Looking Back on the (Tulsa) Bars, A Brief History, by Dick Suagee

Title

Looking Back on the (Tulsa) Bars, A Brief History, by Dick Suagee

Subject

Reflections of Tulsa Bars By Dick Suagee beginning with his arrival in Tulsa in October 1959 until November 1990.

Creator

Oklahoma Historical Society

Source

Oklahoma Historical Society

Publisher

Oklahoma Historical Society

Date

10/1959 to 11/1990

Contributor

Dick Suagee

Text


Thirty years on the Tulsa bar scene has been a long and winding road, to borrow a Beatles song tltle.
1959, IArwriavsingwelIcnomOedctobbyersucohf places as the Eighth bay and Gala, The Glory Hole, the Doghouse and a brand new one - that was the year Gene brought In the Bamboo.
The Beatles were soon to give the Eighth Day new significance with their "Eight Days a Week." Paul S's Glory Hole, with Its balcony and the whole works, was the first of 13 he would have in Tulsa. ihe straights ·had no Idea what a glory hole was, but newly arriving gays knew Instantly.
Bob White had the Eighth Day and Gala at the time, but Fran and Jodie soon would take over. Fran, a former lady wrestler, had no trouble keeping the peace, although some of the pieces did get out of hand once in a while.
Those were the days when the bars were mixed - girls and guys. I could be more specific by saying dikes and queens. The best fights were always by the dikes.
Shirley P. always used part of her Indian money on her birthday to throw a big party at the Gala. And those were the days when you always knew when it was about time to leave. Fran or Jodie would yell out, "Hotel, motel time."
C.J., Pe�gy's other half, put little differently. The Chicken C oop, still. open on Third Street,
was an after-hours eating place

BY DICK SUAGEE

for a lot of us. preceding Baker's by a few years.· And C.J. would regularly solicit business by yelling out, "Who's going to the Chicken Shit?" C.J., now deceased, was about as butch as they came, even sprouting a mustache once. Oh yes. she worked as a truck
· driver. And Peggy was as pretty a femme as you ever would see.
The Doghouse was on the corner of Seventh and Boulder, preceding the now-closed Holiday Inn by a few years. And If one of you was having a lovers' quarrel, it was a good place to wind up - In
the Doghouse, get. It's main decoration was a huge reprint of the famous painting of dogs of all breeds having a poker game.
Mt,CH,The Taj Mahal, which later l�ould be across the street In the middle of the same block, was not even a dream yet. Norma would bring it along In a few years, first as the Adams Hotel bar, and then Its more famous site on Seventh Street.
The Zebra Lounge, around the corner on Main Street, was a
·straight place. First "Bob" and then BIii Oliver would change that a few years later.
Getting back to Norma, some of the best bar stories ever came out of the Taj when she first opened it. Totally serious, she told the story of how some of her lady friends saw her downtown shopping and said they Just couldn't believe she was running a gay bar, to which she replied, ''Of course I am....All of my customers are happy."



The next t wo I heard myself, A young man with a University of Hawaii T-shirt, and obviously the timid type, walked In one afternoon during happy hour and sat at a table next to me. Norma came over to wait on him, and he looked up before ordering and asked, "Ma'am, Is It safe for queens in here?" Norma replied, "My Lord, yes, honey chlle, they have those In England. We don't
have them In this country." He got
up and ran.
Shortly after the Holiday Inn was opened across the street, a man who obviously had looked out the window and saw the bar, walked over. Janie, one of Norma's longtime friends, was working happy hour that afternoon•. Janie is about 4-foot-9, if she's that tall, and on the buxom side.
The visitor from across the street observed what was going on for a few minutes, and· to an outsider, some of It could have been pretty shocking, and then stood up. Making sure he had the floor, he said, "Obviously this Is a gay bar, but who is that (pointing
to Janie), Mickey Rooney In
drag?"
He finished his beer and left us with one of the best laughs ever. Janie took It In stride.
Paul S. (The Glory Hole) later would have the Scubldu Downtown, the Scubldu East, on Sheridan, the old Thelma's Club at First and Elwood, the Queen of Hearts at Third and Frisco, and on and on. Some didn't stay open long enough for the name to register. Paul played the trombone and 1iked
Contlnued... Page 11
-G- NOV. 1, 1990 PAGE 3





> get up a small musical group to rovlde enterta.inment, partlcu­ trly at the Downtown Scubldu on
,outh Main.
Gracie Y. would first enter
,e scene when Bill Oliver had the
�ebra downtown. Bill also would
,ave the Doors and Caruso's.
Gracie, · already . in her 'O's, played the piano · every
,aturday night. The oldies were
,er ·specialty, but she had a little 1ovelly number on the rlsque side vhcf would gladly play, putting
,vhoever's name was requested In
:he lyrics. It started out with the 1ame submitted, say. "James," and Nent like this: "James couldn't get
:t started•..11 The laughter started immediately and ''James" soon became embarrassed. But it was fun and we all loved it.
Gracie later moved her act to the Bamboo and most of us followed. It gave Gene a partner. He was a solo dancer of some merit in those days - I watched him dance from one end of the bar to the other one night to the complete Carole King "Corazon." He was not the Latin from Manhattan but he gave a
r=t�6 s
Getting back to Paul S. (Glory Hole), he took it upon himself to lead the "Jane Ann Jayroe Parade" after she became the state's second "Miss America"
- Norma Smallwood was the first. Paul had the Queen of Hearts at the time and regularly presented drag shows. And by far the best one who ever appeared was "Dawn Winters...
On this particular evening, three of his best-dressed drag queens rode on the back of his convertible, legs crossed, and waved to the huge crowd along the parade route. A sign on both sides read,"Come to the Queen of Hearts
- where boys will be girls.u The

.... BARS, continued
cops along the route seemed to get a bigger kick out of it than anyone.
And speaking of cops, many years later at Tim;s Playroom, once t�e Gala and then the place to go, two of them came In on ohe of the coldest nights of the year with a foot of snow on the ground and stood under one of the he�ll vents for what seemed like forever. The dance floor was packed for Sunday night happy hour.

Tom P., Pearl to many of us, suggested to me -that we walk
over and see what was going on. He knew both of them. "Looking for anything In particular," Tom asked, to which one of them replied, 0 Not a damn thing, Tom. It just happens that this Is one of. the warmest and safest spots in town right now."
Tl_m Turner gave us three good bars during his ·Tulsa run, before moving to Florida. The Playroom may have been the best Tulsa ever had.
And we can't forget Jimmy and Roy, who have give the Tool Box a totally different meaning than the one in your car trunk.
Tulsa's bars ·have been a never-ending song of love. Yes, there were some bad moments. I remember the time I watched Ronnie Dlttmore get in his old lover's oar In front of the Zebra. They had spent the evening inside trying to decide If there was enough left to start over again. The next morning I would read that Ronnie had been murdered. And two days later, another story told how the · ex-lover had killed himself on his father's grave in Kansas.
Tulsa's bars may never relive their old days. AIDS may have changed that forever. But the many fond memories will never die.



I will never forget Walt Carlton (cancer), Carl Nagel (cirrhosis), and Bruce Hower.ton. Wayne Galutza, Newcombe Cleveland, to name a few. They were so brave in death.
For . them, the long and winding road has ended. Our Job is to see that their trip wasn't In vain
- that we, as gay Tulsans, ca11 rise up and prove to this city that we are some its best .citizens.









Two Places You Must See Oral Roberta Prayer Tower & Genes Bamboo Lounge




mlb\lMOO@@ IL@QJJOO@I!!
7204 E. PINE 838-9323
NOO� - 2 AM DAILY
DOLLAR PITCHERS
SUNDAYS - OPEN TO CLOSE
$2.00 WELLS
$1.75 FROZEN DRINKS
$1.00 RATTLESNAKES









-G- NOV. 1, 1990 PAGE 11

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Citation

Oklahoma Historical Society, “Looking Back on the (Tulsa) Bars, A Brief History, by Dick Suagee,” OKEQ History Project, accessed February 27, 2021, https://history.okeq.org/items/show/582.