Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Chicago gay bars get their due

     Surprise! While I am now on vacation, I wasn't last Friday when I wrote this. It ran in the paper Monday, and I figure I can expend the minimal energy required to share it with you here, for those unfortunates who read my blog but do not also subscribe to the Chicago Sun-Times, a lapse I really ought to lecture you about someday, after the conclusion of my "One dozen destinations" series, which returns tomorrow.

     The library in my home office is arranged according to subject, with books about birds here, presidents there. There are 28 books by and about Dante, which might seem like a lot, until you realize there are ... counting ... 41 by and about James Thurber.
     Some could go several places. “Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall,” by Stcq, no period Sukie de la Croix could be on the shelves of books about Chicago. But I’ve segregated it amongst books on gay history, alongside George Chauncey’s excellent “Gay New York.”
St Sukie de la Croix
     A publicist pitched de la Croix, ballyhooing his new encyclopedia of Chicago gay bars, and I couldn’t resist the chance to talk with a man the Sun-Times once dubbed “the gay Studs Terkel.”
     I know my readership well enough to understand that if I introduce a man named St Sukie de la Croix, many will spend the entire column wondering, “What’s with the name?” and miss anything else he might say. So let’s get that out of the way. Besides, I was curious myself.
     “It’s now my legal name,” he began, in a British accent. “I occasionally wrote things for mainstream papers, so when I started writing for gay papers in England, I wanted to separate the writing, straight and gay. I picked a silly name. Then I seemed to be getting more work under the silly name, and when I came to this country, everyone called me ‘Sukie.’”
     I assumed that part of his name was sort of an obscene wink.
     “No, no, no, not at all,” he said. “Once, I was married with children, I went to a fortune teller on a pier in a seaside resort. She said, ‘You’re married and you have two children and you’re bent. One day you will become a writer, first meeting a man and will leave your wife.’ Her name was Madame Sukie.”

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  1. I go past two gay bars at Clark & Devon all the time.
    Nothing ever happens there, they appear to be boring from the outside, even though I understand one is a leather bar.

  2. With reference to the cheapskates whom Neil intends to "lecture" on their reluctance to cough up 2 bucks for a genuine original newspaper, I will continue to pay the going rate for the Sun-Times for as long as I can afford it, which may not be a whole lot longer once I quit making money at work and have to rely on Social Security to pay for food, housing, clothing, books, etc. I have to say, however, that the Sun-Times really pulled a nifty trick on us readers (and purchasers) by upping the Saturday paper to $2.00 and when we had gotten used to the $2.00 payment, upping the daily paper to $2.00. It worked. I can hardly remember the days when I could buy the Sun-Times, a heftier Sun-Times by the way, albeit because of the ads that have dwindled away, for a quarter of a dollar. Now that's inflation. Similarly, one could buy a pack of cigarettes for a quarter in the early 50s when I foolishly took up smoking, long sensibly abandoned after 20 years of ruining my lungs and not becoming as attractive to the opposite sex as Humphrey Bogart. Well, I will not willingly abandon my daily sojourn to purchase and peruse the real Sun-Times, printed on real paper and read by real people, not monitored by robots seeking consumer information.



  3. I remember Stcq from a "Chicago Stories" series on gay culture here BITD. He said CHI was a great place to be gay, then added "it's a great place to be anything!" My friends and I came downtown to dance regularly, even before we moved here: Exit, Smart Bar, Neo, Octagon, Exit, Club Foot, 950. I'd go w/dudes un-self-consciously; it wasn't like the Aragon in the '20s, "couples dancing." It was free dance, free form, whatever the term was. Until this column, I had not idea 950 was a "gay bar." It was just a fun bar.

  4. I'm old enough to remember The Bistro on Dearborn. Used to go there with girls of color in the late 70's as it was a safe space for such "outrageous" courtship.

  5. I went to a private party at 950 Wrightwood on New Year's Eve of 1978, during a huge snowstorm. Some kind of eastern European band was playing their asses off. I was with a gorgeous widow (whose husband had died during political unrest in Iran) and the eastern European hosts kept refilling our glasses with some kind of strong and clear Serbian booze.

    She kicked me out of her place for foolishly insisting on a sleepover, instead of being smart and suggesting mutual enjoyment. Got totally soaked and frozen. Never did connect with that gorgeous widow, who was still mourning her loss.

    My lucky number finally came up the following summer when I met my neighbor, who eventually became my first wife. Never went back to 950 Wrightwood. Did not know it was a gay bar. I thought it was a punk bar that later specialized in dance music. But maybe that was later.


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