David's Chicago Sexual Underground 8/10/22 & P(r)ick of the Week

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Greetings P(r)icksters!

Long time, I know. Haven’t fallen off the planet (yet), just an incredibly crazy spring and summer. Things have somewhat settled down, but I have branched out into a new focus.

Life got overwhelming in the spring. After two years of covid interruptions, we at Touché had planned to host our Mr. Chicago Leather contest in January. That was until omicron came along at the beginning of the year. So we postponed the contest to April.

In the intervening time, I had staffing issues, trying to bring on new staff while others came down with covid and/or had time off for vacations, etc. I spent several nights behind the bar and, a couple of times, just limited hours of operation based on who was available to work.

We hosted a huge, huge MCL contest weekend. While we did not sell out the contest, the bar was packed all weekend and I literally just stood by the bar and watched my crew frantically serve the crowd. It was almost like watching the numbers turn at Mc Donald’s (remember when they used to post number of burgers served?).

All this made me behind schedule in planning parties for Memorial Day weekend when Chicago hosts International Mr. Leather. We figured we would see a pent-up increase in folks wanting to get out after this event was put on hold for two years, too. It was just that!

I was just as frantic trying to line up events, porn stars, dancers and everything else that goes into a six-night run of parties. Not kidding, it was just on Friday the week before everything would kick off on the following Wednesday when I nailed down the last details.

Then we jumped right into Pride planning, including lining up our local clubs to host our leather & kink contingent in the parade. On the heels of the Pride parade, I was also putting together my family reunion back in Ohio over the 4th of July weekend.

Coming back after that is where I took on my new focus, namely monkeypox. After IML & Pride, cases began to take off here in Chicago and it was a scramble to get ahead of it.

I first reached out to Chicago’s Department of Public Health but could only get a “leave a message” response. I could not speak to an actual live person.

Then I reached out to Howard Brown Health Center, they have a clinic just a half block from Touché.

A little history here, Howard Brown was here back in the 1970’s when I first arrived in Chicago. Back then, their focus was on STDs. It was basically a doctor and a nurse in the basement of a church. You had a drippy dick, they’d swab it and give you a shot of penicillin. Gay sex was taboo, most guys didn’t want to go to a doctor who would want to know how you got gonorrhea in your ass. Howard Brown was gay providers taking care of our community discreetly. It was drop in, no appointments, no fees, simple. You needed care and they did it.

Then came HIV/AIDS in the early 80’s. Howard Brown ramped up their efforts to care for gay men in the early days of this disease as some mainstream healthcare was paranoid of this new and deadly unknown illness. In the early days, Howard Brown would line up a medical van to pull up in front of a bar to offer free STD tests and eventually HIV testing in the 80’s. Howard Brown went from a small group of volunteers to a full fledged health clinic. Still lots of volunteers but a growing staff of doctors, nurses and more.

Howard Brown secured federal grants to treat and develop research into HIV/AIDS and continues to play a pivotal role. As they succeeded in treating people with AIDS, they took a more traditional role of healthcare, primary care, women’s healthcare as agencies like the Lesbian Cancer Project were brought under its organization. Howard brown expanded from one clinic in the gay neighborhood to several spread across Chicago. Also, HB would develop connections with other healthcare businesses; you can find a Walgreen’s pharmacy in their clinics.

I thought after our early days of working with Howard Brown on STDs and then HIV/AIDS, they would be jumping on this latest health crisis centered on our community. My first call to the clinic by the bar should have been a indication. This poor kid answering the phone had no knowledge of Howard Brown’s history or mission. He just answers the phone at this health clinic.

Eventually I got a name and email address (not a phone number) and began trying to get something set up to help keep our customers and community safe. Several back and forth emails over a week led to an actual conversation on setting up vaccine events at Touché.

In the meantime, I was contacted by Project WISH at the University of Illinois Chicago about hosting vax events. In a couple of days, we set a day and time for our first Vax Party. Before this, the local bathhouse Steamworks had begun hosting vax events there in late June. This Project WISH would offer vax shots at the baths, usually 100 shots at a time and there was at least twice that number showing up.

Other than Steamworks and now us, folks were scrambling to find vax shots at their doctors’ offices, some city health clinics and hospitals to get vaccinated. Even Howard Brown was offering vaccines on an appointment basis, but they stipulated in the first few weeks that you had to be displaying symptoms to get a shot. As you might expect, it has been just nuts to get ahead of monkeypox. Guess we learned nothing from covid.

Anyway, Project WISH has hosted two vax nights already at the bar, with more to come every week. They run it pretty simple. Folks need to fill out a two-sided form, then line up for a shot. No restrictions on whether you live in Chicago, Illinois, whatever. Our first night was crazy; we planned to start at 9pm but when we opened at 5 that night, the bar filled quickly. (I had to scramble to get staff behind the bar and open the second room.) We learned right away to be ready.

Our second vax party was last Wednesday, and we began prepping right at 5 pm. Had to, as when I arrived at 1:30 that afternoon, there was a line outside. To make it run smooth, I stood outside when we opened and handed each person a numbered ticket and the form they needed to fill out. I was told we would get 140 vax shots that night and I handed out tickets to the first 140 in line.

Once folks got inside, they could mingle around and wait until their number was called. We tried our best to make it a party with music and drinks. Even the medical team administering the shots enjoyed the night. It took them about 90 minutes to jab all 140 doses into arms. They’ll be back today, Wednesday the 11th, with hopefully 200 doses, and back again this Thursday the 11th.

Knowing monkeypox spreads by close extended physical contact, we’ve encouraged guys to slow down at the bar. We stopped showing porn on our screens and backed off some promotions that may entice guys to get touchy feely. It has hit us in the pocketbook, but we survived AIDS and now covid. We’ll keep working to get folks vaccinated and put this pox crap down. It may take a bit more time than we hope, but we can do it. Besides, we still have covid to contend with as well. Guess you can call me Dr. David now.

I’ll be back soon, as our Pride was fun and I have stuff from that to share. First, I’m going to get another round of vax parties lined up and set a couple of days aside to go rider some roller coasters.

Take care, get your vaccines for covid and monkeypox. If you have to quarantine or just hold back till we get the pox vax out, you can still grab my P(r)ick and enjoy yourself. Here’s a couple of fun choices for you to consider.

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

Prick of the Week header - images from M.A.G.I.C.

M.A.G.I.C. images
M.A.G.I.C. (D01681) - On DVD and Streaming

Inches images
Inches (D00044) - On DVD and Streaming
 

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The Legacy of Forest View Lounge

posted by Madame Bubby

Last week I wrote a blog on The Jeffery Pub, the oldest LGBTQ bar in Chicago, notable not just for its longevity, but because it is owned and operated by African Americans in a neighborhood far removed from the trendy white gayborhoods to the North.

In the course of my research, I discovered another piece of Chicago LGBTQ history. This place was (alas, I have to use the past tense here) located not far from where I grew up and went to college, and, in fact, my brother currently resides not far from it.

The Forest View Lounge was a lesbian bar located in the near southwestern suburb of Forest View, a sliver of a village between Stickney, Lyons, and Berwyn. These suburbs were originally bastions of white European ethnic communities (primarily Czech) that worked blue-collar jobs.
 

Forest View Lounge exterior
Forest View Lounge
Source: https://chicago.gaycities.com/bars/1389-forest-view-lounge

Thus, I was really surprised when I found out about the place, which according to previous reviews on Yelp, was truly a gem of community spirit, not just a bar that apparently served awesome comfort food (especially a legendary volcano burger, stuffed with cheese and very spicy) but a friendly, welcoming place in an area not known in the past for welcoming minorities of any kind.

The bar's owners, Donalou Hendon and Marge Bellisario, were products of that area, making the best of its resources and community. Donalou was also born in Berwyn and grew up in a far Western suburb, while Marge spend most of her life in Berwyn, attending the local community college, Morton College. Donalou also went to Morton College to take courses to obtain her restaurant and sanitation license.
 

Marge Bellisario
Marge Bellisario
Source: http://voyagechicago.com/interview/meet-marge-bellisario-forest-view-lounge-fondly-known-view-forest-view-suburb-chicago/

Interestingly, Forest View Lounge survived a massive flood in the area in 2013. Marge was amazed the place was pretty much untouched, a veritable island in a temporary sea, which in some ways is a metaphor of for LGBTQ-safe spaces.

Now the bar is closed. Donalou died in 2015, and Marge, after a long battle, died of ovarian cancer in January of 2019.

According to Marge's obituary, "Thank you, Marge for accepting and welcoming me every time I came to your bar, even when I felt that I was not welcomed from others," said patron and acquaintance Kim Overby. "You and Donna always did your best to make customers feel like family or good friends. I will miss your laugh and the warmth of your acceptance. Be at peace now and hold your love once again. You are missed by many and we will all hold you and Donna in our hearts and memories."

I find it admirable that both women apparently didn't feel the need to “escape,” like I did. They weren't after corporate or academic glory in the “big city”; they were able to live authentically in their own backyard as life-partners, business partners, and friends to all humans and animals.

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The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, Still There in Chicago!

posted by Madame Bubby

Lucky Horseshoe exterior

Yes, it is still there. I had to ask, especially now that that the area around it is gentrified and homogenized in so many ways since the last time I was there, early 1990s.

Why was I there? The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, known to its regulars as the “Shoe,” is a gay bar yes, but one that features dancers. Not strippers (no nudity), and they usually are already stripped down to something skimpy that barely covers up the cock.
 

Lucky Horseshoe dancer in jockstrap

Jason Heidemann, a while ago, wrote a piece in the Chicago Reader describing his experiences in detail, and he also makes the point that the place actually seems to be evoke a feeling of “shame-based resistance” for many gay guys. Like, oops, why are you there? What's really going on with you? Or even, in an online exchange, a LOL.

It's an exotic dance club, and I am thinking perhaps there could be a couple underlying cultural stigmas. First, the whole go-go girl men's club business that caters to heterosexual men contains some obvious structurally exploitative/misognynistic dynamics. Whether this dynamic strictly applies to what goes on gay male strip clubs is open to question, and I also think it ties closely into the stigmas associated with sex workers in general.

Secondly, in the gay community itself, there's a stereotype that the types of customers the place attracts tend to be “dirty old men” desperate for copping a feel on a young, lithe body. Heidemann makes the point that the place for many couples serves “as a compromise between one partner who wants monogamy and the other who has an insatiable libido.”

That dynamic reminds of me of my experiences there in the early 90s. I was involved with the LGBTQ Catholic group, Dignity, and I sang tenor in its amateur choir. After church, the choir director, the priest, one religious brother who sang in the choir, and whoever else wanted to tag along, hit the Shoe. (In fact, we were at the Shoe when the Bulls won their famous “threepeat” game!)

It turns out, that Sunday night at the Shoe was called “priests' night out.” One could say that in many cases, sticking dollar bills in the lush baskets of the dancers was a way of not literally violating a promise of celibacy or a vow of chastity. The choir director I think just liked the dancers, a lot, and I also think, because he was partnered, he would hang out there to “blow off steam.” (I'm not sure if he ever hooked up with one of the dancers, but I vaguely remember hearing he did invite one over to his house.)

I must admit, most of the dancers were too thin, smooth, and “twinkish” for my taste, but one night, an anomaly. A particularly beefy muscle guy wearing heavy boots appeared, and I was smitten. I not only got to touch his basket, but we even made out a bit. We had one date. He worked in sales at Marshall Fields full time, days. In real life gear he looked much less imposing. Too “nice” for me, alas.

And I did hook up with a real hot number, beard, blue collar, cowboy boots, there one night, an out of town guy on a conference. A weekend romance ensued. I looked him up on the internet. He is still working at the same job he did in the 1990s. He looks older and grayer. It happens to everyone, even the dancers.

Overall, I'm glad the place is still there, and given its longevity, I gather it has probably adapted to the bachelorette party culture, which has created some controversy lately in gay male bars. In fact, given the vicissitudes of social and cultural change, it's perhaps an even more unique space that still keeps the dancers dancing and a diverse array of customers coming/cumming.
 

Lucky Horseshoe dancer
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Names in Lights: Porn Stars Live at the Bijou Theater

I was looking at some footage on YouTube of Chicago in the 1940s (my nostalgia kick keeps kicking and kicking and kicking, ouch!), and I noticed, as most of the footage was of tourist sites like “State Street, that great street” and its plethora of movie theaters.

And these were not movie theaters hidden inside in decaying malls or bland multistory cineplexes with parking garages, but both glitzy and palatial structures (quite a combo!) that beckoned to passersby (yes, people walked more, it seems, to entertainment) through signs.
 

Chicago's Oriental Theater in the 1940s showing the Jane Russell film, The Outlaw
Chicago's Oriental Theater in the 1940s showing the Jane Russell film, The Outlaw

Yes, the marquee, the name in lights, oh so Old Hollywood. In fact, on one of the videos, I saw theaters whose marquees displayed Leave Her to Heaven with Gene Tierney, and on another one, Joan Crawford in A Woman's Face. Heady stuff for a gay Old Hollywood fan!

The adult movie houses, and in the gay world, often called porn palaces, followed suit when censorship restrictions were lifted in the wake of the 1960s sexual revolution. Even though such venues were usually ghettoized "red light” districts (think 42nd Street in New York City) and often shared buildings and neighborhoods with the seedier peep shows and massage parlors (live sex, less cinematic content) and the like, they still boasted the marquees and the names in lights.
 

42nd Street theaters in the 1960s
42nd Street theaters in the 1960s

In fact, I remember in the camp classic Valley of the Dolls, Neely O'Hara sees her friend Jennifer's (now a star of soft-core French porn) name lighting up that ubiquitous XXX signage as she wanders drunkenly through what is probably the Nob Hill area of San Francisco.

Gay XXX's home in Chicago was the Bijou Theater, and in its heyday, it showed some of the famous, finely crafted classics of gay porn (shot on film, of course). A premiere there was akin to a red carpet event, like it was in Old Hollywood.
 

42nd Street theaters in the 1960s
The Bijou Theater, 1976

Midwest premiere of Michael, Angelo and David at the Bijou Theater with a live appearance by star Marc Stevens
Bijou premiere of Michael, Angelo and David & live appearance by Marc Stevens

Porn studios like Hand in Hand Films and Falcon and, later during that Golden Age, Al Parker's Surge Studios were definitely producing more substantive work, but the assembly-line, amateurish product with mostly anonymous participants (like that being churned out in Europe these days) were confined to peep show booths.

The Bijou Theater thus showcased some groundbreaking gay porn films, but in tandem it also showcased the stars of those films. Again, think Old Hollywood. Fans, autographs. Stars!
 

Ad for a live appearance by porn star Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater
Live apperance by Peter Berlin at the Bijou Theater

For example, when Al Parker, the greatest of them all, appeared at the the theater in the early 1980s, he did a live sex show (a live orgasm to complement so many of those on-screen orgasms), but according to Steven Toushin, owner of the theater, he spent most of the time there signing autographs and talking to fans.
 

Vintage poster for the Al Parker film Inches
Vintage poster for the Al Parker film, Inches (Steve Scott, 1979)

And the uber-Daddy of them all, Richard Locke, also appeared at the Bijou Theater in 1984. Here's a description of the event, which, as with many other events that showcased porn movies and their stars, blurs the lines between on and off screen performances in an enticing, exciting way:

“The screen on the Bijou screen – a dimly lit room at truck stop, fitted with grimy cots, where truckers catch forty winks before they hit the road again. [A scene from Joe Gage's 1976 classic, Kansas City Trucking Co.] In this case, however, the truckers are not sleeping; they are fucking and sucking with a vengeance. The center of the action is the older, experienced trucker, played by Richard Locke, muscular, masculine, bearded and obviously enjoying himself on screen. The light on the movie screen fades, and suddenly a figure appears from behind the screen. A cool blue light silhouettes a muscled body and music builds. A new kind of show is in progress at the Bijou Theater — but Richard Locke is still the center of attention... Richard turns to face the audience, clad only in a leather harness, stroking his erect penis... Finally he reaches orgasm, shooting onto the mesmerized audience. He turns back, the lights fade, he exits and the film Richard Locke returns to the movie screen.”
 

Kansas City Trucking Co. poster
Vintage poster for Kansas City Trucking Co.

Photospread of Richard Locke stritease from suit and tie to leather harness
Richard Locke striptease

Now, the above event may be unique to the dynamic of gay porn and its purpose of sexual exploration and gratification, but what happened after that movie/performance links to that Old Hollywood world:

“After his live show, Richard meets his public, signing autographs and talking to a group of eager fans. He is friendly and unassuming as he talks. One young man asks Richard to autograph his back and tells Locke that he will have a tattoo made of the signature. (A later encounter with the same man proves the truth of his boast.) One by one the crowd drifts away and another day's work is finished for Richard Locke, erotic entrepreneur.”

Amazing, and so exciting! Joan Crawford would have been thrilled (perhaps more by the method rather than the content!). Richard, like she did, was working a publicity machine, one of his own making. And he understood that what fuels that machine are the fans and their fantasies, hopes, and dreams. The young man with the tattoo in the quote above was living embodiment of these emotions.

Yet, unlike Joan, he skillfully kept his “divo-hood” on the screen, but at the same time let that larger-than-life screen persona become real in the flesh when he appeared live in that brief moment of ecstasy.

Some say home video (and then the internet) and the tragedy of AIDS killed this world. Perhaps, on the surface, yes.

But in hindsight I think it's a deeply complex issue revealed in today's cultural climate as red carpet events still unfold, and the culture of celebrity has become something like a 24/7 fuck fest. But the cinematic magic that thrives on finely-crafted illusion that elicits an audience's deeper intellectual and emotional responses gets lost in a weird combination of special effects and banal cynicism.

The great porn stars like Al Parker and Richard Locke created and crafted a visual and sexual magic in their films and in their performances and in their audiences.

Bette Davis said in her movie The Star, “If you're a star you don't stop being a star.” And thanks in great part to the Bijou Video's preservation and revitalization of their legacies, Al and Richard still shine.

Look for their movies on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com, including our brand new release The Best of Richard Locke!

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In Memoriam: Chuck Renslow

 

 

Young Chuck Renslow


Chuck Renslow, a legendary figure in LGBTQ history, passed away on June 30, 2017, at the age of 87. 

The the whole leather contest circuit actually began in a leather bar, the famous/infamous Gold Coast founded by Renslow. I know one person who remembers this bar; he is in his eighties (hard to believe). 

Much has been written on this place of LGBT history already; I’ll just add that it seems to be the granddaddy of places where like-minded men could meet others who shared their sexuality. 

Much of what is perhaps now the traditional dynamic of gay leather bars originated there: the leather biker look, the rough sex and BDSM, the hypermasculinity revealed in the famous artwork of Etienne aka Dom Orejudos, lover of Renslow now displayed in the Leather Archives and Museum
 

Gold Coast Mural

The Gold Coast closed in 1988 (alas, I never went there) at the 5025 North Clark location, having moved from its original location at 501 North Clark Street. Renslow later opened the Chicago Eagle in the 1990s; I remember the entrance being the inside of a truck, and the basement Pit. 

I actually consider this place my “coming out” bar as a leatherman. I was flogged in public down there, my first big BDSM scene. The Eagle closed in the early 2000s; the last time I went there was 2007; by that time the totally hot Pit had closed. 

Without Renslow's pioneering efforts that date back to the times when homoerotic muscle magazines were considered obscene by the government, the LGBTQ leather community might not even exist; in fact, he always showed the courage to navigate and eventually surmount oppressive political and social systems in that pre-Stonewall time when to even operate a gay bar one had to pay off the Mafia, when gay sex itself was illegal, a crime against nature. 

I consider his immense legacy (just look at his obituary) an inspiration, not just to LGBTQ persons, but to any marginalized group fighting for the right to full human dignity. 

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