Bar Culture Keeps Spirits Alive
Local bars like The Hornet’s Nest in the basement of the Barringer Hotel (8th Street & North Tryon) serve as ad hoc gathering spaces for the gay community.
Occupying spaces like The Hornet’s Nest in the 1940s – and later establishments such as The Brass Rail, Oleen’s, The Neptune Club and The Blue Note in the 1960s and 1970s – provides opportunities for community building during a time when gay culture operates outside the mainstream, laying the foundation for future activism.
Maxine Doyle Perkins (1961)
Local Trans woman Maxine Doyle Perkins in arrested in 1961 for “crimes against nature” and pleads not guilty in a Charlotte court. Maxine demanded to be called by her actual name and appeared in court as her female self in an act of defiance. Under a 1837 law she was given 30 years in prison. After serving 3 years the ACLU challenges her conviction in court and Superior Court Judge J. Frank Huskins gives her a new trial. She is later set free by a local jury and her court decision is the first to challenge the idea that consensual sex between same sex partners should be illegal.
Oleen Love, Oleen's Lounge (1968)
Oleen Love tended bar at the original Brass Rail Lounge on Morehead Street. Her boyfriend Don Robinson opened Oleen’s Lounge on South Boulevard in 1968 with business partners Oakie and Marion Tyson. All three had a history of investing in local nightlife, including clubs that catered to the gay community. The Tysons would go on to open The Scorpio Lounge, Charlotte’s longest-running LGBTQ dance club and bar.
In 1969, at a time when cross-dressing was illegal, Oleen’s was the first to host drag entertainment. Although Oleen’s increased in popularity, surpassing earlier venues like The Neptune Club and Brass Rail by the early 1970s, Oleen remained a controversial figure in Charlotte’s LGBTQ community. She was described as strict about behavior that would attract police intervention. While some considered her a friend, others felt that early proprietors like Robinson, Love, and the Tysons saw gay clientele as a means to an economic end.
The Scorpio (1968)
Founded by Oakie and Marion Tyson and still operating today, The Scorpio is Charlotte’s longest-running nightclub catering to the gay community.