History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Wisconsin - Media - Electronic Media: Podcasts

Be Seen:
a series of six podcasts

Year published:


Author(s)/ Sponsor(s):

Michail Takach, Curator of Wisc LGBTQ History Project Inc.
and Nate Imig, Director of Content for Radio Milwaukee


The following is from the press release and web site for the podcasts on Radio Milwaukee:

    Starting May 23, a six-episode podcast, called Be Seen, will launch that explores Wisconsin’s LGBTQ history.

    The podcast is a partnership between the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project and Radio Milwaukee. Each week, Be Seen will answer questions that explore different historical milestones, events and businesses that have fostered an inclusive community.

    The podcast integrates the present along with the past through archived audio as well as hearing from community members and leaders who can directly speak to these experiences.

    Michail Takach is the curator for the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project and Nate Imig is the director of content for Radio Milwaukee. Together, they host the podcast.

    Imig shares how the partnership developed: "We actually had the chance to work together on the 60th anniversary of the Black Nite Brawl, which is our very first episode in the podcast. And, when we met Michail, we just knew there was so much more to the story and so much more to Wisconsin's LGBTQ history than we could jam into one segment, or even one episode."

    As for the episodes themselves, each one starts in the present. "We've talked to present day business owners, we talk to people who are leading efforts for HIV prevention in Milwaukee. Now we talk to current drag performers who are out in the scene and past performers, too. So it's been really great to integrate the present right alongside the past," Imig adds.

    Takach adds that's he's very grateful for the people who have shared first-hand testimonials.

    "As more and more of our primary sources, as more and more of our LGBTQ elders from the pre-Stonewall generation are disappearing, the risk we run is this colorful nostalgia for a past that may or may not have been better," he says.

    Takach says he's inspired that this podcast will become a part of the living record and that they have the potential to connect with an audience that needs to hear these stories. From Takach's perspective, he says that people don't really understand that this history and heritage exists.

    And, that connection to LGBT lineage, he says, could really help with the national epidemic of teen self-harm and suicide rates. "I think that this will really help people feel more self-assured, more validated, more confirmed in their own identity, and perhaps help them learn something about, you know, who they too could be in the future," says Takach.

    The series's main web page is at this link.

    EPISODE 1: Meet the gender nonconforming ‘queen’ who led Wisconsin’s first LGBTQ uprising

      Our first episode centers on Wisconsin’s first LGBTQ uprising — what you might consider Wisconsin’s Stonewall. Stonewall, if you didn’t know, is probably the most recognizable queer historical event. It happened in New York City in 1969 when a police raid descended on the packed Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village, and was totally legal at the time. But the community fought back; they had had enough, and they defended their right to exist. The events sparked six days of protest and clashes with police, and it is seen as the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement in 1969.

      But you might be surprised to know Wisconsin had an uprising of its own — eight years before Stonewall. Ours was at a Milwaukee gay bar called “The Black Nite,” and it was led by a gender nonconforming, self-described queen named Josie Carter.

      Josie is no longer with us — she died of cancer in 2014 — but thankfully granted a pair of interviews 2011. We’ve got ahold of that audio courtesy of the Archives Department, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Libraries, including one that has never been heard anywhere else.

    EPISODE 2: How Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination against LGBT people (May 30, 2022)

      In February 1982, Wisconsin made history. It became the first state in the nation to create protections for LGBTQ people, legally shielding the community from discrimination at work, in housing and in public accomodation.

      But Milwaukee’s LGBTQ community was out and visible long before that law was passed, including at one well-loved Milwaukee gay bar called the M&M Club. It opened in summer of 1976 and closed in 2006, and it was a haven for the community, at a time when being openly LGBTQ was actually illegal.

      On this episode, we speak with the original co-owner of the M&M Club — Bob Schmidt, now 83 — who was recently in town for the bar’s 16th reunion party. He discusses how he created a safe and welcoming environment for patrons, LGBTQ and otherwise. Plus, co-host Michail Takach shares a detailed timeline of how the law evolved in Wisconsin below.

    EPISODE 3: When was Wisconsin’s first drag show? (June 6, 2022)

      Wisconsin has a long history loving female impersonators. Before Milwaukee's City Hall was even built, drag was happening here, going all the back to the 1880s, and likely even earlier.

      Drag is nothing new, even though it may seem like it with the rise of RuPaul's Drag Race and all the other media the show has sparked, including podcasts and YouTube shows. But Wisconsin's drag scene is well documented, and much older than you may even realize.

      On this episode of Be Seen, Wisconsin drag legends BJ Daniels and Tempest Heat share firsthand experiences entertaining in the 1980s to the present, particularly how the community came together through drag benefits during the AIDS crisis.

      Listen to the show, and find a detailed timeline of Wisconsin's drag history, written by author, historian and Be Seen co-host, Michail Takach.

    EPISODE 4: Wisconsin's most notable women’s bars, both past and present (June 13, 2022)

      This episode of “Be Seen” is dedicated to the women who shaped Wisconsin’s queer culture and spaces.

      Walker's Pint owner Betsy Boenning speaks to Milwaukee having one of only 21 women's bars left in the country. Then, Milwaukee natives Maryann "Flash" Gorski and Diane "Legs" Gregory recount two generations of Milwaukee's lesbian and bisexual nightlife scene.

      While hundreds of LGBTQ bars have closed over the decades, Milwaukee has been fortunate to be home to numerous, beloved, vibrant women’s bars over the years, dating back to the 1950s, including: Wildwood; Nite Beat; Carrie's; The Flame; Leaded Shade; Sugar Shack; Fannies; Viva La Femme; Lost & Found; ReneZ Co-Z Corner; Tina's; Out N About / MoNA's; Hot Legs; Kathy's Nut Hut; Nightingales; and The Black Fox.

    EPISODE 5: What is Wisconsin's longest running gay bar? (June 20, 2022)

      George Schneider, co-owner of 'This Is It', Wisconsin’s longest running and oldest gay bar, talks about creating an intentionally inclusive community; and Michail speaks about his interviews with original owner, June Brehm.

    EPISODE 6: How did Wisconsin respond to HIV and AIDS? (June 27, 2022)

      We hear from two leaders of vital organizations in Wisconsin's response: Sue Dietz, the original co-founder of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, and Mark Behar, the co-founder of Milwaukee's first LGBTQ clinc, BESTD. We also hear how today's front line community health leaders are navigating HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.



Credits: All cover images and text from Wisconsin Gazette copyrighted;
Web site concept, design and format by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: June-2022.

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