Leather daddies: Chicago’s LGBT exhibit

Jun 16, 2011

Before Boystown, the Gold Coast area of Chicago was the go-to destination for confirmed bachelors to get their leather on. Dom Orejudos (a.k.a. Etienne) painted this mural for Chuck Renslow’s Gold Coast Bar, one of the first leather bars in the country. Renslow opened the bar in 1958 and is also responsible for launching the annual International Mr. Leather competition, which goes on to this day. The mural above, courtesy of Mr. Allen Schuh,¬†depicts the bar in full swing in 1973.¬†The woman looks so out of place because she was a late add-on to divert cops from raiding the bar.

Much like New York’s Stonewall bar and right around the same time, Chicago clubs that catered to “questionable” lifestyles were subject to unannounced police raids. “The city had free reign to come in and arrest people,” Jill Austin, curator of the Chicago History Museum‘s Out in Chicago exhibit, tells GayCities. “Most of these raids targeted racial and sexual minorities, and many of them were against gay businesses.”

Ironically, it was the Nixon administration who investigated the Chicago bar raids and cracked down on police carte blanche corruption under the first Mayor Daley. So we have Richard Nixon to thank for something other than Watergate and presidential carte blanche.