Misty Duval, who would go on to become a Valley drag icon, remembers that the first drag show at the Evolution involved several drag queens staging a performance of the musical Cabaret. At other times, police would wait outside the bar as people were leaving and then follow them home until they found an excuse to pull them over and harass them. Archer Park, in downtown McAllen, became known for this on a large scale starting as far back as the s. The queens performed in a small corner of the bar to music provided by a jukebox. Although it was still known for cruising and hooking up, more and more people—mostly gay men and trans women—would begin to frequent the location to meet up with others on Friday and Saturday nights.
One man remembers that there was a vacant lot next to the park at the time now the site of a bank and that on Saturdays it would be filled with cars coming from nearby gay bars such as Bumpers and 10th Avenue. The bar would have occasional drag shows by the pool. Leonardo would often help out and encourage these young queens. Helen died in the early s and the bar was sold to new owners. In the early s, it was bought by a new owner and reopened as the Upper Deck. This article was originally published in October of , we are sharing it again with some additional information and edits. At the time, the area was a popular shopping destination for tourists from both sides of the border. They would often shout homophobic slurs at them or throw rocks or bottles. These nights were also unfortunately marked by violence, often due to the fact that members of rival gangs would go to the same bar, get intoxicated, and then fight once the lights came on or they saw each other in the parking lot. Although it was still known for cruising and hooking up, more and more people—mostly gay men and trans women—would begin to frequent the location to meet up with others on Friday and Saturday nights. Two bigger name queens from San Antonio played the two main roles and several drag queens from the Valley played the supporting characters. He moved to McAllen in the early s and is remembered by most people who knew him as a handsome, bold, and flamboyant figure. As soon as the community found out the nature of the bar, people would drive by or wait outside to harass customers. Possibly because of its island location, it was less restrictive and conservative than other gay bars at the time. Misty Duval, who would go on to become a Valley drag icon, remembers that the first drag show at the Evolution involved several drag queens staging a performance of the musical Cabaret. Leonardo continued to operate Choices in Reynosa until his death in the early s. One person remembers looking out through the door before heading to his car to avoid this and others remember groups of people waiting in the parking lot to hurl insults and throw rocks, bottles, and other objects as people left. The fact that it was located on a busy street in the heart of McAllen meant that sometimes people would come by to harass or taunt people leaving the bar. The first was that it had a dance floor and the second was that it had regular drag shows. Gay bars as we know them have been in existence since at least the early s in the United States. One resident who grew up in Rio Grande City in the s remembers that a gazebo on Main Street was known for this kind of activity and other people remember parks in Edinburg, McAllen, and Harlingen that served this function. One of the drag queens who got her start at one of these nights in was Lady Laura, who continues to perform today. The club also featured two stories and a huge dance floor, making it extremely popular at the time. This was a night where the bar would have 99 cent drinks and wet t-shirt contests, advertising to both LGBTQ and cisgender heterosexual people. Leonardo opened his first bar The Evolution during the s in North McAllen and after a few months moved it to the its more well known location on 10th Street and Pecan in McAllen.
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