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Mapping Houston History

Further Research

This page contains further information on additional Houston LGBT bars and businesses as compiled by Brian Riedel. Pages of this exhibit will continue to be updated as we located advertisements for these businesses in later issues of TWIT.

 

Art Wren's Restaurant (1956-1973)

Art Wren’s was a restaurant open late at night on Westheimer, owned and operated by Arthur Gordon Wren (Mar 29, 1905 to September 19, 1973), who moved to Houston in 1948.  It was one of the first establishments known to welcome gay patrons after the bars closed (Ray Hill’s oral history 2007).

Brazos River Bottom (1979-2013)

Brazos River Bottom was a long-running country/western bar that housed the Colt 45’s, an important community organization that started out in 1976 as a social club but evolved to respond to HIV in Houston through several initiatives, including the Colt 45s AIDS Trouble Fund.  Several similar bars preceded Brazos River Bottom at the same location, including Q-1 Western, Levi’s, and The Spur (sometimes called the Golden Spur).

EJ's (1982-2014)

EJ’s is one of many bars to change location in Houston.  Its first location at 1213 Richmond Street ran from 1982 to 1988, and its second location on Ralph ran from 1988 to 2014.  Known for well-attended amateur strip contests hosted by celebrity drag queens, EJ’s was also famous for its “membership mugs,” which allowed regular customers discounted drinks for purchasing a named mug that would hang at the bar.

Farmhouse (1972-1974)

The Farmhouse is one of many bars to change location, and one of many that burned.  Owned by Gene Howle, Emmet Newton, and James Brumbelow, the first location of the bar at 3535 Westheimer burned several times, including two interior fires in 1973, another on January 27, 1974, and a total loss fire on March 3, 1974 (see April 1974 Contact).  Notably, the owners also suffered a physical attack in November 1972.  The second location, at 2710 Albany, would endure less than two more years before closing on Thursday, January 29, 1976.  This second location would later be home to several other significant bars and clubs, including the Officer’s Club, Club Some, and Emos.  Gene Howle and Emmet Newton were also involved with the Plantation Club, deemed destroyed by arson in 1970.

Fiesta Club (1963-1966)

Open 5pm until 2am and serving breakfast, this private club functioned as a combination restaurant and bar at 3007 Travis.  Prior to Texas permitting liquor by the drink in 1972, private clubs offered one way for people to gather past the time beer-oriented bars closed; membership clubs also allowed the kind of privacy gay men and lesbians of a certain class might want.  Fiesta Club hosted the launch party for the first issue of The Albatross in 1965.

Galleon (1968-1990)

The Galleon had two locations on Richmond, first at 2720 Richmond (1968-1977) and then 2303 Richmond (1978-1990).  The first owners and operators were Les and M.C.  Jay Allen was an owner and operator later on.

Golden Spur (1974-1976)

The Spur preceded Brazos River Bottom as a country/western bar.  The 1974 Ciao International Travel guide to Houston described it as “the largest western bar – complete with outside patio, hayloft, sawdust, and studs… in a rough area near Elgin Street.  The clientele includes some tough Latins and blacks, but the crowd varies.” It was among the advertisers in the first issue of This Week in Texas (March 1975), but soon was facing transitions, running ads featuring “new management” in the August 13, 1975 issue of Contact.  Preceded by the Brazos Bar (1972-1974).

Kindred Spirits (1981-1989)

Kindred Spirits was started by Marion Coleman to address the problem that there were no nice-looking bars where women could congregate where there were no drugs and the patrons didn’t have to fear being mugged.  The first location opened at 5245 Buffalo Speedway in 1981, but then moved to 4902 Richmond by 1985.  After it closed in 1989, regulars held a reunion party that over time transformed into one of the lesbian community’s most beloved foundations, Kindred Spirits.

La Caja (1968-1976)

This club is the successor to The Showboat, but by 1974, its reputation had been in decline; Ciao Travel magazine writer Ralph W. Davis listed it in the category of rough trade bars (along with the The Pink Elephant, The Surf, and Gray’s Lounge) and panned its drag shows as “not very good.”  While Bob Eddy would continue to advertise in The Nuntius as an insurance salesman, La Caja drifted out of its pages.

La Caja II (1978-1981)

After the closing of La Caja, a second incarnation was opened at 2327 Grant Street at Fairview.

Marion's Too (1979-1980)

Marion Pantzer was an entrepreneur who with Lynn Hornaday in 1973 started a women’s bar, Just Marion and Lynn’s, initially at 817 Fairview (which would later become Cousin’s, then TC’s Showbar).  While at that location, they took on a second, short-lived operation called Marion’s Too at 109 Tuam.  Marion’s Too went through a rapid succession of owners thereafter, changing names to Dizzy’s Tavern, The Ratshole, and then The Hole.  In 1985, Marion and Lynn moved their stable Fairview operation to another, newer building at 903 Richmond.  That next March, a robber murdered Marion at the newly opened bar.  Hundreds attended her funeral, including Mayor Kathy Whitmire.

Montrose Activity Center (1978-1980)

The Montrose Activity Center was a short-lived but nationally publicized effort to sustain a community center specific to lesbians and gays in Houston.  Its first location was 815 Hawthorne, but then moved outside of the Montrose area to 1423 Holman.  It was preceded by the Montrose Gaze (504 Fairview, October 1972 to September 1973) and succeeded by the Houston Gay and Lesbian Community Center (804 Hawthorne, 3400 Hawthorne, 1900 Kane).

Nuntius, The (1970-1976)

An early gay and lesbian newspaper in Houston, the Nuntius was run by “Phil Frank” (Floyd Paxton Goff) from offices at 4615 Mount Vernon St.  Regularly available from 1970 to 1973, it remains one of the few primary documents available for Houston LGBT history immediately after Stonewall.  In 1972, it merged with a Dallas newspaper, Our Community, to become a single publication distributed in both locations.

Pink Elephant (1943-1984)

One of the earliest and longest operating bars in Houston, the Pink Elephant has been associated with many operators, perhaps most famously “Effie” (see James Sears).  It achieved a national level of notoriety through its presence in the 1952 book USA Confidential by Mortimer and Lee, where it was among a handful of businesses noted for catering to the homosexual set.

Roaring 60s (1967-1975)

Rita Wanstrom and Ricci Cortez ran the Roaring 60’s after Rita got her start at the Roaring 20’s.  Their bar played a crucial role in the fight against Houston’s cross-dressing ordinance, as the constant raids on the bar led to the formation of the Tumblebugs.  James Sears provides an account of how the bar worked, and how Rita and Ricci were involved in the Tumblebugs.  Rita “Pappa Bear” Wanstrom also ran a bail bonding company, “Sixty Second Bail Bonds,” that advertised in the Nuntius alongside The Roaring 60s.

Round Table (1965-1974)

Dorothy Schwarz ran this early arrival to the gay Montrose bar scene, as well as the nearby Prufrock’s.  In a 1973 Texas Monthly article on Montrose, Schwarz said “I'd been looking all over Houston for a place to open a gay bar and this just seemed the natural place for it.”  The Round Table advertised in The Albatross as well as The Nuntius.

Showboat, The (1962-1967)

Bob Eddy’s first successful business in Houston’s gay world, the Showboat, brought high camp drag on a regular basis to 1104 Tuam and made it the hub of what Eddy called “the Circle”.  The publicity engine of The Albatross and his connections to Bob Damron helped place his bar on the national and international gay travel scene.  It would transform into La Caja (1968-1976), which would then move to a second location, La Caja II at 2327 Grant Street (1978-1981).

Simpson's Dining Car (1933-1977)

Emmett A. Simpson, once a steward on the Missouri and Pacific Railroad, opened his first car diner in Kilgore in 1930. Three years later, he moved his diner to Main Street, and replaced it twice with more updated models, once in 1940 and again in 1947.  By 1974, Simpson’s was no longer 24 hours; according to Ciao Magazine, “now it closes at 1a.m. to avoid serving some of the hustlers and roughs who settle almost all night on the corner of Main and Bell.”  Simpson’s Dining Car was around the corner from The Exile and the Pink Elephant, and on the same block as the Woodrow Hotel, which prominently advertised rooms with private bathrooms on the wall facing Main and Bell streets.

Stadium (1952-1967)

The Stadium Lounge, so named no doubt due to it’s proximity to the then recently completed Rice University football stadium, was a small bar serving beer to a mixed gay/straight crowd with some shows and bands for entertainment.  It is consistently listed in the early issues of the Albatross and in later guides like the Lavender Baedeker, Bob Damron’s ’68 Address Book, and the International Guild Guide.  For a brief time from 1966 to close, it was attached to The Upstairs at 2421 Times Blvd, which featured dancing. The Lamp Post took over the space after the Stadium and the Upstairs closed.

Wilde ‘n’ Stein Book Store (1978-1985)

The first non-pornographic gay and lesbian oriented bookstore in Houston, Wilde ‘n’ Stein was operated by Ken Cyr and Charles Gillis after they relocated to Houston from Dallas.  It relocated twice, from 819 Richmond to 520 Westheimer, and then to 802 Westheimer.  Importantly, it also functioned as a community and political center, offering space for community organizations such as Integrity (later Interact), and sheltering for some time the Texas Gay Archives before they merged with the Charles Botts Collection at MCC Resurrection.

Further Research