It was the Studio 54 of the South even before the infamous New York club opened its doors in and, miraculously, it endured nearly 10 times as long. Inat the dawn of disco, Backstreet officially opened for business at Peachtree Street in the heart of Midtown. But by the time it closed in JulyBackstreet had become a hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week playground for the entire city. On July 17,the club closed for good and is now the site of the floor Viewpoint luxury condos, built in Now 65 and retired, Vicki lives on Lake Lanier.
Back in the s, in Boston, our grandfather [Henry D. People went to the basement to dance. Lights and a bell would go off if the cops showed up. My grandfather knew gay clubs were big money.
My father and mother came down from Boston first, and Henry and I followed a few years later. Our dad, Carmine Vara, ran gay nightclubs in Boston and Provincetown. He was always looking for investment opportunities in different cities. Gay clubs made good business sense. Gay people played hard, they drank hard, and they danced hard and had more money to spend than the straight crowd.
It was definitely a lucrative business.
They were looking for the well-dressed pretty boys and their companions. It was that way for a short period of time.
The first bar I went to as soon as I got off the plane was Backstreet. And there was some prejudice at the time. They were charging people different rates. He wanted it to be a white male gay club. Then, I saw that other minorities who were trying to get in were experiencing the same thing.
This was the South, and I was used to how things were in the North. It was one of many incidents I had to endure when I first came to Atlanta. I learned, living through the civil rights and the gay rights eras, how to deal with it. I knew one day it would pass, and it did.
The club wanted to maintain a gay, male-dominated bar. We also had a dress policy deed to keep out drug dealers. Over the years, the times changed, and we changed with them. Post-Backstreet, she went to work in the food industry, attending culinary school and training in Italy. She now works for the food-distribution company, U. I loved hanging out at the door with my dad. A lot of action happened at the door. When people were digging through their purses looking for their ID, all sorts of weird shit would inevitably come falling out—dildos, coke, pills, you name it.
Now 38, Andrea studied business administration at Georgia Southern. Checking IDs could get tricky because there were a lot of transgender people who still had their biological appearance on their IDs, but they would be dressed as the opposite sex. So, that could be a challenge. Everybody was always really polite about it.
Now 70, he plans to return to work postpandemic. Everyone in Knoxville and Nashville had heard of Backstreet. The club kept these intentionally long lines to get in. They would cherry-pick who they wanted inside. At the time, Backstreet was not very drag queen—friendly.
The first time I walked into Backstreet was in It was around 8 p. A friend took me. Backstreet became my destination after that. Now 45, Elliott is based in Frisco, Texas.
Backstreet: an oral history of atlanta’s most fabled hour nightclub
She currently works as a d counselor. When I moved to Atlanta inI was all into hip-hop. It was ClubKya, Esso. I was all over those places. One night, friends convinced me to go to this cool club.
It was a club. It was my first experience inside a gay club. I saw all these men without their shirts on, gorgeous men. Different flavors—vanilla, chocolate, caramel.
It was more about the beauty of these men dancing together. I was from Montgomery, Alabama. I felt like the tiniest fish in an ocean of people. At the bar I had come from, Hojons in Montgomery, everybody knew everybody. In comparison, Backstreet was a small city.
It was like this fortress in the sky. I knew I needed to get inside that DJ booth. My whole plan in moving to Atlanta was to become a DJ at the biggest club in the Southeast—Backstreet. LUST: The walls were covered in red carpet. The stainless-steel DJ booth was built into the wall. I loved it. I had never seen such plush carpet.
The upstairs bar had a huge fishbowl and a bird aviary. HENRY: When I got there inthe rooftop bar had lots of couches, lots of mirrors, and nooks and crannies for people to hang out and be, well, intimate with each other. Bev Cook was the manager at Backstreet at the time, and she had been coming in to see the dinner show. But he got over it real quick when we started packing that room and bringing in money.
It was our crowd starter. The show got so popular, it went all night. It stuck.
People were standing on the shrubs on the island so they could see the show. I got them to tear that out.
Then, the fountain went. We knew we were a hit when they finally took out that goddamn barbecue pit. LUST: At its peak, we had nine cast members in the cabaret show. The show ran continuously all night.