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Gay Bar: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  53 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Vivacious, unconventional, candid, and straight, Helen Branson operated a gay bar in Los Angeles in the 1950s—America’s most anti-gay decade. After years of fending off drunken passes as an entertainer in cocktail bars, this divorced grandmother preferred the wit, variety, and fun she found among homosexual men. Enjoying their companionship and deploring their plight, she ...more
Hardcover, 186 pages
Published October 7th 2010 by University of Wisconsin Press
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Feb 02, 2011 Blane rated it really liked it
Important artifact that loses a star for poor editing...analysis portion should have been kept as a part separate from Branson's original text.
Sep 12, 2014 Gina rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, queer
Original work by Helen Branson, the straight owner of a gay bar ("Windup") on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in the 1950s; added commentary by Will Fellows. Purely on its merits as an important piece of non-fiction literary history it was worth the read. I would especially recommend to anyone, like me, interested in the history of gay LA.

Branson's brief, original work is a disorganized account of life with "[her] boys." Branson was surely an early ally to gay men- although an ally to a very sele
Jul 14, 2013 Aaron rated it really liked it
I ran across this one on the shelf at work, and it seemed like it would be interesting. This is actually a reprint of a book with additional content added. The original book was also called "Gay Bar" and was written by Helen Branson, the straight owner of a gay bar called Windup on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The book, originally published ONE (an aspect of the Mattachine Society), presents her views on homosexuality.

One of the really interesting things she highlighted was that s
Jul 09, 2011 Caroline rated it it was ok
I want so hard to give this a glorious review. The original book is so short that it is practically a pamphlet and the supporting material is some interesting history liberally padded with quotes from the gay journals of the time.
Tim Farmer
Dec 02, 2014 Tim Farmer rated it really liked it
Branson's views and perceptions were shaped in-part by the prevailing understanding and social norms of the 1950s, but her sympathetic view of gay life during that time makes this an interesting historical artifact. Fellows' annotation and historical context, added more than 50 years later, provide the contemporary reader with background with which to read Branson's account without dismissing it for its out-of-date ideas. It would be interesting to read this little book in another 50 years to pu ...more
Matty Smith
May 02, 2011 Matty Smith rated it liked it
Helen Branson's book from the late 50's about the gay bar she ran in Los Angeles has some fun and thoughtful (if not particularly revelationary to anyone who's up on their gay history) stories and observations. This publication includes essays from college professor Will Fellows which are supposed to provide context and further meditations on the themes she writes about on a chapter by chapter basis.

Helen's writing is fairly simplistic; which I wouldn't consider a problem but for the fact that
Kurt Reighley
Nov 06, 2010 Kurt Reighley rated it really liked it
The original volume - a slim but savvy memoir by the "mother hen" owner of a Los Angeles gay bar - is charming, while the framing elements by Fellows provide helpful and informative context, drawing on hard-to-find materials by gay groups from the pre-Stonewall era. At times the contrast in narrative voices is a bit jarring, but once the reader grows accustomed to reconciling the folksy prose at the heart of the book with Fellows' academic tendencies (and the rather dense foreword from the origi ...more
In the 1950s Helen Branson opened a gay bar, six years later she wrote a book on it. Will Fellows found the book and reprinted it with relevant social commentary. The end result is a peek into the life of homosexuality in the 1950s - their struggles, the view and the beginnings of the Gay Rights Movement. Branson's story is a cute if somewhat insubstantial story of her adventures with her 'boys.' Fellows' commentary, however, is quite substantial and gives you a clear view into the world of homo ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Alison rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This book weaves Helen Branson's 1957 memoir about running a gay bar in L.A. with information and text from pre-Stonewall psychologists, "homophile" magazines, etc. Super interesting look at conformity in the 1950s and how things have/haven't changed for gay people in our country.

Helen Branson also seems like The Most Fun (from palm reading to pretending to be a crazy homeless woman in her own bar). I recommend this one!
Feb 02, 2011 Lowag rated it really liked it
Interesting writing by a non-author with some grit. It gave me some vivid images of the boys in the bar with a very quirky mother-hen who cared a great deal in her own way. A good reminder of what the 50's were like, a step back in time.
Erin Hamilton
I found it interesting to read how little opinions, thoughts and the world in general have not changed in 50+ years. An interesting weave of the original book with a more sociological/psychological/ theoretical discussion
Aug 13, 2012 Ivan rated it liked it
Interesting slice of history.
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