August 17, 1915 – December 27, 1977
Harold James “Buddy” Bigham grew up in Royal Oak and had a long career as a photographer in the research department of General Motors. A homeowner in Detroit’s Boston-Edison neighborhood, Bigham was a familiar patron for many years at the Diplomat, Bookie’s Club 870, and other local gay bars.
Detroit Free Press, December 28, 1977
September 24, 1965 – May 23, 1992
Robert Edward Lee Penick III graduated with the class of 1983 from Cass Tech High School in Detroit. He came out in the early 1980s on the dance floors of such gay nightclubs as Todd’s, Bookie’s, and the Famous Door. At age 20, Penick moved to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 28.
No known obituary
June 6, 1949 – January 9, 1990
Michael Phelan grew up in St. Clair Shores and graduated from Lakeview High School. During the 1970s, he performed female impersonation as Whitney Blake at various Detroit bars and won titles for Miss Todd’s, Miss Bookie’s, and Miss Michigan before moving to California. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 40.
Cruise, January 24, 1990
September 13, 1950 – December 19, 2011
Originally from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Al Brewer sang at such gay Detroit clubs as Bookie’s, My Fair Lady, and the Other Side in the 1970s. He received multiple nominations for best live male vocalist from the Performers Awards of Detroit. Toward the end of his life, Brewer served as Karaoke host at the Temple Bar.
No known obituary
March 22, 1949 – July 25, 1989
Born in Detroit, Joseph Daniel Maldonado grew up in Saginaw and moved back to Detroit following high school. Through much of the 1970s he performed as Dani DiLetto at such clubs at Morey’s, the Iron Hinge, and Bookie’s Club 870. DiLetto was awarded the title of Miss Gay America in 1976 when the original winner had the crown rescinded. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 40.
Saginaw News, July 27, 1989
This Week in Texas, August 11, 1989
May 29, 1940 – April 18, 1994
Joseph LaRosa Jr. was born in Ann Arbor, graduated from Dexter High School, and attended Cleary Business School. In the early 1970s, LaRosa hosted Lillian’s Down Under in the lower level of Bookie’s Club 870 in Detroit. In December 1974, he, Michael Crawford, and Hank Trent opened the former supper club Menjo’s as a gay dance club. LaRosa later operated Orca’s before moving to Phoenix.
Dexter Leader, May 4, 1994
October 15, 1909 – March 19, 1984
The son of a Russian junk peddler, Sam “Bookie” Stewart worked as manager of his brother-in-law’s bar the Silver Dollar in Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1959, Stewart opened the Diplomat, famed for his female impersonators, and from 1970 to 1984 operated Bookie’s Club 870 on West McNichol’s.
Metra, March 28, 1984
January 9, 1949 – February 19, 1996
Known as the Godfather of House, legendary DJ Ken Collier spun music around Detroit for more than 30 years at such gay clubs as Bookie’s Club 870, Heaven, Todd’s, the Chessmate, and L’uomo. His skill with the turntable inspired a new generation of DJs and helped put Detroit’s dance scene on the global musical map.
Metra, February 28, 1996
MetroTimes, May 15-21, 1996
Ken Collier: A Legend Remembered