Thursday, June 21, 2012

From Underground to Mainstreet

On Tuesday, I posted a video I found while looking for something else. Well, it’s happened again. This time, it’s a short film looking at the LGBT scene in Carbondale, Illinois, where I went to university.

I never went to The Pit when I lived in Carbondale, and I’m not even sure I ever heard of it. If I did, it was one of those situations where I didn’t know what people were talking about, but I didn’t want them to know I didn’t know. I was young.

I’d heard of the The Underground, though I never went there; by the time I came out, the scene had pretty recently shifted to The New Yorker, a bar that was mentioned in passing in this film (and its virtual omission is my only real complaint with it—the bar was important in its day).

Mainstreet East opened after I left, but I went there when I returned as a GLBT grassroots activist. Before that, it was Chester Street and before that, it was a straight bar, neither of which was mentioned in the film. Chester Street was the bar I went to when the scene moved from The New Yorker. It was named after a bar of the same name in Champaign-Urbana, home to the University of Illinois.

I probably saw some of the people shown at the bar when I lived in Carbondale, though I don’t remember any of them except Paulette Curkin, who I was introduced to on one of my trips back doing activism. That probably has to do with the fact that the bar’s time was really after mine more than faded memory as is usually the case.

The thing about those bars is that they were the one place we could feel free and accepted in what was a very hostile area. In some ways, it was like a secret society, an underground resistance movement in which the chief weapon was dancing. But there, we were safe and free and ourselves—even if only for a few hours.

So, I was thrilled to run across this video and its depiction of a place I knew well, even if the time was different. It was a special time and place in my life, and it looked a lot like what this video shows.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I remember the first time I went into a gay bar in Binghamton, in 1975.

I had no idea how long it had been there, but I was surprised that such a conservative town HAD one, and only a block from the high school, which I would have thought would have brought the wrath of the community on them. Unless no one in the city police/govt knew?