Windsor had gay bars in the 60s but before the Great Gay Exodus to the suburbs, Detroit was the place to go for the bar scene. There were several clubs right across the border in downtown Detroit and some of them put Studio 54 to Shame.
One of my favorite bars was the Diplomat which was near the Fisher Building. You never knew what you’d see any night with entertainment varying from live music to beat poetry to live plays to female impersonators. It was also a great place to spot local notables. They were very few people living their truth back then. There were serious repercussions if there was even a hint of homosexuality surrounding you. You could lose your job and family. Many people lucky enough not to face legal consequences or violence were forced to move to reinvent themselves once word they may be attracted to the same gender touched them.
If you really wanted a raucous night out, you’d head down Woodward and take in the disco scene. We were able to be who we are with people we could trust and laugh and dance and just forget the restrictive world and cover girlfriend that we’d go back to the next day. Some of us were honest with our women (and men) but a lot of people just gritted their teeth.
As much as we’ve progressed, we still have a long way to go. Violence against gay and trans people is a real problem that must be addressed.
Steve – 84 – Arizona
Picture of The Diplomat is from historicdetroit.org
The Woodward Bar and Grill was destroyed by fire on June 14, 2022. Click here to read article.