Roles of restau­rants in Prides past

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For a few years in the late ’70s, my part­ner Rick and I use to hold a party in ad­vance of the an­nual Gay Pride pa­rade which be­gan in 1971. We called it “Gay Shame.” Its in­tent was not to dis­pute the no­tion of Pride but to mock the an­noy­ingly per­va­sive com­plaints that par­tic­i­pants, like drag queens, shame­fully mis­rep­re­sented our ba­si­cally “nor­mal” com­mu­nity. So, an in­vi­ta­tion to our party re­quired cos­tumes. You had to come in out­ra­geous gen­der-fuck drag, spiked leather, a fig-leaf Speedo, re­li­gious gar­ments – what­ever might piss off the nor­mal boys who deeply loved anal sex.

My part­ner al­ways chose to im­per­son­ate his own job for a while: a server at the Pleas­ant Peas­ant, the his­toric res­tau­rant on Peachtree that brought ca­sual fine din­ing to our city. That res­tau­rant and those it spawned, like the Peas­ant Up­town in Phipps Plaza, were in­fa­mous for their al­most en­tirely gay staffs. “Hello, my name is Rick and I’ll be your server to­day,” he said, dis­play­ing one of the lit­tle green chalk­board menus that the Peas­ant restau­rants used.

The Peas­ant restau­rants of that time pro­vided many jobs, es­pe­cially for young gay new­com­ers. They were un­usual in of­fer­ing in­sur­ance, but when the AIDS epi­demic slammed our city in the ’80s, the own­ers qui­etly an­nounced they would no longer do that. For­tu­nately, they re­versed them­selves, thanks in part to ACT UP, the feisty or­ga­ni­za­tion that did more than any other to im­prove the lot of AIDS pa­tients.

Not long af­ter­ward, the owner of Mary Mac’s, still a South­ern fa­vorite (now gaily owned), went on a cam­paign against the lo­ca­tion of the new Grady In­fec­tious Dis­ease Clinic nearby on Ponce de Leon. There is no record of AIDS clients sneak­ing into the kitchen and spit­ting on the fried chicken. She was si­lenced by ACT UP too. (I love their chicken, spit or not.)

Prob­a­bly the most iconic “gay res­tau­rant” of the time was the Gal­lus lo­cated in a ro­coco for­mer funeral home on Cy­press Street in Mid­town. There was, as I rec­ol­lect, a down­stairs din­ing room and an up­stairs piano bar. The food sucked, but it was hella fun, even the base­ment bar – a to­tal dive where many older men went to hook up with the hus­tlers that worked Cy­press Street, one of the orig­i­nal cruis­ing ar­eas of our city. A friend and I went there a few times, feign­ing twangy ac­cents and claim­ing we were from a Ma­con trailer park. We were in­stantly loved and of­fered con­stant shots.

My part­ner Rick, who later worked at beloved Gene and Gabe’s, died and so did our Gay Shame party. Pride has ex­ploded into an event that at­tracts tens of thou­sands (and yet we still hear some gay peo­ple carp­ing about the stereo­types … while they watch “Drag Race”). Restau­rants mar­ket­ing to gay peo­ple boomed like those at the cor­ner of 10th and Pied­mont and along Ju­niper Street. But as we have gained ac­cep­tance – in­clud­ing ac­cep­tance of our­selves – gay pres­ence is not an is­sue in any res­tau­rant I know. So, if you’re vis­it­ing for Pride, eat any­where you like.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­stock@gmail.com.

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