Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Brass Rail - Detroit, Michigan (Gay bar)

 
The Brass Rail in the 1950's













 Interior from the 1940's


















 
 
















 











The Brass Rail was located at 116 Michigan Avg Ave in Detroit. I don't know the exact years it was open? Help if you can. I also don't know just what kind of bar it was. I know that it is mentioned as a gay bar. There was a semi-popular singer from the 50's, kind of a teenie bopper sensation before Elvis named Johnnie Ray who was arrested in The Brass Rail in 1959 for soliciting an undercover police officer. Any stories about this bar are needed. The Brass Rail did have 3 locations at one time.

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17 comments:

  1. There were 3 Brass Rails, all I believe under the same ownership. The one on Michigan was very long ("longest bar in Michigan") and very narrow. It was mostly a drinking crowd. The one on Adams on the north side of Grand Circus Park featured exotic dancers, including I believe female impersonators on some nights. The third Brass Rail was on Woodward just south of the Blvd. (across the street from The Woodward), and it was the last one left open. I think that's the one that had significant gay clientele. I knew some semi-closeted gay men who hung out there in the '70s. Have no idea which one Johnnie Ray (who was quite a bit more than "semi-popular") was arrested in.

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  2. The top picture that shows the wooden figures of men drinking is now owned by a friend of mine. He put it in his bar. If you want to see it, go to Adair Bar (I-94 / Fred Moore Highway Exite) in Adair, Michigan. He bought it around 1995/96.

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  3. Well you can learn something every day! I used to get drunk from time to time at the
    Grand Circus Park location in the mid 1960's. I worked at Ben B. Burke Shoes which was a few doors down. If people say it was a gay bar I won't argue, but if you ask me it was a pretty mixed crowd.

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    Replies
    1. My uncle Thad Jones or Chris Crump also worked at Ben Burke's shoes. Do those sound familiar to you?

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  4. The wooden figures of 2 men are now installed
    at Kruse & Muer - downtown Rochester, Michigan
    They were shipped here in 1985. They are
    featured as the Christmas Ornament by the
    DDA Rochester for 2009.

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    Replies
    1. Not the same set. Adair Bar (not Gay) has these rustic gents...Kruse & muer(Rochester) have a set, only that the gent on the tight is cutting a fish, not a chop.

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  5. My grandfather (Joe Freedman) and uncle (Bill Boesky-yes the father of Ivan) founded the Brass Rails. All 3 of them. In time my grandfather owned them outright and my uncle operated Darby's. Also prior to the rails my grand father also ran the 1040 Club where the Purple Gang hung out and also blew up the door man who went to get someones car (bummer for him). As well the Purple gang used to carry my grandma an aunts books to school when they were all little kids. My father sold the last Rail in the early 70's and thus ended an era.

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  6. What happened to the DIPLOMAT? And what ever happened to impersonators, Chunga and Ronnie Paige? Those were the good old days. Now we are all "senoritas" er...Senior citizens.
    I had STUDIO "D" in FLINT around 1964. Now in Lima working on a new building 6,700 square feet. Yes, I need an investor too-smile! kernnews@aol.com

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  7. The Brass Rail on Woodward was a gay bar in the early 1070's. Bars were, de facto, segregated back then. The Rail was solidly African American but they never minded us hippie white boys coming in to sell the Gay Liberator news paper. I just remember there were some fabulous queens there.

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    Replies
    1. 700 years before the city was founded?!

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    2. 700 years before the city was founded?!

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  8. The Brass Rail that was located on Adams on the north side of Grand Circus Park attracted a lot of traveling musicians who stayed at the Book-Casino Hotel. Most weren't gay, at least not openly -- no way of knowing.

    All the men who went there in the 1950s wore suits and ties and they didn't want to cause any trouble. They were just visiting Detroit. This was the location where Johnnie Ray was arrested in December of 1959 for soliciting a vice squad cop.

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  9. Wow my mother worked there when she was 21 she was the youngest at the time and she just passed at the age of 75.
    Just found some of her photos she was one hot tomato. LOL

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  10. There was a brass rail in charlotte in a building owned by greek family ...

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  11. The Brass Rail on Woodward was a business mans lunch and dinner spot in the 1960 and 70s

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  12. who owned the 1040 Club? Maxie Silk?

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    (VIDEO) Win your ex back with TEXT messages?

    ReplyDelete