Monday, July 27, 2015

India's first lesbian helpline

Workers at the Lesbian Helpline in Tamilnadu, India, posted by the Indian Community Welfare Organisation.
Workers at Lesbian Helpline, Tamilnadu, India
India's first lesbian helpline

Location: Chennai, India

Opened: February 2009

Closed: May still be technically in existent, but apparently not really functional

In the U.S., Canada, et. al, lesbian hotlines and helplines started popping up in the 1970s. With the rise of the Internet, loss of volunteer interest, apathy, other alternatives, etc., they gradually withered away.

In India, the first lesbian helpline just got started about six years ago. But just as we see with all sorts of womyn's spaces in the western countries, this particular "space" was quickly infiltrated and overrun by men. Basically destroyed before it could even get started.

From the New York Daily News, February 5, 2015:

India's first lesbian phone helpline is being swamped with calls by curious men.

More than 80% of people who dial in to the Chennai-based service are actually males, reports Gay Star News.

Volunteer Aksma said many try to get contact numbers for gay women while others just want to find out more about same-sex female relationships.

"Some call up and say they have a sister or wife or a relative who is attracted to women. Finally, they ask for contact numbers of lesbians," the 24-year-old boxing coach told the Times of India.

"When we ask them to pass the phone to the woman, they refuse. A few men ask questions like how women are attracted to other women and how it is to be in a relationship," she added.

The weekend helpline was launched by the Indian Community Welfare Organization in February 2009 after a lesbian couple committed suicide in Chennai.
It now handles around 25 calls per day from across the state of Tamil Nadu — and also from south Indians who have settled in cities across the world, including London.

Psychiatrist Dr. Vasantha Jeyaraman, who works at Global Hospital, said the callers' curiosity was "not abnormal."

"Some men would get pleasure out of making such calls or few would want to try their luck while some heterosexuals would want to ridicule the women," he told the Times of India.

"It could be anything but only irresponsible men would make such calls," he added.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Karangahape Road Girl's Club

women at the KG Club 1974
KG Club (1974)
Karangahape Road Girl's Club

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Opened: 1971

Closed: 1979?

From a piece called Queen City: A Secret History of Auckland:

And who remembers the KG Club – the Karangahape Road Girl’s Club or the Kamp Girls Club? It was New Zealand’s first ever lesbian social club, founded by Raukura Te Aroha “Bubs” Hetet, in late 1971. It met in a variety of private homes before opening in Beach Road and then moving to the corner of Karangahape Road and Hereford Street, where it had a sterling reputation for boisterous parties.

And also from New Zealand or Bust:

Here’s what I’ve found out about the KG Club, or Kamp Girls Club, one of the first, if not the first, lesbian social clubs in New Zealand.

Queer people in New Zealand did not begin to regularly describe themselves as “gay” until the 1970s. Prior to that, queers used the word “kamp.“ The term comes from the acronym used by Australian police to label gay men “Known As Male Prostitute.” Despite its negative roots, "kamp” was embraced by gay men and lesbians in Australia and then in New Zealand. Usage continued into the 1970s.

By the late 1960s, lesbian social culture had the right ingredients to thrive. Kamp women recognized cities as the best places to meet other women and as more people moved to urban areas, public kamp communities formed. News of the fight for gay liberation and information about lesbian clubs abroad inspired New Zealand lesbians to organize. Sports such as hockey and softball became very popular among kamp women, bringing teams and fans together to socialize.

To meet the needs of this blossoming culture, the Kamp Girls Club was established in late 1971 as a social club meeting in private homes in Auckland. One of the women who hosted the club at her house tells her story in Alison J. Laurie’s doctoral thesis. Raukura (Bubs) Te Aroha Hetet’s group of kamp women got together to sing, play guitars, eat and drink. Bubs soon established the first rented location for the KG Club in 1972 on Karangahape Road.

Lesbians met at the Kamp Girls Club after sports games or to attend dances in this women-only space. There was even a newsletter for the patrons, named after the club, published in 1977 and 1978.

Documentary-style fine art photographer, Fiona Clark, who has photographed many points of queer cultural significance, snapped some shots in 1974 (including the above image).
women at the KG Club 1974

women at the KG Club 1974

During the 1970s, the KG Club moved locations, existing at venues on Beach Road, Hereford Street and Albert Street. In 1979, the KG club relocated from Beach Road to the corner of Karangahape Road & Hereford Street, which I believe is its last rented location.

This is the building today. The club existed on the second floor.
531-535 Karangahape Road

I’m looking forward to paying tribute to the Kamp Girls Club in person in a few months.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bookie Joint for Women

Bookie Joint for Women

Location: 5057 Lake Park Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Opened: Between 1928-1930

Closed: 1938

One of the odder women-only spaces we've ever posted on.

From the Chicago Tribune's Dangerous dames and good-time gals:

Emeline Poshil and Bernice Sheppard (1938)

Miss Emeline Poshil, 51, left, and Miss Bernice Sheppard, 25, at the State's Attorney's Office after both were arrested for owning and operating a bookie for women on Oct. 19, 1938. According to the Chicago Tribune, Miss Sheppard was looking after the place, located at 5057 Lake Park Avenue, for her mother Mae, who was out watching a horse that she owned at the track. The Sheppard mother and daughter team, along with Poshil who was a clerk, had run the bookie for women for eight or ten years. "The ladies were nibbling jelly rolls and sipping soft drinks and coffee," according to the newspaper, when State's Attorney axmen came busting into the betting establishment for discriminating women. Detective Daniel Moriarty and his fellow axmen were ill at ease arresting the women with Moriarty later saying "I was a little embarrassed." The headline read "Axmen Toast Ladies With A Bang Up Party; Axmen Wreck Handbook Run By Women." — Chicago Tribune historical photo, Feb. 27, 2014

Monday, July 13, 2015


Patricia Highsmith at 21

Location: Macdougal Street, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1930s-1940s

I have found exactly one reference to L's. That was in a December 2009 New York Times article on the lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith. The article discusses a lot of the places where Highsmith used to go in the 1930s and 40s, when she lived in New York's Greenwich Village. A brief selection:

A few blocks east is Macdougal Street, the home of some of Highsmith’s other favorite, now extinct, hang-outs like the Jumble Shop, a Prohibition-era tearoom she and [Judy] Holliday (then Judy Tuvim) went to in high school and L’s, a lesbian bar where she would later troll for lovers. Macdougal is also where the cop Clarence Duhamel in “A Dog’s Ransom” stays with his girlfriend.

Where Macdougal meets Waverly Place stands the refurbished Washington Square Hotel, formerly the Hotel Earle, a seedy spot that both Highsmith and her mother often checked into when visiting New York later in life. It was the scene of many of Highsmith’s seductions and the inspiration for her short story “Notes From a Respectable Cockroach.”

I'm wondering, though, if "L's" wasn't a shorthand for Louis' Luncheon at 116 MacDougal Street. From an NYC Landmarks Commission report on the "20th Century Lesbian Presence" in South Village Historic District, Manhattan:

By the 1920s, the South Village emerged as one of the first neighborhoods in New York that allowed, and gradually accepted, an open gay and lesbian presence. Eve Addams’ Tearoom at 129 MacDougal Street was a popular after-theater club run in 1925-26 by Polish-Jewish lesbian emigre Eva Kotchever (Czlotcheber), with a sign that read "Men are admitted but not welcome." Convicted of "obscenity" (for Lesbian Love, a collection of her short stories) and disorderly conduct, she was deported. Later popular lesbian bars were: Louis’ Luncheon (1930s-40s), 116 MacDougal Street; Tony Pastor’s Downtown (1939-67), 130 West 3rd Street, which was raided on morals charges in 1944 for permitting lesbians to "loiter" on the premises, but survived with mob backing until the State Liquor Authority revoked its license in 1967; jazz club Swing Rendevous (c. 1940-65), 117 MacDougal Street; Ernie’s Restaurant/ Three Ring Circus (c. 1940-62), 76 West 3rd Street; Mona’s (c. late 1940s-early 1950s), 135 West 3rd Street, later The Purple Onion (c. 1965-72); Pony Stable Inn (c. late 1940s-1968), 150 West 4th Street, remembered by African-American lesbian poet Audre Lorde in Zami; and Bonnie & Clyde’s (c. 1972-81), 82 West 3rd Street.
I believe all these other places have been posted on before--except for Louis' Luncheon.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rose's Lesbian Boarding House

Rose's Lesbian Boarding House
Rose Hovick
Rose Hovick

Location: West End Avenue, New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: 1930s

Rose's Lesbian Boarding House is one of those absolutely random finds--you're looking for one thing, but you get distracted by something else, and on it goes.

Those of you who are into American musical theater probably remember Gypsy, which was based on the 1957 memoir of "striptease artist" Gypsy Rose Lee. The book (and subsequent musical and movie) introduced us to Rose Hovick, who has become immortalized as the ultimate stage mother.

Yet Rose did something rather interesting in later life, which was running a lesbian boarding house (and possibly a lesbian farm as well, depending on the source).

This boarding house is mentioned in a number of sources related to Gypsy Rose Lee, but unfortunately, all of them are brief, rather cryptic, and somewhat contradictory.

From Jewish Currents:

Gypsy’s mother, Rose Hovick, ran a lesbian boarding house in New York and shot and killed one of her lovers when she made a pass at Gypsy.

From Historylink:

Madam Rose died in 1954. Her last words threatened her daughter Louise, promising to drag her daughter into death with her. In later years, Rose had run a lesbian boarding house and farm. One of her guests was shot at a party, and the verdict was suicide, but Lee’s son, Erik Preminger, is quoted in a Vanity Fair article saying that the victim was Rose’s lover, and that Rose killed her in front of many witnesses after she made a pass at Gypsy.

From Hub Pages:

According to her sister Belle, she blackmailed, or begged her daughters for money and gifts, often showing up to visit dressed in ragged clothing and claiming to be poor. In the meantime she was running a Lesbian boarding house, and Gypsy had rented her a farm.

In one of his biographies of the family he grew up in grandson Erik Lee Preminger alleges that Rose actually shot and killed a guest for making a pass at Gypsy, also alleging the person shot was Rose's lover. Obviously, with the internet and research, again, more than one story. In some accounts it is a boarding house guest, in others the guest is decidedly a male and a guest at a party.

Sometimes, it is claimed that daughter Louise (Gypsy) rented the boarding house. From Wikipedia:

Later on in her life, her daughter Gypsy Rose Lee rented both a farm in Highland Mills, New York and a lesbian boardinghouse in a ten-room apartment on the seedy West End Avenue in Manhattan. At some point, one of the guests made a pass at the visiting Gypsy (according to Erik Preminger, her son by director Otto Preminger), who was said to be Mother Rose's own lover, and in a jealous rage Mother Rose shot the lover/guest dead. This incident was publicly explained as a suicide.

One of the fullest description seems to be from Matt & Andrej Koymasky:

Rose (or Mama Rose, as she is best known), who was Jewish and lesbian, had married John Hovick, a newspaperman, at the age of fifteen, and was the classic example of a smothering stage mother who insistently pushed her two daughters into stardom: stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc; Gypsy's story about lives of the three women became the a 1959 hit musical, Gypsy: A Musical Fable.
Rose was no longer bothering with men. She had, as Havoc would write, 'turned toward her own sex,' at first running a lesbian boardinghouse in a 10-room apartment Gypsy rented for her on West End Avenue, and then running a sort of lesbian farm in her country house in Highland Hills. At a party in that house, Rose pulled another gun, this time on one of the girls. She killed her. Because Gypsy was a star, it was covered up. "There were a lot of people there when it happened". says Erik Preminger [Gypsy's son], who had heard the same story from three people. "The girl was Rose's lover and she made a pass at my mother."
Gypsy Rose Lee, her daughter, born around 1910 and died from cancer in 1970. The only living Hovick was June Havoc (nee Hovick), her other daughter, who was born in around 1915.

Boz Hadleigh in Broadway Babylon throws a brothel into the mix:

In the Broadway version [of the musical], after Louise blossoms into a relatively demure stripper and strikes out on her own, it's suggested that Mama (never referred to as "Mama Rose") could open an acting school for kids, to keep occupied. In reality, Rose Hovick wound up running a lesbian boarding house and brothel. This was revealed in June Havoc's second autobiography, More Havoc, published in 1980, by which time The Topic could finally be broached (her first book, Early Havoc, in 1959, was a sisterly attempt to grab back some of the limelight from Gypsy, whose memoirs had angered June less than the resultant hit musical).

June's mother had informed her, "Sex is dirty because men are dirty." As for her lesbian tenants, Rose warned, "Don't you dare feel superior to those girls. At least they have the good sense to know they can't get pregnant with spit!"

But just to add to the confusion,  Carolyn Quinn in Mama Rose's Turn, The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother, isn't convinced there ever was a lesbian boarding house:

Then there was the story that Rose, who had rented out rooms, probably for less than a year, in her Manhattan apartment to ladies who quite possibly had been lesbians, had run a "lesbian boarding house." No one who knew of Rose's love for the almighty buck could have ever bought into the idea that Rose would have turned away paying customers based on their sexual orientation. Paying customers of every orientation made Rose's heart sing.

Quinn also doubts that Rose ever shot and killed any woman lover in said boarding house.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hermitage Ladies Restaurant

Ad for the Hermitage, New York Times,
January 24, 1910
Hermitage Ladies Restaurant

Location: 42nd Street and 7th Avenue (Time Square), New York, New York, USA

Opened/Closed: c. 1910

We haven't posted on a ladies restaurant in a while, and it seemed like time.

Hotel Hermitage (1915)
Separate eating and drinking establishments for ladies and gentlemen were fairly common in the years before Prohibition.

Though ladies escorted by gentlemen were no doubt admitted into the ladies restaurant, but ladies were not admitted into the Gentlemen's Café and Grill whether they were escorted or not.

Still a familiar double standard when it comes to womyn's space.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Behind the BarsThe Hollywood

Location: 304 West 4th Street, Austin, Texas, USA (later 113 San Jacinto)

Opened/Closed: 1980s through 90s

Hollywood is mentioned in an Austin Chronicle article on lost gay and lesbian bars.

The first gay bar I went to was in Dallas. I didn't drink or smoke. I was real naive. I was like, "What is this scene ...?" But they played ABBA, and I was like: "Cool! I like Abba! OK!" It was real confusing. I was more into seeing shows. I went to clubs like Club Foot. There was kind of a crossover. Androgyny was being played with a lot at that time. "Oh he's the straightest guy there is, but he likes to look like Eno!" There were all these weird crossed signals, and then if you went to a gay bar, everybody looked totally like John Travolta. We liked going to the Hollywood because they played soul. We thought, "This is pretty cool." We'd go there on the way to the Ritz to have a couple of drinks before a show. My friend was so confused. He'd get frustrated. He would be like, "Oh, that guy is sooo cute, and I was like, "That's a girl." – Dan Plunkett, owner of End of an Ear Records

I hated the Hollywood. The thing about the Hollywood, that was a place where there was gonna be fights. It was in 1984. I did Deborah Hay's big group dance thing, and there was this one movement, and I'm on the dance floor, doing my dance. Whatever. We were doing some crazy dances; I hung out with dancers. And this girl kicked me in the head! 'Cause, granted, I had this move where my head was down, but I was like, "Did you just kick me in the head?" And she said, "Yup." And I said, "Well, why?" And she said, "'Cause you're dancing funny," in a really defiant way, and I remember going out into the parking lot and crying. Crying my eyes out. You know what? Many people will tell you about a gay bar where the end of the story is "I was in the parking lot crying!" I never went back to the Hollywood. – Gretchen Phillips

Crying is not the worst thing that ever happened in the Hollywood parking lot. A lesbian was shot to death here in March 1980. Unfortunately, the most comprehensive reference I can find to the incident consists of two sentences at Gay History Wiki:

Carol Oetting was killed by a single shot to the head as she was parking her car at “The Hollywood”, a lesbian bar in Austin, Texas. Police reported that they had discovered no suspect or motive.

Not surprisingly, the murder does NOT show up on any LGBT lists of hate crimes that I can find, even though it took place in the parking lot of a lesbian bar. Unfortunately, this kind of erasure is not uncommon when it comes to the murder of lesbians.