By Steven Louis Brawley
February 21, 2019: Throughout 2019, the Project will be acknowledging a series of important milestones in local LGBTQIA+ history. Here is our current inventory of anniversaries. Please let us know of any others. Stay tuned for some exciting news about the various regional events that will be taking place to commemorate these milestones.
50th Anniversary of:
- Founding of the Mandrake Society
- St. Louis' Stonewall – Halloween Night Arrests
- Opening of Left Bank Books
- Death of Robert Rayford
40th Anniversary of:
- Founding of Growing American Youth
- 1979 March on Washington (St. Louis participation)
- Washington University's Pride event
- Planning for St. Louis' first Pride events and first Soulard Mardi Gras events
- Firebombing of Mor or Les bar
- Premiere of "Gay Talk" program on KADI radio
30th Anniversary of:
- Crowning of St. Louisan Roger Platt (Vicki Vincent) as Miss Gay America
- Premieres of KDHX FM Radio's "Coming Out of Hiding" Program and KRJY FM Radio's "Lambada Reports" Program
- Premiere of "Some of My Best Friends Are" by Joan Lipkin, the first known piece of gay and lesbian theatre performed in St. Louis
By Steven Louis Brawley
January 10, 2019: 2018 was another great year for the Project. Thanks to our many wonderful volunteers, contributors, and community champions for your support. Here is an overview of the many activities the Project led to fulfill our vision of preserving and promoting St. Louis' vibrant LGBTQIA+ history:
- Risky Refuges: Gay and Lesbian Bars in St. Louis, 1930s-1960s presentation with Ian Darnell at Missouri History Museum
- History of Drag presentation with Daniel Flier, Jimmy Price, and Cat Schmidt at Missouri History Museum
- Headlines of Hope and Hate exhibit at St. Louis PrideFest with Pride St. Louis, Missouri History Museum, Griot Museum of Black History, and Home Movie Project
- SAGE Lunch and Learn at MCC
- Faces of LGBTQIA+ St. Louis exhibit at Coffee Cartel (last exhibit before closing)
- Celebration of John Chaney (Bonnie Blake's) 90th birthday and recognition of pending status as world's oldest performing drag queen at Bar PM
- Betty Neeley's Annual Party in the Park exhibit at Tower Grove Park
- Documenting the Queer Past in St. Louis community partner project with Dr. Andrea Friedman at Washington University
- We Are LGBTQIA+ presentation at St. Louis County Library (Bridgeton Trails)
- Finding Lost Histories in the Modern LGBTQIA+ Alphabet presentation with Ian Darnell, Dr. Andrea Friedman, and Dr. Amanda Izzo at Missouri History Museum
- Pride Alliance student presentation with Ian Darnell at Washington University
- Transgender Spectrum Conference exhibit at UMSL
- World AIDS Day Memorial Service exhibit at MCC
- Ike's Mystery Man by Peter Shinkle author presentation at Left Bank Books
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Posted September 3, 2018
Coffee Cartel Exhibit
Faces of St. Louis' LGBTQIA+ History
Through September 12, 2 Maryland Plaza
The Project offers an exhibit of rare images at Coffee Cartel.
Monday October 1, 2018, 7 pm, Bridgeton Trails Branch
Join author Steven Louis Brawley, a historian specializing in LGBTQIA+ topics and founder of the St. Louis LGBT History Project, as he discusses St. Louis's rich LGBTQIA+ history. Learn about the LGBTQ+ community's countless struggles and successes since 1764, including protests, arrests, murders, celebrations and parades. Free. Registration required.
Wednesday, October 24, 7 pm, Lee Auditorium
Contemporary language descibing the LGBTQIA+ community is a relatively recent development, and it creates a challenge for historical research. Panelists will explore the roadblocks to researching LGBTQIA+ history and offer insights into uncovering lost histories. Free.
By Steven Louis Brawley
August 18, 2018: The St. Louis LGBT Project has bestowed the title of “Oldest Performing Drag Queen in the World” to John Chaney, who has performed as Bonnie Blake in St. Louis since the late 1950s. Chaney turned 90 on August 18.
Chaney bests by two years the current Guinness Book of World Records’ “Oldest Performing Drag Queen” Walter Cole (Darcelle XV) of Portland Oregon, who was born in 1930 and did not begin performing until the age of 37. The Project is reviewing Guinness’ application process to formally nominate Chaney in this category.
Chaney remembers doing a show around 1959 at the Snake Pit bar in downtown St. Louis. He was a popular member of the local drag show circuit on the east side of the river in the 1960s and 1970s.
Chaney was part of the first set of drag performers at the French Market gay bar in Soulard in 1972.
Since the late 1950s, Chaney has helped pave the way to mainstream drag performances in area gay bars during eras where anti-masquerading laws were on the books in St. Louis.
It did not become legal to do drag in St. Louis until 1985, after the laws were challenged.
He has operated several former gay bars including the Gallery Lounge and Blake’s. Since the late 1960s, he has also been the proprietor of John’s Furniture and Antiques on South Broadway.
Chaney still performs with local drag queen and drag king legends and is known for his love of country music, most notably Loretta Lynn.
Photo courtesy John Chaney.