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With the recent implementation of "Stay at Home" restrictions across the US and around the world, many of us have found ourselves at home with a lot of 'free' time.
One long-time card-holding member of the gay community has chosen to spend his time researching, locating and digitally recreating the logos of the bars we knew and loved before the days of the internet.
The project actually started about 6 months before the pandemic made the headlines, but on a much smaller scale. In November of 2019, Art Smith [working with the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the owners of Atlanta's most iconic gay nightclub Backstreet] created a tribute t shirt design commemorating the 45th year after the opening of the massive three-story bar. Designed as a fundraising project for the Atlanta Sisters, the shirt was wildly successful.
In the months that followed, Art reached out to many old acquaintances through his multiple social media accounts and began the process of tracking down former bar owners in Atlanta, the city where he lived for most of the 80s and 90s. It was an arduous task as hardly any of the logos were available in digital format. Yet he persevered.
In January of 2020 he released a second Backstreet t shirt which was also very well received. The comments on social media were very encouraging and he became even more determined to expand the collection of throwback t shirts from bars gone by. One friend of several decades, Louie, was integral in connecting Art with the artist who created the logos for several other Atlanta hotspots: Colorbox, Rio and Velvet. Although the images available were not the crisp high-definition versions needed for digital reproduction, the project was definitely moving forward. With the assistance of Louie's old business partner Michael and logo designer Patti, designs for all three of those bars emerged.
The collection was gaining popularity. Bartenders, managers and patrons were emailing Art with information about their favorite watering holes from decades past. Finding decent copies of the logos, however, was a bit of a daunting task. Nonetheless, he continued to reach out to old contacts in the hopes that someone would know where to find the images needed to really build up the collection.
AND THEN CAME THE CORONAVIRUS
Daily life as we knew it began to change. Limited mobility. Bar closures. Reduced income. Stay at Home orders. Anxiety, angst and confusion.
Almost immediately, Art knew he needed a project in which to channel his creative juices and keep his mind [and his hands] busy. He redoubled his efforts to build up his #TBTeez collection and research more bars from his glory days.
People were spending more time on social media and he reached out to many of the throwback groups on Facebook for direction and inspiration. The response was extremely encouraging.
Over the next few weeks, he googled every possible combination of the terms "vintage, retro, gay, throwback, nightclubs, history, archives" and the like, stumbling across numerous sources for tidbits of information and clues to the next step in the journey. It was like a scavenger hunt. With a really limited number of clues.
Fortunately, he had the time to spend hours upon hours online to track down the leads and begin the process of archiving the logos and bar histories needed to grow this collection. Many were in poor condition or severely degraded from decades of neglect, but it was a starting point.
THE RESULT: A growing collection of tribute designs paying homage to the bars we knew and loved 'back in the day'. At present the collection includes HUNDREDS of carefully reconstructed logos representing bars from GA, FL, TX, TN, IL, CA, NC, SC, AL, WI, MI, WV, VA, ME, MA, LA, OH, NY, NJ, DE, DC as well as Canada and Europe ... with many more in the works.
What better way to celebrate our pride than to learn about our colorful past? It is my hope that these designs will bring back fond memories and, perhaps, even put a smile on your face. This project has certainly taught me a lot about where we came from. That alone makes the effort worthwhile.
An online search for 'vintage' and 'tribute' t shirts will produce hundreds of results for mainstream consumer products, decades-old sports teams and defunct musical groups. Every seems to love the idea of reminiscing about the 'good old days'.
The options for the gay community, however, have remained limited.
THE WORLD'S LARGEST COLLECTION
OF THROWBACK T SHIRT DESIGNS
HONORING GAY BARS GONE BY
YOUR INPUT IS WELCOME!
Our goal is to include as many of our old haunts as possible, focusing on clubs that closed prior to the 21st century. If you know of a popular gay establishment from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s that no longer exists and would like to see it commemorated in this collection, PLEASE reach out to me. If you have a copy of the logo, a connection with the owner or a story to tell about the club, please let me know. I can be reached at: email@example.com