By James Hawkins
October 15, 2016: As Sophia Petrillo would say, “Picture This” 1970 East St. Louis, two young fellas open a gay bar two years earlier. The place grew from nothing into a successful business. It had all the amenities a gay bar needed at that time - a top of the line drag show and go go boys dancing on the bar (sometimes naked). A small dance floor was actually the biggest draw.
They were always looking for new avenues of entertainment to keep their small business on top. There was a young man who came to work at this establishment, he tended bar, worked security, did ad layouts, and whatever was needed to keep this bar called The Red Bull a success. This was Charles Robert Welsh Jr. One weekend they hired a Spinner which was very popular in Black nightclubs at that time.
Their equipment consisted of two turn tables a couple of speakers and a mike. The Spinner would some how mixed the music being played while adding different beats which only added to the enthusiasm to the people dancing. Charles became infatuated with this new concept of entertainment.
The Spinner instructed Charles how this system worked. History was now in the making. Charles became the in house Spinner always adding new innovations and equipment to this new form of entertainment which in turn started the business to grow beyond it's wildest expectations. They opened three places in St. Louis, and had to open a second Red Bull to accommodate the growing crowd of new customers.
There seem to be no end to this growing business finally the decision was made to open a massive complex that was Faces Nightclub. So much of the credit and hard work goes to my friend Charles or as you may know him, Chuck Charleston. Thank you.
Chuck died on April 21, 1988 and is remembered in our community for his involvement—both public and private—in many causes and charities. He worked with many among us, lending his support and resources to numerous local events, and often doing so quietly behind the scenes, receiving little credit. He won two Billboard Magazine "Best Regional DJ" awards.
In June 1988, Pride St. Louis created the Chuck Charleston Award to acknowledge individuals who, in the example of its namesake, demonstrate significant involvement and service promoting LGBT pride in our community. The Chuck Charleston Award is now presented to a former or current member of Pride St. Louis, Inc. who demonstrates these qualities.