By Jazmine Butterfly
As I was out last night I realized everything is gone! The 90s in Pittsburgh were epic! …I mean at least to me they were! There was so much TGBLQ nightlife that we had a schedule on what bars were hopin’ on any particular night. Take for instance tonight is Thursday everybody went to Skylights (now a strip club) 2 floors of adventure…. Always an adventure for me! Anyway. There were a lot of str8 folks that went too! Mostly swingers looking to spice up there boring marriages I guess. So 2 floors one was for walking around stalking the club and dance floor and downstairs 3 bars and one big dance floor. If u were low on funds then Brewers or Donny’s place and Luckys (Lucky gave me my first job in pgh and show at Luckys).
If u were attractive u never had to worry about paying for drinks or a cover charge! And if u so happened to be a “infamous” drag entertainer like me (I was no angel by any means!)
it didn’t matter if I was in drag or not everybody in the Pittsburgh gay scene knew me or heard of me good or bad (Gawd I miss those days!)
Well at least that’s how it was by 1993 in 92 I had just moved here a bytch was getting HIV symptomatic. And was told that Pittsburgh had the best HIV Healthcare. So got off the greyhound got a cab to the North Side, where I got a room at the YMCA. The next night I got dressed n headed out to downtown to find my people. By time I got to Liberty Ave. I knew I had found them. There were obvious gay folks and young boys standing outside the Adult bookstore and I didn’t know it then but right next to it was Pegasus! Across the street Tilden down from there Images. I’m a kid of the streets I grew up in the system and ran away a lot! So u knew that most of these young boys were hustlers (male prostitutes) They even had their own stroll Strawberry Way pun intended no it’s a real street well alleyway. And Mellon square yup right across the William Penn hotel. Anyway I make new friends very easily I’m cute intelligent and street savvy . Have to be to survive the streets n cold when you’re a gay teen runaway. Moving on so yeah even further downtown Pittsburgh near the old Kaufmans was Zacks! It was a really cute night club unfortunately it wasn’t near the action on Liberty Ave. “straight” boys that’ll do something strange for some change. And the Adult bookstore with its glory holes and twinks tryna get into Pegasus.
As some of us older Pittsburgh queer folks know the Crack epidemic was in full swing. As well as HIV and AIDS.
I’m not gonna get into all that in this story.
What I still didn’t see much of in the 90s and definitely don’t see today is what does a young TGBLQ person of color do in Pittsburgh on a Thursday night or any night for that matter If there isn’t a ball going on!?
There doesn’t seem to be anything as far as a social life maybe that’s why there isn’t that big of a Black/ Brown queer community in Pittsburgh. Never really has been even in my day.
I will admit I traveled to Chicago and Philly a lot in the 90s early 2000s 2-4 times a year that’s because I loved house music and Chicago is the birth place for house! They just didn’t give that here it was top 40s n remixes of those same tired songs u heard on the radio. Not to mention fashion was very lacking here.
So instead of going on and on what can we do as a community to start having more events n places to go throughout the week that doesn’t involve people having to be tested for STDS or go through some nonprofit speel ….shyt even when I moved back to Pittsburgh in 2013
There was images and Project Silk that the kids loved to hang out at.
Images is gone and Silk moved away from being near Liberty Ave. There’s some magic on that damn Liberty Ave…at least there was!
For me just memories and old ghosts.
Jazmine is a 50 something year old Trans woman of color who was one of the most talented entertainers to ever perform in the art form of female impersonation in Pittsburgh PA. Trans activist Black Lives Matter activist HIV activist. And now a budding writer currently writing my autobiography which will include a few chapters of what it was like being HIV positive and staying alive while attempting to transition into Jazmine and battle a severe drug addiction. During the AIDS epidemic in the late 80s and 90s.
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You missed the *truly* epic days where every bar had a different nght. Tuesdays were the Holiday for 5 for $5 (and food!), then Jazi’s / Xover
Wednesdays were Zack’s 4th Avenue and 75 cent beer
Thursdays were Metropol and later Club Troubadour, the traveling nightclub
Fridays were cocktails at NYNY, then pick-a-club afterward
Saturdays were Pegasus
Sundays were Zack’s again.(and people dressed UP!)
And Mondays was the Upstage for alternative/new wave music and straight boys who had stuck around after downing too many 50 cent plastic cup beers having an “A Ha!” moment.
When they existed (all too briefly) the Lesbian bars sometimes had “Boy’s Night Out, and the top floor at Zack’s was the Lesbian bar (did it have a name?) that you went to to take a break from a poor song choice or the relentless cruising.
Oh the daze…
P.S. I missed Sundays starting at the Holiday for another 5 for $5, then Zacks AND Traveler’s for after hours any day of the week (except Sundays so that Lucky could have his poker night, which was fine because you went there early for brunch anyway)