Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Backstreet is located in a shopping mall (strip mall) at the corner of Greenfield and Joy Rd. The address is 15606 Joy Rd. (Still open today) There is not much signage but it is back in the corner of the L shaped strip mall. I'm not sure exactly what year it opened? Help if you know. I first went to Backstreet around 1985. It was really packed and fun back then. The original owner, and I can't remember his name, died of AIDS. If I'm correct he left money in his estate which helped start Affirmations in Ferndale. The club changed hands a couple of times and was closed for a couple years. I can remember there was this guy who ever Saturday danced on top of one of the speakers and wore wild suits. I can even remember a guy who always brought his own Tambourine and banged on it to the music! Tells you how old I am! DJ Bill Bennett spun there for years. I miss him, he was good. Now DJ Timmy D spins there.(I won't comment on that, Lol) The second owner was Tom G. (I won't try to spell his Italian last name) He was older, short, pudgy and wore lots of gold rings on his fingers like Bruce Detloff from the Gold Coast. Allot of people REALLY hated him. I can only go from my experience, I used to talk to him and he was always nice to me. I think he was really kinda shy. Not the best to be shy when you own a gay bar. The owner is "Doc" Tom. He is straight and a hell of a nice guy. Also check out my other blog: motorgay.net
Update 2012: Murray and Peter are out. Doc is running the bar again.
Anonymous said... Backstreet opened in August 1979. Carl Rippberger and Joel Yoder bought the Escape Bar located in the same space and converted it into Backstreet. Carl told me they invested about $100,000 to buy it and turn it into Backstreet. It was an immediate hit with the Detroit gay community and its success started a long-running feud with Menjo's over business and marketing. At one time Backstreet was open seven nights a week. On slow nights you could go there for a drink or for movie nights on Tuesdays. Eventually Backstreet had two huge nights per week, Wednesdays (two-for-one) and Saturdays. Of the two original owners, Carl Rippberger was the brains behind marketing and promotion with Joel handling the business side. Eventually, Carl bought Joel out and he became sole owner. Carl traveled alot and particularly loved New York. He strived to create some of the disco magic he experienced in New York here in Detroit. Backstreet was constantly promoting theme parties and bringing in top disco artists. Some of the acts that perfomed there during the 1980s included Sylvester, Lime, Patrick Cowley, Paul Parker, Miquel Brown, Pamela Stanley, NYC Saint DJs Robbie Leslie and Roy Thode, Carol Jiani and many, many more. One night Grace Jones showed up at Backstreet after a Royal Oak concert and proceeded through the crowd on the shoulders of her bodyguard before the floor was cleared so that she and Carl could dance alone to "Pull up to the Bumper." During the eighties and into the nineties Backstreet would routinely draw 600 people on Wednesday and 1200 on Saturday. Carl was way ahead of his time with the level of promotion and the detail he put into the major parties. He really was a joy to be around and was generous to a fault. Carl Rippberger passed away due to AIDS in the mid-90s and left the business to his dear friend Tom Giuseppe. Tom ran the bar for at least seven or eight more years before it was ultimately sold, closed for a while and reopened under the current ownership. Backstreet's slogans were "Light Years Ahead of the Rest..." and "Detroit's Party Bar" and during its heyday it more than lived up that reputation.