Well, this winter weather has been giving me the blues, so I was excited to catch up with Sue Brazelton this month to learn a bit about the history of the LGBT community in Kansas City. That always warms me right up! Brazelton owned the LGBT women’s bar Birds of a Feather in the late 1980s, and she has been incredibly involved in the Kansas City Co-Ed Dart Association. Unfortunately we’ll be losing her to the state of Florida this year, but for now, she’s still ours!
1. I understand that your nickname is “Suzie Creamcheeze.” You know I have to ask what that is all about!
Oh my, I have just had the nickname of Suzie Creamcheeze most of my life and used it in my alternative lifestyle mainly to keep my professional life separate. You are not the first to be curious. You must note that I’m a product of the ’60s, and maybe we should just leave it at that.
2. Years ago, you opened the first women’s bar, Birds of a Feather, in Kansas City, Kan. First of all, during what years was it active? What was it like to open a women’s bar during this time period?
“First women’s bar” is not the appropriate description of Birds of a Feather. Much before Birds, there was the Rail Room (located where Crown Center is now standing), then the Alternate and Pete’s Pub (first located on 12th Street then relocated to 47th in Kansas) and Billie Jeans (located on Main just south of the Plaza), which were all mainly for LGBT women. I had a partner in Birds of a Feather (Pat McCall, or better known as Potz), and we purchased the bar from Pete and operated it for three years in the late ’80s. I would have to say it was one of the most exciting, fun and rewarding times of my life, mainly for the friends that have resulted from that chapter. We sponsored a fantastic group of women in the HASL softball league that went to nationals three years in a row and I believe came home with a first place one year.
3. Did you have any trouble with the neighborhood disapproving of the bar?
I don’t believe we had any trouble with any of the neighbors. However, that was about the time that the drinking and driving laws were becoming more strict and the Westwood and Kansas City, Kan., law enforcement were known to be overactive in the enforcement of the law. Pete had probably dealt with any of the negatives that were maybe in the beginning at that location.
4. Why did the bar close? Have you owned any other bars?
The Missouri liquor laws changed sometime in the last year we were open. That changed the closing time for Missouri from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. Birds of a Feather had a private club license and had a 3 a.m. closing. We knew that this would keep people from crossing the state line and subjecting themselves to DUIs and DWIs. With this in mind, we looked at several locations to relocate, one location being what is now known as Buddies. But during this period, my relationship with Pat McCall was ending, and I had to make the decision to either keep the bar or end my railroad career, which came with retirement. I chose career/retirement and am so happy I did. No, I have not owned any other bars, but people do keep asking me if I’m interested.
5. What do you think is currently missing in the Kansas City LGBT community or bar scene?
Unity of the bar owners is one of the missing links. I’ve always said if you join hands you can conquer all. I truly believe in that philosophy with all aspects of life.
6. I also know that you are active in the darts league in Kansas City. How long have you been involved? And this is a mixed league of straight and LGBT people?
While owning Birds of a Feather, Jim White (former owner of the View) and his partner, Bill Dugger, started what is now known as KCCDA (Kansas City Co-Ed Dart Association). This league, we felt, would not only introduce people to darts, but with scheduling games at the various bars at that time, people would make new friends and go to establishments they had previously not frequented. This league is now some 30-plus years old and is now very much a mixed league with straight and LGBT participants.
Also, in the dart community, Bobby Bremer (former owner of Taps) and his then-partner, Larry, along with my partner, Gina Jenkins, coordinated an intrastate dart tournament called Darts Over Missouri with the dart league in St. Louis. Darts Over Missouri will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this coming May. During the 25 years from the start of this tournament, we have made many sizable contributions to the KC CARE Clinic. I also believe this tournament was in the forefront of what is now six tournaments, all based in the gay communities of Dallas, Oklahoma City, Denver and Missouri.
7. You recently helped form a new spin-off darts team that is more amateur and all LGBT. Why was that necessary with the existing darts league? Has there been lack of acceptance of LGBT people in the current league?
Last year, with KCCDA becoming so competitive, there were a lot of darters dropping out. The new league is called the Creampuff League, and along with several other people, we decided to make it a league of no skill standings and a charity (fundraiser) event, with all money collected going to a LGBT charity that is selected by the participants of the league. Our first season, we donated over $300 to LIKEME Lighthouse. This last session, we doubled our donation amount, and the charity has yet to be voted on. This league throws darts on Wednesdays, and since KCCDA throws on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it is in no way a result of any lack of acceptance of the LGBT community, but rather a league that throws for fun and charity.
8, I understand that you’ll be moving to Florida with your partner soon. Do you plan on becoming involved in the LGBT community there, perhaps by finding another dart league?
Yes, we are excited to be moving sometime in 2014 to The Villages in Florida. On several of my visits to that community, we have met members of the LGBT community, and members of PFLAG and Rainbow communities. It is our understanding that they have many active groups and events, but at this time no darts. Guess that will give me something to work on.
9. I always like to have one or two fun questions. If you could be any cocktail, what would you be?
All right, this probably won’t be a surprise to most that know me: a flaming Lemon Drop shot.
10. What is your favorite game in darts and why?
I’m not sure I have what you would call a favorite because I really enjoy all of them, but I think Cricket is a good game because it teaches you to aim, and there is a little more strategy to the game.