Virginia Szymanski

Virginia Szymanski pic

March 14, 1927 – August 23, 2013

A suburban housewife and mother, Virginia Dolores Szymanski inherited the Royal Show Bar from her step-father in the early 1960s.  While she owned and operated the Detroit bar, it became a popular gathering place for black sissies, black gay men, and black drag queens.

A.H. Peters Funeral Home

William Karagas

William Karagas pic

May 10, 1919 – December 25, 1995

A native of Philadelphia, William Angel Karagas served as a warrant officer during World War II.  Beginning in 1954, he was the heterosexual owner of Detroit’s Woodward Lounge, which he operated for more than forty years with his brothers Sam and Andy.

Detroit Free Press, January 2, 1996

Joseph Covello

Joe Covello pic

September 20, 1920 – April 23, 2010

A 1939 graduate of Eastern High School in Lansing, Joseph Covello served in the Army Air Corps in World War II.  He operated Joe Covello’s as a mainstay in Lansing’s gay community from the early 1970s until it was closed for urban renewal in the early 1990s.  Covello was preceded in death by Helen, his wife of 63 years.

Lansing State Journal, April 25, 2010

Joseph Accardi

July 17, 1905 – December 11, 1980

Born in Italy, Joseph Accardi immigrated to the U.S., married in 1937, and worked as a storekeeper and an autoworker in Detroit before moving to Grand Rapids.  He owned and operated Papa Joe’s Show Bar from the late 1950s until his death.

Grand Rapids Press, December 13, 1980

Metra, December 18, 1980

Bill Kain

Bill Kain pic

August 7, 1943 – February 28, 1991

Flint native William James Kain was a school teacher before entering the gay bar business.  Kain worked as a manager at Stober’s Disco in Lansing and Sylvia’s Club Oasis in Flint in the mid-1970s before opening his own Flint bar the Downtowner’s Club, later renamed the Copa.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 47.

Flint Journal, March 2, 1991

Cruise, March 6, 1991

Michael Sweazey

Michael Sweazey pic

November 16, 1953 – November 16, 2004

Michael Sweazey of Canton and formerly of Garden City began bartending at Gigi’s in Detroit in the mid-1970s and was one of six employees to inherit ownership of the bar after the death of Tony Garneau.  For many years he worked as Gigi’s show director and performed female impersonation under the name Vanessa LaSalle.  Sweazey was survived by his life partner of 28 years Steven McAfee.

Between The Lines, December 2, 2004

Vanessa LaSalle at Our Community Roots