Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Escape Bar, Detroit Michigan (Gay bar)

I do not know where this bar was located. I have heard references to it. There is currently a straight bar downtown also named The Escape? I'm not sure if this is the same bar. I think the bar I am referring to was open in the 70's and 80's. If you have any pictures or can tell stories about this bar, please post! Also check out my other blog: motorgay.net

26 comments:

  1. This is the first gay bar I ever went to in the summer of 1978. It was located in the same building that eventually became the Backstreet. There was a front bar with chairs that looked like barrels with leather seats and the larger dance floor had a stage with gold lame curtains. I remember sitting at the back bar and seeing two men kiss which I had never seen before, it was pretty shocking to me. But then there was a show with a HUGE drag queen and she bent over on stage lifted her dress and stomped her feet like an elephant with her ass to the audience. I think Bettye Clark did her famous impression of Jean Harlow that night too, she used to come out looking into a hand mirror, walking like in a trance. There was also a go-go boy named Tony with blond, curly hair. Real cute. Cant remember his last name but he was pretty well known, I think he was Mr. Gigi's or something.

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    1. The big drag queen was Vonda Lee. She used to put tossels on his tits and make them spin around. Bettye Clark was great. I think the Jean Harlow act was done at the Latin Quarter. I saw Bettye Clark do a show once with Doves flying out of her dress. Does anyone know what happened to her.

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  2. Just what I was going to say. The original Escape (which had a dance floor about the size of a postage stamp) was purchased by a new owner (Carl Rippberger) and was re-opened as Backstreet, and the rest, as they say, was history. Sadly, Carl passed away in the mid 1990's.

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  3. That Go-Go boys name was Tony Brown a friend of Larry Clairmont and Jennifer Foxx. I had a itimate history with Tony. Betty Clark was very good and rivaled with Jennifer Foxx for awhile.

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  4. that was the first bar i ever went to. i remember the then owners bob and nina. bartenders danny and clark, also jimmy. they used to have these fish bowl drinking glasses that i remember bob perry the hairdresser would always be drinking from them. lots of good times in there. miss the drag shows and good friends i had met.

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    1. Oh my god. You remember Miss Perry. He was such a Detroit fixture. I ran into him, out of drag, about 15-20 years ago at a bar on Woodward called Spears.

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    2. Do you remeber Hummin Helen ?

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  5. The original " Escape " bar was located at Joy Rd. and Greenfield. After the Escape closed the bar reopened with a new owner "Carl " and it was called " The Backstreet " which I worked as a light tech. It was originally a clothing store gutted , the drop ceiling removed 24 ft. tall and everything was painted black. It was the first gay bar that I remember that has 241 / 341 drinks on wednesdays nights with a crowd of aprox. 1000 on Wednesday. Fridays and Saturday was just as much fun as Wednesdays nights , with the Disco music in full force. It was located in a corner strip center which made parking anywhere close to the bar a lot easyer that having to walk thru some dark lit alley. The Weathers Girls played their a few times and a New Years or two. The dance floor was enlarged and held a nice sizeable crown , with all new pin spots , neon , fog machine , and just about everything else a good disco bar in Detroit needed. The store in fromt of the bar was a formal mens clothing store and it closed and Carl took it over and put a door thru the wall and opened it as a quiet bar to get away from the loud disco music. For many years much fun and dancing was had by all . Carls friend and room mate opened a cowboy bar across the street called The Backpocket . I expect that upon Carls death that the bar was left to no one and it closed soon after. Menjo's was the other gay bar , but never compared to Backstreet after it opened to dancing , size , fun. It was a fun time and a fun bar , I am sure that it is sadly missed.

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    1. Mark, I think I remember you. Are you the one who blew up a flash pot one night?

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  6. We're missing a part of the Escape's History. When Bob & Nina sold the bar, it was owned by Ron & Gloria Cain before Carl Bought it. It was originally managed by George Hensley, who left about a year after the Cain's purchased it. George was replaced by a guy named Duane Wagner in the mid 80's. God! That boy was fine! He was rumored to be lovers for several years with Terry Jensen, the D.J. Wonder what ever happened to those two?

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    1. What a treat to hear names I have forgotten. Miss Perry and her fish bowl glass. She gave me one and I still have it. I think of her everytime I see it. Mr. Terry Jensen. I met you many,many years ago before you ever worked in a gay bar. You dated my friend Bob C. You use to give me Disco records when you were a DJ at Gigi's. Thank you.

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    2. I forgot all about George Hensley and Duane Wagner. Any idea if they are still around?

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  7. Terry Jensen and Duane were also the "IDA IC" rumor column in the "Cruise Magazine" owned by Detroit mogel Tony Rome. They have both retired from their respective "real"jobs in the Fortune 500.

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  8. I worked for Ron and Gloria in the late 70's. As I read this so many great memories come racing back. Sunday nite drag shows with all the early greats. Then there was the employee show where I made my one and only appearance as LaDonna Mobilay! Wonder if Terry or Duane still have those pictures. We waiters and bartenders wore TIGHT black polyester pants with a white shirt unbuttoned for miles.. Art was the bartender who taught me the ropes..as I was quite young at the time. So glad I found this.. Escape while theres time was the TShirt, may still be tucked away somewhere.. Those were the days!! But thank God I am still here to remember them!

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    1. I also work for running Gloria they were lovely people I was a waiter.. you remember Miss Perry Bramhall Kelly and the photo player is a good big Production shows there it was so fun

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    2. I also work for running Gloria they were lovely people I was a waiter.. you remember Miss Perry Bramhall Kelly and the photo player is a good big Production shows there it was so fun

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  9. I used to go regularly to the Escape Lounge from 1975 to 1979 well one night I wlaked into the bar with my late friend Ron and I noticed a very goodlooking man by himself at the back of the bar alone by the pool table, He was tall and had a blonde flat top he was very masculine looking so I immediatly bought him a beer and we talked for some time then he said he would be in town for a couple of days and had a partner and they lived in Montana, As I kept looking at him I said you know you remind me of a certain movie star and he laughed and replied I get that all the time

    Well the next day I was watching Bill Kennedy on channel 50,and who do you think his guest was, that right kiddies it was the same guy I met at the Escape SORRY I CANNOT TELL YOU HIS NAME but he was a leading man who played opposite many great female stars like Stanwyk and Monroe, and yes we kept in touch until his passing some years ago rest in peace S.H.

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    1. What did the owner Tiffany's Ron Hall

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  10. Like many posted before me, The Escape was my first gay bar, in fact first bar experience. The legal age in Detroit at the time was 18. I was 17 and lied to get in using some lame story about being from Canada forgeting my ID. My life changed forever after that evening. I remember the guys flitting around in Dorothy Hamill haircuts and the few women were in camo. This was my first drag show as well, featuring Fran Jeffries, I'm pretty sure that was her name. I loved it! Shortly there after i met all my lovers (as we called them)at the Escape. I was introduced to my favorite drug to this day, quaaludes. How much fun dancing to Donna Summer's I Feel Love, strobe lights...
    Soon I knew the Escape/Menjos route like the back of my hand. I had to expand the disco experience...long gone but not forgotton.

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  11. The Escape also re-opened for a few short months on Telegraph at Joy road. I was the DJ there for the few months that it was open. On opening night, the fire department set the outside of the building on fire then cleared the bar out, trying to scare the owners into closing. It seems the neighbors didn't want a gay bar there. The spot was formerly called the "Onion" or something like that. It was eventually torn down and I think a CVS drug store is there now. It was the same owner as the original Escape and he still had some of the old printed napkins from the old location.

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  12. The Escape was one of the first bars I went to also. I remember Wally, or Aja when he was in drag. Billy and Sandy aka, Billy August, they had great parties after hours at there home. great memories.

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    1. Do you know if any of the old group are still around?

      BOULAVARD BLANCHE, TONY KING, BETTYE CLARKE,WHITNEY BLAKE, VONDA LEE??????
      I miss those days so much, hell getting OLD

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  14. MISS PERRY? VONDA LEE? BETTYE CLARKE? JENIFER FOX? GEORGE HENSLEY (MY CRUSH!) AND DUAYNE WAGNER? YOU GUYS ARE BRINGING BACK SOOOO MANY MEMORIES. REMEMBER CRAIG AND TOMMY? ROGER AND GARY? ROGER WEST? RENE DUMONT? LILLY WHITE? PURITY JONES? VANESSA LASALLE? THE AMAZING AND FOREVER TOASTED ZELDA FINEBROAD? PRODUCTION NUMBERS AT GIGI'S? TOMMY YANKOWSKI? ELAINE ST. JOCK? OHG!

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    1. ARE ANY OF THOSE PEOPLE STILL AROUND ? I REMEMBER ALL OF THEM PLUS TRACEY NICHOLS, HUMMIN HELEN TONY KING AND SO MANY MORE

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  15. I AM ANONYMOUS ABOVE-DID I FORGET TO MENTION BRUCE SCUTTER? KEVIN JONES?

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