November 9, 2014: The Project begins a month of "thanking" the Project's supporters - beginning with Ed Abmeyer. Known to many as "Rosee", Ed has donated a rare leather coat featuring an early version of the Clementine's bar logo.
Ed tells us that he (and someone else who we cannot name yet) had the coats custom made in 1986 at a leather shop downtown on Washington Ave., that Clems used for promo items. So as far as we know, only two of these coats exist.
Ed worked for a time at Clems on Satrudays as a bartender, but most know him from his FACES' days.
Ed says he has more treasures to dig out and donate. So get to digging Ed. If you have items to donate, let us know. More great treasure announcements to come. Stay tuned.
By Ian Darnell
October 31, 2014: Tonight we celebrate the 45th anniversary of a pivotal event in St. Louis LGBT history. More than any other single date, Halloween 1969 can be said to be when a movement for the rights of LGBT people began in the Gateway City.
On the night of Friday, October 31, plainclothes officers from the St. Louis police department's vice squad waited outside a gay bar called the Onyx Room.
Vice officers, who typically concentrated on policing female sex workers, also enforced laws against gender nonconformity and homosexuality. At the time, it was illegal for people to wear the clothes of the opposite sex or to have sex with someone of the same sex.
The Onyx Room was on Olive Street near Grand Boulevard, not far from the Fox Theatre and Saint Louis University (picture below). It was on the eastern edge of the "gay ghetto," a part of St. Louis that largely overlapped with the Central West End.
The neighborhood had a high concentration of LGBT residents and bars and other places where queer people gathered. LGBT people from all around the St. Louis region and beyond came to the gay ghetto to meet and socialize with others like themselves.
Soon after midnight, a group of nine male-bodied people wearing wigs, evening gowns, women's earrings, and high-heeled shoes exited the Onyx Room. (Available sources suggest that these people identified as men, but it is possible that some were trans women.) The vice officers promptly arrested them. One account implies that the police had been at the ready in front of the bar as part of a planned crackdown on LGBT nightlife. Similar arrests also took place that night across the Mississippi River in East St. Louis, which had several lesbian and gay bars of its own.
According to a police report, the nine people arrested in front of the Onyx Room were all young, ages 18-25. All worked low-paying, low-prestige jobs, were students, or were unemployed. Seven were white, and two were black. Most lived in the city of St. Louis, but one was from the nearby suburb of Webster Groves, and three were visiting from out of town.
The vice officers took them to jail at police headquarters downtown, where they were fingerprinted, photographed for mug shots, held on a cash bond of $50 each (approximately $325 today), and charged with "masquerading," that is, cross-dressing. They said that "they were insulted by the arresting officers, roughly treated in the police van, and made the objects of jokes and derision in the jail."
Up to this point, the night's events weren't very unusual. Historical newspaper reports show that St. Louis authorities, like their counterparts in other cities, had been policing queer people since at least the late nineteenth century. Oral histories and other sources recount police raids of "fruit" bars and harassment of gender-nonconforming people throughout the 1950s and '60s.
By Steven L. Brawley
October 31, 2017: This weekend (Nov. 2-5) hundreds of bears from across the nation (and the world) will meet in St. Louis as part of the Show-Me-Bears' 22nd HiBearNation event.
The Show-Me Bears were founded in 1993 through the leadership of Mike Royal and Rich Mergen. The club's first home bar was the Outpost next to Magnolia's, and the group is now housed at JJ's Clubhouse.
Since 1993, the organization has donated more than $400,000 to local charities through fundraising events ranging from HiBearNation and Rummage Sales to Happy Hours and the Mr. Heartland Bear contest.
The term bear was popularized by Richard Bulger, who, along with his then partner Chris Nelson (1960–2006) founded Bear Magazine in 1987. There is some contention surrounding whether Bulger originated the term and the subculture's conventions. George Mazzei wrote an article for The Advocate in 1979 called "Who's Who in the Zoo?", that characterized homosexuals as seven types of animals, including bears. My own research shows the term bear being used as far back as 1966 by the LA Satyrs Motorcycle Club.
What is a bear? According to Wikipedia, a bear is a large, hairy man who projects an image of rugged masculinity. Bears are one of many LGBT communities with events, codes, and a culture-specific identity. Whatever your definition, St. Louis' bear community is known for its charitable spirit.
The Project has come across what may be one of the earlierst graphic representations of bear culture in the St. Louis community. See image below (or click on read more).
October 26, 2014: The Project thanks John Hilgeman for sorting through more than 14 boxes of papers he has collected over the years, and has now donated to the Project. The papers incude local and national newspapers and magazines, and assorted news clips (documenting LGBT issues from the 1970s to current day).
John has been a frequent contributor to the Project, donating posters and other items. Do you have boxes of LGBT treasures to donate? Go digging around and let us know.