Friday afternoon Troy Skaife took his Friday Social Club happy hour group to the bar formerly known as Clementines, which was the oldest gay bar in the city when it closed in 2014. Clem’s was considered sacred ground by many, and since the change in ownership I’ve thought of the building as a fallen embassy, trying to not even look at it much less revisit it.
Midnight Annie’s Final Performance
I almost didn’t go to closing night at Clementines, and Ray didn’t plan on going either. It was a Monday night, I’d spent all of my time there since Wednesday, and I thought it would be too sad. Around eight, however, I decided I would always regret not going, and since I was going Ray came out as well. I walked in, and on the glowing dry erase marquee near the pool table I wrote “Going down with the ship.”
The bar was crowded but not overly so, and the characters there were the ones who really loved the place. The spirits were higher than expected and the camaraderie was simply incredible as old friends hugged, laughed, and made toasts. Miss Davey, a daily regular who had his own hot pink goblet and had been too upset to be interviewed over the past several days, came up and gave me a hug.
“I’m really sad, but I’m going to be ok” he said, smiling.
When owner Gary and his late partner Jim bought the bar in 1985, they held their first drag show with their friend Midnight Annie as the headliner. Unbeknownst to her they billed it as “Midnight Annie’s Final Performance” to make it more of a draw.
“Would you quit telling people this is my final performance?” an exasperated Midnight Annie kept admonishing.
She carried on there for many more years, and even after she passed she was still a draw, remaining among us in the wall.
I was less than a foot from Gary when, in the final hours, he took the mic, and the quiet, introverted man who’d hardly said anything over years gave a rousing farewell speech, and the whole place stopped to listen and applaud. He spoke about how much times had changed since the bar opened in 1978, and changed for the better. He spoke of the historic old brick building which was erected in the 1860s. He said all drinks were on the house until the last bottle was dry, and then he then brought up Midnight Annie.
“I always say my only child was a seventy-five year old drag queen” he began, and then announced “And she’s leaving with me. Ladies and Gentleman, next to Jan is Midnight Annie!” and I’ll be God damned if he didn’t have Midnight Annie’s dusty urn, complete with the yellowed and water stained label, sitting on the bar with a cocktail!
The crowd went mad with uproarious cheers and applause.
On that final evening there were people in attendance who’d come to see Midnight Annie’s final performance back in 1985. After a thirty year wait, she and Gary Reed finally delivered with a closing number the city will never forget.