Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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‘Last Call Chicago’ Reveals the Rich History of Queer Bar Culture

Alfie’s, circa 1976-1980. Last Call Chicago by Rick Karlin & St Sukie de la Croix, Rattling Good Yarns Press, 2022, p. 7

Karlin got the idea for the book while reminiscing with friends about the gay bars in Chicago. He’d been the entertainment editor at various publications for 25 years, so he had a lot of knowledge about the local bar scene. “I can’t remember my niece’s birthday,” he joked, “but I can remember that the bar on Elston Avenue was called Scooters.”

To flesh out those stories, Karlin knew he needed to collaborate with another journalist on the project. For years, de la Croix wrote a column in the gay papers called Chicago Whispers, which later became a book of the same name, where he’d interview people about bars from as far back as the Prohibition era of the 1920s and ’30s. “The original idea for [Last Call Chicago] may only be four years old, but Sukie, without knowing it, has been doing the research for it for 20 years.”

“I’d interviewed about 500 people, just about their lives in Chicago,” de la Croix said. “The bars cropped up a lot, because the bars back then were the community centers. There was no gay Catholic group, none of that stuff. Before Stonewall, that didn’t exist.

“I did think about doing this years ago, but I thought, No, this is too much for one person. So when Rick called me, I thought maybe we could do that, but I didn’t just want to do a list. I wanted it to be more than that.”

Read the full article here

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