The T On All AX’S

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Friday February 15, 2019 was the first LGBTQ night after All AX’S had their grand opening as an LGBTQ inclusive bar two weeks before. I wanted to check it out to see the differences from that visit. The idea of having a LGBTQ bar destination on the east-side of town is still an amazing idea. While many people feel the decline of LGBTQ bars is no big deal, I feel that it is important is providing structure to a community especially in a part of town that doesn’t have a lot of LGBTQ options.

Billy Welker is the owner behind All AX’S and is committed to making this spot all inclusive. A few of us had reached out to give a few suggestions on how to get the word out to the local community. One easy one that I suggested was to get equality stickers or rainbow stickers so that anyone would be able to identify it as a safe place. Upon walking up to the bar, we noticed the stickers in the main windows. Not overly stated, but if you know what you are looking for, they are a nice reminder that this bar is welcoming. Just peeking into the bar, it was easy to notice that there were more people this time.

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You could hear the music from the outside and was a nice beat. I knew that it was going to be DJ Toni Freeze and her set is always good. Always a great combination of modern and classic dance beats. There was about 20 people in the bar and was a good turnout of only the second publicized night of it being a LGBTQ club. The vibe of the bar was warm and fun, all seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere. If you read the first review of the bar, I mentioned that it had a kitschy atmosphere that is truly inviting. The walls are covered with vinyl record album covers, strings of multicolored lights stretch between the columns of the bar, bright mirrors behind the liquor selection gives it a larger appearance.

The have a good selection of beers and liquor and the prices are really good. A few beers and couple mixed drinks definitely do not set you back as much as many of the places downtown. The drinks are mixed well and skew a bit more to the liquor side, rather than the mixer. Their beer selection offers a lot of local flavors, as well as plenty larger labels. Food menu is more to just bar foods. You can find shrimp baskets, burgers, wings and fries, plenty enough to help soak up the night of drinking. There is a patio out back and will be awesome once the weather warms up for enjoying it.

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Many people were saying how awesome it was or that they couldn’t believe there was a gay bar in Willoughby. So, the word is out, and people are reacting to it. The entire time I was there I only heard a couple people have anything to say that wasn’t tinged with excitement. There were a few heterosexual people who did ask if the people in the bar were gay. Once they answered, that was about it. Only one seemed to make any kind of joke about it. The bar stayed busy up until about midnight, when I left.

I talked with Ms. DJ Toni Freeze and she asked how we liked the music. I told her that it was a great mix of songs, current Top 40 and back to the 80s. She mentioned that she thought people were reacting well to what was being played and that she tried changing up the music depending on the people that were in the bar. We talked a bit more about her set and style of music and she was happy that Billy offered her a reoccurring gig at the bar. I feel that her style of music will be a good balance for all people that come to the bar and not alienate any particular group. DJ Freeze also has a website for being able to download music she has put together and you can download them here.

This Friday, All AX’S will be hosting a drag show starring Veranda L’NI and will host Kari Nickels, Aurora Thunder, and Natasshja Norielle. The show starts at 10:30 with no cover charge, I mean how can you beat that. This will be a good measure of how the success of the bar will be. If you are in the area you really need to come out and give your support to the bar and check out a good show. I have seen Veranda several times, since I have moved to Cleveland and she always puts on a great show and works the crowd well.

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Billy Welker is doing everything he can to make this a destination and it is going to take you guys coming out and supporting it. If you have ideas of things you would like to see at the bar, you can drop a line in the comments section or better yet, visit the bar and let the staff know. Show your support and interest. Let’s make it a fun place to be and make the bar a success.

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Strength from the Queen

With the recent passing of the icon, Aretha Franklin, I think it is only fitting to look back on some of her more loved songs by LGBTQ community. I know that, primarily, I am speaking more to myself specifically, but these are songs that are immensely powerful. They were songs that leant me strength at times of struggle and songs that seemed to sum up feelings of a large percentage of gay men. Join me in celebrating someone who made an impact on the music industry for over 50 years.

 

  1.    Most important for me was R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It was a song that taught me about love and demanding equality from the person I was with. “What you want, baby I got it. What you need, do you know I got it? All I’m asking for is a little respect when you get home.” It resonates that we both want the same things. I can be what you need as long as you respect me. It changed a lot of how I viewed myself in the dating world
  1.    Think. A song that speaks to feminism and liberation. “You better think, think about what you’re trying to do to me…” it calls into question the motive of a person trying to discriminate against you. It also gave me strength to believe that I am good enough and should be treated the same as anyone else, regardless of my orientation
  1.    Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves. A song of solidarity. This was a song that leads so many people to believe that if you wanted something you had to do it yourself. Fight for your career, your rights, and your own respect. Combine that with the fact it was in the move First Wives Club with Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton it was a powerhouse. The movie echoes the songs intent so well. It is an all time favorite.
  1.    I Never Loved A Man. A perfect song for a drag performance and one everyone can relate to. How many times have we all been in love with that man that everyone tells us we should just dump? We know it and we should, but he has worked some serious voodoo on us and we cant get away.
  1.    Rock Steady. What gay man doesn’t have a deep down love for disco; if you don’t then you need to learn to appreciate it. This slow burning sultry song that speaks to how music can move you is so many ways. It mirrors how love, dare I say lust, can you move you in the same ways. She uses driving reference is lovely innuendo style to keep you in the mood and your hips moving.
  1.    A Rose Is Still A Rose. This is a song about reclaiming your inner strength after someone tries to take it from you. A real example of cheating relationships and how you need to reclaim your strength and survive. The song talks about someone putting up a front to make others believe she is ok when she is devastated inside. Then turns it around and says, “He can’t lead you and then take you. Make you and then break you, Darlin’, you hold the power.” No matter what someone does to you or how they make you feel, you are still the same person you were before they came into your life.
  1.    Lastly, (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman. On the surface, this song seems to be about someone who justifies their worth by someone coming into their life. For me and many others it was something else entirely. Inner strength from acceptance of how you are is one of the few things that can give you this kind of feeling or power. “Before the day I met you, life was so unkind. You’re the key to my piece of mind.” Coming out does this for so many people and is what it means to me.

These are seven of my most favorite Aretha Franklin songs. The ones that rotate through my music often and bring me up when I am feeling in dire straits. She was an inspiration figure who celebrated inner strength and spoke to an entire generation of women and yes even gay men. Though you may be gone, you will never be forgotten, and you will be missed. May your next journey be as influential.

 

One Stop, Amazing Shop

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In my early years after coming out, I remember going to the LGBTQ bookstores often. No, no not the adult shops cruising’ for a tryst. I mean an actual bookstore. Some of you kids may not fully remember them, but they were places you could go an buy books on all topics of LGBTQ culture. Need Pride jewelry? They had it. Need a new t-shirt with a bit of attitude for the bar this weekend, you betcha. How about some cool new decor for your fab pad, right over here on the counter, if you please. It was a one-stop shop of all things Queer. Sadly, over the years, these community centers have all but disappeared. At least I thought so until I had been out exploring with my friends.

I persuaded them to go to W29th and Detroit because it had been the epicenter of LGBTQ culture in Cleveland since the late 70s and I wanted to feel immersed. Granted, I used to go to that area when I spent some time here visiting. I remember going to A Man’s World, when it was still here, and the neighborhood was sketch to say the least. Since 2008, this neighborhood has become a hub of change. More businesses have moved to this area, new homes are being added, and remodeling what is there has become the new thing. I had heard that The Dean Rufus House of Fun was here and once we parked we decided to venture inside and take a look.

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As soon as I stepped through the door it was as if history itself had surrounded me. So many memories flooded back and it was almost like going home. Dean welcomed us in very energetically and offered help. A very engaging soul who treated his store like his home and us, as guests coming to visit. Being a southern boy, this was an immediate connection for me. Dean is amazing and full of history, he has been in that location for 13 years, and he has seen the neighborhood change. Want to know about the beginning of that area, he has that information. I learned so much about LGBTQ history from him in the 45 minutes we were there. He walked with us outside and showed us around the neighborhood, what was new and what had endured. Sharing with us how the building his store currently resides in was once the site of the first LGBTQ center of Cleveland. This man is a wealth of knowledge.

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Much like I remember from my past, this store carried everything you might need. Various tchotchkes abound, Pride flags and jewelry, clothing and even a local line of Men’s underwear called Bayne Wear. Yes kiddies, they also carry adult novelties as well, making it safe spot to buy your needs without facing the judging stares you may get from other places. They also carry a large selection of vintage vinyl and CDs; dedicated to all the songs and artists we grew up loving and singing. Books that still cater to our culture and even from local authors such as Ken Schneck’s book LGBTQ Cleveland.

You really need to get over there and check him out. I LOVE this place and you will too.  Be vocal and shop local. Keep your community strong and support their business.