Sunday, August 30, 2009

Menjo's - Detroit, Michigan (Gay bar)

Menjo's










Jojo, who worked the door for years.
 Tom long time bartender and "Poodles" on right, former manager and part owner of Menjo's



A video I made April 2012 of the newly remodeled Menjo's.
















Ad from July 20 th 1968 Scope magazine. Before Menjo's was a gay bar.

Menjo's opened in 1974.(As a gay bar)  It is located on Mcnichols (6 Mile rd) and Hamilton in Highland Park. Menjo's was the second gay bar I ever went to and is still one of my favorite bars in Detroit. It holds many fond memories for me. Unfortunately, The Gas Station was the first gay bar I ever went to. Finally after going to the Gas Station for a while someone told me about Menjo's and I went for the first time in 1985. (See my other post about the Gas Station Bar) When I first went to Menjo's back in 1985, it was busy on Thursday nights (Cheap drink, college night) and VERY busy on Friday nights as well as Sunday nights. I can remember going on Friday nights and it being so busy that I would have to park a couple of blocks away back where all those churches are. I mean on Friday nights you could hardly move in there, it was so crowded. I think that so many young gay guys choose not to even stay in Detroit when they reach 18 that the Detroit gay community has shrunk over the years from what it used to be. The decor at that time (It was remodeled a few years back) was classic 70's disco. They always use to have large flower arrangements on the bar with spot lights on them. Now for you younger guys, you have to remember there was no internet back then. The gay bar was the only place you could meet, pickup guys, etc. Today allot of gay guys don't like going to bars and so they just use the internet for sex hookups, etc. Back then, you had to go to a gay bar to meet other gay guys. I personally miss the days before the internet, if I want to meet a guy for sex; I want to see him in the flesh. Today, I find it funny that we seem to have developed a bar culture that says you cannot be seen "hooking up" with a guy at the bar because everyone will say you are a whore. But then you go home and look on Manhunt and you see the same guys on there with postings like "Fuck me now!" There was a much more "cruiser" culture to gay bars back then, you saw a guy who you thought was hot; you gave each other "eyes" and then you talked and said "My place or yours?" I think I got laid more out of Menjo's than any other bar. I think there were three original owners of Menjo's. I can remember one of them dying of AIDS. (See my other post about AIDS in the 80's) Before Menjo's was a gay bar; it was a supper club in the 1930's and 40's. It is said that Al Capone dined there. It is also well documented that Madonna used to go there with her friend in the 70's. I have looked very hard online to try to find any old pictures of Menjo's as a supper club in the 40's, etc without any success. If you have ANY old pictures of Menjo's, please email them to me. If you have pictures that are not digitally scanned and are good ones; I can arrange to get them scanned. I would like to post more pictures of Menjo's. Also, if you would like to tell your own stories about Menjo's, please post them in the comments below. Also, I ran across this story about I guy who was murdered and last seen at Menjo's in 1983. His name was Shawn Patrick Raymond. You can read the story Shawn Raymond
Also check out my other blog: motorgay.net

Update 2011: Menjo's is still open. It is now run by Murray and Peter. The place is still packed on Thursday nights. They have remodeled the patio which features a waterfall in the summer. They did a great job. I know many of you from around the country have not been there in years, I am going to try to get a chance to go in there and shoot a short video and post it on here so you can see what it looks like. 

Menjo's website

Anonymous said... The original owners of Menjo's were Michael Crawford, Joe LaRosa and Henry Trent. Henry was a businessman, Joe had managed other bars and was an associate of Bookie Stewart's (The Diplomat and Bookie's) and Michael was a very attractive and popular figure in Gay Detroit. Henry and Joe had the money and connections but it was Michael who knew the people and focused on personnel, music, and marketing. Menjo's was way ahead of its time when it opened in December 1974. It was the first club in Detroit where the DJ mixed records live. The DJ equipment of today did not exist so the DJ rigged up equipment to allow him to cue, overlay and blend records (7" 45 RPMs!). When it opened it was the most ambitious gay club Detroit had ever seen. The first 5 years they were open they routinely grossed $25,000 per week, an unheard of figure when drinks cost less than a dollar. By 1980 Menjo's had a sound system custom designed for the room that included tweeter arrays mounted all across the ceiling, booming sub-bass speaker cabinets and a professional light show. Menjo's slogan at this time was "Best Fuckin' Sound in Town." I remember seeing the black Menjo's tee shirt with that slogan on the back and the club logo on the front in Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta and other cities. By the 1980s Menjo's truly had a national reputation and legendary status. At its heart Menjo's is a bar with dancing so they were constantly hiring ace bartenders that were attractive, smart and professional. Jimmy Dowdle started there as a bartender in the late 70s and went on to manage and then own the club. Other bartenders would work there for a year or two or three but were warned when hired that they would eventually be let go when management felt that a new personality was needed. I tended bar there in 1983/84 and loved every minute of it. I learned valuable life lessons behind that bar and gained maturity and confidence that were invaluable. Michael Crawford insisted on the best DJing and hired professionals like Larry Sanders, who had been a top DJ in New York before moving home to Detroit, and mentored up and comers like Chad Novak, Lee Eckinger and countless others. At its peak Menjo's had a DJ spinning seven nights a week. The room and its low ceiling made hosting live acts a challenge but divas like Thelma Houston and others performed. Miss Houston simply made her way through the crowd while performing and the shirtless bodies parted like the Red Sea as she walked and sang, allowing everyone to see the Diva. Michael used to turn of the air sometimes to get the guys to shed their shirts while dancing. There are thousands of Menjo's stories and it has become a rite of passage for young people just coming out. Michael Crawford died of AIDS in the mid-90s, but his spirit lives on and Menjo's just keeps going.

Menjo's in aerial views from 1949-present, click HERE

14 comments:

  1. probably the best gay bar in detroit. music in gay clubs isnt what it used to be but at least the dj there switches things up and makes it fun. Thursday nights are their best night with drag queen sabin and dj john cruz but I hear they've bought the adjacent old chosen books and glass house buildings and are remodeling them into a theatre and sports bar. should be interesting. Menjos has been a staple in the gay community for over 35 years and with all the bars that come and go it is always considered among one of the best. Kind of cool that Madonna used to hang out there too

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  2. Yeah, right. I haven't seen any indication of any expansions going on. Just cheap talk. This place is, and shall remain, just "same old same old" with dated decor, crappy music, rude stuck-up queens and a horrible user-unfriendly layout. Oh, and did I mention it's in one of the worst crack areas of the city?

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  3. I remember there was this BIG fag hag named Enola Gay. She ran a click of boys there & if you were not in you were defiantly out! She was the death of many a wanna be stud boys. I also remember that was the place where I 1st heard Soft Cell's "Tainted Love."

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    1. I knew Enola very well. Her mother was the coat check girl and started to bring Enola there whene she was 15. It's also the same place I first heard Tainted Love, fucked up on MDA. It was wonderful. Enola died a few years ago. Who remembers Ted, the guy who made the movies that starred Enola?

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  4. I still think this is the best gay bar in Detroit. Thursdays are always fun, they have the best drag queen and dj that the city has to offer on that night. Other places my be bigger or flashier but you can't beat the music and entertainment they offer.

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    Replies
    1. yeah until they got rid of dj john cruze now the music is horrible and dance floor is always dead now

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  5. Hi Poodles-I worked as a server and in the coat room with that guy that unfortunately became obsessed with me and walked in one day holding a bible and said we were all going to Hell --damn I forgot his name lol -But over all I truly miss the good Old days of going to Todds. Backstreet and yes Menjos-A very remarkable time to come out in the late 70's and early 1980's-I will always miss the great times I had -Ahhhh to be cute and 20 years old again lol==Hell I'm still cute ---Steve C

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  6. I am happy to have been employed by Menjo's for nearly a decade(80's). Poodle's & manager John Leclair gave me the opportunity the summer of 1981. I was home from CMU for the summer and had no bartending experience but had been a server through college. I returned to CMU that fall but Jimmy/Poodles asked me Thanksgiving if I could work Fri & Sat after John Leclair moved to Florida. I agreed and thus ended my plans to move to Houston after December graduation. I was never a favorite of the owners(but was later a pall bearer for Michael)like some but I was a very good bartender. I had won many contests held at Menjo's and I would agree that working there pulled some votes! I was honored that Michael Crawford nominated me as bartender of the month(after ringing $1000+ on my register one Sunday)and graced the cover of the 1 month run of the Detroit Bar Guild magazine(to compete with Cruise & Metra). I met many friends(many to this day) working at Menjo's! I remember Menjo's owners denying a request for vacation early on and I had to quit. I worked for Billy Foss at Footlight's for a month and then was recruited by Bob Jacobs to join Cheeks at it's peak 1982-83, and the Copa in Key West managed by Dennis(formerly Outlaw in Detroit)to follow lust to Key West for 3 months. I think Michael Mchale lured me back to Menjo's. Soon Jimmy rejoined Clyde(Backstreet) & myself us from Ft Lauderdale for many more successful years @ Menjo's! The best decision came when I retired from bartending to move to Chicago in 1989 where I would meet my soulmate! We lived in Chicago for 10+years and now reside in Louisville KY. My sincere best wishes for Menjo's current owners to restore this landmark to it's prime this decade!... Dave S

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dave, I thought this was you!

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    2. Who are you? and Hi! I am in Detroit regularly and we should meet up?(not hook up)

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  7. Hi this is chuck quitter and I love the new menjos ball buster special.......free helicopter facerides

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    Replies
    1. Call me 586-498-6826...........

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  8. i grew up in detroit. i used to work woodward avenue as a teenager. the only bar that would let me in was the gas station because i was underage. i couldnt wait to get in menjos to dance. i joined the army at 18 and when i got out at 26 i went to menjos and fell in love with the place. the speakers on the dancefloor were as big as refrifgerators and i could feel the music like a wave of air. the lights in the floor were so cool. i met the sweetest guy i have ever known. his name was don cherry. he was a bartender at menjos. an older guy but very sweet. we became good friends. sadly he had a heart attack and died in the rose garden of dr. bombay (he was a real dr. who drank bombay gin). don took care of his rose gardens. i have been in west hollywood for 20 years now but when i go back to detroit the two things i have to do is eat in greektown and dance at menjos. i have a profile on dudesnude called need2bnude. check me out

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