Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lips Ultra Lounge

Lips Ultra Lounge
Lips Ultra Lounge (aka M's Lip Lounge, Lip Bar, Lips)

Location: 510 North Stanton Street, El Paso, Texas, USA

Opened/Closed: 2010-2011?

From Clubfly:

Type: Lesbian Club

In a nutshell: El Paso's first lesbian ultra lounge and bar with live music, go-go dancers, happy hour and indoor/outdoor patio...

As is typical at clubfly, they note that the place is closed, but provide no date.

At yelp, the same address is referred to as M's Lip Lounge. There is one "official" customer review from October 2011. Scott W. was none to pleased with the place--and is pretty nastily anti-lesbian to boot: 

A sad excuse for a lesbian/gay bar.

The place looks as if it were painted by a couple of second graders.

They constantly have local bands playing here who are just as bad as their sound equipment (dear God it sounds like cats being raped!)

I always see this place while on my way to The Briar Patch and it always seems to be virtually empty.

So to the lesbians of El Paso, stick to your softball matches and volunteer hours at the local cat shelter....cause this ain't the place to be.

Can't help but wonder about Scott's little simile here. I sure hope he doesn't have a personal familiarity with cat raping, but when it comes to men who make a point of hanging around a lesbian bar, one can never be too sure. At any rate, we see here a great demonstration of the casual ease with which anti-lesbian stereotyping, animal torture, and sexual assault go together in the minds of certain cretinous males. And we want more of these guys in our spaces?

There are also three other "unofficial" reviews, all from 2010 and 2011. Here's a defense of the place by melissa m. (apparently the owner) in November 2011:

All we can say is some people just dont get it but those of you who do we love you.  We're not for everyone and we know that in fact we pride that.  If you dont like it you dont come in and thats that we enjoy the company of those that choose to spend their time with us and you know who you are ;). Lets keep rockin elpaso everyday till the day we die!!!!

An (all male) band called Patmos Vision performed there in July 2010. (I think this may be one of those "local bands" that Scott W. so vividly referred to.) Here's a short video if you're interested. That an ostensibly lesbian bar was granting this all-dude band a performance space already tells me we have a mission problem. Are all the lesbian musicians out there fully booked with big dollar contracts with the major record companies? If so, somebody forgot to tell me.

There's a Facebook page for a bar called Lips Bar at this location. One of the last postings is dated August 2014, and it's for...a drag queen show. Since drag queen shows are generally not a part of lesbian culture per se, I'm thinking that Lips is a substantially different place from Lips Ultra Lounge. Once again, it appears we have yet another case of a lesbian bar that was basically taken over by self-identified queers, gay men, drag queens, and/or trans women--probably sometime after 2011.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Women's Music Festivals

West Coast Women's Music Festival (1981)
Women's Music Festivals

Locations: Varied

Opened/Closed: Varied

With this being the last year for the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, I was curious as to what other women's music festivals have been lost over the years. As it turns out, Curve came up with a list back in October 2010--though the information they provide is sadly lacking in detail. 

Given that this list is almost five years old, I'm sure a lot of the festivals they listed as "still going strong" are now lost as well, but it's not always easy to determine. If lack of any recent Internet activity is any evidence, it looks like Chicago's Estrojam (later Decibelle) may be history as well.

Over time, I'll try to pull up more information on some of these.

Gone but not forgotten fests

Camp fest (Maryland and Pennsylvania):

Billed as the “comfortable” festival, it had cabins and a pool—filled with half-naked women. Campfest quit a few years ago and we miss it—the festival, not just the naked ladies.

East Coast Lesbian Festival (New York):

Proudly sporting “lesbian” in its title, this small but mighty festival existed for a few years back in the ’90s.

Gulf Coast Womyn’s Festival (Mississippi):

Tired of renting space, organizers Wanda and Brenda Henson bought 120 acres near Ovett, Miss. After Henson’s death, her children took over the fest, and the event morphed into the Camp Sister Spirit Folk School. Unfortunately, the last event was in 2009. We missed them this year, and will for years to come.
Lady Fest - Olympia, Washington (2000)

Lady fest (various cities):

It started in 2000 in Olympia, Wash., but is actually several festivals that happen all over the world; they share the same name and the same DIY attitude, but not much more.The original fest is gone but the one in London is still alive.

Northeast Women’s Music Retreat (New England):

Long-running and much-loved, this annual festival was a freakin’ good time. We wish it were still running.

Rhythm fest (Georgia and North Carolina):

Started by workers from other festivals, this was one of the first in the Deep South.Too bad they aren’t around anymore.

Southern Women’s Music and Comedy Festival (Georgia):

Organizer Robin Tyler felt so strongly about including comedy that she put it in the title. Tyler brought in political activists and authors too. Sadly, it ended in 1995.

West Coast Women’s Music Festival (California):

Fifteen years of 2,000 or more women in the woods near Yosemite. Did it get any better than that?

Wimmin fest (New Mexico

Shows were at the beautiful Kimo Theatre in downtown Albuquerque. They stopped just a few years ago. Damn.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

Location: Hart, Michigan, USA

Opened: 1975

Closed: 2015

I always feared that someday I would be posting about Michfest as a Lost Womyn's Space...

Thank you to Lisa Vogel and all the amazing womyn who kept this going for 40 years.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to got back in the 80s. I loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, life interfered after that and I never got to go again. The one performance singed into my memory is Ronnie Gilbert singing "Good Night, Irene"--with thousands of women joining in on the chorus. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

Did a little research, and it was apparently in '85. Here's another great Ronnie Gilbert memory.

From the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival:

Dear Sisters, Amazon, Festival family,
It has been my honor and privilege to produce the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for 40 years. It has been my life’s work, my deepest commitment, my constant challenge and my most profound joy. Every single thing of value I have learned in the world I have learned in the process of being part of building this beloved community. Almost every friend and family member who I cherish I have met on that hallowed ground, and every single way I have learned to put my mind/heart/shoulder into the purpose of creating something beautiful that honors womyn has come from the sweat I earned on that Land.
I am writing to tell you that the 40th Festival will be the last Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The spirit of this community will live on forever, the friends and family we have found on the Land are eternal. Everything we have created together will feed the inspiration for what comes next. It’s possible that I will come back with something else, or that other sisters will take the inspiration of the Michigan community and create the next expression of our Amazon culture. What is true for me is that now is the time to bring this 40-year cycle to a close, stepping out on joy at our most incredible anniversary celebration.
We have known in our hearts for some years that the life cycle of the Festival was coming to a time of closure. Too often in our culture, change is met only with fear, the true cycle of life is denied to avoid the grief of loss. But change is the ultimate truth of life. Sisters – I ask you to remember that our 40 year Festival has outlived nearly all of her kin. She has served us well. I want us all to have the opportunity to experience the incredible full life cycle of our beloved Festival, consciously, with time to celebrate and yes, time to grieve.
There have been struggles; there is no doubt about that. This is part of our truth, but it is not--and never has been--our defining story. The Festival has been the crucible for nearly every critical cultural and political issue the lesbian feminist community has grappled with for four decades. Those struggles have been a beautiful part of our collective strength; they have never been a weakness.
For many of us this one week in the woods is the all too rare place and time where we experience validation for our female bodies, and where the female experience presides at the center of our community focus. A place to lay our burden down from the misogyny that pervades our lives from cradle to grave…a place to live in intergenerational community, and to live in harmony with Mother Earth. I know this is true for me. And I have a deep trust that each and every one of us can take what we have experienced on that Land and continue to create space that feeds our spirit, creates diverse community, honors our experience and supports our struggle as womyn making our way through the patriarchal world. Please take what you love about Michigan and use it to create something new and beautiful.
It is important that each and every one of us knows she is empowered to build on what we have experienced together on the Land. Everything you feel on the Land, everything you see – is something of spirit, and love, and passion for female empowerment….for womyn’s community. The Festival’s 40 years of culture and community are a powerful seed and our communal experiences have created fertile ground to plant in. I know that we will find inspiration and vision to create our next time and space.
For those of us who will be gathering for our 40th anniversary this August – let’s joyously hold up our incredible community and allow ourselves to be strong enough to consciously let go of this incarnation of her, with all the love we each hold in our beautiful hearts. Let us gather this August knowing that what we truly cherish about the Festival lives on in each of us, and more will come from this fertile ground. Let’s do this up together – Amazon proud!
I will meet you there in August – my eyes meeting yours, heart wide open.
With all of my love and respect,

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rainbow House Bar & Grill

Rainbow House Bar & Grill
Rainbow House (December 2012)

Location: 815 North Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA

Opened: 1998

Closed: August 2013

Clubfly is straight to the point; Rainbow House is a lesbian bar:

Type: Lesbian Bar
In a nutshell: Rainbow House is the local choice with great views of Atlantic Ocean. Friendly staff, no cover charge, free wi-fi, and full menu. Daily happy 4pm - 7pm...

Over at yelp, however, there is no mention of this being a lesbian bar though there is one review claiming that this is "Myrtle Beach's oldest and respected gay bar." Review are basically good though, with particular praise for the great food, especially the fried clams ("the clam strips are a personal favorite of mine").
Rainbow House (May 2013)

GayCities also claims this is a gay bar--and with no reference to it being a lesbian bar:

Fun and friendly gay barThis vibrant bar and restaurant has something fun going on every night. Don't miss the popular Saturday Night Dance Party, or Thursday Gayme Nights.

So what gives? Flipped through the photos at GayCities, and I'm inclined to think that if this was ever a lesbian bar, it was lost to the gay men, drag queens, and trans women by at least 2011. I see very few photos of patrons who are easily read as lesbian, but a lot of the aforementioned groups. And there are the visual representations that tag this as male territory and not female territory. Like this one:
Rainbow House (October 2011)

Tellingly, this particular venue description doesn't even use the words "gay" or "lesbian"--though it does outline the history:

At the Rainbow Bar & Grill, guests can dine, chat, dance, or play, competing with other patrons as well as bars from all around the country. We also have a number of video arcade games and a pool table for your enjoyment. Our extensive menu will satisfy even the fussiest palate, with everything from burgers & fries to seafood dinners. Rainbow opens daily at 11 am and continues to serve our complete menu until we close the following morning.

Our unique experience includes murals depicting the old Myrtle Beach Pavilion, a 50's style diner, and the Land of Oz, along with our "Rainbow Venus de Milo," all painted by local artist Sheik Ster.

Our History

Rainbow House began in an actual house in 1998. Our guests always felt at home, and the tradition continues today in our current location in Myrtle Beach's historic downtown Five Points as the Rainbow Bar & Grill.

Originally part of the Dog House family, Micki Strickland purchased Rainbow House In 1997 with the goal of creating a "down home" bar & grill. She envisioned good food in a friendly atmosphere where everyone would be welcome. Now with a full, tasty menu, the completely remodeled Rainbow Bar & Grill is the new favorite for locals and area business persons.

Same goes for the description at Clubplanet:

Rainbow House - So it’s midnight. You’re still feeling it. You’re still buzzed. Why go home? You don’t have to. Rainbow House, located at 815 N Kings Hwy, is open well after normal closing-time, so you can keep the vibe going until it’s scandalously past your bedtime.

Maybe they were counting on the "rainbow" part of the name to get the point across?

Just to add the confusion, the Facebook page for Rainbow House does appear to depict mostly lesbians. But there is nothing saying this is a lesbian bar. So go figure....

At minimum, I guess one can assume that the "lesbian bar" status was always provisional and contested at best. Probably more "mixed" to male-dominated than anything else.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Denver Detour

Denver Detour

Location: 1110 Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado, USA

Opened: 1983?

Closed: 2009?

Here is the description from Clubfly:

Type: Lesbian Bar
In a nutshell: Denver girl bar with pool, darts, karaoke nights, food and fun. Kitchen is open daily 11 am to 11pm specializing in Mexican food. Happy hour Monday through Saturday from 4pm to 8pm...

And from GayCities:

Longtime devotee to the community
Lesbian owned and operated, Detour offers both male and female night. The food is great from burritos to prime rib.

At the same site, GandM weighed in with a positive review in November 2008:

It's a fun Place..
I would first like to say that I have been going to the Detour for over 17 years, I have known the owner for quite some time, and she and her staff have always been very freindly, the food has gone through some changes latley because of the new locations, but I am sure that will be better than it has ever been. Although I do have some favorites, Please try the Chili Rellenos, the California Club, and the Burgers. They also now have 2 Big screen TV's a screened patio, multiple pool tables, pool tournements and Darts. If you are a board games person, ask, I am sure there is something there to keep you happy. the topper, they are now having open mic nights, live bands, and Karaoke.

Denver Detour
But of course we had to have at least one review from the Pissed Off Guy who just couldn't figure out whey the Chicks Weren't Falling All Over Him at A Lesbian Bar. Totally classic. From Anth0ne in January 2008:
A Male Perspective.
Men, really, it's not a place you'll want to hang out at. You might hear they serve food, but go elsewhere, even to BK (better food IMHO!) then on to a bar that genuinely welcomes men. I have never been to a mostly men's bar that is as unwelcoming to women as this place seemed to be towards the few men that were in here when I visited. To the ladies that love this place and it's staff: I'm really glad you have a place where you are the majority and feel comfortable... but you really could be a bit nicer to the guys!
In my humble opinion, this merely illustrates why these sh**s should just stay away.
The opinions from the (apparently) lesbian reviewers are mostly positive, though there is at least one detractor. From nitemarelesbian in April 2007:
No Stuck Ups
If you want a very nice neighborhood bar. Close to everything downtown then you have to go to the tour. It's great. The people are fun. Everyone is very welcoming. Everyone at my work gay or straight love the food and atmosphere.
From LIKEIAMLESBIAN in May 2007:

the food sucks
say no to this dive !
Which drew a passionate response from OlderbeautifulLesbian in January 2007:
For you information the Detour is a neighborhood bar that has for more than 20 years welcomed all people, not just the physically pretty ones. Further, just in case you haven't figured this out yet; Bars are where people go to drink, and where there is drinking there is always a little drama (aka "the free show") As for food, well the Detour does not claim to be some kind of high end, artsy fartsy, health food place. They serve good food that is generally well prepared, at a reasonable price, and if you're not happy with the food they will be glad to correct the problem. Finally, I find those "dirty looking street people" and "ugly lesbians" have a beauty that you will never understand. Get help, you have serious character flaws and you don't write worth shit!
In addition, there were two reviews which specifically praised the owners. From HAVINGFUNINDENVER in June 2007:
Jody b is great no matter what the haters on here say about her. I have been going here for a few years and have never had a problem with her at all. You have to understand sometimes she has to deal with drunks, nonpayers, arrogant drunks, etc... I like her and please don't pay attention to the bad reviews come hang out here and see for yourself. Sheila the owner is soooo cool i like her a lot she is a very nice person. The food by the way is excellent. The person who said it wasn't must have been tasting something on their upper lip instead of the meal.
And from Hottie32 in April 2007:
Yes Jodi, B, has her flaws but that is one of many characters to the establishment who less forgets the real supporters,non the less it like everything else has its chances and this is what makes the world go round. And i am greatful for the Detour!

There are a couple of reviews at Yelp as well. Only one openly acknowledges that this was a lesbian bar. Shiho F. From January 2007:

I have been to several gay bars but this was my first lesbian bar.  How am I supposed to tell the difference?   Anyways, we enjoyed fried vegies, macho nachos, hot wings, chicken fingers,  fish and chips and  lots of ranch.  I had a couple double Jack and Cokes to keep myself warm.  It was one of the few places open during our first real blizzard.  Good times.

Other than that, the two (apparent) dudes like it. Here's Dave H. from August 2007:

Excellent tex-mex menu. Miller high-life (a.k.a low-life) is the inexpesive house beer. The California club is also great.

Very friendly to all crowds.

And Daniel T. in November 2006:

I had a great time at this bar after I found the entrance located in the back (hence the Detour). Staff was extremely friendly and the drinks were flowing. The seating is surprisingly comfortable and informal for a bar. Highly recommended.

But (apparently female) Erin S. in July 2009 did not like it:

I honestly can't believe the ratings are this high. I have to say, the Detour is a total dump! Crap laying around everywhere and extremely dirty. And to boot, our 80's flashdance revival bartender was extremely rude. Had our one drink and moved on... Quickly!

Go figure...

And this is cool. The place even gets an (admittedly brief) mention in the New York Times. It was in an article on Denver's Colfax Avenue in November 2007:  

Crime was never a worry for Sheila Keathley, who has owned a popular gay bar, the Denver Detour, on Colfax Avenue for 24 years. “People who live here understand that Colfax is just very different,” she said.

Several sites mention that the place is now closed, but no date is given. The last date for a review I can find is in 2009, so I'm guessing that Denver Detour must have closed around then.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Char Pei Lounge

Brenda Jean Grissom
Char Pei Lounge

Location: 400 Mascoutah, Belleville, Illinois, USA

Opened: Early 1980s

Closed: 2000

According to the St. Louis LGBT History Project, Char Pei Lounge was "the city's first lesbian bar."

Image result for 400 Mascoutah, Belleville, Illinois
400 Mascoutah Ave.
Actually as it turns out, that's not exactly true, as Char Pei apparently opened in the early 1980s, and there were numerous lesbian bars that predate that (check out the St. Louis tab below). In fact there is a wonderful project that a local lesbian undertook a few years ago to document the City's oldest bars, which I highly recommend. See the St. Louis Lesbian History blog.

Still, the Project have a clock from the Char Pei in their collection (it was on display last year), which is pretty neat. Unfortunately I don't see a photo of the clock anywhere. And, unfortunately, this particular article doesn't say anything else about Char Pei either.

Obviously, more digging was in order. Here we find out that that the Char Pei was not actually in the City of St. Louis, Missouri proper--but on the other side of the Mississippi River in Illinois. What is generally known as East St. Louis.

And at this site, we finally learn a little bit about the owners:

Brenda Grissom and Dixie Ruliffson
Brenda Grissom and Dixie Ruliffson were active Metro East LGBT advocates. (Grissom died on March 8, 2011 and Ruliffson in July 2007). The longtime partners were together in life and in business for over 30-years and founding members of the Metropolitan Community Church in St. Louis. In the early 1980s they bought and opened The Old Cow Street Inn in Belleville to serve the area’s growing LGBT community. The popular watering hole was soon named The Char Pei Lounge (after their beloved pets) and operated as part nightclub and part community center until its shuttering in 2000. The duo also headed the late night entertainment complex, Char Pei’s City Center in East St. Louis in the 1990s and was the proprietor of The Polish Shop auto detail in Belleville. Charitable and colorful, “the ladies” were omnipresent in their community and impacted a generation of LGBTers.

A community service award is named after both women.

Here is part of Brenda's obituary. She sounds like she was an amazing woman.
Brenda Jean Grissom
Gravestone for Dixie Lee Ruliffson and
Brenda J. Grissom, Mount Catholic Cemetery,
Belleville, Illinois

BRENDA JEAN GRISSOM, 60, of Belleville, Ill., born Saturday, Jan. 13, 1951, in St. Louis, Mo., died Tuesday, March 8, 2011, at Memorial Hospital in Belleville, Ill.
Miss Grissom was the owner of The Polish Shop in Belleville, Ill. She previously co-owned the Char-Pei Lounge in Belleville, Illinois and Char-Pei's City Center in E. St. Louis, Ill. Brenda was an active member of the St. Louis area LGBT community and a member of Metropolitan Community Church in St. Louis, Mo., and T.O.P.S. She was a greeter at Belleville Wal-Mart.
She was preceded in death by her father, James K. Grissom; life companion, Dixie Lee Ruliffson; and niece, Lauren Reeb.

I really got a lump in my throat when I saw their gravestone. Long after the words we have written have turned to dust or dissolved into the electronic Ethernet, that gravestone will still be there. Proof that two women once lived and loved each other.

Oh, and as for that aforementioned clock? Found it here.