Only in Fell’s Point-XXII

Written by Mark Walker on Saturday, 11 July 2009. Posted in Reprints from "The Fell's 'Pointer"

The Fey ‘70s: Hookers, Lesbians, Bikers

Back in the 1970s or so, when merchant seamen and ship chandlers still ran tabs at the saloons, women of the night would congregate to share their idle evening hours. It was a rougher crowd and much of the action played out upstairs from the bar scenes. For instance, the Red Star on Wolfe St. that is now a restaurant was known as a “house of the rising sun”- -by most accounts with a red star on the pavement to guide wandering sailors to the second floor.
Birds of a Feather

Some places were hangouts for hookers, lesbians or bikers. Peter Denzer’s Inn was attracted bikers. Birds of a Feather on Aliceanna St. catered to all three over the years. When known as One For The Road, it was a biker bistro. Alicia Horn, now the proprietor, said some “easy riders” actually drove their Harley Davidson hogs through the door and up the steps to the second floor. That was long before she and her late husband John bought it in 1981. Right before that, it was called J.B.’s Place and was a lesbian joint--with mud wrestling in the back room.

One of the more popular lesbian bars was the Satellite Lounge, at Aliceanna and Wolfe Sts., across from what currently is Pearl’s. The owner then was a stunningly attractive woman. Although she didn’t hide her sexual preference, that didn’t stop men from making advances, including some higher ranking elected officials. It was duly noted, too, how many State troopers felt that her saloon needed extra security.

Leadbetters, which was looked upon as an “everything bar,” hosted an outlandish ‘70s wedding in which a guy married a woman who had just changed from being a man. To prove she had the complete operation, the bride wore a see-through dress. After the ceremony the crowd, which an attendee estimated at nearly 300, headed across to the square and later to High Step, a lesbian bar on Thames. The clientele changed there, though, when Kenny Orye took over, called it Cat’s Eye Pub and welcomed bikers. The bars are pretty much ecumenical now, especially those that morphed into restaurants--tamed by the gentrification that began in the late 1980s.

Steve Bunker, reminiscing from Maine, recalls when Miss Irene’s, at Thames and Ann, took on that name from what had been the River Dance. “I remember Miss Irene as the sweetest yet most powerful old lady I ever saw in action. I saw her step between two big battling longshoremen one night and stop a fight with a voice no louder than a whisper. They both looked ashamed and ended up buying the house a round for the inconvenience. When Miss Irene died, Barbara Mikulski was in my shop on Ann Street Wharf. We saw the ambulance pull up and had the sinking feeling that another part of old Fell’s Point was gone.”

About the Author

Mark Walker

Mark Walker lives in Harford County with his all-suffering wife and son but arrives early for his job at Bond St. Wharf as a financial planner for Johns Hopkins Uni- versity. He usually has a meeting or two before the re- turn commute. His affair with the ‘Point began when he and his two brothers reached eligibility for the bars--often sources of his ‘Pointer writing. Asked about his dedication to local issues, such as Rec Pier and funding for preservation, he replied, “I take up a parking space here but I like to think I pay back part of that. I often think that more out- of-towners who work here could do the same.” His early efforts, with the late Bob Keith, to keep revival of Rec Pier out of the hands of developers, has proved prescient 10 years hence. Walker is also a magician and his ultimate trick remains a challenge--abating the Point’s gentrification.

Mark Walker won the Fell's Point 9/11 Selfless Community Service Award on September 11, 2012.