Past & Present: Stonewall's Effect On Wichita

Jun 11, 2019

The current building that once house the Chances R. club in the 1960s.
Credit Jay Price

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, where LBGT patrons of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted one of many police raids on the bar. It remains a turning point in the gay rights movement.

Wichita in the 1950s and ‘60s had its own clubs, such as the Blue Lantern and Curleys Roundhouse, that were centers where gay men met. By the ‘60s, the most famous venue was the Chances R., on east Douglas, where Allen Ginsberg visited in 1966. He wrote a poem to honor the club, a portion of which reads:

Religiously, with concentration and free
prayer; fairy boys of the plains
and their gay sisters of the city
step together to the center of the floor
illumined by machine eyes, screaming drumbeats,
passionate voices of Oklahoma City
chanting No Satisfaction
Suspended from Heaven the Chances R
Club floats rayed by stars
along a Wichita tree avenue
traversed with streetlights on the plain.

During this era, clubs that catered to LBGT patrons were regularly raided, including in Wichita. Like many clubs that were part of the local counter culture scene, the Chances R. was the target of raids from Capt. Bobby Stout’s vice squad. Some in the LBGT community recall other venues, such as the Green Parrot, were popular because they did not get raided as much.

After Stonewall, the gay club scene became less targeted. In Wichita, a small collection of venues along Douglas gave way to an array of locales, many in south Wichita, that supported a community that continues to be a part of the local story.