Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sports Page

2069 Cheshire Bridge Road today

Sports Page

Location: 2069 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Opened/Closed: 1970s - 1980s

In her memoir, Matty McEire conjures up a wonderful story about her first trip from Asheville, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia and the Sports Page. I'm guessing this was around 1976 or so:

None of us knew our way around Atlanta at all, but for some reason, I always had an uncanny sense of navigation, so I was able to get us to all our destinations with minimal backtracking or sudden u-turns. We knew that the bar was on Cheshire Bridge Road, so I got off at that exit. We checked into the cheapest hotel we could find right next to the interstate. It had taken us four hours to get to Atlanta, so it was prime bar time when we arrived--eleven p.m. We freshened up a bit and put on our best lesbian bar clothes. Since summer had arrived, the flannel shirts, jeans, and boots of winter had been replaced by overall shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers, preferably Adidas.

The bar was easy to find. The Sports Page had a big sign with its name on it right out front, a gigantic but rapidly filling parking lot, and a very visible front door. This was a far cry from our obscure, back-alley After Dark. The mountain dykes had definitely hit the big city! It took us no time at all to find our way inside, order some beers, and secure a table for six. At first we all just sat there, open-mouthed I'm sure, taking it all in. A few men were there with their lesbian friends, but we were definitely in a lesbian bar--lesbian bartenders, lesbian DJ, lesbian bouncer, and lots and lots of lesbians everywhere you looked. No drag queens on the dance floor--just dykes! It took us a little while to get acclimated. It felt like we had just landed on another planet somewhere in a distant matrilinear galaxy. I was yanked out of my stupor when the DJ cranked up the volume on the Sylvers' "Boogie Fever" and Red Clover grabbed my hand and boogied us right out into the middle of the dance floor. The others followed, and that's where we spent most of the next few hours. We danced until closing time. I really had to laugh when we went out to the parking lot, and there sat the Asheville Y van, one of the only vehicles left in the lot--just a little conspicuous. I hoped no one else from Asheville happened to be on Cheshire Bridge Road that night.

Apart from the good times, the Sports Page played a prominent role in gay/lesbian history, specifically in the struggle against AIDS. As David Roman explains,

In Atlanta, one of the city's most successful early fundraisers was the June 20, 1983, lesbian-organized Sportspage benefit. Sportspage, the oldest lesbian bar in Atlanta, held a seven-hour entertainment marathon, with no "star power" to speak of, and raised over $3,000 for AID Atlanta. This lesbian-sponsored production, held in support of gay men, was the earliest lesbian-produced benefit for AIDS in the country.
Sports Page Reunion (2011)

Hmm. It would be interesting to know the earliest gay men-produced benefit for a lesbian healthcare or social service cause. Or whether one has ever taken place....

On September 24, 2011, a Sports Page reunion was held at the Heretic, a gay men's bar that now occupies the Sports Page's former location. (What an irony that after Sports Page did so much for the gay men's community, that their space was ultimately taken over by yet another gay men's bar.) This was apparently the second reunion that had been held for Sports Page's loyal patrons.

Postscript Feb. 21, 2012: Last weekend, my girlfriend and I were visiting Atlanta and we happened to stop by this place. It was awful, and we were the only women there. We left as soon as we finished our drinks.

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