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Kindred Spirits…The Beat Goes On

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Kindred Spirits, a nightclub founded by local businesswoman Marion Coleman, dominated the 1980s as Texas’ leading nightclub “for women and their friends.” Up until the time it closed in 1989, the club operated during a pivotal time in the development of Houston’s burgeoning gay community, offering a safe, uplifting atmosphere where patrons could congregate.

Coleman had recognized the need for a place where a new generation of gay women could not only gather comfortably, but also where patrons could proudly bring families and co-workers. The club hosted live music and theater, blood drives, and even an early prototype of what would later become PFLAG Houston—a concept unimaginable at that time.

“The women throughout the years always say the same thing about Kindred Spirits: it was a place to go to be ourselves,” recalls Renee Tappe, a former patron of the bar and founding board member of Kindred Spirits Foundation. “It was safe and nice and had a completely different atmosphere than other bars.”

In 2001, recognizing a need to continue that legacy, Coleman and a group of women began planning an annual reunion dance commemorating the “spirit” of the club and its thousands of patrons.

“I was telling Marion how much I enjoyed the bar, and how we have not had anything like KS since,” Tappe says. “I also said that I would love for someone to just throw a big dance party. It would be so much fun to play old disco music—being the disco queen that I am—and dance.

One thing led to another, and a core group of committee members including current KSF board members Tappe, Iris Rodriguez, Tricia Lynn, and Coleman and her partner, Trudy Denny, soon began organizing a reunion dance. Three months later, in March 2002, more than 500 people attended the first event, held at the now-razed Edwin R. Hornberger Conference Center in Houston’s Medical Center.

“Obviously, we had so much fun and it was such a success that we decided to keep doing it,” Tappe says.

Kindred Spirits’ ninth annual reunion event is scheduled August 28 at SPJST Ballroom, and highlights KSF’s yearlong series of events celebrating the 30th anniversary of the opening of the bar.

Originally, the event was not planned to be a fundraiser. “We happened to have some money left over and we gave it away,” Tappe says.

The group’s charitable spirit eventually took on a life of its own. Since that initial party in 2002, KSF has distributed more than $100,000 to its designated charities: Assist-Hers, Bering Support Network, Lesbian Health Initiative–Houston, and Houston Buyers Club. After acquiring its official 501(c)(3) designation in 2009, Kindred Spirits Foundation has expanded to a board of 16 women, all intent on propelling Kindred Spirits’ legacy well into the 21st century.

In April, Kindred Spirits Foundation kicked off its yearlong roster of parties celebrating the club’s 30th anniversary with its second annual golf tournament at Bear Creek Master Golf Tournament. The group’s first annual softball tournament is scheduled for June 5 at Memorial Park, followed buy the Kate Clinton concert with Bayou City Performing Arts on June 19. After its big reunion reception and dance in August, the group closes its 30th anniversary year in high-camp style with its annual Judy Garland Christmas Special holiday party, scheduled December 5.

Tappe believes the success of Kindred Spirits’ parties is that it recalls a time “filled with very fond memories and, perhaps, not quite so many cares and worries.

“Plus,” she says, “there just isn’t any other event in the city where so many wonderful women get together to simply let loose!”

More info: www.kindredspirits houston.org.
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