Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Diplomat - Detroit Michigan (Gay Bar)












Current view- is now a Baptist church

 Photo approx 1959

The Diplomat was located at 8540 2nd in Detroit. Bob Damron's 1968 guide book says "brick front-no name or number visible-nearest cross st is Pingree) It also says "Very Popular" I think there was a bath house located on State Fair later also called the Diplomat? I think these are two different places. I don't know anything about this bar, help! Please post pictures or stories. 

Someone shared this link which is very interesting about early drag in Detroit:

http://www.queermusicheritage.us/fem-hummell.html 

15 comments:

  1. The Diplomat, in the shadows of the Fisher building, was a nice dance bar. The owner, Bookie, a Mafia-type character who spoke through a hole in his throat, ran the place with a staff right out of Daymond Runyon. He later opened Bookie's,the first gay bar on Seven Mile, just east of what became Menjo's. Bookie's had a 1940's decor with massive circular booths, that was so popular that late arrivals were shoved into the basement until room opened up on the main floor. And yes, the Diplomat was the name of one of Detroit's oldest bathhouses, near the State Fair.

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    1. Bookies was on 6 mile & 3rd Streets. I worked there & played there every night.

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  2. I just inquired as to whatever happened to...? I was young and the Diplomat was where all the Flint crowd wanted to go on the weekends. They had drag shows, the place was dark with black painted walls and ceilings. Yes the owner spoke through a hole in his throat. I recall that the notorious Rae Bourbon appeared there a few times too. Rae went on tour and left his pet animals to be cared for by a friend. The friend killed the animals and Rae killed the man. He died in prison. There are a few of his albums around. I used to have three or four and stupid me, sold them. He was a "Star" in his days. Old and fat and funny and dirty talking. Two Detroit impersonators I had at my Flint Studio D club, was Chunga, and Ronnie Paige. www.Zimbio.com/Studio D in Flint or www.Zimbio.com/who is bill dakota

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  3. Great weekend diverstion for a college kid on the weekend in the early sixties. The entertainment was always a highlight with the memorable Rae Bourbon, Fat Jack, and a talanted cast. Rae was a calm and quiet guy when out of drag and sober, often seated at the end of the bar with his dogs, happy to talk to young stuff. On one night Rusty Warren gave an impromtu performance and Ethel Merman showed up to sing "There's No Business Like Show Business, sitting atop the piano,(Gypsy was in town). Fat Jack brought the house down with "It was an Itsy Bitsy Teeney Weeney Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and anything from Medea to a routine by Elaine May and Mike Nichols was on the menu by the cast. One twirling drag appeared with a huge python that drove weekend tourist from the front rows. Mosly it was the frenetic dancing and sweating bodies that made it a magnet for a bumkin from the burbs. When my college profs. starting showing up with their wives to see the drag shows I swtiched to the Woodward Bar that had only drinking and cruising on the menu. Who could forget the buxom barmaid's "last call for alcohol" as she pressed her way through the narrow bar packed like sardines. The final preeing and posing hour had come and it was more like watching a game of bumper cars to see who was bumping into who. A statue of Bacchus stood guard at a dimly lit rear counter where the lonely hearts crowd waited for butterflys to enter the web. It was always fun and high spirtited and the straight brothers who owned the bar, (were they Arab or Italian?)looked marvelous with there exposed hairy chest, gold chains, and friendly smiles coaxing drinks form eager patrons. A artist friend had painted a mural of twining grape leaves to complement the Bacchus theme. The Brass Rail Bar was nearby across Woodward ave., if you prefered a more sedate and mature gathering. I think Johnny Rae was arrested at the one downtown with the longest bar.

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    1. The Karass borthers were Greek. Andy was the gay brother. Johnny Rae was arrested in Detroit but not sure where. This was all before my time but I love the stories. Rusty Warren, I haven't heard that name is years. My grandparents had her albums.

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  4. Ok kiddies here we go! do you remember these performers at the Dip----Mr Edie LLoyd whose nickname was (the end).
    He was the choreographer for the early shows from 1961 to 1969? and there was Mr Toni Albright (the body) and believe it or not he was a Master Sgt during the Korean war and Jerrie Daye (the face)who was a performer with the Jewel Box Revue and all male drag Las Vegas style production company that played the Fox theatre every year.

    Bobbi Johns(the charmer) who was a former major league baseball player and we cant forget Win Wells (the legs) who did Marlena Dietrich impressions and Vickie Marlane (mr peel)he was a stipper.

    Also there were guest oerformers such as Danny Windsor, Arthur Blake and Rae Bourbon and of course the incomprable Fat Jack Bookie & Morrey were your hosts and that huge mean red head (Large Marge) was bouncer and sat at the back door as you entered from the back.

    Some lived across the street in an apt called the Diplomat Arms, I was lucky enough to slip past her one day in 1966.

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  5. I have picture's of those performers and I am still searching for that famous Fat Jack painting of him in drag lying across a velvet loveseat,does anyone know where this painting is??????????

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  6. Don't forget the Incomparable Chunga who also headlined at the Dip until the great fire. Then Bookie Stewart, Chunga, Win Wells, E.D. Lloyd and Bobbie Johns moved across town to Ray & Jay's Motor Bar, soon joined by Jerry Daye. Eventually Bookie rebuilt the Diplomat as a classy cocktail bar. (I remember meeting Liberace at the grand opening-he playing at the Fisher Theater). Then after the riots, Bookie did indeed move to 6-mile.
    All the old places long gone, the Dip and Gold Dollar, as well as most of the old performers. Jerry Daye is still alive and well in Las Vegas (I spoke with him this afternoon)
    But I remember the Detroit haunts of my just-turned-21 youth--the Club 1011 with Chi Chi, the Dollar, the Dip and Sam & Andy's Woodward bar, the Clifford Hotel bar. In fact I even had an apartment across the street from the Diplomat with Win and Chunmga for neighbors.

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  7. Bookie Stewart and Morrey Weisberg were the
    owners of the Dip. I still have a brochure of of all the acts. I may even have some home movies of Holloween and mock weddings. I do believe the Dip was the talk of the midwest.

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    1. Please share them. I'd love to see them

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  8. I am writing about the Diplomat and the various other bars for my dissertation and would love to talk with "college kid" Anonymous, Anonymous who slipped past Large Marge, and especially Anonymous who is still in touch with Jerry Daye. Please email me!

    Tim Retzloff
    tim.retzloff@yale.edu

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  9. These stories are great to hear. I was too young for the Dip but I did go to Frank Gaygons, later Bookies. I know Bookie and his niece Audrey. Audrey is still around and I would guess she is in her late 50's. Bookie was part of the Jewish Mafia and owned several gay bars as early as the 1940's. The cops would raid his bars, arrest everyone then Bookie would go and bail them all out. Bookie through his ties ended paying off the cops. In the 70's and 80's he had so many connections he could get your police file to disapeer so you had no record.

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  10. http://www.queermusicheritage.us/fem-hummell.html

    Here is a drag scrapbook of the Detroit area clubs, from the late 50's, early 60s

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  11. Loved the Diplomat, met my partner there in 1969, we're still together. I loved it & I remember Bessie. We'ed make a day of it, shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, dinner at Al Green's & then a night at the Dip. I was in heaven.
    Jeffrey, Ferndale

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  12. I was there every weekend & then Bookie let me work the floor downstairs at Bookies Club on 6 mile & 3rd street. So much fu. I was there every night. Does anyone remember Barbara Brown, she was a bartender & at one point her and Bookie were an item. God Bless their souls.

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