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g innys ‘ COPYING SERVICE Copying Binding Printing Color Copying Graphics Word Processing Austin Lubbock Son Marcos . and Associates E 502 W. 15th Street Austin, Texas 78701 REALTOR Representing all types of properties in Austin and Central Texas Interesting & unusual property a specialty. 477-3651 the legendary RAW DEAL Steaks, Chops, Chicken open lunch and evenings 605 Sabine, Austin No Reservations bankers, professors . . . a complete list would cover all occupations. Virginia opened the club to gays in August 1979. She made contacts with the gay community on Monday nights at the Sports Club, where she went to dance. The management of the Sports Club changed that summer, and for several reasons the gays who risked frequenting the club wanted another place to go. Virginia offered them Astraptes on Monday nights, when the club normally was closed. Business grew. Today the club is gay five nights a week; closed on Sunday and Tuesday. The doorman tells people at the door that it’s a gay club whenever he feels they should know. Some are thankful for the advance warning, though the tone of their voices are not always appreciative. “I want you to see what is going on here,” says an old friend who meets me here by surprise. “Most of the people in this club will not be going home to bed with another man tonight. They just come out here because there is no hassle. They can relax.” Another old friend who doesn’t come to the club anymore says, “You can go in there for three minutes and pretty soon everyone in town knows where you’ve been.” So he’s back in the closet. One of the people in Astraptes tonight is Ross, a gay community organizer. He is introduced to me by the doorman, Doug. Doug and Ross agree that public activities for gays in College Station fizzled out about 17 months ago, at about the time Astraptes opened its doors to the gay community. Doug had also been a gay organizer. He published a now-defunct pamphlet for the local gay community entitled New View. “I just wanted to show that it could be done, at least on a nonprofit basis,” he says. There is speculation that the comfort of the bar eased the frustrations, and isolation, of local gays, dissipating energy that might have fueled radicalism. Perhaps, says Ross, that’s true. But Ross wants the gay community to contribute to the mainstream community in visible, constructive ways. He wants to engage in the kinds of activities prevalent among other men’s clubs fund raising for the United Fund; sponsoring of Christmas baskets; help for the elderly. On one occasion, Alternative learned of an elderly woman whose only winter heat came from a wood-burning stove. They chopped enough wood to last her a 22 FEBRUARY 13, 1981 year. “Nobody knew we were gay, nobody came to take our picture,” says Ross. But he laughs about the coverage that accompanies some of Alternative’s Christmas charities. “You know, they have the television cameras out there and I think, ‘how embarrassing this must be for people to take those gifts in front of the camera.’ ” Show Night One of the major events for Astraptes patrons comes on Saturday night, show night. Ross has made it clear he won’t attend, but Doug is handling the spotlight. Show night consists of female impersonation. The lineup of talent is both local and out-of-town. This Saturday night the house is packed in anticipation of a hot Houston star, Coco, also known as Arthur. Coco is terrific. She’s 18, and has been a dancer for four years. She is polished and talented. She is also Miss Gay Houston, having won that title during the fourth female impersonation act of her career. When she dances fast, she is pure energy. When she stands still for the slow numbers, it is as if she were taking each breath with the recorded singer and you can see tears filling up her eyes. Also performing is L’Amour, a gay women’s entertainment troupe from Houston. Yes, there is a community of gay women at predominantly male A&M, but, if anything, “coming out” is more difficult for them than for men. “Even the guys who are gay say they would not want to be a gay woman here,” said a woman who lives in College Station but does not attend university. As I watch L’Amour, I meet an old friend who graduated out of the Corps of Cadets a few years ago. He is gay. There was a time when we worked together. Now we barely recognize each other. Someday, when time has dulled the pain, I will ask his permission to relate a story he once told me about the psychological humiliation that can be inflicted upon a gay at Texas A&M. For now, though, it’s party time at Aggieland and good humor prevails. It’s refreshing. I wish them luck. 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