[1985] Gay-ety in T-Town, Early Gay History and Bars, 1940's- 1985


[1985] Gay-ety in T-Town, Early Gay History and Bars, 1940's- 1985


Gayly Oklahoman, June 1985 article by Toni Broaddus reviewing gay bar history and other events including the formation of Tulsa Gay Community Caucus (TGCC) and Oklahomans for Human Rights (OHR).


Toni Broaddus with the Gayly Oklahoman


Gayly Oklahoman


Gayly Oklahoman


June 1985


Gayly Oklahoman



far holds the record. Recently remo­ deled,the Bamboo still operates on the same side of town where it has been for

Oat of the Closet Into the Fire)

Since he had already las his job, John became the primary speaker for TGCC's newly formed Speaker's Bureau, appearing before churches and civic groups.

by loni broaddus
The vertical file in the Tulsa Library


relations to be

seen with a

Ttm Tumer is well known around Tulsa as the owner of Tim's Playroom.

"John was very upfront," says Tay Clare, a member of TGCC's inceptive

labeled "Homosexuality " contains few­
er than thirty articles clipped from the Tulsa World and Tulsa Tribune. The earliest is dated August 1976; the head­ line reads "Homosexual Arrests In­ crease at Mohawk Park." Other arti­ cles discuss a proposed civil rights ordinance requested by the gay com­ munity,claims of police harassment by patrons of gay bars, clergymen views

an OHR swimming party.
The most thorough Journalism in­ cluded is a series of three articles by Keo Jackson on the entire front page of the City/State section of the Sunday World dated July 11, 1982. The first article estimates a gay population in Tulsa of 50,000 people, further predict­ ing that the "subculture ... will double in number by 1990." The second article, "Gay Pride Replaces Stereotype," is filled with positive comments by John Willis (owner ofZipper's) and Rev.Alice Jones (of MCC in Tulsa), as well as mentions of gay bars, activities, and organizations. The final article tells us
that the '"Fruit Loop'Showcases Dark
Jackson's account ot gay\itein 'Tu\sa

legally. Bootleg whiskey was available, of course; M.C.sold it out of a briefcase in half-pints.
The Blue Haven was located south­ west of Tulsa, near what is now Town West Shopping Center. It was one of four gay bars in Tulsa at the time­ though it also had a weekday hetero­ sexual clientele comprised of nearby residents. M.C. explains, "(Gays) couldn't come out on weeknights. Back in those days, not everybody had
didn't have cars."
So the gay community hung out downtown,sometimes at the Blue Note on Denver,more often at the St. Moritz. The St.Moritz was located in the center of the block where Cathey's Furniture is today, and according to M.C.,was "the number one place to go." Lesbians had their own bar, the Milwaukee Tavern, which was somewhere in the vicinity of 15th and Cincinnati.For the most part,

member of the oppostie sex.

"Bishop's Bar was quite gay-it was mixed," says M.C. "It was very typical (during that time) to find good places that were mixed. In other words, you didn't go into Bishop's Bar as a scream­ ing queen. You didn't go in there dressed in cutoffs. Women didn't even wear slacks in those days. " Indeed, the

Blue Haven, or even the few blocks over to the St. Moritz, where the jukebox played the big band sounds of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. Dancing, however, was not allowed: Oklahoma law prohibited dancing where beer was served.
After only about three months, the Blue Haven closed-a victim of the miles in a time when mobility was not eaS\\y attained.
Some time \ater, Thurman Glynn opened the Little Mexico Bar at about 18th and Boston. "That was a wild,
pissy-elegant place," rememoers M. C.

dows were Spanish style . . . they opened out. We crawled in and out of those windows because it was so crowded we couldn't get through the front door!"
Ah, the good old days.
Even in the early 40s, Tulsa had at least one gay bar. Called the Tropical Gardens, it was run by two sisters in what had once been a filling station.
M.C. Parker owns a book called Snoot If You Must which mentions The Tropical Gardens, though not by name. Copyrighted in 1943, the book was written by writer and publisher Lucius Beebe, who visited Oklahoma many times to see his lover, who had been drafted and stationed here.
Beebe writes: "Tulsa was not without its charms. There was, for instance, a nightclub that had formerly been a gasoline filling st· ation and beer flowed out of all of-the compressed air hoses."
Time P.assed, but liqu9r by the drink didn't, and·many oTthe old bars closed

Before the Playroom, he managed The New Plantation,which was at 61st and Yale. And before that-he owned Jim's Anything Goes on 58th and Peoria­ whichcameafter The Queen of Heart's,
But his bar career started at Friend's Lounge. He had been married; he had been working in the construction busi­ ness. One day he went into Friend's - not knowing it was a gay bar. He played pool all afternoon with a group of les­ bians, who invited that night. Friend's owner, Tracy Mclaughlin, eventually hired Jim to bartend thei:�-..
Thq�.were the days of police harass­
ment. Cops seemed to show up at the gay bars whenever they were bored,

theycan't push us around like this.' And he never would hire attorneys. He went down and represented himself all ' the time and he usually won."
the war. In 1976, arrests we:re made in Mohawk Park for "soliciting to perform an unnatural sex act, outraging public decency, and sodomy." In 1977,thirteen men were arrested for Jayw�lking­
near a gay bar, of course.
A couple of gay organizations had been atteinped in Tulsa, but the one that put Gay TµIsa on the map was the Tulsa Gay Community Caucus.
In the early 70s, a series of hostile editorials appeared in the Tulsa World. "They were all very anti-gay, blatantly so, for no reason," remembers John, a co-founder of TGCC who soon became its primary leader and spokesman. "Gay Lib had never been whispered about in the city in any way."
The last editorial finally angered John to the point that he felt compelled to reply. He wrote a letter to the editor, a rebuttal which stated facts but never mentioned his own homosexuality.
"That's really kind of what started it, strange as it may seem," explains John about the beginnir-igs of TGCC. "There had always been problems ... as far as housing, and police harassment."
John's letter was printed the day he left for a two-week vacation. When he. returned,the embryo.group for TGCC was formed. John discussed the group and the situation with his boss, assur­ ing him that John would never bring the company name into it.
"It took them three weeks, but they figured out a way to get rid of me."

group. "He was absolutely the best
advocate for gay rights.!'
John received surprising support for his efforts-as well as some disappoint­
ing lack of support."We got more sup­ port from the non-gay community than
c ,
I ,1rt/1/ //II/If
TROPICAL GARDENS: Early 40s. Operated by two sisters in what had once been a tilling station.
ST. MORITZ: 1940s-50s. located on South Main. Was the place to go. Closed down alter a move in anticipation ot liquor by the
drink-which did not pass. I
BLUE NOTE: 40s-50s. located on North Denver.
BLUE HAVEN: Opened Nov. 1949 by M.C. Parker. Located in southwest Tulsa. Closed alter 3 months due to location.
MILWAUKEE TAVERN: 40s-50s. Lesbian bar. Located at about 15th and Cincinnati.
BISHOP'S BAR: 40s-50s. Located downtown. M\xed crowd but a popular gay hangout.
LITTLE MEXICO: Late 50s. Owned by Thur·

THE D06HOUSE: Owned by Bob Johnson.
TAJ MAHAL: Late 50s. Original location downtown. Manager and his lover were mur­

the 11th Street location vacated by the 8th Day.
ZE••Ar Downtolliin, .-,,,., ,,_ __. ,,_, the Ta/.
Pink pool tallle.
• IIIMIOO LOU#IE: Opened early 60s. Owned by Gene Covington. Still operating-oldest gay bar in Tulsa.
8th DAY Located on 11th Street al Lewis nexI door to. what is now a flower shop.
GALA: Lesbian owned. Women's bar with niixed clientele. Located in what is now Tim's Playroom. First private club. Only entrance in the back.
SKOO-BEE-DO: Owned by Paul Scott.
FRIEND'S LOUNGE: Owned by Tracy Mclau· glin. Later called Tracy's, the New Edition.
TIFFANY CLUB: Opened early 70s.
QUEEN OF HEARTS: Opened 1974. Owners: Tim Turner and Paul Magruder.
TIM'S ANYTHIN6 60ES: Owned by Tim Turner. 58th and Peoria.
NEW PLANTATION: Owned by Tom Olson. managed by Tim Turner. 51st and Yale.
• THE CLUB: Opened by owners of Gala. 12th and Memorial. Lesbian bar-originally attended by gay men also. Now called The Rustic Club.
• TIM'S PLAYROOM: Owned by Tim Turner. Opened in July 1977. Located at 11th and Lewis under the Meadow Gold sign.
• ZIPPER'S: Owned by John Willis. 33rd and Yale. Opened in 1979- ,
• SEEKER'S CHOfCE: Lesbian bar on Admiral at Memorial.
TULSA MINING CO.: On 11th Street. First alter-hours bar. Now Schlitzy·s.
• TOOL IOX: Near downtown. Western bar.
• OVER THE RAINBOW: At 11th and Garnett. Owned by Arlene Benson. Tulsa's largest les· bian bar-though clientele is mixed.
• DANTE'S: Owned by Mark trom L.A. Located

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fifteen years, begun to speak. We are Ieru-ning to take care of ourselves.
Tulsa, perhaps, is growing up with us.

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ment-which meant that comparues . .

baTsihseoffirssetxsutaelpp. reference. It passed. ideUanwfoarsttuoncaotenlys,idtehrethoenlOy rsdteinpa. nIcf et-he

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proaches to the issue.
community for the most part indicated

which offered gays the only legal pro-

abnu!olduintrgein northeast a. MC� offers

that they would not or had not discrim­

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1973·74 Dianne

ln i978 Jim Imhofe is quoted in the

guestrsappeagkreorusp,s,nad children's church,

ordinance protecting homosexuals.



a socials. It ministers

poSpiuxltayt-ionefelpt ethrcaet ngt of the general though the m jority believed th t gays


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gwe did from the gay community. The

should not beate chers or ministers.




waeyrecpoemrcmeuivneitdy was very hostile. We

less discaryimcionmmunity itself reported

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Open 7 p.m. Nightly
(located inside TIM'S PLAYROOM Special Sidewalk Sale - June



Toni Broaddus with the Gayly Oklahoman, “[1985] Gay-ety in T-Town, Early Gay History and Bars, 1940's- 1985,” OKEQ History Project, accessed June 25, 2024, https://history.okeq.org/items/show/581.