The Case Of The SF Cable Car Nymphomaniac

(from cbs5.com) - It was one of the wildest cases in Bay Area history. In 1964, 23-year-old Gloria Sykes filed a lawsuit claming that injuries from a cable car accident turned her into a nymphomaniac.

Attorney Marvin Lewis, Jr. was finishing law school when his father, who has passed on, was Skykes' attorney.

"It was an odd case, " Lewis remembered. " It mixed San Francisco cable cars, the sexual revolution, and nymphomaniacs. People were discussing this in every bar and every bedroom in America."

Sykes said after the accident she had sex with 100 men. She sued San Francisco for $500,000.

"This wasn't just a case of a promiscuous woman who tried to hoodwink a jury into giving her money for being overactive sexually" said Ron Rouda, her second attorney.

The trial grabbed sensational headlines. Court documents reveal pages naming Sykes' lovers, their occupations, and addresses where they lived, or where they had sex.

"One time she had 50 partners in one week, " said Lewis.

Sykes was a devout Lutheran from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, when she moved to San Francisco two weeks before the accident. She lived at the Stratford Hotel, and was a dance teacher at the then-Fred Astaire Dance Studio next door.

One day she took a ride on the Hyde street cable car line. It was climbing up the steep hill near Lombard street when suddenly mechanical failure caused the grip to lose the cable.

The car plunged backwards down the hill. Sykes hit a pole she suffered a black eye, bruises and, she said, an insatiable appetite for sex.

Her attorneys say the case was not salacious, rather one of the first proving post traumatic stress syndrome. She had been sexually abused as a child. The accident, they believe, forced her to seek comfort in men.

The jury awarded Sykes $50,000. She wasn't in the courtroom to hear the verdict. Lewis, Jr., delivered it to her in person.

"She listened to what happened…and suddenly she just disappeared," Lewis recalled.

CBS 5 found Sykes at an assisted living facility in the Midwest. She's now 66 years old. She declined an on-camera interview, but did say she lived for a time in Vallejo, traveled some, and, according to her, married.

Sykes said she's afraid of threats and her case "has to end."

But the notoriety lives on.


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