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Seattle Gay History: The Madison Tavern
Section One
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Seattle Gay History: The Madison Tavern

by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

Charles DeVoe remembers: "When I discovered the Madison Tavern, I was so joyful! Down the street was the old burlesque Rivoli Theater, which was turned into a children's theater, and later an adult theater that produced plays like Tobacco Road and Dark at the Top of the Stairs. I used to watch them rehearse before I'd walk up the street to Third Avenue, where I'd catch the bus home. One night, I remember walking up the street and looking in a tavern window and seeing these women dancing together. I was thrilled, but it didn't occur to me that there must be a place where men danced together, too, I never made that connection. I would stay 20 or 30 minutes until my bus came, no one shooed me away or contacted me. I don't know if anyone even noticed me pressing my nose against the window. I was 14 in 1960, and innocent of the Gay life.

"Waiting for the bus is where I began my first cruising. I noticed certain cars slowing down and looking me over. I thought they were out of town and lost or something, but they were cruising me. Ultimately, I got the message and got into their cars, and the rest is history.

"I was waiting for affection and sex all my life - since kindergarten, when I used to kiss a boy named Donny, much to the amusement of the other kids. I needed to be touched and held and explored, and to explore another male. In my encounters on Third Avenue, no one ever took advantage of me or was violent. It was always loving, caring, and passionate.

"Until I met these men in cars, I thought I was the only one like me attracted to boys. My family were churchgoers and my grandmother took me to church two or three times a week. I would pray every night: 'Please, Lord, don't let me look at boys like I did today, please take this affliction away from me.' I also heard that God was a loving God, and he knew our coming and goings. After a year of praying, I realized my attraction to men was all right with him; he didn't take it away so I guess he wanted me to have it. It's been in me a long time.

"My father had a friend who I thought was so beautiful. I was four and sitting on his knee with my younger brother on his other knee, and we both hugged and kissed him. I felt different about him than my brother. I loved this man. I couldn't call it romantic, it wasn't family love. I was attracted in a very physical way. I loved it when he touched me and held my hand, when he picked me up and I could hug and kiss him - never on the lips, but on his neck and cheek. It all came home when I discovered this marvelous place, the Madison Tavern and the dancing Lesbians.

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