2015
10.26
Bonnie Blake

Bonnie Blake

Bonnie Blake is an entertainer who was featured in the St. Louis, Missouri area.

The following piece about Bonnie was passed along by Stephen Adams and written by Jim Hawkins:

SOMEWHERE in our memories are people we forget from decades past, that were responsible for shaping our successes as well as our future and many great things to come. THIS is about one of those wonderful people that I owe my gratitude, not only for making me a success in business, he also started a trend in entertainment, that is to this day one of the most popular venues in St. Louis today.

I met JOHN back in the 1960’s at the Executive Lounge, in downtown St. Louis. It was a popular hangout for railroad workers and truckers as well as the occasional gay, out on the prowl, like myself. Francis, the barmaid made this place come alive with her wild and sometimes sordid tales.

JOHN and Francis were friends for many years. I usually would sit next to John at the bar and when Francis would begin telling one of her colorful tales, John would let me know which were true and which were somewhat exaggerated. As time past our friendship grew and has lasted through these many years. What was so outstanding about the man, he was always there when someone was in need, he would always help in anyway he could never asking for anything in return.

Some years past and I went into the gay bar business with my partner in East St.Louis , after two years passed we decided to expand into St. Louis in the SOULARD area. SOULARD at that time in the early 70’s was nothing like it is today, at that time Was no more then a slum area and crime ridden.

To make this new establishment work we knew we had to do something extraordinary. I went to City Hall to see if we could have a drag show. To my surprise I was allowed to If I went by some very simple rules. for years this misconceptions through rumors kept the entire city from offering this type of entertainment from happening. There were some drag shows at that time but, were always hidden below the radar.
To break this trend we knew we had to find someone willing to take the chance with us–to be the first to disprove these rumors and lead the way for others to do their performances in the city.
I contacted my friend John who was up and becoming female impersonater, in his own right.I explained what I wanted to do and that I was going to run an advertisement in the newspaper for our show. I can still here John say “HELL YES I’ll do IT!”

After a few months the stigma was broken and other bars in the city started openly to have drag shows. It was a new start for female impersonators also it was a new beginning for the SOULARD area. People began to gain new interest in the area and see it’s potential for the future.

I will be ever grateful to you JOHN CHANEY aka BONNIE BLAKE !

-Jim Hawkins

Bonnie Blake and Friends

  1. That’s very interesting– which bars were the first to have drag in St. Louis? I didn’t start going out till 1984 or so.

  2. I would love to meet some these older female impersonators they helped shape the performances of today I would love to hear their stories