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Old 12-03-2015, 01:01 PM   #1
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Default Lesbian Life Comparison through the decades

2 nights ago I spoke on a panel at a local University regarding the importance of the bar scene to the gay community pre and post stonewall. There was one woman who bartended in the 40's, one who bartended in the 50's, one who bartended in the 60's and 70's and I represented the 80's and 90's. We're going to be doing more panel discussions and also a documentary is in the process of being filmed on the topic. It is all surrounding the new book, "Baby, You Are My Religion; Women, Gay Bars and Theology". I was curious as to all of your thoughts on Lesbian life in the 70's, 80's, 90's in comparison to the new millennium. Any thoughts?

http://babyyouaremyreligion.com/
"Baby, You Are My Religion

Baby You Are My Religion argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space for its community. Before Stonewall - when homosexuals were still deemed mentally ill - these bars were the only place where many could have any community at all. "
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Old 12-03-2015, 01:47 PM   #2
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Default Things are sure diffent now days.

I am old school and things have changed dramatically since I was doing the bars; which by the way was one of the only places you could meet any gay people. Bars and clubs were our network back then. Police walked in a few times but did little, checking ids and such. Mostly women where I went except the drag shows. The womens bath was raided in Toronto but I don't know the outcome. I have a lot of newspaper clippings from back then concerning lesbians in Toronto as well. Thought I would pop this post in. Would take a book or two to say everything LOL. Thanks. Stone
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Old 12-03-2015, 03:38 PM   #3
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Yes, I remember the days when bars were just about the only place to find other gays!
I’m in my 60’s and I recall sometimes gay bar were also hard to find! You’d have to search for a rear entrance and some even required a password to get in! Often times these bars were less than pristine shall we say! Most had boarded up windows and that gave off a dark gloomy feeling.
I think it’s great that high schools especially and colleges have Gay Straight Alliance clubs where younger folks can mingle as well as support each other!
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Old 12-03-2015, 05:11 PM   #4
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I came out in the late 70's. The bar culture was well established but mostly male. A couple of female only bars opened here in the early 80's I believe.

The community here that I knew was not bar oriented. It was a time for both lesbian liberation and womens liberation and much of the lesbian activity was centered at or thru the womens center.

Various types of lesbian social, activity, and discussion type groups were formed and thrived for many years. They spawned other groups like a lesbian athletic league for whatever sport was in season. There were also less well known professional social groups. It was easy, back then, to be able to get space in the off season for dances, galas, fund raising events or whatever.

Being a hop, skip, and jump from Ptown, there were many activities going on there that didnt involve the bars, per se. Many now well known but novices back then played the venues year around. Whether is was musicians, or comedians (still want to smack the shit out of Lea Delaria for something she did to me back in the 80's), or writers/poets readings at the womens bookstores, plays and playwrites (still have a framed copy of the poster for Leap Of Faith)....there was always some type of activity where you could meet, mix, and mingle.

Hardest part was sorting out the actual lesbians from the experimenting and exploring their freedom straight folk.

We didnt have an MCC here. It was the Universalist churches that welcomed us and let us use their space.

It was a different time. I miss it.

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Old 12-03-2015, 06:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Virago View Post
2 nights ago I spoke on a panel at a local University regarding the importance of the bar scene to the gay community pre and post stonewall. There was one woman who bartended in the 40's, one who bartended in the 50's, one who bartended in the 60's and 70's and I represented the 80's and 90's. We're going to be doing more panel discussions and also a documentary is in the process of being filmed on the topic. It is all surrounding the new book, "Baby, You Are My Religion; Women, Gay Bars and Theology". I was curious as to all of your thoughts on Lesbian life in the 70's, 80's, 90's in comparison to the new millennium. Any thoughts?

http://babyyouaremyreligion.com/
"Baby, You Are My Religion

Baby You Are My Religion argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space for its community. Before Stonewall - when homosexuals were still deemed mentally ill - these bars were the only place where many could have any community at all. "
I feel fortunate to have been able to experience that time (even though for me it wasn't until 1990). I know I still missed out on a lot. I tell young/younger lesbian/queer females this all the time. It was a magical time. Now everything is assimilated and boring.

Thanks for posting this, Virago. I ordered an autographed copy. It would have been amazing to hear your panel. I hope the audience appreciated the walking history they had in the room.
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Are you educated or indoctrinated?
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Old 12-03-2015, 08:32 PM   #6
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I came out in the late 60s and went right into the gay bar scene in Montreal. It was rough, dingy and mostly firetraps. It was all we had and we went often, risking police harassment, arrests, beatings because, really, there wasn't anywhere else. So we paid the entrance fees, the expensive prices for drinks and were at the mercy of bartenders and bouncers, none of whom were gay, who controlled the entirety of our social lives. The bar owners were always straight men who could barely disguise their disgust for us but liked the money this captive group would pay for the privilege of sitting together, dancing together...as long as there were no "overt" displays of intimacy.

I suppose the best known of the bar managers of the day was a woman named "Baby Face". She controlled a number of bars over the years and we all feared her. I think she eventually went to prison for assault but by then it didn't matter because "Feminism" started to take effect and the bar scene took a turn towards being "dance bars" full of "feminine-looking lesbians" that the owners and the police didn't find as offensive...though they still continued to profit mightily from their monopoly over our lives...except now there'd be a sign somewhere in the back of the bar that the place had been inspected, at some point, by the fire and health departments. Good thing too, cause the fire escape doors were always locked to prevent someone sneaking in or someone going out into the alley for "something or other".

Weird huh? I miss those days...but I was young then.
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Old 12-03-2015, 08:40 PM   #7
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Well I get what you mean when you say you miss those days! I do too in a way! I mean it was all so cloak and dagger back then! Hunting down the gay bars, some closed as fast as they opened if they didn't pony up the kickbacks to "certain folks"! There was a bar called the River Queen in Milwaukee and I hate to think of what would of happened if a fire had ever broken out in there! While it is nice we can saunter into bars without having to search them out, some of the mystique has been lost!
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Old 12-03-2015, 09:45 PM   #8
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There were a few women's bars in the LA/Orange County area when I came out in the late 70's.

The old dive bar "The Happy Hour" where the butches laughed at me walking in because I wore heels and was quite femme. I drove by where it used to be in Garden Grove, a few years ago, and it was no longer a gay bar. It was a Ranchero music place.

In Long Beach, The Executive Suite, which is still in operation today. Also Que Serra, on 7th street. I think it is also still open, too.

My all-time favorite: Peanuts. An awesome disco (my auto-spell just changed disco to FICCO *sniff*).

Peanuts had a great dance floor and when gay men went there, they were really in the minority, not the majority.

I also went to the Palms (don't even remember if that is the right name) but I only went once or twice. I didn't really care for it but how great that we had choices! Peanuts closed sometime in the 1980's.

Oh you youngsters! It was an awesome time to come out!

I will always remember my dancing days so fondly.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:02 PM   #9
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I love to read these stories! As one of the "new millennium" kids... I came in just early enough to have been privileged to hear some of the stories from the older generations.

I love that this is coming up right now, as it aligns with a project I am working on. The GSA at the high school I work for is developing a lot this year, and I am trying to bring in speakers to help them connect with the community at large. Last weekend, a friend I know from the drag community volunteered to come and speak to them. He is 58 years old and was part of the drag community and an activist all the way back to Stonewall. I think it is SO important for our youth to hear the stories, to understand the fight that came before so they can have the freedoms they have now.

Thank you all for sharing your stories!
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Old 12-03-2015, 11:10 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by *Anya* View Post
There were a few women's bars in the LA/Orange County area when I came out in the late 70's.

The old dive bar "The Happy Hour" where the butches laughed at me walking in because I wore heels and was quite femme. I drove by where it used to be in Garden Grove, a few years ago, and it was no longer a gay bar. It was a Ranchero music place.

In Long Beach, The Executive Suite, which is still in operation today. Also Que Serra, on 7th street. I think it is also still open, too.

My all-time favorite: Peanuts. An awesome disco (my auto-spell just changed disco to FICCO *sniff*).

Peanuts had a great dance floor and when gay men went there, they were really in the minority, not the majority.

I also went to the Palms (don't even remember if that is the right name) but I only went once or twice. I didn't really care for it but how great that we had choices! Peanuts closed sometime in the 1980's.

Oh you youngsters! It was an awesome time to come out!

I will always remember my dancing days so fondly.
Peanuts didn't really close. Just changed its name to its address. The full name became "7969, the bar formerly known as Peanuts" but everyone kept calling it Peanuts anyway. I was a bartender there through the 90's. And I'm so sorry you didn't like the Palms. I was also a bartender and a bouncer there at the same time...the 90's. I hope your dislike of it wasn't due to any drinks that I might have made for you. lol Look for the documentary about the Palms, working title is "Where The Misfits Go"
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Old 12-04-2015, 12:29 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Virago View Post
2 nights ago I spoke on a panel at a local University regarding the importance of the bar scene to the gay community pre and post stonewall. There was one woman who bartended in the 40's, one who bartended in the 50's, one who bartended in the 60's and 70's and I represented the 80's and 90's. We're going to be doing more panel discussions and also a documentary is in the process of being filmed on the topic. It is all surrounding the new book, "Baby, You Are My Religion; Women, Gay Bars and Theology". I was curious as to all of your thoughts on Lesbian life in the 70's, 80's, 90's in comparison to the new millennium. Any thoughts?

http://babyyouaremyreligion.com/
"Baby, You Are My Religion

Baby You Are My Religion argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space for its community. Before Stonewall - when homosexuals were still deemed mentally ill - these bars were the only place where many could have any community at all. "
That is wonderful to hear, Virago.

I'm approaching my late 50s, but growing up during the 1960s to late 1970s, there was (to my knowledge) no bar for Lesbians Only, in my home state. Mostly, as I remember, we went to private parties by invitation only, location was kept pretty quiet, back then. To this day, I think, it's still almost that kind of thing with (and among) those who I've been friends with for years.

There used to be a bar for Lesbians only in the Hawthorne district (Portland, Or), but I'm not sure it's still there. But at one time, it was a place you could go to meet other Lesbian's in our metro community.

Maybe it's my age or something, but it has been MCC churches or certain Lutheran or Presbyterian churches which has been home to many in the LGBTQ community, where people could hold monthly get-together's, dances, or even organize for an political rally or what-not. Public universities, 1990s on, seem to have bloomed with Women's Resort Centers, which when I attended college in my late 30s/early 40s, I was active in our local chapter on campus (WRC) --- when Riot Grrl and Eve Ensler's Vaginal Monologues, made room for safe ways to be out loud and proud. However, finding Butch/Femme community is rather difficult and I have always been grateful for the Butch/Femme community, here online at The Planet.

I look forward to hearing more about your latest project and round table discussions. Thanks for sharing.

Eta: This weekend, there's a concert at a Lutheran church off of 21st & Broadway..... I plan to go because quite a few of my peers at work on campus are in the choir.
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Old 10-18-2017, 05:34 PM   #12
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Old 10-18-2017, 05:39 PM   #13
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i didn’t go to gay bars but my old dear friend Pino owned the first gay bar in the parish in New Orleans.

OH the stories she would tell me.

One was how they had to let the guys in so when they got raided they could switch to look like heterosexual couples
.
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:06 PM   #14
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I came out in '83 and joined a coming out group on campus. One of our big adventures was to schedule a night to head out to the only tiny lesbian bar in our town.

Although the climate was friendlier than the 40's, 50's and 60's, it was still a bit frosty. People I knew were being disowned by their parents for being gay/lesbian.
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