History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Businesses - Bars and Clubs

 
Castaways South
Location: 196 S. 2nd Street

Opened:
Closed:

approx 1969
approx 1974
Clientele:

Male/ female
Bar/ social

 

 
       
 

Relocating to south 2nd street from a location north of downtown (424 W. McKinley), the venerable bar "Castaways" became Castaways South, and advertised itself as having the "Largest dance floor in the Midwest". Within a few years, the bar was renamed Ballgame.

More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.

 

Recollections: The following are recollections of others who have been kind enough to submit their personal memories to the webmaster. You are welcome to do the same!

    One of the things I remember MOST from "my days" in Milwaukee (pre-1973) was the CASTAWAYS bar, as that was THE place when I came out. I remember how amazed I was that guys could dance together. Of course raids were still going on then, and occasionally the lights in the dance area would brighten which meant "separate" or get you hand off of your friends leg. You had to have a flashlights distance between you when you were slow dancing. It was bizarre, as they would have the raids, but you would also see cops in there coming up from the basement with cartons of liquor. The reigning drag queen at the time was MOTHER CYRSTAL (Mother Chris) who made draperies for a living. His real name was Tim, but I don't remember his last name. Chris had a huge attic full of gowns, and only a very select few people ever were invited up there. I was!!! She also injected the "queens" with saline (I think) before big shows so the "girls" would have real looking breasts. What a time!!! It was a time of much less freedom but a really wonderful sense of community. My partner at the time and I had an old upper flat on North 29th street - and often at bar closing time the announcement would be made that there was going to be an after hours party at Thom & Gregg's. That was usually the first we heard about it as well, but we'd trudge home and throw a party together. We had the attic of the flat, and it was huge. We made it into a party area. The local kids called it the "gay room" and when we had SCHEDULED parties would direct guests to the entrance.
                         - Thom B.

    Across the street from the NiteBeat, the Castaways was a bigger dance bar, mostly men, but friendly to women. Jimmy Zingale was one of the owners. I remember John Lloyd, the bouncer, a large African American guy who made us feel incredibly secure. For awhile, as the bar's popularity started to wane, the owners tried to turn it into a women's bar, but this was a short-lived effort. We had already moved to the classier Leaded Shade around the corner. There were always plenty of drag queens at the Castaways. My first time there, I was very shy, and my guy friends told me to just march up to the prettiest girl in the place and ask her to dance. I surveyed the room and picked a gorgeous brunette, who very kindly declined my offer. My friends were breaking up - it was the beautiful Jamie, an award-winning queen of the times.
                         - Maryann G.

    In December 2015, we got INTO the National Ace Hardware building in search of any evidence that the Castaways bar was there from 1962-1969. There wasn't! We followed the path that some of our elder patrons have given us--- enter at 424 W McKinley (the address that appears in guides) underneath a cinderblock window, and walk straight into the bar. This space, if it ever existed as it's being described, has been completely and totally gutted and erased, and there's no evidence of it ever existing there at all. In fact, the current owner -- Dave Rotter -- had never heard anything about this at all, and they've been there for 30 years. We did find a second floor space, with strange external rooms built all around it (almost like the Winchester Mystery House -- rooms within rooms within rooms) and evidence of water/drain pipes, that looked like it could have been an "underground" bar of its time. But that's not how people remember it. They said it was on the first floor, and the only way you knew it was there was the BAR sign in the one window that was not painted over. (The windows are now boarded up and barricaded, not just painted.)
     
    It's believed that in the later years of the Charles Stehling Co. (tannery tenants of the time) they may have been strong-armed by the Mafia to open a gay bar in the building and taken their cut out of the proceeds. I've heard this story from several people but can't find much evidence of it. There were no arrests, busts or incidents at Castaways at this original location. Almost TOO quiet if you think about it.
     
    I will also say that the original owner (per the City Directory and City Hall licensing records) was Jimmy Zingale. Jamie Gays and Bunny both mentioned that Castaways was originally supposed to be a "women's bar" but that it got more and more mixed over time. Did this Jimmy have any Mafia connections? I know he was later involved in a bunch of other scandals (including the Telephone House fire.) He came from a Brady Street Italian grocery family whose original store is now Points East Pub (1501 N Jackson) Not even sure if he is still alive.
                         - Michail Takach

Photo inside Castaways
(photo courtesy of Josie Carter,
via Jamie Taylor)
 
Josie Carter and Wayne inside Castaways
(photo courtesy of Josie Carter,
via Jamie Taylor)
 


Listings in early "Gay Guides":
(For more information on the Guides, click here.)

1970 Bob Damron's Address Book
Address listed as 183 S. 2nd St.
Notes: Girls
1970 International Guild Guide
    Title pg   Editors note   Codes
Address listed as 183 S. 2nd St.
Notes: Gay, Lesbian, Dance, Hustlers, Most active WEekends; Dancing Fri+Sat only; "Rough Neighborhood"
1971 Bob Damron's Address Book
    Title pg   Codes
Notes: Girls, Dancing
1972 Bob Damron's Address Book
Notes: Girls, Dancing, "Closed Mondays"
1973 Guild Guide
    Title pg   Editors note   Codes
 


Advertisement, Feb. 1971

Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
National gay guide research by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: December-2015.