Friday, September 4, 2009

Todd’s Sway Lounge & Todd’s Other Side - Detroit, Michigan (Gay Bar)

Todd's (Now closed) was located at 8139 E Seven Mile Rd in Detroit. I remember going to Todd's in the 80's. It was a punk/new wave bar. It was not really a "gay bar" it was just gay friendly. Everyone went there. People used to dive off the stage into the crowd dancing below. I had heard that the reason it closed was because they had too many lawsuits from people with broken bones from this stage diving activity. This bar was one that epitomized the glorious days of punk in the 80's. Please post your stories about this bar. Please email me photos of this place also! Also check out my other blog at: motorgay.net

63 comments:

  1. Wow, Todd's was the first bar I ever went to, in 1987. Really enjoyed that place.
    I believe the reason they closed was the owners (Bob & Dan) had some "tax problems", plus one of them was in poor health. I can find out from my friend, Danny, who used to work there back in the 80s, and who know owns "The Rainbow Room". Great blog!!

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    1. ..I heard one of the owners(todds) died from aids a few years ago?

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  2. I used to go to this club periodically. This is the club where Jennifer Foxx used to work as a bartender. If I'm not mistaken he did his first shows here. They had a front bar/lounge and then a main floor disco. I remember there was a sign in the lounge that said "Tipping is not a city in China". I was always amused by that! I also remember seeing Mary Wilson from the Supremes here, it was really sad, she couldnt even fill the place and at the same time Diana Ross was selling out at other venues in the city. That had to be around '82-'83.

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    1. They also had a sign that read: Fish f**k in our water, therefore water is $1.

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    2. They also had a sign that read: Fish f**k in our water, therefore water is $1.

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    3. I remember they also had s sign on the wall that said "Fish fuck in out water, therefore it is $1.00". I loved that place. Monday's and Thursday's were Punk night I believe. Maybe Wednesdays and Saturdays were Gay night. I remember that Noir Leather had a fashion show while we were there...awesome fashions!

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  3. Todds was a bowling alley in 1965; it might have been called "Nortown Lanes", My mother bowled there! When it opened as a gay bar in the mid 70s, only the bar side was open. We danced on a raised platform in the middle of the room next to the juke box. Soon the bar was expanded and in addition to the HUGE dance floor (where the bowling alley lanes were), one could go into the basement and socialize in several rooms. Around 1980, Thursdays became new wave or punk night, with DJs playing B52s, etc. I remember dancing around a portable TV in the middle of the dance floor. Some people danced whilst standing on their heads. Drag shows were big, with Jennifer Fox holding court. I remember a nice man named Dennis tending bar the entire time I went to Todds, By the way, down the street was the Akron Health Club (gay bath house), which used to be a hobby shop in the mid 1960s when I lived in the neighborhood. I stopped attending and left Detroit altogether in 1984. Go Nortown!

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    1. Do you remember Keith Joins or George Daniels. They use to be a couple. If you remember one of the other let me know. I know Keith he is very much older than me and I am trying to help get him some old friends since his partner George died. I am 23. email is Josephhunter129@yahoo.com

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  4. I went to Todd's the first time in 1978 after the disco opened. Dennis was the bartender then (he's at the Gold Coast now) and was also known as Rita Porter. Does anyone else remember Arno's boutique at Todd's?

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  5. Ken Collier was my memory! (God bless his soul). Ken and his brother Greg... the KINGS of HOUSE!!!! It was 1982 for me... Thursday and Saturday nights... Yes, '82 was when it all started! We'd get dolled up, and ride down 7 mile to get our party ON! We'd dance thru the fog machine... thru the thump of the House beats... thru the cRaZy-NesS of the light show... then gather downstair to hear some talented soul on the piano, and chit-chat over cocktails~ Pure party-time! Pure fun! My heart skips a beat and my face smiles with every memory I had there! I hate that that time of life has passed, but I welcome the memory ............Signed.. 40-somethin' mother of 3! (...and my kids think I'm lame! ROFLMAO)

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    1. Oh yes indeed those days was so so much fun I stayed on the dance floor....

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  6. You'll find Dennis working now at the Gold Coast. He's just as kind and sweet as he was 30 years ago at Todd's.

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  7. Who was that soulful female pianist that played downstairs? She had a wonderful voice and they played her music on some of the local jazz stations.

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  8. Saw Mary Wilson of the Supremes do a show there. Gladys Knight attended.

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  9. Good times... A different kind of "elitist" than what one experiences in NY or LA. It's really where I found my freak flag. I think about Nancy Sinatra's "These boots are made for walking", all the punks would skank around in circles in their combat boots. Long Live!!!

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  10. In the mid-80s, I (a future lesbian) and my straight / alternative male friends all loved this place and its cool, mixed vibe. I remember being in the packed women's bathroom with some drag queens one time. Because it was too crowded, the androgynous girls in there were telling the drag queens to get out and go to the men's room. Meanwhile, the drag queens were yelling that THEY were the real women, because they actually looked like women. Awesome!

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  11. Todd's 1985. DJ Charles English. Circle skanking to Ball Room Blitz. Dancing the "swami". Dancing with Benson. Great memories. Met my ex-husband, bartender, Ken, there. I did get kicked out a few times though.! LOL!

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  12. I loved Al, Charles and tripped on those damn bowling alley floors nmore than once

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  13. Todds reunion at Corktown Tavern april 3 2010 with DJ Charles English!!

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  14. Were any of you were present at the Todd’s reunion nights.

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  15. where are all of the old drag queens from detroit in the 80 s? like humming helen toni king kelly and the photo players?cant forget jennifer fox ?

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  16. It was also known as Todd's Bowling Disco. First time I heard Machine's "There But for the Grace of God go I." East side bars were always a bit tacky but lots of fun. Does anyone remember the Blue Boy with it's piss elegant "Greek god" statues & zebra striped wall paper? Also, the Bitter Lemon? Met a blond guy there once & we went back to his gas station & wrestled in the grease pit.

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    1. Do you remember Keith Joins or George Daniels. They use to be a couple. If you remember one of the other let me know. I know Keith he is very much older than me and I am trying to help get him some old friends since his partner George died. I am 23. email is Josephhunter129@yahoo.com

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  17. i have a bootleg copy of Sepultura playing at Todds in 91....it is very horrible quality, but still cool to have

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  18. Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real effort to make a good article... but what can I say... I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done

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  19. The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.

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  20. Todd's was ALWAYS a gay bar! The pianist was named Mickey Braden. It didn't become huge and Legendary until Ken and Greg Collier took up residency there and worked the turntables and lights.

    Todd's is THE most legendary gay club Detroit has ever had.

    REUNION July 31, 2010 at 10 Critics (the old Porter Street Station). Trumbull and Porter Street. 8-4am

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  21. I have not ever been there. But it is closed, which make a pity to me. As I want to try there once.

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  22. Todd's was the best Monday's and Thursdays in the early to mid 80's. Punk and tripped out new wave and bauhaus jams. The downstairs was called the Video Coffin I think. They played twisted low grade horror like "last house on the left" and I spit on your grave". People would just blaze down there, and there was this hot bartender named Marla down there making her own drink, man I forget what it was called but I drank like 90 of them. First and only time I had a gun in my face was leaving that bar once in 1986, but anyways it was the best place ever. It's now a CVS or some shit, completely gone.

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  23. Child, Todd's was a gay club. Whoever said something about it being punk/rock got the wrong bar honey.

    I miss it though boo.

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  24. God Bless Dennis Ashby who passed away on September 18 2010
    you will always be remembered in many ppl's hearts

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  25. Dan, was Dennis a bartender recently working at Gold Coast? Mike

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  26. yes it is true our beloved Dennis has passed. He left us on Sept 18,2010. One of Todds main attractions and a stand up guy if there ever was one. Visit his memorial page on line and pay homage to good man.

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  27. Four things I remember about Todd's alternative night:
    1. Skinheads before they were racist but still scary
    2. Sign about bar: "fish fuck in our water therefore it is $.25"
    3. Scetchy scene down in the basement with weird movies and junkies
    4. All kinds of people (gay, straight, punks, disco) having fun...which is rare in any city let alone Detroit.

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  28. todds was one of the first bars i got into when i was still in high school. they had gay night and new-wavey music nights- went to both and this was in the late 80's-early 90's. i also remember seeing the mighty mighty bosstones play there, i got knocked out and dickey barrett offered to buy me a drink later on but i turned him down (XXX). i remember we always parked in the mcdonald's across the street, and there was also a little thrifty-resale kind of boutique in there too.

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  29. Ah TODD's! A Mecca for the Gay and Punk youths of Detroit in the 70s,80s and early 90s.

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  30. RIP Dennis, thanks for the memories! I was a Barback working there 87 & 88. I made something ridiculous like $30 a night but just being a part of the action was payment enough for me. Monday & Thursday was a punk crowd while Wednesday & Saturday was a gay crowd. I met my first love there through beautiful Marla. I don't think any of us realized just what magic was being created until after it was all over, we were all just having a good time. Missed the reunions, maybe someday there will be another...

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  31. Started going to Todd's in '81 or '82...loved loved loved it...one of the few places in the D that ignored race,orientation, or whatever..Saw the Violent Femmes there the first time..(about 10 people in attendance) next time there.. packed. Fell on those flipping bowling lanes and planted rose patterned bruises on my knees from my then so hot panty hose...I could go on....

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  32. Diane's comment---I use to go there all the time, I loved it

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  33. I was a good friend of Bob calvert and his partner Dan and helped put up the disco lighting and Arno's boutique among other things they were the best thing to happen to Detroit in 1977 and dont forget Roger and Al (fluffy) Dennis, Paula Prentis,Ms Edie and the rest of the gang ,unfortunalty it was the punk rockers that killed the bar they were dirty and caused many problems with the regular gay crowd so hence Menjo's picked up as the place to go,It was truly a great loss.

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    1. Do you remember Keith Joins or George Daniels. They use to be a couple. If you remember one of the other let me know. I know Keith he is very much older than me and I am trying to help get him some old friends since his partner George died. I am 23. email is Josephhunter129@yahoo.com

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    2. I am just seeing this insane comment. I can assure you that it was NOT the Punks who killed TODD's. AIDS Killed TODD's. Bob Calvert and his staff LOVED the New Wave/Punk Crowd. We made them more money and beyond a fight here and there were rarely an issue. We had Mondays and Thursdays and the Gay Crowd had Wednesday and Saturday. Friday Nights were open for Live Music.

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  34. IT MAY HAVE BEEN A BOWLING ALLEY AND A LOT OF OTHER THINGS, BUT IN THE EARLY 90S IT WAS STILL CALLED TODDS BUT WAS A VENUE FOR HEAVY METAL BANDS SEEN SEPUTURE THERE IN 91! LIVED RIGHT DOWN THE STREET FROM IT ON LINNHURST AND 7 MILE!

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  35. When Todd's first opened on Tuesdays they had the pac man contests, high score would win a pac man beer mug, I also met my soul mate there who was married and lived in Grosse Pointe we were together till he passed in 1991 I still keep his picture on the night stand by my bed.

    Todd's was trendy but not pretentious or clique you went there you had big fun in the main bar or at the sing-a-longs down stairs or the huge Disco where the music was thumping.

    Motown celebs performed there and film prducers from Born Free and other movies could be found at the downstairs sing-a-longs before karaoke took over, but alas Todd's is gone now and lost is that golden age of Detroit's best gay bar at it's peak,but oh the memories will live on.

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  36. When the House movement began, Todd's was one of the first Clubs to introduce the genre to me. I was 16 in 1985. The drinking age was 21 but that did not matter. I went with a group of friends to dance the night away to House & Techno to the break of dawn.

    I remember that "Mary" was one of the cocktail girls in the front bar. We also used to stash our own liquor that we brought into the club. She would do shots with us & we would get as "full" (drunk as we could get)

    What I loved was the free spirit. Everyone was accepted. It was only about having fun and being at a great party every night.

    The last time I went I was car jacked at 7 mile & Van Dyke. At the Shell Station. I was lucky then because I left alive. They only took my car at gunpoint.

    At that point the party ended for me at Todd's and then we only went to Club Taboo.

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  37. TODD's was my very first bar with BENSON !! i became good friends with dennis he was actually the very first person to say i should do drag everybody thought i was a girl anyway lol , i started going to st. andrews & the shelter , AMIR there gave me my start there ! but i still think of DENNIS & remember if it wasn't for him i wouldn't have a 27 year career in female impersonation !!!dennis & i worked togethere alot i also hosted the booty contest at the gold coast from 92 thru 97 with dennis watching over me from behind the bar !! for those that can remember i'm sure you know who i am !!!living in fabulous SAN FRANCISCO now where punk /goth/new wave whatever has never died loving my life !!!!STILL DANCING IN THE DARK (RUBY HOLIDAY )

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  38. Todd was the first real punk bar I attended in 1985 -88 time frame. What a discovery! It was a total escape with the amazing thumping sound system, the awesome light show, the scary neighbor hood and all the strange people. representative from the skin-head, gothic, gay and straight world all co-existed together. For a blue colar suburban boy it was quite a shock but I learned to love the vibe there. Me and my CCS college buds would be there religiously on thursday nighTs and WE would close the place down. Great memories for a 40-something guy

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  39. When I went to todds in 78/79 it was gay with a 98% black crowd. Fun, Fun!

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  40. I used to go to Todd's back in like 1986-1990. I was usually on the arm of a girl named Amy Halloran. Amy and I were called "the twins" by some since we both sported the same platinum do's and we were always together. I met some of my best friends there and we still keep in touch. Desi, Ramona, Al, Holly, George.
    I remember one time, before I was 21, Marla almost kicked me out for drinking but I was just holding someone's beer. And I remember bottle Molson's were $1 US or Canadian.
    Man, my friends and I STILL talk about that place like it was yesterday. Now, in our mid 40s, we talk about you, Todd's, and smile. Some of the best times ever! A place where we could get away and just be us. Pure cceptance!
    I was saddened at learning of Dennis' passing....what an amazing human being!
    Anyone know what happened to Marla?
    Take care all!
    Jef

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    1. Marla is doing well, living in Seattle the past 14 years. You'll find her and many other patrons on the ' I miss Todd's ' Facebook page.

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  41. Does a real cool guy named Dean.???He was real skinny, I think he was from canada like windsor.He was alot of fun.

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    1. Dean is still around, living in Windsor. Still attends the occasional concert in Detroit.

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  42. Can't remember how, when or why me and a group of friends dicovered Wednesdays at Todd's but for 4? years in the late 80s, it was the weekly cross-border outing, along with concerts at St.Andrews followed by the Shelter. Saw The Pogues with Joe Strummer, a definite highlight; low stage, understanding bouncers who helped you stand up, but Wednesday was the night. Always bittersweet when 'Heroes' came on but there was always next week....

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  43. How about all the great bands on we'd nights the gun club,gbh,the cramps I thinks the replacements may have played there. If only my kids could experience that Peace

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  44. I used to party at Todd's on Saturday nights, when they played house music...it was mostly a black crowd on Saturday nights

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  45. does anyone remember Tony, who use to own the bar? He was a puggish red head....tried to hit on me at the Blue Boy back in 1975/1976
    Tony, if you are out there, the answer is still NO

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  46. Wow - this was our groups fave amongst the fun/underground/new wave/alternative bars in the Detroit area. Their was The Majestic, City Club, The Shelter/St.Andrews, 3-D (Royal Oak),
    and a handful of other's which I mostly forget now, but Todd's was consistently the funnest/best of them all. Like Ms. Amy Halloran's friend commented above, it was a buck for a Molson or Labatt's, and the crowd was usually pretty fun, laid back and not too concerned.
    Me and my pal's from Royal Oak would be there most every Monday and Thursday to listen, drink and dance to DJ Charles English and others. Crazy as it seems, I actually miss those days sometimes...

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  47. I first went to Todd's in 1979 when it was "Todd's Bowling Disco" because the disco part used to be a bowling alley. Who can forget Dennis (aka Rita) at the bar on the lounge side. Another neat feature was Arno's boutique on the disco side...where I got my first and only pair of clear plastic disco pants--which I never had the guts to wear in public.

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    1. Do you remember Keith Joins or George Daniels. They use to be a couple. If you remember one of the other let me know. I know Keith he is very much older than me and I am trying to help get him some old friends since his partner George died. I am 23. email is Josephhunter129@yahoo.com

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  48. Well, my memories of Todd's are different from the rest of you! I went there one time only, in my early 20s, to see Spinal Tap! That's right, the "band" actually toured some clubs right after the movie came out. I still have my ticket stub: 7/13/1984. Probably would have gone more often but I lived too far away.

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  49. First time I went to Todd's was August of 1982 to see Altered Images with my fake ID...I was 16...best club ever...the bands, the crowd, all the sex that went on in that place...fond memories

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  50. First time I went to Todd's was August of 1982 to see Altered Images with my fake ID...I was 16...best club ever...the bands, the crowd, all the sex that went on in that place...fond memories

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  51. We loved Todd's in the mid 80's. Loved to see the tranny Paula as the coat check girl. Jerry X worked the Video Cauldron down in the basement. We danced on that old bowling alley floor.. DJ Charles English mixing it up!! Loved it there!!

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