Saturday, March 3, 2012

Augie & C.K.'s

3726 North Broadway today
Augie & C.K.'s

Location: 3726 North Broadway, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened: September 1979

Closed: 1980s

Augie's and C.K.'s were once separate Chicago lesbian bars that later merged into one. According to Sukie de la Croix, C.K.'s first opened at 1425 West Diversey around August 1974, but apparently moved to 2417 North Milwaukee by January 1979. Augie's also opened in 1974 at 3729 North Halstead.

Sukie also interviews two women--Joyce and Maria--about their memories of these places. We first hear from Joyce and her memories of Augie & CK's, which, as noted above, opened in September 1979:

"I used to go to CK and Augie´s, but I would get there very late in the evening. I worked in a place where we wore long black evening gowns and I would be in such a hurry to get to CK and Augie´s that I wouldn´t even change out of my gown. I´d hop in a cab and get down there half an hour, or sometimes 15 minutes, before they were going to close, and they´d still charge me a cover charge. Finally, after a while, I stopped going, because usually at that hour the gals that were in there were pretty well hooked up, and if you saw somebody really together you were afraid to go over and say anything to them, unless you knew them, or unless you knew someone who could introduce you. Women´s bars are not easy to get acquainted, you´re liable to get in a big fight."

Maria informs us that C.K.'s was the first gay bar she ever visited. We also hear about the butch-femme scene that still existed there, even in the mid 1970s:

"CK´s on Diversey, and it was before CK and Augie were together. I have a strong memory of walking into the bar. At that time, which I think was 䚚, there was a short period when you could drink at 19. They changed the law, and I was in that age group. So the first time I walked into CK´s I was alone. I had found out about the bar from a friend of mine in junior college. I walked into the bar and I was very nervous, and a woman at the door took a step back and she looked me up and down and she said, ´Well, what are you, a butch or a femme?´ And all I could say without losing a beat was, ´Well, I´m 19.´ And she put her arm around me, patted my back and said in a really patronizing way, ´Maybe next year when you´re older, you´ll have to decide.´ I never did decide. But she said that within earshot of the other women, so she was using me to make a joke. The other women were her audience. I later learned that the woman tended bar there and her style was to be very sarcastic. After a while people liked her humor, but if you were a stranger and walked in, it was more alienating than comforting. Her name was Phyllis."

And here are more memories from Maria:

"I was first introduced to that bar by a classmate; Judy was her name. Judy wore a black T—shirt to school with two women on it, and it was the first time I saw a T—shirt of that kind. It was clearly two women, I don´t think they were kissing but it was an outline of two women on her T—shirt and it was from Augie´s bar on Halsted. That was before I went to Augie´s.

"What I would like to say is that the thing about Augie´s and CK´s was the bars were small. At that time, women didn´t go out as much, so if you went out you were bound to run into the people you knew, because everyone was going to the same places. So there were groups of women who knew each other and there was a feeling of comfort about that, an extra closeness that I don´t see in the bars now. Some of it had to do with the technology; there weren´t videos at the time so there was a lot more conversation.

"At Augie´s there was a woman named Ellen who used to sing and play guitar there. She would change the names of songs. You have to remember I was 19 or 20, and this was the first time I heard a woman singing Neil Diamond´s ´Solitary Man,´ and she would change the name to ´I´ll be what I am, a solitary woman.´"

As it turns out, C.K.'s also played a pivotal political role in Chicago's gay and lesbian history--though not necessarily for right and honorable reasons. Back in the 1970s, it became a flash point for the hard-fought struggle against racial discrimination in Chicago's gay and lesbian bars. Tracy Behm in Out and Proud in Chicago (2008) explains:

When African-American lesbian activist Pat McCombs saw her Black and Latina friends face this [racial] bias in December 1974 at C.K.'s lesbian bar by being asked for more than white customers, she fought back in the way she had learned as a civil-rights activist--both in the streets and in the courts. She and others formed the Black Lesbians Discrimination Investigation Committee, picketing in front of C.K.'s, 1425 W. Diversey Pkwy. She called for a boycott, putting out posters and getting white lesbian attorney Renee Hanover to help. White lesbians also joined the picket lines, and the state liquor commission investigated.

On March 10, 1975, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission gave the bar a citation, according to The Chicago Gay Crusader, requiring owner Carol Cappa to appear before the commission to "show cause why her license should not be suspended or revoked." The commission dismissed the citation April 15 after Kappa and Hanover entered into an agreement for the complainants, calling for Kappa to serve all customers equally and to clearly post her identification policies.

As Behm goes on to state, "the carding policies at C.K's (which later merged with Augie's to become Augie & C.K.'s at 3726 N. Broadway, now the site of the bar Charlie's Chicago) were not unique. Dozens of gay bars over the years have been accused of keeping out people based on race or gender, having a 'quota' so as not to tip the balance in their bar."

Still, when Chicago Gay History interviewed the Cuban lesbian writer Achy Obejas, she identified Augie & C.K.'s as one of her favorite bars, though she did acknowledge that racial acceptance at this particular venue was one of the "key issues" she faced when first coming out:

Racism – a bunch of places, like Augie’s, banned people of color. It was a nightmare. General acceptance – this was back in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s.

On a more upbeat note, boimagazine tells us that Augie & C.K.'s was a "popular lesbian bar with the likes of DJ Charles Perkins, Sandy and Lora Branch in the DJ booth."

We also learn that Augie & C.K.'s once fielded a bowling team at Marigold Bowl, located at 828 West Grace Street.

There is still time to get in on Augie & C.K.'s first-ever reunion! According to the Windy City Times, it will be held on May 12, 2012, at the the L26 Restaurant and Lounge in the Chicago South Loop Hotel, 11 West 26th Street, 7 p.m.-3 a.m. All raffle proceeds will go to breast-cancer awareness.


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  2. Dj Phyl Thomas was the 1st Dj at ck's & augie in the 80's breaking color barriers with a black female following which cause Pat McCombs and others to picket on racial discrimination let the real story be told


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