Memorabilia sought for local LGBTQ history projectWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
Preserving the history of Toledo’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community is a passion for Toledo native Rick Cornett.
“I love history and that is the driving force behind my mission to save and preserve Toledo’s gay culture and history — not to mention it is a need that has never been done before,” Cornett said. “I do it as a hobby and a labor of love for the community.”
Cornett hopes to compile enough information and materials to start a Toledo LGBT Historical Society and then work off that to create a website and Facebook page.
The 2010 deaths of local gay icons Joe Wicks, founder of the former Caesar’s Show Bar, and Gregory Knott, founder of Bretz, were the impetus behind the project, Cornett said.
“I’ve always saved special things that meant something to me, but I started seriously collecting things in 2010,” he said. “It got me thinking the old guard is slowly slipping away and no one is doing anything to preserve their memory or what they did for the gay community.”
His collection is comprised of “endless” file folders of items covering topics like religion, gay marriage, sports, bars, businesses, political groups, support groups, charities, obituaries and more. Memorabilia include T-shirts, buttons, ticket stubs, posters and ads, wristbands, business cards and more. He is also interested in collecting oral histories.
“Since I started the archives back in 2010 my collection of items has grown a lot. I’m archiving anything and everything from the Toledo area LGBT community,” Cornett said. “I hold the entire Holiday with Heart Charity Gayla archive from the past 37 years of the event. I also house the largest collection of items from the Toledo Pride Festival and Parade since it started five years ago.
“With the recent closing of gay bars OUTSKiRTS, Ripcord and Blush I gained many items of interest such as the signs from the front of Blush and Ripcord. The new owners of Mojo and Legends Showclub have been very supportive of donating items to help preserve our history and culture of the gay bars here.
“Last week my friend Jeff Nyitrai donated items from his former bar 5 One 3 plus items he had saved from the old Caesar’s Show Bar,” Cornett said. “The more people have learned about my project, the more items I gather to preserve.”
One of Cornett’s ongoing focuses is finding photos of the building fronts of Toledo’s former gay bars.
“I’m most interested in finding photos of the storefronts to former bars such as Open Closet, Rustler Saloon, Adams Town Club, Silver Slipper, Old Plantation, Scaramouche, Key West, Box Office, Up Town, Hooterville Station, Ivanhoe, Club Escape, Twilight Zone, Philcoff’s, Copacabana, Gay Pussy Cat and many others,” Cornett said. “Prior to the early 1970s it was taboo to take a camera into a gay bar and how many people really thought about taking pictures of the outside of a bar?”
He’s also looking for copies of Toledo’s LGBT publications.
“Toledo has had a varied history of publications and I find them most interesting because they hold a wealth of information from the past,” he said. “Toledo’s first gay magazine was one called Rapping Paper that started in February of 1975. Others that have come and gone over the years include Toledo Pride Pages, Pride’s Eye and Outlines. TAGALA newsletter started back in 1983 and has been the longest-lasting publication to date.”
Sherry Tripepi, executive director of Equality Toledo, said some local groups, including Equality Toledo, have archived their own histories to an extent, but there hasn’t been a collaborative, community-wide effort to organize a history.
“For groups who experience oppression and silencing, as does the LGBT community, archiving our history is even more important so the community and others can know and learn about the depth of their experiences throughout time,” Tripepi told Toledo Free Press last year.
Cornett said he welcomes anyone who is interested in preserving Toledo’s LGBTQ history to join him.
“All this takes volunteers and funding to make it a reality,” Cornett said. “Through this historical archive I would also like to bring back the Toledo Unity Picnic and an annual booze cruise. Social events like that are fading and we are losing our unity within the gay community. I’m looking for dedicated people to join me in these efforts.”
To donate to Cornett’s collection or to learn more, contact him at (419) 470-3937 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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