Coming Out Day: At the Stardust

There’s knowing you’re gay and coming out.

I came out before before the L the B the Q and the T.

In April of 1969 anyone who wasn’t straight was a fag.

People who came out risked everything and those who were
‘found out’ often killed themselves.

How does one cope with laws so punitive public sex is safer
than bringing another man home?

Most of the older men I knew hated themselves .

They also hated the movement that came after Stonewall.

They didn’t see how we could win and they didn’t understand
Gay Pride.

“You’re proud of what?” some asked.

Gay life in 1969 stank of oppression and internalized homophobia, but there was something else going on; there was an emerging awareness that gays could say no to the System.

I came out on April 6th 1969 when my Mother took me to Charleston’s
only gay bar for my 16th birthday.

Illustration for Bobby and Miss Queen of Hearts
Bobby and Miss Queen of Hearts

At The Stardust

There was only one queer bar in Charleston.

 It was off on a musty alley behind the Old Slave Market.

 You had to kiss the doorman the first time you went in to prove you were queer.

There was this narrow strip of stage of stage above and behind the bar where some of us boys would dance when the drag queens weren’t doing a show.

The first time I went to the Stardust Momma brought me so I didn’t have
to kiss anyone.

Momma lent me some creamy Peach Cover Girl and a hot pink blouse.

I sipped my Pepsi and watched the queers gawk.

Aretha Franklin was on the jukebox wailing Respect and I
said: “Hey Momma. Let’s dance!”

Well she hauled me up on that stage and we did the dirty dawg.

There was this one dyke named Roxie.

She sometimes worked the door.

She was so butch she could give the kiss test.

She sometimes let me in when I came to the bar alone  but if the cops  stopped in for a ‘bar check’ I’d have to hide in the lady’s room and get “discovered” and throwed out.

Sometimes the cops came and didn’t do a bar check.

Sometimes the cops came and took money and left;

Sometimes the cops came came to watch the ‘dirty little faggots’ play:
Three straight white dudes with mean little smiles on their faces.

One night I was cruising the Battery when this vice cop
stopped me and ordered 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. “I gotta little Sister at home and Momma
says I gotta set a good example by fucking every girl I see!”

Well, he drove around town, trying to get me to say I was pushin’ drugs. “I bet you’re gonna turn that little Sister of yours into an addict!”

“Oh I wouldn’t do that at all sir! I warn her every day against such wickedness!
God strike me dead if I don’t!”

I guess we wore each other out.

The cop took me home to the projects. “Keep up the good work with yo’ Sistuh!” he sneered.

                                 ***

At the Stardust a boozy ex‑priest named Mother Rachel did the weddings.

 One guy dressed like the bride and the other wore a tuxedo.

 At the Stardust The Miss Queen of Hearts drag show was the major event.

The drag queens trashed every dress shop on King Street.

On the big night the butch dykes wore three-piece suits and their women wore gowns.

Mother Rachel was the emcee and he’d open every show with a report on how safe the Greyhound bus station was to cruise.

The place is jus’ hoppin’ with cops! So ya’all be careful–OK?”

There was this one drag queen who called herself Miss Tillie who always lip synced My Life.

At the end of the song where Shirley Bassey screams,‘ This is myyyy liiiiife,’ Miss Tillie ripped off his wig and thew it into the audience.

Then at the close of the show everyone in the Stardust joined hands
and sang There’s a Place for Us.

Street graffiti that reads 'There should be a Place for us
Street Art by Eclair Bandersnatch

I first wrote ‘The Stardust’ in 1984.

I’ve posted other edits of it to Art by Rob Goldstein
This is the original edit.

At the Stardust and all other artwork (c) Rob Goldstein 2017 All Rights Reserved
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