decided to leave SFSU and host Communiversity on their own. Gary was the leader, and began to host events at his own book store, Circus for the Soul.
The first Suicide Club event occurred on January 2, 1977 during a winter rain storm in San Francisco when the four founders met at Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge at the top of a wall facing the Pacific Ocean. Waves from the storm were crashing on the rocks below the wall, going up the wall and then crashing on to the top of the wall, soaking the chain. The four founders took turns facing certain death by running up and holding on to the chain while the waves crashed down on them. If a person let go of the chain or was knocked unconscious, then they would likely be swept out to sea. After surviving the ordeal, the founders started the Suicide Club.
The Suicide Club met regularly until shortly before Gary’s death. Gary Warne died on Thanksgiving Day, 1983 of a phlebitis induced heart attack. His ashes were, in part, scattered from high above the Golden Gate Bridge, as was his wish. John Law also took some and painted them into the bridge itself, forever making Gary a part of the structure he loved to climb. Finally, some ashes were reserved, and given out in small vials to a select group of friends.