In the mid to late 1970s, I managed a barely successful nightclub on the North Side of Pittsburgh called the Home Circle Club, which sounded more like a knitting circle than the gay girls bar that it was when my family took over the license.
The club was in a white, brick building with a forty-foot chiseled- hill looming over it. Branches and rocks often tumbled down onto the graveled roof that leaked whenever it rained. Parking was on residential side streets, and public transportation was a shadowy walk through a shuttered neighborhood.
Faux-oak paneled walls surrounded the oval bar and a pool table on the upper level, and table seating overlooked the lower level, which had an oversize stage with a dressing room and a dance floor lit up by strings of Christmas lights flashing to disco beats. An industrial gas heater hanging from the ceiling rumbled like an idling bus through the long Pittsburgh winters, and in summer, pedestal fans churned sweltering air, mixing cigarette smoke with the smell of sour beer.
Our bartender staged a walkout with her customers shortly after we took over, saying she said she didn't like the way we were running the place. Fortunately, I had known Pittsburgh's gay scene for years, so my friends and I fanned out through the bars to bring in new business. Friends brought their friends and we collected a congenial mix of gay and straight patrons who found the atmosphere homey and comfortable. Some came just for the homemade meals that mom cooked on Wednesdays and Sundays. It was a family operation.
Our new customers included actors from local theater groups, and from one of those groups came Gorman Lowe, who also became a good friend. Gorman had recently played a seriously overweight King Herod in Jesus Christ, Superstar, furiously pedaling an exercise bike while singing his part. He was a brilliant actor and playwright, and a very witty man. Gorman recognized the club's potential for theater, and it wasn't long before he proposed a theater production designed for our humble stage. He and fellow producer / actor KC staged a musical comedy, Bosom Buddies, which became the first in a string of performances featuring dozens of multi-talented actors, singers, choreographers, costume designers and musicians. Each show was written, directed and scored by the same performers who played the leading roles. They were comedic geniuses, and audiences loved them.
The Wizard of Odds