Chuck Rodocker, owner of Touché: 'We were eight years into our run. [ Note: The bar was at 2825 N. Lincoln at the time. ] I can tell you that the bar scene has changed dramatically. We started pre-AIDS so we had to deal with many questions: Do you wash glasses? Do you use paper cups? Do you warn a trick that he's going home with an HIV-positive customer? Some people didn't want AIDS in the bars. AIDS created all sorts of political agendas—and all sorts of jobs. However, I feel that things have gone from fair to good in terms of societal acceptance. The one thing that amazes me, though, is that I never thought I'd be selling bottled water. We have good water, you know?'
Memories: Chuck Renslow
Chuck Renslow, entrepreneur, publisher of GayLife until it folded in 1986, owner of Eagle and Man's Country and other businesses: 'I remember that the [ annual ] White Party was held at Limelight, which was at the current location of Excalibur [ 620 North Dearborn ] . I was also active in assisting Second City in doing an AIDS benefit; I remember it was in May because it was just before International Mr. Leather. Also, like every other Chicagoan, I was following the Chicago Bears in the fall. [ The year they won the Super Bowl. ]
'At the time, I owned Gold Coast [ at 5025 N. Clark ] . It was amazing how AIDS affected the bar scene. It impacted promiscuous sex and cruising; in fact, the disease almost wiped out Man's Country. The city was closing bathhouses but let mine stay open because we did things like put out condoms and promoted [ safer sex ] awareness. I was losing business and I still am because I don't promote anything that's connected with anonymous, promiscuous sex.'
Memories: David Boyer
David Boyer, manager at Touché: 'I was managing Carol's [ on North Wells ] . The biggest change in the bar scene is that we're not the only social outlet for gays and lesbians. Back in 1985, people went to bars to [ feel comfortable ] . We didn't have as many restaurants where people could hold hands—as opposed to what we have now. You have so many more cultural outlets now. It's great to see that we don't have just one limiting aspect.
'Carol's was the largest, gay-owned dance club in the city. We had fantastic theme parties—Halloween parties, drag shows, leather parties and live performances with [ acts like ] The Weather Girls [ as well as ] Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. It was one of the most [ diverse ] and comfortable places in the city.'
Jim Schuman, co-owner of Berlin Nightclub: 'I was living in London with Joe. We met in 1984 and moved in the fall of '85. I was going to London University; it was a great and exciting time. Joe was doing theater in Leeds.
'Berlin had been open for two years. It was around the time of the beginning of Women's Obsession. ... It was definitely a freer and much different time.'
Lost & Found
In 1985, Ava Allen had already joined Lost &
Found—Chicago's oldest lesbian bar—12 years prior as founder Shirley Christensen's business partner and lover. At that time, the bar had been open 20 years, and had endured the police harrassment of the '60s and '70s. It had also just moved to its current location at 3058 W. Irving in 1984, replacing a rowdy biker bar. Allen adopted a safety buzzer to let in only those who looked like they belonged. In 1986, Christensen passed away after a nine-year battle with cancer. Since then, proprietor Allen has her customers raise funds for the Lesbian Community Cancer Project for individuals and groups fighting the disease during the annual 'Adopt-an-Angel' project.
Rachael Cain, president of house-music label Trax Records: ' [ That year ] was a true turning point in my life. It was the year that I first meet [ gay ] DJ Ron Hardy, and experienced him spinning at The Music Box. I was hanging out with [ artists ] Marshall Jefferson, Bam Bam, Jesse Saunders, and Hercules. I was working on a recording called 'Fun With Bad Boys' and Marshall suggested I take my tape to Ron. Sure enough, he loved the cut—and it was the beginning of a great friendship. So I learned then that house music had no boundaries and that everyone—Black, white, straight, and gay—could all be one on the dance floor.'