40 Years of Pride – Part 8

After the impressive array of Pride Week activities, the 1989 Gay Pride Picnic proved to be the perfect way to celebrate GALA’s achievements and bring the community together.  Once again held in Southmoreland Park, the Picnic mirrored that of the year before, in that it was grassroots in feeling and offered attendees casual forms of entertainment like volleyball and other games.  Expansion of the event was evident in the roster of talent that performed, including

  • The Blues Broads
  • Linda Corbin
  • Heartland Men’s Chorus
  • Scott Hegenbart, making a repeat appearance
  • Kansas City Women’s Chorus
  • Peaches
  • Rosalind Smith
  • Excerpts from The Ten Percent Revue
  • Two Turned On

As in previous years, performers were coordinated by Willow Productions.

Over 1,000 people attended the Picnic, a testament to the organizational and promotional abilities of members of GALA.

Pride logo, created by Marc Hein

Pride logo, created by Marc Hein










Volleyball action

Volleyball action








It was a warm day

It was a warm day










Steve Pierce, of Gay Services Network

Steve Pierce, of Gay Services Network










Strolling Picnic attendees

Strolling Picnic attendees








Stationery Picnic attendees

Stationary Picnic attendees










The Pink Triangle Political Coalition table


Saturday night, after the Picnic, organizers hosted a dance they called “The Great Coming Out Party”.  It was held at the VFW Hall at 31st and Walnut, and included a drag show featuring entertainers such as Myrna Vonn, Sandy Kaye, Renee Scott, and Lilly White.

Flyer for The Great Coming Out Party

One of the reasons the 1989 Pride Celebration in Kansas City was so extensive was because it marked the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, seen by many as the inauguration of the gay rights movement.  It was the first commemoration of Stonewall in 1970 that led to the evolution of annual Pride celebrations across the country, and during this special anniversary year Kansas City held its own in appropriately celebrating the historic event.


40 Years of Pride – Part 7

GALA members responsible for the 1988 Gay and Lesbian Awareness Picnic took the lessons learned from that project and applied them to create even greater success in 1989. They held numerous fundraisers throughout the year, the biggest being the “Button Nite Blowout”, and expanded version of the previous year’s sole fundraising event. More bars participated than in the previous year, with special offers for the button wearers:

  • Cabaret and Taps– 50¢ off any drink
  • The Windjammer – 25¢ schnapps or tequila shots
  • Connections – 50¢ schnapps shots
  • The Other Side – 25¢ schnapps shots
  • View on the Hill – two schnapps shots for 50¢
  • Legends – one free cocktail

Over $1,000 was raised that evening for the Pride festivities.

Bar.10.Kon Tiki

Kon-Tiki Lounge, 3253 Main (now the site of Costco and Home Depot)








Organizers planned an entire week of activities, culminating in the “2nd Annual Gay Pride Picnic”, again held in Southmoreland Park. Other events included:

The Stonewall Arts Festival, held at the Foundry, 2805 Southwest Boulevard, was presented by ACT-UP Kansas City, the local chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, as a fundraiser for GALA. Featuring visual art and performance pieces, the Festival was held Friday, June 16 and drew a substantial crowd.

Stonewall Arts Festival flyer

Stonewall Arts Festival flyer








Participating visual artists included Bert Provost, Craig Bruns, Roy De Cries, Christopher Leitch, and Kurt Von Schlemmer. Some of the performers that night were Kacey Carlson, Scott Cordes, Kate Burn, and Davina Gabriel. Ms. Gabriel’s first piece featured a recitation of the famous poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg in its entirety and entirely from memory!

A production of The Ten Percent Revue was launched during Pride Week at the Quality Hill Playhouse. The show featured a series of songs that addressed a wide range of gay-related issues, from the AIDS crisis to lesbian motherhood, with poignancy and humor.

Cover of Alternate News

Cover of Alternate News










In addition to the Stonewall Arts Festival, ACT-UP Kansas City also sponsored a Public Rally on the steps of City Hall on Friday June 23, urging “all who are ready to be publicly visible and want to express their outrage over the city’s response to AIDS…to join at City Hall and participate in whatever fashion they feel comfortable.”

Flyer promoting the rally

Flyer promoting the rally







Jon Barnett addressing the crowd

ACT-UP co-founder Jon Barnett addressing the crowd

Rally participants at City Hall

Rally participants at City Hall

Rally participants

Rally participants

Banner displayed at the top of City Hall

Banner displayed at the top of City Hall

40 Years of Pride – Part 6

The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that took place in October of 1987 drew 500,000 participants, including a contingent from Kansas City. The energy from that event resonated with attendees long after it was over, leading to a resurgence in political activism and awareness-building across the country. Locally, the March led to the formation of the Pink Triangle Political Coalition in early 1988, and within that organization a committee called Gay and Lesbian Awareness (GALA) was created that would be directly responsible for organizing local Pride events.

PTPC Brochure

Pink Triangle Political Coalition Brochure

When the decision was made to host a Pride event, GALA had only two months of planning time. One of the fundraisers they held was a “Button Nite”, at which Pride buttons were given to people who donated at least $1. Participating bars included The Windjammer, Kon Tiki, Frisco, Jamie’s, The Other Side, Changes, and Twylite Zone.

The Gay and Lesbian Awareness Picnic was held in June of 1988 in Southmoreland Park, just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Approximately 150-200 people from Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis were in attendance.

Picnic people

Picnic people








More picnic people

More Picnic people








They were entertained by pianist Scott Hegenbart and the musical group Rosie’s Bar and Grill. Local activist and future City Council member Carol Coe gave a powerful speech on the influence of gay people in politics.


Scott Hegenbart










Scott performing

Scott performing








Community play was encouraged by the presence of volleyball and a water balloon toss.










More volleyball

More volleyball








Balloon toss

Balloon toss








Don't let it break!

Don’t let it break!








Though small by today’s standards, the 1988 Gay and Lesbian Awareness Picnic reinvigorated the local community and set the stage for much larger community-based celebrations over the next few years.

40 Years of Pride – Part 5

This poster is the only object in GLAMA from early to mid-1980s Pride celebrations.  It appears from the graphic that the event(s) took place at Liberty Memorial or Penn Valley Park, but that has yet to be confirmed.  If you can help us with details about this or other Pride events from the period – better yet, if you have related stuff you want to donate – let us know!


40 Years of Pride – Part 4

After the Friday night parade and rally, the Pride Celebration weekend of 1979 continued with a Gay Pride Dinner and Dance on Saturday night.  Sponsored by the Metropolitan Community Church and held at All Soul’s Unitarian Church, nearly 150 people enjoyed a homemade meal and listened to rousing speeches by Kansas City Councilman Jerry Riffel and Reverend Troy Perry.

Sunday, the festivities culminated with Hoedown!, a picnic and dance party hosted by Taurus Productions and Club Midwest.  The day-long event was held on a farm in Gardner, Kansas, and participants feasted on corn-on-the-cob, salad, and an entire side of beef that was roasted for most of the day.  In addition, twelve kegs of beer and a dozen ripe watermelon were also consumed!


“Gerry”, one of the Hoedown! chefs











Hoedown participants










The ravenous revelers were also treated to live country music by Elk River Biscuits and Gravy Band and recorded disco music DJ-ed by Steve Jones, better known to the community as Wanda Lust, the VD Queen who traveled to bars and community events testing for venereal diseases on behalf of the Kansas City Public Health Department.

Hoedown! dancers

Hoedown! dancers

40 Years of Pride – Part 3

The late 70s saw a burgeoning of pride and Pride in Kansas City, and 1979 was no different.  The weekend of June 15-17 presented a raft of opportunities for gay and lesbian Kansas Citians to march, rally, eat, drink, and be merry.  To kick things off a parade was held on Friday night, starting at 7:00 at Liberty Memorial.  Three blocks in length, the parade made its way up Grand to 11th Street, west on 11th to Main, then south on Main back to Liberty Memorial, where paraders and onlookers gathered for a rally.  The parade marshal was Reverend Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, who spoke briefly at the rally.  Parade organizers had planned on using a horse-drawn carriage for Reverend Perry, but couldn’t secure an appropriate horse.  So, the carriage was transformed into the “human-drawn” variety.


Parade at Main and 13th.


Reverend Perry


Rally at Liberty Memorial base.


Post-parade rally








40 Years of Pride – part 2

In 1978 an entire week was devoted to celebrating Gay Pride in Kansas City.  Culminating in the picnic described in this Kansas City Times article from June 19, the local Gay Pride Week coincided with similar commemorations across the country.  On Friday the 16th over 250 Kansas Citians marched in a parade through downtown, and a community picnic took place the following Sunday.  Though sponsored by the Christopher Street Association (KC’s local advocacy group at the time) and members of the National Gay Task Force, the picnic, which appears to have been held in Rosedale Park in KCK, was hastily thrown together just five days prior!  Despite that, word spread quickly and over 400 people were in attendance.  Part of the draw may have been the appearance of Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, who had gained notoriety three years earlier appearing on the cover of Time magazine as an out service member fighting his discharge from the service.







Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the newspaper article from the vantage point of hindsight is the final quote from a picnic participant.  Referring to challenges against ordinances that discriminate against gays and lesbians, one young man stated “It may be 100 years before we’re ready for that”.  Little did he know…

40 Years of Pride – Part 1

June is Gay Pride Month, and June 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the first Pride Celebration in Kansas City.  To honor that milestone, we will be posting Pride-related material from the collections of the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America all month long!  And it seems appropriate that our fist post should feature the flyer from that Pride Celebration so long ago in 1975.  The three-day festival, held at the Gay Community Center at 3825 Virginia, was sponsored by the Gay People’s Union of Kansas City, the Joint Committee on Gay Rights, the Metropolitan Community Church, and the Kansas City Women’s Liberation Union.

Pride Flyer1975- frontPride Flyer1975 - back

The weekend was packed with social, educational, and spiritual activities for all attendees:  everything from skits and plays to a workshop on lobbying to a picnic brunch.  This rare flyer is a remarkable window into a telling moment in the development of the Kansas City gay and lesbian community.

Tales from the Archives: Disc(h)ord on the Ranch

In October 2012, the Marr Sound Archives completed an 18-month National Endowment for the Humanities grant to catalog and preserve the nearly 3,000 broadcast recordings in the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection. Please enjoy this series of anecdotes recounting the unusual discoveries and amusing happenings in the course of working with this collection.

This is the fourth in a series of Tales from the Archives.

Disc(h)ord on the Ranch

The KMBC Texas Rangers

The KMBC Texas Rangers “Gentlemen in the White Hats.” Credit: Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, Marr Sound Archives, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It seemed like everyone on the project team had discovered some new interest when working with the collection. One student became so engrossed in the developing drama on the show Vic and Sade, she hoarded all the discs to herself. For me, it was the Western swing group, The KMBC Texas Rangers. The unedited cuts of this musical octet perfectly demonstrate the unique chemistry the group had. It was hard not to be captivated by them, with names like: Clarence “Idaho” Hartman (bass fiddle), Gomer “Tenderfoot” Cool (fiddle), Joe “Monty” Strand (accordion), Herbie “Arizona” Kratoska (guitar and banjo), Fran “Irish” Mahaney (tenor), Rod “Dave” May (tenor), Robert “Captain Bob” Crawford (baritone), and Edward “Tucson” or “Tookie” Cronenbold (bass).

Garbed in Western wear, topped with classic white hats, their versatile musical repertoire included hymns, cowboy songs, novelty, and western swing. When I guest lectured for the Conservatory (UMKC), I ended with the Texas Rangers’ rendition of “Hand me down my walking cane” which inevitably got stuck in everyone’s head. It’s entertaining and hopefully served as a distraction from the terrible guest lecture they just sat through.

Tex Owens

Image above: Tex Owens, the original Texas Ranger? Image courtesy of Orlene “Kit” Johnson and Irene “Kay” Dierks.

As we soon discovered, the Texas Rangers weren’t without their own drama. In their early radio programs, they were often fronted by special guest, Tex Owens. Owens, who played guitar and sang with the group on occasion, was never officially a member, but somehow left his mark in history as “The Original Texas Ranger.” There seemed to be a great deal of tension between Tex and the boys which reached its climax when Texas Governor, James V. Allred, commissioned the musical group The Texas Rangers, along with Tex Owens, as honorary members of the state’s famed law enforcement group. The honor bestowed upon the Rangers prompted them to compose an interoffice memo expressing their disappointment that Tex would be honored alongside them considering he had not been a member. The memo also included some disagreements between the group and Tex. You can read more about this controversy, see the original memo, and learn of the outcome from a blog post written by one of the project students: Tex Owens: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

Find out more about the Church-KMBC collection.

Evie Quarles’ Blues Portraits


Alan Mercer at Club Paradox – Kansas City, KS 7/8/02. All of Evie Quarles’ photos are available to researchers through LaBudde Special Collections.

Petite with a soft southern drawl and a shock of silver hair, Evie Quarles found her muse at the Grand Emporium, a smoky, boisterous blues joint located near 39th and Main Street in Kansas City. While taking a photography class at a local community college in 1997, Evie became enamored of taking and developing photos. As part of a project for her final exam, she began taking photographs of the musicians, dancers and assorted characters perched at the bar at the Grand Emporium.

Becoming hooked on photography and the Grand Emporium, Evie returned night after night to photograph the musicians and fans dancing and milling around the club. She found that the black background of the stage perfectly framed her sharp, intimate portraits of the blues men and women that played there night after night.

For the next twenty years, she documented blues concerts, clubs, and festivals in Kansas City. Navigating her way through crowds at festivals, clubs, and late night jam sessions with her camera hanging from a strap around her neck and a vest full of film, Evie captured musicians in mid note, dancers swirling across dance floors, and fans carrying on in the audience.

In 2013, Evie donated 856 prints to LaBudde Special Collections in the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri—Kansas City. The breadth and depth of the self-curated collection is stunning. The collection ranges from Kansas City jazz legends at the Mutual Musicians Foundation; the downhome charm of the Kansas City, Kansas Street Blues Festival; Blues Masters at the Crossroads, Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival along with the Grand Emporium and other clubs around Kansas City.


Living Blues Weekend Photo Shoot, Cotton Candy 9/18/99.


Kansas City, Kansas Street Blues Festival: Tommy Soul Williams 6/29/02.


Lil’ Ed at Grand Emporium 5/15/04.


5th Annual Blues Masters at the Crossroads, Blue Heaven Studio: Robert Lockwood, Jr. 10/19/02.


Bobby Rush, Thanksgiving Blues Breakfast, KCKS 11/27/03.


Ray Charles and Myra Taylor at The Music Hall 1/11/02.


Consult Evie Quarles’ LaBudde Special Collections page to see the collection finding aid.

See also: Evie Quarles and Her Muse.