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Seattle Gay History - Part Two: The irrepressible 'Dee Dee' (circa. 50s, 60s)
Seattle Gay History - Part Two: The irrepressible 'Dee Dee' (circa. 50s, 60s)
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

Dee Dee was a barmaid at the Double Header Tavern for 20 years and one of a small group of Gay men who lived, worked or hung out in Pioneer Square, affectionally referred to as the "Queens of Pioneer Square." Dee Dee, complete with bleached hair and painted eyebrows, was one of the most colorful of the group and the most outspoken. "I was bitchy and flashy and people liked me. If some phony with a class attitude mouth'd off, I'd hit them with 'When you were born dearie, where in HELL was the environmental protection agency?' If an exchange turned sexy I'd say, 'You're so special, I'd love to date you but that would be violating the Pure Food Act.' I had good street ambience and a come back for everything. People tipped me well.

"My two best friends were 'Francine' and 'Vilma' who rode the rails with other queens in the 1930s and, sometimes, met other queens going in the other direction. They'd build a campfire and exchange gossip and the pros and cons of the cities they were headed for. Other friends were 'Madame Congress' because he was involved with some guy in politics, 'Missy Carver' and 'Christina of the Hungry Heart' (named after the 1924 movie of the same name). Christina was in prison three times--his claim to fame. Missy and Christina got involved with Tacoma's police pay off system, turned state's evidence and had to hide out. Christina changed his name and died back East but Missy stayed visible and turned tricks out of the Double Header. When one trick discovered he was a man, he started beating him up. Missy pulled out a knife and killed him. He was convicted and I heard he was the youngest man in America to get the death sentence.

"Then, there was 'Klondyke Kate', 'Midnight Rose', 'Baby Doe Tater', 'Ramona' and the outrageous 'Francine' who is now dead as a doornail but she's been dead a long time anyway, along with her famous painted eyebrows. She was a raging nelly queen and hated getting old, had open heart surgery and became a recluse. We were close but she'd lie about me and say I was jack rolling wino's in the alley so I'd have to go over and knock the hell out of her. Then, she'd say I was sucking dick in the alley for money, so, I'd have to knock the hell out of her for that. Then, she'd tell another lie and I'd have to backhand her for that. I don't know why she'd do that. I'd get on her case for it and she'd say, 'Excuse me, you're talking to the one an only FRANCINE!' I'd say, "Correct that, it's not Francine it's Obscene.' Once I told her she had a face like a pan-full of boiled assholes. She never forgave me for that. In spite of all this, she was a friend and I couldn't help loving her."

The Double Header, like Madame Peabody's after hours dance, was somehow a magnet for an infinite variety of people and why it became a Seattle slumming legend on Skid Row and 'Fairyland.' With such a reputation, books could be written, truths revealed, lies and plots fermented. Mix this with misinformation, exaggeration, tough dykes, and exotic drag queens and you have the Double Header Tavern and it's visitors of Blue and Green and just enough Red to give it an opposing vitality, especially with it's sprinkling of celebrities, street people, characters, the Vice Squad and mostly men who go bump in the night. All this behavior was handled with good management; not Gay owned but respected and a sincere friend to the Gay community.

Dee Dee continues: "I heard stories about the Double Header that were not true, like the bartender who tossed a customer through the plate glass window and the boy who was cut by a razor from ear to ear. But there was a shooting. A guy came out of the men's room shouting, 'I've been shot!,' and died at the service bar but we just stepped over him to get beer. I was put down for that but I said, 'It doesn't matter, he's dead'."

The Double Header Tavern had its full share of celebs. Most did not make an appearance like Tallula Bankhead, who came into the tavern ringing a cow bell and shouting, 'Avon calling all you beautiful mother fuckers.' Dee Dee continues: "Tallula was in town doing the stage play, 'Private lives.' When she came in, the place stopped cold, everyone was star-struck. Her party stayed until closing time and people came over for autographs. She was so great about it, some [were] signed in lipstick on paper towels. She had a great sense of humor. Tallula was Bisexual and liked Blacks so the story goes. She was looking for cocaine and found it at Madame Peabody's. I can't imagine where she got a cow bell in Seattle but it's still on display at the Double Header.

"Johnny Ray came into the Double Header before his show at the Golden Crown and said to me, 'I want you to be my guest, I'm going to do all my hit songs.' I said, 'Well, what do you do after three minutes!' He called me a bitch. I didn't like him. It was one of those times when you immediately don't like someone. He had this attitude of I'm better than anyone else.

"I served other celebs: William Warfield, Lyontine Price, Clair Trevor, Tab Hunter, Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Margot was nice but Nureyev was a bitch. He helped himself to my bottle of scotch later at Madame Peabody's. I said, 'No, no, that belongs to me.' He said, 'Don't you know who I am? I'm Nureyev!' I said, 'I don't care who you are, ask first.' He never spoke to me again.

Elizabeth Scott came in--she was Gay and that's what ruined her career, she was too open about it and wouldn't studio
Autumn Insert

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