Miss Gay Memphis Historical Marker Unveiling Later This Month

(photo above: An historic marker to commemorate the 1969 Miss Memphis Review (later called the Miss Gay Memphis Pageant) will look similar to this one. It will be unveiled on October 31 at 6 p.m. inside Evergreen Theatre on Madison, then put in place outside the theater entrance on a day soon after.)

October 31 will mark the 50th anniversary of “The 1969 Miss Memphis Review.” A historic marker at Evergreen Theater (known in 1969 as the Guild Art Theater) commemorating the show will be unveiled at 6 p.m. The 1969 theater manager, Bill Kendall, also appears on the marker. Kendall is an Outflix honoree for his contributions to local cinema. Artifacts and photographs from the era will be displayed. The Shelby County Historic Commission approved the marker in August. Members of both the Theatreworks board and the Shelby County Historical Commission will be present for the unveiling.

After the marker ceremony, all are invited to a reception 7 p.m. at the Doghouzz at 1349 Autumn. After that, the party continues at Dru’s Bar at 1474 Madison for a special early (8:30) drag show, produced by the bar, in honor of the pageant. Local LGBT historian, Vincent Astor, said that the event is open to the public and added, “Costumes are welcome, drag is not necessary but is encouraged. Bad drag will be tolerated. It is, after all, Halloween.”

The original 1969 show, which was later renamed the Miss Gay Memphis Pageant, happened on Halloween because it was the only day of the year that it was legal for men in Memphis to cross dress openly, Astor said. The review marked a crucial moment in Memphis LGBT history. It was a local victory for the gay community and came just four months after the Stonewall Riots in New York City where thousands of protestors pushed back against police aggressions against the gay community there.

Evergreen Theatre is located at 1705 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN, 38104.