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

Leaded Shade
Location: 157 S. 1st Street, Milwaukee WI


late 1974?
1990 or earlier?

Male/ female
Restaurant/ Bar/ social



The Leaded Shade was first seen to be advertising in the January, 1976 issue of the GPU News; however, it was also listed in the 1975 Bob Damron Guide, so presumably it must have opened in late 1974 (depending on the deadline for inclusion in that guide).

The August 7, 1976 issue of the local "GLIB Guide" describes the business simply as follows: "Was closed for awhile, now reopened." The August 28, 1976 issue of GLIB updated this information: "In our first issue, we didn't have much knowledge about the LEADED SHADE restaurant, so our listing was limited. The owners of the LEADED SHADE called us up and reminded us that they have completely remodeled their establishment, and they have told us it is predominately a boy's bar. The restaurant is open afterhours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2am to?, and is open daily from 3 pm."

An advertisement in 1979 states "under new management... your host, Larry Weber, invites you to stop in soon..."

The Leaded Shade was succeeded about 10 years later by the Leaded Shade II, about 6 blocks farther south on S. First Street.

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!

      "A classier women's bar than some of the others we frequented. Everybody looked better under the subtle lighting!"

      -- Flash Gorski, via Facebook (2010)

      The first 'Leaded Shade' was owned by Pete and Bev Nilsson who went on to open the 'Lost and Found' bar and later owned a bar on 1st and Washington. They were an interesting couple who loved the LGBT community. I know they were like parents to many including me, Michael Roberts, a drag queen 'Donny', and many more. Everyone called Bev, 'Ma'. She was a very funny woman.

      I was a bartender for them in 1977-78ish. Every night I closed L & F and Bev sent me to Webb's on Clybourn for burgers. Once on the way back, I got mugged of the burgers! We all lived above the bar in the apartments. Once we heard her yelling from her apt. Here she was sitting on the toilet and the whole plaster ceiling had fallen on her head. Another time they had a BBQ and it rained. Some genius pulled the grill inside. She called me at my other job so I came "home" and the whole bar was full of smoke. Seriously silly times. The AC there was a weird rigged up car radiator thing in the warehouse behind the bar. She got me up at about 4am and showed me out of her window, that water was leaking from somewhere in the bar. I could see water running clear down to Clybourn. I had to go downstairs and it was the AC in that creepy dark warehouse. I figured out how to shut it off. Lots more stories from there.

      Can't remember drag queen Donny's last name. Donny was really wasted one night, dancing the night away and she got carried away and her wig slipped until it was sideways.

      -- Karen Elsby, via Facebook (2010)

      "Little Donny" was about 5"6", thin with dark brown hair and smoked unfiltered cigarettes. I used to do shows with Little Donny...she was a blast. I loved Donny, I used to come up and stay with her on the weekends when I still lived in Racine. We had some WILD times. Donny came down to Racine a few times to do my shows at Jo Dee's.

      -- Sheila Everett, via Facebook (2018)

      When i first ventured onto the neighborhood around 1972, there was a brick building to the left of the Leaded Shade that was a closed bar from back in the 1960's. Then next to that was a junk shop (Ferry Street). I remember it was boarded up with a big padlock on the front door. John Clayton & I went to look at the one next door because the city seized the property & was trying to sell it for $1.00-blighted property.

      -- Paul Dorobialski, via Facebook (2018)

      The Leaded Shade building definitely still stands. It started its life as a meat market (!) and was The Cove, Mickys Cove and The Backroom before it was Leaded Shade.

      -- Michail Takach, via Facebook (2018)

      For a while this location was called "The Oar House" (aka The Whore House!).-- Bob Stocki, via Facebook (2018)

Article and Photos
Gay Business Guide,
1977, pg. 14
Interior photo
(main bar)
Gay Business Guide, 1977

Advertisement, circa 1979

Credits: Contributors via "History of Gay Milwaukee" Facebook group and Jamie Taylor.
Web site concept, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: August-2021.

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