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Your Place, also known as "The Y.P.", was an extremely popular bar in Milwaukee throughout the 1970's and 80's. It was opened by Jim Dorn and his boyfriend, with his parents' assistance; kind of a family-operated gay bar. The bar is significant especially because it was the FIRST gay bar in what we in 2021 consider the primary 'gayborhood'.
Jim Dorn's niece, Kim S., shared the story of its start on the Milwaukee LGBT History Facebook discussion page in 2016:
"My uncle was dishonorably discharged from the Navy in the early 1960's. I still have many of the letters he wrote to my grandmother when he first took to sea with his fellow sailors. He was moved to tears by the male voices in the Navy choir and so encouraged to be a part of something larger than himself.
"After the Navy wouldn't have him for reasons he could not control he returned to Milwaukee, met the love of his life and opened one of the first (openly) gay bars in the city. He called it Your Place so men making plans within earshot of their coworkers would not be ashamed to discuss the location where they would meet. The bar had no sign out front, just two blue lights beside the entrance. In later years it was known simply as YP and provided a safe haven for more young men than I could ever count. He was known as Mother Dorn to many generations of boys seeking only to live a life without persecution or fear."
Jim Dorn's story is recounted in this story on the OnMilwaukee website (written by Michail Takach, Curator of this Wisconsin LGBT History Project).
(Some sources say it was opened by Wayne Bernhagen, the owner of the Wreck Room western/ leather bar, to tap the dance crowd. But this conflicts with the genesis story above; it is possible Wayne bought it later, but this is unsubstantiated.)
The bar long featured original art work, and was especially known for a round ceiling mural by local gay arts Robert Uyvari (see below). It is perhaps best known as probably the first gay bar in Milwaukee with a large outdoor patio. The patio was used for summer barbecues virtually every weekend, and was well landscaped with lights, plants, paths, benches and a stage for shows. This was also one of the favorite smaller dance bars in town, although in later years the dance area held a pool table. Between the main building and the patio was an enclosed porch, with a small bar service area and large windows facing the patio; this was a favorite spot to sit and talk or enjoy drinks separate from the main bar area. (An advertisement in the September 1976 issue of GPU News encourages patrons to "come in and see our garden and lighted dance floor".)
The August 7, 1976 issue of the local "GLIB Guide" describes the business as follows: "Popular multi-purpose bar. Cruising, socializing, or for an outing with your lover. Dancing, pool table, garden." The August 28, 1976 issue of "GLIB News" made this mention of the business: "An outdoor carnival with food, drinks and games will be held in the parking lots of Your Place and the Black Forest Inn on Labor Day, Sept. 6."
On June 28, 1989, second owner Uncle Al closed the YP after his 7-and-a-half year reign as owner, and the bar was reopened late in July as "Partners" under the management of Paul and ownership of Jim Balistreri. The large round painting of a male nude angel, by local artist Robert Uyvari, which had long hung over the front bar, was auctioned off at a "Make A Promise" Dinner in April 1990 as a benefit for the ARCW.
Artwork "Fallen Angel" at auction in 1990
shown with David Clarenbach and Tim Carpenter
The new ownership would not last long however. In May 1993 the bar had a party celebrating 28 years since it had opened as "Your Place", and was renamed back to "Your Place" in an attempt to recapture its former glory. The bar had lost much of its popularity however, and late summer/ early fall in 1994 the bar suddenly closed, it is rumored because of unpaid rent.
The building was almost immediately converted into a straight stripper bar, and one of Milwaukee's most popular and legendary bars became history.
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!
"Your Place - The first bar I would hit when I headed out to the bars and sometimes the bar I stop at on my way home. Had the long bar up front, the tiny dance floor mid bar, the pool table and a little piano bar out back before they added the patio."
"In my early years “out” in Milwaukee, one of the first bars I was taken to was YOUR PLACE. When I first heard the name, it was in a context where I thought I was being asked to go to my own home for an “encounter”, but learned that it was the name of a club, and my “friend” simply wanted to go there. In any event, in those days at Christmas time, part of the holiday décor at YOUR PLACE was a painting by Bob Uyvari... The painting had a group of what I can best describe as “altar boys” or “choir boys” apparently singing what I would assume to be holiday melodies. The not so hidden fun part of that painting was that one of the “choir boys” had his hand on the crotch of one of the other “choir boys”. The painting was classical in motif, and at first glance that element would not be noticed. I have to wonder whatever happened to that great piece of art."
"In the years I went there the big draw for me was the pool table and hot guys. When it changed to Partners the manager saw some of my 'artistic' photos (they were black & white industrial style photos). He asked me if I would loan them to the bar. I did and as a result, I sold a few copies of those photos."After the bar was sold it was turned into a 'Gentleman's Club'. I happened to know one of the girls there and went to see her. She knew I was gay and she was all over me, pissing off the rest of the crowd because I was getting all the attention. It was fun."
- Jamie Taylor
Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: August-2020.
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