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Diana Foundation Honors the Phoenix Room

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Houston Eagle’s new room pays tribute to Houston LGBT history.
Story and photos by Brandon Wolf

Houston LGBT history comes alive in the Phoenix Room at the Houston Eagle. Club owner Mark DeLange says he asked local community historians to help him develop the room, because “our history has been hidden for so long.”

The room features walls dedicated to Houston LGBT publications, bars of the past, and a timeline spanning 1950 to 2015. And once again, the iconic Mary’s mural, created by Scott Swoveland in 1997, is back.

The Diana Foundation, the nation’s oldest continually active gay organization—founded in 1953—hosted a special event on November 30, 2016, to thank DeLange and his collaborators.

Larry Criscione, curator of the Botts Archive of LGBT History, manned a long table with Diana memorabilia and other LGBT historical items. As guests looked over the memories of years gone by, Criscione answered questions.

J.D. Doyle, who played a large role in the development of the walls that feature Houston LGBT publications and bars of the past, was in attendance. DeLange expressed his appreciation to Doyle for his houstonlgbthistory.org website. The website was the source of inspiration for the publication and bar montages.

An impressive timeline of important national and Houston LGBT events from 1950 to 2015 has been installed over the bar. It begins with the founding of the Mattachine Society in 1950 and follows through to the marriage-equality Supreme Court decision of 2015. It includes such events as the 1980 repeal of the cross-dressing ordinance, the 1985 antigay referendum, the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that struck down sodomy laws across the nation, and the 2009 election of Annise Parker as mayor.

Williams presented DeLange with a special award of appreciation for his creation of the Phoenix Room [after the author of this story presented a short look back at the Dianas of yesteryear].

An in-depth article about the Phoenix Room will be published in the February 2017 issue of OutSmart.

  • The Diana Foundation honored the Phoenix Room at Eagle Houston, on November 30, 2016, for its tribute to Houston’s LGBT history.  [Photo:  The Diana Foundation]
  • Eagle Houston’s front patio, decorated for the holidays.
  • A wall featuring Houston’s LGBT publications greets visitors.  On the far wall is a reproduction of the now iconic 1997 Mary’s mural.
  • The reproduction of the mural was digitized and printed on wallpaper.  If this mural is ever damaged, a new copy can be printed.   Finally, the mural is here to stay.
  • A Diana pin on the jacket lapel of Diana president Tanner Williams.
  • Larry Criscione, curator of the Botts Collection of LGBT History, brought a large selection of Diana memorabilia and other LGBT historical items.
  • A prophetic “Newsweek”, a Billy doll, and ‘male physique’ magazines of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
  • Criscione says this 1959 magazine is a favorite because of the campy cover.  As a curvaceous woman walks by, the two men are really more interested in each other.
  • Criscione shares the magazine with an amused guest.
  • Diana memorabilia – a program from 2008, red ruby slippers that once served as centerpieces and a 1970’s letter from Rock Hudson to Diana members.
  • Community photographer Dalton DeHart takes a few moments off to chat with guests.
  • Another wall, designed by J.D. Doyle, features ads from Houston bars of the past.
  • Tanner Williams enjoys the buffet table offerings.
  • A mirrored wall reflects the bar area and the Houston history timeline.
  • Brian Keever, right, makes his way through the buffet line.
  • A Houston LGBT history timeline traces events from 1950 through 2015.
  • Houston Eagle is the home bar for the Houston Bears.
  • Diana president Tanner Williams welcomes guests to the special event.
  • The Dianas, the nations oldest, continually active gay organization is featured on the timeline.  The organization has been in existence since 1953.
  • Houston Eagle owner Mark DeLange welcomes the guests to the Phoenix Room.
  • The mural has one change from it’s original form – a Houston Eagle belt buckle has been added as a nod to the Phoenix Room’s bringing the mural back to life.
  • Brandon Wolf, author of the 2010 OutSmart history of the Dianas, gives a look back at the colorful history of the organization.
  • Guest listen to stories of the Dianas of yesteryear.
  • Williams presents a special award of appreciation to DeLange, for his creation of the Phoenix Room.
  • JD Doyle who collaborated with DeLange, to honor Houston’s LGBT history in the Phoenix Room.
  • Two JD’s – longtime Houston deejay JD Arnold (r) with JD Doyle (l).
  • Doyle’s photo of the crowd at Mary’s during a 1980’s Houston Pride Parade covers another wall of the room.
  • Criscione with John Heinzerling, former five-term president of the Dianas.  Heinzerling established the migration of the Botts Archive to the University of Houston’s Special Collections.
  • Strings of holiday lights decorate the inside patio at the Houston Eagle.

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Brandon Wolf

Brandon Wolf is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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