There was only one queer bar in Charleston.
It was hidden on the darkest alley behind the Old Slave Market.
Guys had to kiss the doorman the first went to the Stardust to prove they was queer.
Some of us boys would dance on the big stage behind the bar when the drag queens wasn’t doing a show.
The first time I went to the Stardust I was 16. Momma brought me so I didn’t have to kiss no one.
She led me into the bar by the hand and ordered me a Pepsi.
Then she dropped some quarters into a jukebox and played Respect, and I said: “Hey Momma. Let’s dance!”
Well she hauled me up on the stage and we danced while the other queers gawked.
I was too young to get into the Stardust without Momma, so I had to sneak in if I wanted to go alone.
There was this one dyke named Roxie. She sometimes worked the door. She was so butch she could guys the kiss test.
Sometimes she’d let me in.
But if the vice cops came to do a bar check I’d have to hide in the lady’s room or get “discovered” and throwed out.
Sometimes the vice cops would come and not do a bar check; they’d take some money and leave.
Sometimes they’d come and watch the queers from the doorway.
Three straight white men with mean smiles.
One night I was out and dressed up for a party and this vice cop stops and orders me into his car.
“Whatcha doin’ out all gussied up?” he asked, “solicitin‘?”
“What does that word mean, solicitin’?” I smiled. I had just finished reading The Little Prince.
“Sellin’ yer ass to the fags!” he replied.
“Oh that ain’t what I’m doin'” I said. “My Momma says I gotta dress right to set a good example for my sister!”
He drove me around town touching himself and asking me about dealers: “I bet you’d like to turn that little Sister of yours into a drug addict!”
“No sir!” I said, “I hope she turns out to be a drag queen just like me!”
I guess we wore each other out.
He pulled over and let me out.
He flipped his wrist at me and drove off.
(c)Rob Goldstein 1985-2017 All Rights Reserved