Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why does the Dallas "gay crossroads" boom in a conservative city? (It's one of the largest in the nation)

When I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, Cedar Springs and Throckmorton in Oak Lawn was the “gay crossroads”.  The bars were Magnolia’s (to become The Roundup), JR’s, Village Station, and Throckmorton Mining Company, TMC.   The Crossroad’s Market was the gay retail and bookstore.

Today the intersection is one of the largest and most modern “gay crossroads” in the nation.  Much of it is owned by Caven Enterprises, still.  Everything looks brand new. JR’s is two adjoining properties (in Washington DC it is still just one, because local interests resist expansion of nightlife).  JR's has a balcony upstairs with an odd proximity to power lines, which could almost be touched, and are safe only for ungrounded mockingbirds.  If Hollywood needed to film a scene involving a risk like this, it would come to JR's.
Outdoors, there are a lot of obvious modernizations on the strip, and relocations, as well as new retail businesses.  "Everything is up to date in Dallas", not just Kansas City.

The TMC has moved, and the former TMC is Sue Ellen’s (from the character on the TV series “Dallas”).
SueEllen's is effectively the women's bar, and has a recital hall on the second floor (you could do a piano concert there). A "Lite Band" was there playing, with one of the musicians saying he wanted to play in G Minor.

The Village Station (aka Old Plantation) is now the S4, or Station 4, possibly based on the idea that in the Army the S4 is the quartermaster (in deference to repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”). It is one of the largest and newest gay discos in the nation.
The Roundup is still where it was in the 80s, and, as a CW place (yes, probably with weeknight square dancing lessons, allemands and Virginia Reels included), the lights stay on.  The expansive look indoors when packed gives one the feeling of being in a movie set. Late at night, the bar sometimes switches back to Lady Gaga-type music, and the "dirty dancing", for about an hour, gets more aggressive and public and existential than anywhere else.

Why do are gay businesses in conservative Dallas (eg. Lawrence v. Texas and 21.06 repeal)?  One big reason, besides the large young professional and collegiate population of a major city, is that real estate prices are lower than in many other places.  There is more room, more land, more physical space. It costs less to build these spaces in cities like Dallas and Houston than in many other places, especially in Washington and New York.  Lower real estate prices in an area obviously benefit some businesses and some people, and the gay bar business is doing better probably because of the mortgage crisis and fall in real estate prices almost everywhere. The neighborhood between Oak Lawn and downtown has a lot of new condos (and streetcars) and looks to be in great shape.

By comparison, it costs $10-12 to park in a supervised lot in Dallas near the bars; in Washington DC it's $15-20.  

(note: url title of post has "book" instead of "boom" because of an initial typo.)

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