Who was this fanatical group of gay cowboys hanging out at that new watering hole way out in West Kansas? And, what was this country western lifestyle they were all talking about?
Charlie’s was poorly located, under financed, built by duct tape and bailing wire and misunderstood by much of its own gay community. How could a gay bar survive that supported tequila over drugs, courting before sex, and even touch dancing, in these modern days of 1981? Everybody knew that those hats, Wranglers, and strange belt buckles had gone out of style for 30 years. Charlie’s even supported the ultimate oxymoron; a thing called Gay Rodeo. Interstate organized gay sporting competition was a new concept back then.
We were so poor that we decided not to replace the mirror ball after it fell and broke one night. To save money, a customer took it home for repairs and brought back instead, a pair of his own boots covered in the unbroken mirrors. These boots are now a part of Charlie’s registered trademark. Charlie’s has survived and flourished because of its loyal, steady and doggedly determined customers epitomized by the story of the mirrored boots. It seems that small time rural values help to comfort many people in our community.
Charlie’s has made changes just as our community has changed. In this new century, we are all now LGBTQs and “dance” music, line dancing and drag shows have replaced much of our couples dancing. But country is our first love and we play it as often as our community will accept. Get prepared to put a big smile on your face and come on down to tip a few: to the future and our past.
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