Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Gay/Lesbian/LGBTQ

Gene’s Music Bar, The Lasso Bar, and The Zoo Bar

genes-music-bar_dallas-memorabiliaGene’s Music Bar, S. Akard Street (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In Dallas’ pre-Stonewall days, there were only a handful of gay bars in the city, and they weren’t widely known beyond those who frequented them. Those were the days when “homosexual behavior” was illegal, and vice raids on gay bars and clubs were frequent occurrences. In an interview with the Dallas Voice Alan Ross remembered what the bar scene was like in Dallas in those days (click for larger image):

Dallas Voice, Sept. 21, 1990

There was the well-appointed Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit (later renamed Villa Fontana), one of Dallas’ earliest gay bars, located on Skiles Street near Exall Park in the area now known as Bryan Place, and there were rougher, seedier places, generally downtown. Three of those downtown bars (which apparently catered to a “straight” clientele during the day and a gay clientele at night) were Gene’s Music Bar and The Lasso — both on S. Akard, in the shadow of the Adolphus Hotel — and The Zoo Bar, on Commerce, “across from Neiman-Marcus.”

Gene’s Music Bar (pictured above) at 307-09 S. Akard began as a place where hi-fi bugs could sip martinis and listen to recorded music played on “the Southwest’s first and only stereophonic music system.” Not only did it have the sensational Seeburg two-channel stereo system, but it also boasted one of the best signs in town.

Nov. 1958

The Lasso Bar at 215 S. Akard was in the next block, across from the classy Baker Hotel, and a hop, skip, and a jump from the elegant Adolphus. Its proximity to the impressive Adolphus meant that the Lasso snuck its way into lots of souvenir picture postcards and Dallas Chamber of Commerce publicity photos. Its sign was pretty cool, too.



March, 1958

The image below gives you an idea of what that block looked like at night, neon blazing. (This super-blurry screenshot is from WFAA-Channel 8 coverage of 1969’s Texas-OU weekend, here — at 6:16 and 9:13.)


The Zoo Bar at 1600 Commerce began as a cocktail lounge and often had live piano music. It was across from Neiman’s and it was 3 blocks from Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club (downtown Dallas ain’t what it used to be). It also had a better-than-average sign.


zoo-bar_dth-photo_112263_sixth-floor-museum_portal_croppedNov., 1963

Sept., 1952

zoo-bar_matchbook_ebay_2     zoo-bar_matchbook_ebay_1

These three downtown bars, popular as hangouts for gay men, had their heyday in the 1960s and ’70s. By the mid 1970s, the LGBT scene was shifting to Oak Lawn. An interesting article about the uneasy relationship between the “old” Oak Lawn and the “new” Oak Lawn can be found in a Dallas Morning News article by Steve Blow titled “Last Oak Lawn Settlers Brought Controversy” (Dec. 9, 1979).


Sources & Notes

Top photo of Gene’s Music Bar is from the blog Old Dallas Stuff.

Color photo of the Lasso and the Adolphus is from an old postcard. Black-and-white photo of the Lasso and the Adolphus is from the Texas Historical Commission site, here.

Blurry shot of Gene’s Music Bar and the Lasso Bar at night is a cropped screenshot from daily footage shot by WFAA-Channel 8 on Oct. 11, 1969 — the night before the Texas-OU game; from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, G. William Jones Film and Video Archive, Hamon Arts Library, SMU.

Color image of the Zoo Bar and Commerce Street is a screenshot from home movie footage of the 1966 Memorial Day parade in downtown Dallas, shot by Lawrence W. Haas, viewable on YouTube. Black-and-white photo of the Zoo Bar from the Sixth Floor Museum Collection, via the  Portal to Texas History, here (I’ve cropped it). Zoo Bar matchbook from eBay.

Read more about Dallas’ gay bar scene in the article I wrote for Central Track, “Hidden in Plain Sight, A Photo History of Dallas’ Gay Bars of the 1970s,” here.

More on the the persistent arrests and police harassment that went on in gay clubs in Dallas for many, many years can be found in the Dallas Voice article by David Webb, “DPD Vice Unit Wages 50-Year War Against Gay Men” (Aug. 3, 2007), here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Hidden in Plain Sight” on Central Track


by Paula Bosse

Thanks to Pete Freedman and Central Track for publishing “Hidden In Plain Sight,” my look at Dallas’ gay bar scene of the early 1970s, complete with 16 photos from 1975 showing establishments (and even a couple of neighborhoods) that no longer exist. Read the article here.

Thanks to Tim Bratcher who drew my attention to these great photos and to JD Doyle for archiving the original article on his Houston LGBT History site.


UPDATE: I’m happy to report that this article made Central Track’s “15 Most Read Stories of 2016”!


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Gay Activism in Dallas and the Fight for Equality

gay-pride-parade_062572_portal_smDallas’ first gay pride march, June 24, 1972 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today’s historic ruling by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of marriage equality comes after decades of civil rights activism from the LGBT community. The push for acceptance and equality began for many after the historic Stonewall Riots in New York City, which happened 47 years ago this week. The political fight began in Dallas — as it did in most major US cities — in the early 1970s. Dallas’ first Gay Pride march was held downtown on June 24, 1972, at a time when “out” homosexuals and lesbians were often blacklisted or denied basic civil rights without legal recourse. Below, the coverage of that first march by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

gay-pride-parade-FWST_062572Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 25, 1972

And now, a long, long 43 years later — almost to the day — the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is now legal in every state in the union, a landmark victory not only for those early political and social activists who marched in the streets of Dallas and fought for their basic human rights, but also a victory for those of us who are their friends and family.


A wonderful history of the gay community in Dallas — from the days of secret “speak-easy”-type clubs to political organization to the AIDS fight — is contained in the KERA-produced documentary “Finding Our Voice: The Dallas Gay & Lesbian Community” (2000), which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube, here.



Sources & Notes

Photograph of Dallas’ first Gay Pride march is from the LGBT Collection of the UNT Libraries; it and other photos of the parade can be found on UNT’s Portal to Texas History website, here.

Coverage of the first Dallas march can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Gays March Proudly” by Marc Bernabo (June 25, 1972).

Other Flashback Dallas posts on LGBTQ issues can be found here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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