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GA Voice - - Outspoken -

flipped all the way across my floor,” Brown said.

The crowd ex­ploded with shouts and ap­plause and se­cu­rity raced to see what was happening, Brown said. “And it made it in Peach Buzz [in the At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion] the next day,” Brown said.

Plenty of other celebri­ties came to Back­street and wit­nessed the show­stop­per that was Char­lie Brown and his cabaret, in­clud­ing El­ton John and even Janet Jack­son, he said. They would come in incog­nito, with no fan­fare, and en­joy the show and danc­ing just like ev­ery­one else.

“[Back­street] was the grand­mother club of At­lanta’s nightlife,” Brown said.

Politi­cians and the be­gin­ning of the end

The club also was a pop­u­lar stop for politi­cians stump­ing for votes and seek­ing the gay vote. Former U.S. Rep. Bar­ney Frank made a stop one night, Brown said. At­lanta politi­cians in­clud­ing U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Cathy Woolard, Bill Camp­bell, Shirley Franklin and Vin­cent Fort also made speeches to the crowd.

Even­tu­ally, some of those politi­cians who came to the club in the mid­dle of the night and sought out the sup­port of Back­street vot­ers de­cided it was time to do away with 24-hour nightlife in At­lanta and sup­ported clos­ing down such clubs.

Back­street’s last call was New Year’s Eve 2004 af­ter the club lost a pro­tracted le­gal bat­tle to keep pour­ing at all hours. Mem­bers of the Mid­town Ponce Se­cu­rity Al­liance flooded the City Coun­cil with com­plaints, al­leg­ing there was ram­pant drug use and pros­ti­tu­tion tak­ing place at the club.

“De­vel­op­ers were com­ing in and they wanted our prop­erty. They [MPSA] hired Peggy Denby to be a thorn in our side, and boy, was she,” Vara said, re­fer­ring to the no­to­ri­ous mem­ber who is cred­ited with be­ing a main force lead­ing to Back­street’s clo­sure.

Back­street tried to stay open af­ter Jan. 1, 2004 by not serv­ing booze and re­main­ing open as an all-night dance­hall. In July 2004 the club was cited for not hav­ing a dance­hall li­cense and Vara said she knew the war to stay open was over.

The club closed down for­ever in Au­gust 2004 and Vara sold off the club’s mem­o­ra­bilia a month later. The build­ing was torn down and in its place now stands the 36-floor condo high-rise View­point.

“It was very, very sad,” Brown said. “We were pushed out by the neigh­bor­hood as­so­ci­a­tion, which put 120 em­ploy­ees out of work. The old Buck­head Bet­tys got liquor out of Buck­head and then came to Mid­town and came straight af­ter us,” Brown said.

Brown now per­forms weekly at Lips At­lanta on Bu­ford High­way and said young peo­ple reg­u­larly at­tend the show with their par­ents who met at Back­street.

“I could never ever be­gin to thank Lips At­lanta and Back­street and the peo­ple that love and sup­port me … thank you, At­lanta, I’m still your bitch.”

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