Monday, April 04, 2016

Betty Neeley OLOHP Book Complete

One year ago, after consulting with the Women who run the OLOHP project, we began a project to document Betty Neeley's life story. This website really began with Betty so it is appropriate that her story is the first one captured for OLOHP in St. Louis.

The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project began in 1997 when Arden Eversmeyer started working with women she knew who were ill and dying in her area, Houston, Texas. She began collecting stories from friends as she traveled. And now, she and others are working to collect the life stories from Lesbians 70 and older wherever they are found and whenever they are willing to share them.

The project provides digital recorders and over the course of the spring and summer, I and four others conducted multiple interviews with Betty. Each interview was loaded on to the computer and sent to OLOHP. These digital recordings were then turned over to OLOHP professional transcribers.

We eventually received a copy of the transcript and reviewed for errors and such. We worked together to provide some footnotes on several important memories. We also digitally scanned a number of Betty's photos and memorabilia to send to the Project team. The final product, a nicely bound book was presented to Betty on April 3rd at Lily's Social House during a History discussion brunch she was hosting. A copy will also go to the Archives at Smith College, a copy will be maintained by OLOHP and a copy goes to the St. Louis LGBT History Project.

New OLOHP Website

St. Louis LGBT History Project

Saturday, March 26, 2011


In July of 2013, I heard about this history project while volunteering as a part of SAGE St. Louis to support the Regional OLOC conference. What a privilege it was to volunteer and I got to meet so many great lesbian pioneers.

Within the book, "Without Apology" by Arden Eversmeyer and Margaret Purcell are stories of older lesbians born between 1917 and 1939.
PO Box 980422
Houston, Texas 77098


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Project Overview-St. Louis Lesbian History

St. Louis Lesbian History Project


I started this research when I was taking some graduate history coursework at UMSL in hopes I might have enough to write an article. But I found it difficult to find more than a couple individuals to interview so I thought I would just do a blog since this is really just for fun. I will leave it to the professionals some day to pull it all together.

A book called “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold” which is a lesbian history of Buffalo NY focusing on the forties and fifties particularly inspired me. Two women worked on the project for over ten years, which gives me some idea of the magnitude of a project like this. I am not so ambitious to think that I will end up with anything like that. But I hope to record what I can.

If you are interested in participating in this project in any way, please contact me via e-mail at

Here is also a great article in the Riverfront Times of St. Louis


Monday, September 20, 2010

Lisa's Story

Lisa is a very femme woman as are many of her friends. She came out in 1977 and her first bar was the "Middle of the Road". She was in cosmotology school and so knew lots of gay men and hung out with them. She didn't always know she was gay but when she came out, it felt right.  She remembers a place called Red Bull on St. Louis Ave in East St. Louis. It had a dance floor and a DJ. Downstairs there were drag shows that featured a long list of St. Louis favorites. Some were big time names. She does not have many pictures of the bars as no one in those days wanted their pictures taken, neither the bar owners nor the patrons.  She remembers her first kiss with a woman, it was on a Wednesday night, at the $5 beer bust. She desribed it this way

a woman from the group stopped me pushed me agaisest a wall and kissed me like I have never been kissed before and alas , started a new wonderful feeling , I kissed a girl and I liked it (Katy Perry) ..."

Following is more of her story in her own words. I have a number of photos she sent that I am hoping to post. Right now, I am encountering some technical permission issues with the download.

So from there it was a mixed crowd and then at least at my time , their were still the bars that hated men and vice versa , but I was still that fag hag so to speak not yet sure of what I felt , I liked it all in my time the guy's still wanted to try women and the woman loved the cute guy's sort of twisted , but thats thats the way it was still butch and femme , but a little more libreal, diffrent time , their were even drag queens that married drag kings (yes ) not alot , but I knew a few lot's of those people are gone due to AIDS....But that's later into to my early 30s , I am now 22 , I finally started to have stong feelings for woman , but I really was not into the stone cold butch thing... I girled all my lovers up alittle so I chased a few , this was Faces now and things were changeing ... I was a faces one night my girlfriend and I were not getting along ( ha Ha ) lot's of jelouisy back then I think due to the role playing , if a woman was with a butch and she had been staight that was a medal of honer for the butch girl . Anyway I looked at this women told my girlfriend , I was going home with her and ofcourse the traier backed up and thier was 8 yrs of my life that's the way , but being so young I could not be faithful to one person nor could she we I think many women of that time (the 80's) were free ....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Conversations with Betty

Original Interview

What was it like to be a lesbian in St. Louis during the 1950s? To give us some perspective, I spent time talking to a few incredible lesbians who had this experience. Our first interview features Betty, who was born in 1936 and began to enter the bar community during her teen years. One of the most remarkable changes she described is the gay community relationship with the police. During her early years, it was not uncommon to be in a bar that was raided. The police would come in and make arrests, taking the unlucky individuals away in a Black Mariah. Betty was usually charged with impersonating a male and because she dated prostitutes (a habit that was quite common during this era), she might even get a shot of penicillin at city hospital and be charged with prostitution. You could be held for 24 hours on suspicion and she estimates that she was arrested 4-5 times. Before the feminist movement, the butch-femme dynamic was all encompassing. Everyone had to choose which role to take. Betty, of course, was a butch. I found while reading other studies of lesbians during this era that it has been difficult to locate the stories of femmes. Many of them are no longer active in the gay community and thus, more difficult to locate. Betty reported that it was uncommon for a femme to go out to the bars alone. If there was dancing, it was incumbent on the butch to do the asking. I am hoping to track down more information on some of the bars that Betty remembers: The Goldengate was a men’s bar in the are of Olive and Grand, near Gaslight Square. It had a large serpent on the wall as part of its d├ęcor. Janey’s restaurant, which later became El Serape, was located on the southside of Olive near Grand. Shelley’s bar, which was owned by an older straight couple, had music in the form of a piano. It was a small place and upstairs there was entertainment and sometimes jazz. Betty remembers someone by the name of Rusty Warren who performed there and was a humorist as well as a jazz musician. The photographs in the bar post feature a number of lesbian bars or former locations that were made during a tour of St. Louis that Betty led. She shared many memories of each of these bars and described how integral to the community these places really were. Betty's CB was the first lesbian bar that she ever went to and on her very first visit, it was raided. Some older lesbians pushed her out the back window and that time, she escaped arrest. That was particularly fortunate, since she was underage. Betty is the key source of information and contacts for this project and her story will continue to be told as I proceed with this project. In later years, Betty became very involved in Team St. Louis.

Here is there new web site:

I received a note from James Hawkins who owned several bars in St. Louis and remembers Rusty Warren. Here is his note

 " On your blog you mentioned Rusty Warren. She did perform at Shelly's Bar. It was rumored she got her start at there. She became one of the funniest comedians through out the US and was a headliner in Las Vegas for many years. She never forgot her roots. When she was appearing in Saint Louis she would make it a point to hit the gay bars. I will never forget the first time she came to The Red Bull she and her girl friend pulled up in a Rolls Royce.                You can pull her up on YouTube at

Rusty Warren - Lady Behind the Laughs            She was one wild and funny lady."

James also opened a bar called the Glory Hole and here is a copy of his original note to me:

"My name is Jim Hawkins. Jerry Edwards and I opened The Red Bull in East Saint Louis and The French Market in Saint Louis. For the past several months I have been writing a book on the experiences we had while we were in business.  I'm trying to find photos that anyone might have of any of our businesses in that time period from 1968 on.

Photos in gay bars at that time are extremely rare. After seeing your Blog I knew you were the one I needed to contact. I have lived in Jacksonville,Florida for many years and have lost contact with so many of the people I knew in Saint Louis. If you know of anyone who may have any photos please contact me and Thank You for your time. Jim Hawkins email"

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Laura's Story

Laura was born on Oct. 6, 1945 and was raised in orphan homes throughout St. Louis. She knew that she was gay in grade school and her first relationship was during her HS years. Though she had a number of fleeting relationships, her first stable committed relationship was not until later in life, mid thirties. During her younger years, she was more interested in having fun and extremely busy, working, going to school and participating in politics at several levels.
She was the administrative assistant to a Soulard state rep during 1970’s and was active in 7th ward-low income politics. She has memories of many stereotypical smoky backroom political meetings. She also remembers that gay gathering places during the 1960s were dependent on connections to the mob or to members of the local police department.
She was also the first woman to graduate from Rankin Technical School and a long time building inspector for the city of St. Louis.
She has memories of a number of lesbian meeting places and many feminist groups that formed during the sixties and seventies such as women’s collectives. She remembers the following places and groups:
A Woman’s Place- a lesbian Center during 70’s, it was fire bombed at some point and was located near Compton and Louisiana (where Sears use to be). There was a bar on the first floor and upstairs, there were poetry readings and talks on lesbians and the law.
St. Louis Rape Support and Women’s Safehouse, which was started by lesbians.
Woman’s Eye Bookstore-originally located on Demun, near Concordia Seminary. It then moved to Delmar and in the basement was a food collective, a roofing collective and an auto repair collective.
There was a building on Lafayette, near Grand that was rented out to a lesbian feminist group by nuns for $1 year. This was the base of the St. Louis abused women’s support group and the first staff members were Vista Volunteers. This was during the 70s.
Wired Women evolved out of a group called Tomato Productions.
Les Talk, which was a community newspaper.

Laura also remembers the St. Louis NOW organization was dominated by lesbians. This was also a time when a few churches began welcoming gays and lesbians including the Unitarian Churches. She described her experience as a butch lesbian feminist. She found that she was often attacked from all sides but she tried to remain true to herself throughout. She described lesbian feminism as primarily a woman-centered life. Though, she was involved in male dominated fields such as politics and attending Ranken Technical School, her emotional and sexual energy was centered only on women, primarily lesbian women. But she was also involved in promoting the domestic violence protection bill and was later the civil rights commissioner for the city of St. Louis. She found herself alienated from affluent gay men.
She always found her political work created a sort of extended family and she later graduated from UMSL with a degree in the Administration of Justice. She had wanted to be a lawyer but felt that would require a compromise that she just couldn’t make. She was arrested several times during various political protests and at times felt anger at the lack of justice she saw in society but always tried to vent it in a positive manner. She felt a connection with the working class, women, minorities and her own community which she described as the queer community.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

CWE Photos

Blanches and the Southern Belle were on Sarah.
The Bowery was at # 8 Sarah

Some of the bar include Second Cousins, Silly Goose and Earl's. This is an approximate location?

The Loading Zone

The corner of Lindell and Euclis was a restaurant.

Herby's was where the Drunken Fish is located now.

Brandy's was at #14 Maryland Plaza

Ces and Judy's place was at #21 Maryland Plaza

                                                    Heffalumps was in the 300 block of Euclid

                                                                400 block of Euclid was the
                                         Bottom of the Pot for girls and Potpourri for guys during the 70's

Bar Photos Continued

This is all in the former Gas Light Square Area. There were many gay places here in 1962. There was a place called the Wedge, which was right around Olive and Theresa, 3400-3500 block. There was a place called Serapes and a girl's bar called Shelly's. There was the Onyx, then the Hitching Post, and the Golden Gate. There was also a coffee house. Today in this area, there are a few buildings, parking lots and a bowling alley.

Something was here: 3223 Olive

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Bar Photos

This is the general location of Twist and Hyperspace. 1221 Washington

Another possible for Heartbreak Hotel? This is next to Paddy O's.

We are all stumped as to the location of Heartbreak Hotel. We think it was on South Broadway, definitely near the stadium. It was the site of Wired Women dances in the eighties, after the ones at the Church on Waterman. This is a possible site but doubtful?

The oldest bar anyone seems to know of was a place call Uncle John's. Betty says it was open when she was in junior high. It was in the area of 7th and Pine. We believe the building was torn down when the Wainwright expanded.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bar Photo Tour with Jo

This was Studio 314 at 1730 Broadway, it had a big dance floor and closed as a gay bar about 2005. It is now Bar 101.

 The site of Hilary's, a piano bar many years ago-1017 Russell

        Bastille 1027 Russell

     Clementine's- the oldest gay bar in St. Louis 2001 Menard

           The French Market in Soulard

        The Library had country dancing in the 90's.

Griffiths was here in the 700 block of Lafeyette.

Lafeyette  Square-City Lights was in the back of Arcelia's. I was open in the90's. 1315 Mississippi
2280 Jefferson-The Heights

     2915 Jefferson at Pestalozzing-Cheryl's in the '90s.

Luvy Duvy's is a 2010 restaurant owned by lesbians on Jefferson at Arsenal.

We thought this might have been Monty's or Merv's. Steven Brawley tells me thought  that Monte's was where the McDonalds is now, at Jefferson and I-44.
This building pictured below is 3265 Jefferson. Was there a Merv's?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Random Notes on Bar History


The Front Page
Red Bull
The Grapevine-Mona's place, her gf was Jody
PK's on the main drag in E. St. Louis
Rainbow End in Collinsville, it became Circus Lounge
Smokey's in Springfield, Illinois
Zephyr-Granite City off route 3
Lil's Place-open 63-64
Bubby and Cissy's in Alton
The Stockyards-mixed


Bijou in the east end of the central west end. Believe it was open in 70's.
Dixie's was at Cass and Tucker, by the old bus station
There was a place at Chippewa and Bambrger in the '80s-drag shows including male impersonators
Grey Fox was on Spring
Sugar Shack on Telegraph and Lemay Ferry
Side Door 3 floors and the top was gay, it was on Market downtown?
Twist on Washington, straights took it over in the 70's, drag shows, maybe the same building as the Side Door?
More or Less
Middle of the Road-Newstead on the left, Mac McCann had it before More or Less-she did not like guys in the bars
Brandy's-in the CWE, near fountain and cobblestones, open a short time
Bottom of the Pot-Mickey Kline, across from Balabans, Potpourri was upstairs and was a guys place
Upstream on Lindell and Olive
French Market in Soulard, Margalita played organ and they held sing-alongs in the '70s, opened 1972?
"The Library" by the market in Soulard-country dancing
Pat's Bar became the Sahara, owned by Pat LaPlant
Shelley's-1956 Gas Light Square on Olive, straights and gays mixed
Golden Gate
Peyton Place
Grandma had a bar across from the bus station
The Kit Kat opened in 1962
Clementines is the oldest gay bar
Martin's, mostly guys, similar place to J. J.s guys from work in suits? closed in the 80s.
Girls bar in the space where Bad Dog is, by Magnolia's
The Heights
Hillary's-piano bar-Clements, winter '79, Soulard party mixed

Other gay places
Rex's on Olive, later moved to Michigan St.
Blanches Restaurant
City Cousin
Forest Park Hotel-breakfast-many gays went there, run by Herbie (not the one from the bar)

When Betty was in the 5th grade, she remembers two gay guys at school writing her a poem about seeing her at Uncle John's, it was on 7th street

St. Louis sites
Few gay people socialized with straights until the 80's.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

St. Louis Lesbian Bar Photos

This is Attitudes, owned by Jan and Bonnie. It has been open since the late eighties and is a lesbian bar with a younger crowd. It briefly became Pink during the early 2000s but is now Attitudes again.

The new Novaks Bar and Grill. This is the nicest gay or lesbian bar that St.Louis has ever seen. It could be mistaken for TGI Fridays and on any given Friday happy hour, you will see many straights who come to socialize with the fashionable gay set.

This is the former Novaks, now Spot.

This is the very recently opened and closed JaBoni's Restaurant. In an earlier incarnation, this location was another gay restaurant.

This is the site ofthe former Genesis. Today it is a Jiffy Lube. No one was sure of what made up Genesis I but we believed that it had previously been called the Grand Finale.

Genesis II was open during the early 1980's and closed in either 85 or 86. I was there the night that it closed. They sold tickets to stay until 3 AM but at 1 PM, the police came in and shut it down. I was scared but for no reason, we were not harrassed.

This bar was located in the Central West End. It was below the current Culpeppers and was open during the seventies. To quote someone who remembered the place, "The actual name was the Potpourri. Upstairs it was failry quiet and mostly men. Downstairs is where all the dancing and women were. It became known as the Bottom of the Pot but was never the name of the bar as far as I know. None of us cared for that nickname. "

It looks like this place has seen better days. This is a close up of Georgia's. It was opened a short time because there was a shooting there.

In this area, for a brief time, there were three of these lesbian bars opened, Betty's CB, Pat's Palace, and this place. They were all at the same intersection of California and Shenandoah.

This is a close up of the front door of Pat's Palace. This was a real party place and many Saturday afternoons was the hot spot for drinking parties.

Pat's Palace and was open much later but during the some of the same time as Betty's CB.

This is the location of Betty's CB which was opened in 1951. It was a no-touch bar. This placed stayed open until the 1970's.

This is the site of the Kit Kat club at Nebraska and California.
The address was 2802 California. This place was open until the eighties.

This is the location of a bar on Grand Avenue that was bombed during the 1970s. We believed that after the bombing, Giuseppes Restaurant expanded to fill the space. But we were not absolutely certain.