The long, wild ride of Backstreet
“It wasn’t safe anywhere, but it was safe there. It was a place where we could be ourselves. It was an incredible feeling being there.”
By DYANA BAGBY
It was 1983 and Mitch Grooms had just moved to Atlanta from rural Paris, Tenn., where he found work at a Krystal restaurant on Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross.
One Friday night, a co-worker told the 20-year-old Grooms, “I’m going to take you to a fag club.”
“That’s what we were called back then,” Grooms, now 56, said of the invitation.
That club was Backstreet. And when Grooms entered the legendary nightspot, he was overwhelmed by what he saw and felt.
The expansive 47,000-square-foot building with three levels at the corner of Peachtree Street and 6th Street was alive with hundreds of men dancing together to booming beats under an electric light show and that unforgettable, giant shimmering disco ball.
“I started crying. I broke down on the dance floor,” he said. “I thought I was the only person like me. It was something I never experienced before in my life.”
Ask anyone who danced at Backstreet during its heydays in the 1980s and 1990s and you will likely hear similar stories. The club became a home while the bartenders, the staff, the drag queens, the partiers were their family.
Featured on HBO, the Travel Channel, MTV, VH1 and numerous Atlanta TV shows, Backstreet welcomed everyone and provided that safe haven so many sought.
“It wasn’t safe anywhere, but it was safe there,” Grooms said. “It was a place where we could be ourselves. It was an incredible feeling being there.”