When I became drinking age, there were the gay bars. There were actually more [then than there are now]. There were four gay bars. Back then, about the only place that I knew of [to meet other gay people], other than just coming across people one-on-one directly at grocery stores, malls, wherever you’re at, was at the bars.
I was at the First Emperor’s Disco 425. It’s another one of these long strip bars, you know, big hallway. It’s fairly wide but still: it’s just a long skinny building. That was the first bar that I had been in where they had cutouts from porn magazines plastered on the walls in the restrooms. [In] the men’s room there’s dicks all over the walls. The women’s room had pussy and tits all over the wall. That was very strange. [Laughs.] I enjoyed it. There used to be no women in the 425 until late night Fridays and Saturdays. I had peeked into the ladies room at least once to look at the walls. I probably also played “guard” for straight girls using the bathroom. I spent a lot of time looking at some of the pictures wondering where some of them came from over the years because, you know, they had to have been done back in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s to get them up on the walls and laminated . . . They were old.
They were the only place that ever put down—I don’t know what it is—something on the floor, so you slide [while dancing]. It felt like salt, but it didn’t grind in, didn’t break down. It was in a little shaker can. Trying to remember the DJ’s name. Byron! He was one of the DJs who bounced around to almost every bar there was throughout his DJ career.
I’ve heard some interesting stories over the years about 425. [I heard that] one of the doormen was swapping blow jobs for letting under age boys come into the bar. No one ever approached me when I was young and impressionable. [Laughs.] That’s what I heard later. I never saw anything there that would’ve led me to believe that at that point. Especially with gay men, there’s a thing about staying young and youthful. A lot of people looked very young and under age to me at that point in the bar anyhow. Whether they actually were or not . . .
One of the bars that closed, unfortunately, right after I came out, was the biker, leather, lesbian bar [Backwoods West]. It was in the west end of town, down by [5th and Cannon]. Of course, all the bars were in not great neighborhoods. That was interesting. I was fascinated with the leather men. I have an attraction for chest hair and the leather. There weren’t that many leather boys at that point, but it still was interesting going into the bar. Of course, at that point I was just 21. I still looked really young at that age. We were just terrified every time we were in there. We were always just looking for somebody from the gay community, or we were looking to get weed or acid back then. [They] had all the things I was doing at that point, but I was always terrified in that bar. I don’t think we spent more than about 45 minutes in there at any one given time. Then it was closed like a year later. Now there I would expect to have the pornography in the bathrooms, and they didn’t. [Laughs.] Or not that I remember.
Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman, 16 March 2013.