Behind the Bars
Locals remember good times & cheap drinks
Dirty Sally's (The Apartment)2828 Rio Grande, approximately 1968-1988
Dirty Sally's was the epitome of your neighborhood bar. That's when AIDS Services of Austin was just starting [mid-1980s]. That's where I first started meeting the people that were realizing that we needed to organize in town, that we needed to put a face to the community, and that was the first time I had ever been around gay people as a group. My biggest memory was of an older woman who hung out there all the time, her name was Marge, and that was my first real experience with a real dyed-in-the-wool lesbian. She was a fabulous woman, filled with stories. But I remember she would always go in the men's bathroom to pee, and she would pee at the urinal standing up, which freaked me out at first, then I thought, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life." – Rob Faubion, AustinOnStage.com editor
Friends & Lovers222 E. Sixth, 1976-1979
It was an old vaudeville house with perfect acoustics. I spent the next year remodeling it. We opened up Halloween of 1976. The name was very interesting, as there was a guy named Buzzy Belmont (Buzzy's grandfather was who Belmont Hall at UT was named after) and his father, Theo Belmont. ... In fact, the very first mascot was not Bevo but their dog, Pig. Buzzy was a tall blonde, and he was going through his butch reassurance phase. And he liked to go out with me. He was the corsage. We had a lot of fun, et cetera, et cetera. So my long-term lover at that point kept asking me: "What is this guy to you? Is he a friend or a lover?" I said, "friends and lovers!" I was trying to avoid answering the question. We opened up before Studio 54, and all those boys came down here and looked at Friends & Lovers because Blackstone Productions/High End Systems, they did the deed. We were their showroom at that point, and we had multiscreen media on the sidewall. There was a projection room at the top, and we projected ongoing movies, whether it was Ben-Hur or anything with men. Friends & Lovers was the target of a lot of hate mongers. Fires would get set so many times in the bar that we made it a ritual on Saturday nights, especially, that we would say, "We're gonna have our fire drill." Of course the queens made it into an event. We did the cha-cha. That's why Stephen Moser would call it the Cha-Cha Palace! Because we cha-cha-ed out the side doors, down the fire escapes, around the building, and came back in. And in the interim period, we would go through and make sure there was nothing going on. – Marcilea Fletcher
Nexus305 W. Fifth, mid-1980s through mid-1990s
I remember going to the first Girls in the Nose show. There was a screening on a sheet on the wall of Todd Haynes' Superstar, which for a long time was totally unavailable, so it just lived in my mind as this insane thing before I knew who Todd Haynes was. It was just this crazy thing. And then Girls in the Nose playing and just blowing my mind, because it was possible for girls to rock, which now seems totally banal, but to have that all fit together in my mind was really exciting. – Ann Cvetkovich
The Boathouse407 Colorado, early/mid-1980s
The Boathouse?! The Butthouse?! I moved to Austin in 1981. At the time, you could drink at age 18. Halfway through my 18th year, it switched to 19. I had gone to the Boathouse, and suddenly, I couldn't get into the Boathouse. My girlfriend knew the bouncer and was begging. I was begging. There's a part at the south end of the block on Lavaca, and there's these steps. ... Vividly can I remember my 18-year-old self with my T-shirt I had ripped the collar off of, having wrapped it into two red ones [points at her wrists], and I was just sobbing. Sobbing! Sobbing with impotent rage that I couldn't get into the Boathouse for another six months. – Gretchen Phillips, musician
The Boathouse helped break that lock on the Warehouse District. At that time, the only thing in the Warehouse District was empty warehouses. But the Boathouse had 10-cent drinks before MADD got the legislation passed that you couldn't have two-for-one drinks. Nicole was the drag queen of Austin at the time, and she had her Sunday night show. All the big names of Texas would come to town to perform, people like Sweet Savage and Natasha Cole, and all of the big ones who are no longer with us. I remember one night Nicole was performing, and she's dancing up a storm, and she does one of her famous big kicks ... and her shoe goes flying off and flies up into the balcony. It flies up and hits a guy in the head! Well, she doesn't miss a beat and keeps dancing. Kicks again, the other shoe flies up and hits the same guy in the head. She spent the rest of the show in her wireless mic chasing him around the balcony trying to get her shoes back. That was a hoot. – Rob Faubion
ProteusEast Sixth Street, mid-1990s
Proteus was christened well: The club was indeed protean in its ability to attract a cross-sexion (you'll pardon the pun, but really, it was just that) of Austin's then-sublimely transgressive children of the night, from aging trannies (Hello, ChiChi!) to platformed, NYC expat club kids eager to splash the crazed Intellibeam Limelighting of NYC's Michael Alig übervibe to pale, translucent gothlings and, of course, the pre-Satan's Cheerleaders crowd. And yeah, me, too. There were always lines in the bathroom (often inside the bathroom, on the back of a john, or maybe it was a jill?), the acid-jazz nights were Heaven-ly, one's ability to snare a booth was almost always a question of nighclubbing hierarchy, and it seethed with blackout, HiWatt panache. Iggy put it best, first, just like Proteus: "We see brand new people/They're something to see/When we're nightclubbing/Bright-white clubbing/Oh, isn't it wild?" It was. – Marc Savlov, Chronicle staff writer
The Hollywood304 W. Fourth, 1980s (a later Hollywood appeared on San Jacinto in the mid-1990s)
The first gay bar I went to was in Dallas. I didn't drink or smoke. I was real naive. I was like, "What is this scene ...?" But they played ABBA, and I was like: "Cool! I like Abba! OK!" It was real confusing. I was more into seeing shows. I went to clubs like Club Foot. There was kind of a crossover. Androgyny was being played with a lot at that time. "Oh he's the straightest guy there is, but he likes to look like Eno!" There were all these weird crossed signals, and then if you went to a gay bar, everybody looked totally like John Travolta. We liked going to the Hollywood because they played soul. We thought, "This is pretty cool." We'd go there on the way to the Ritz to have a couple of drinks before a show. My friend was so confused. He'd get frustrated. He would be like, "Oh, that guy is sooo cute, and I was like, "That's a girl." – Dan Plunkett, owner of End of an Ear Records
I hated the Hollywood. The thing about the Hollywood, that was a place where there was gonna be fights. It was in 1984. I did Deborah Hay's big group dance thing, and there was this one movement, and I'm on the dance floor, doing my dance. Whatever. We were doing some crazy dances; I hung out with dancers. And this girl kicked me in the head! 'Cause, granted, I had this move where my head was down, but I was like, "Did you just kick me in the head?" And she said, "Yup." And I said, "Well, why?" And she said, "'Cause you're dancing funny," in a really defiant way, and I remember going out into the parking lot and crying. Crying my eyes out. You know what? Many people will tell you about a gay bar where the end of the story is "I was in the parking lot crying!" I never went back to the Hollywood. – Gretchen Phillips
Austin Country705 Red River, 1980s
The windows were tinted, and everyday at 4 o'clock, the firemen at the No. 1 fire station would jog down to the river and come back up the street. You could set your watch by it. Four o'clock they'd come, jogging up in front of those windows. Big ol' hunky men with no shirts, and you'd get your shots all ready, and as they went by, you'd toast them with your shots. They couldn't see in the windows, but we could certainly see them as they went by. One of my fave memories there: I was there one afternoon, and a part of the bar, the drink rail, broke off. Well, here are a dozen big ol' cowboys taking off their boots and trying to hammer it back in. There were two young lesbians sitting at the end of the bar watching this entire charade of these macho guys trying to put this bar back together gingerly ... like it was a Ming vase. Without saying a word, they walk out to their truck; they come back in with an electric saw, a piece of lumber, nails, hammer, and said, "Get out of the way, boys!" And rebuilt the end of the bar. It is a stereotype come to life. – Rob Faubion
Chances900 Red River, 1980s through 1994
Gretchen: I remember [Ann's performance] Grunge Fashion Statement.
Ann: It was in Chances inside. There was this Vogue magazine about grunge, and it was about this crossing over of alternative cultures and mainstream cultures, and do we feel happy that Vogue is reporting on Kurt Cobain and Grunge Fashion Statement? I think I was wearing a white, really cool vintage polyester outfit that was a coat, and I wanted to be kind of dressed up while performing. The performance just consisted, as I remember it, of reading [the Vogue article] verbatim.
Gretchen: And you would go "Grunge Fashion Statement!" "Grunge Fashion Statement?!"
Ann: So, I would just say, "Grunge Fashion Statement!" and read the text. And that was my performance. – Ann Cvetkovich with Gretchen Phillips
RushesFourth & Congress, 1978-1979
We opened up what really was the biggest bar ever in Texas, which was Rushes. And it was 18,000 square feet. We had a 1964 Lincoln Continental in there that had been turned into a bar. I only kept it open six months because I was afraid of going to jail. I really was! The leather crews were kind of uncontrollable. We had the first Texas Leatherman contest. After they did their fantasies [scenes in which leather-men would act out fantasies in competition], we would say, "This is what you can or cannot do with a liquor license, blah blah blah ..." after their convoluted "Don't fuck with Mother Nature" [scene] which used to be about butter. It still was about butter but in a whole new way!
I've got a milking stool out on my patio that belonged to the first person I knew that died from AIDS. That was in 1979. And they didn't know what it was. He was a professor down in Southwest. Something was wrong. And by the time my daughter got married in '81, of all 27 of the men that put her wedding together, there's one alive today. We were already starting to see what was happening, and so the people in the leather community were starting to go: "Hey! There's something going on here." All of a sudden our attention was getting diverted, and for me it was a prime time for me to go ahead and close. – Marcilea Fletcher
Austin Pride, The Boathouse, The Apartment, Chances, Hollywood, Austin Country, Bunch Brittian, Marcy Fletcher, Nexus, Friends& Lovers, Rushes, PROTEUS, memory, history, gay bars, gay Austin, lost history, Red River, KLRU, Miss O