How gay clubs came out of hiding and moved into the mainstream

Elegant Evenings

Bars weren't the only places that gay culture thrived during an era of secrecy. In 1964, a Columbus legend was born with the inaugural Berwick Ball, a Halloween bash that became an annual tribute to exquisite costumes, drag culture, drinking and dancing. Drag queens like Dolly Divine would entertain a local who's-who cast dressed in tuxedos or lavish regalia.

During the early years, guests had to call an anonymous payphone for directions and were locked inside from start to finish to thwart police interference. Over the years, secrecy became less crucial, the production more glamorous. The final ball was held in 2000.

History Lesson

The GLBT community has often operated under the radar, but a group of historians and journalists is trying to bring this hidden history to light.

Started in January 2006, the Gay Ohio History Initiative has been collecting audio and visual artifacts from the past century through a partnership with "Outlook" and the Ohio Historical Society.

"The real beauty of it is that the GOHI people know who in their community has things that would be good to save, that represent the history of the community well," said Lisa Wood, curator of visual resources for the Historical Society. "The idea is that things are preserved long-term."

GOHI has considered putting together future exhibits and has uploaded much of the collection into a digital library. For info, visit