Long rumored but difficult to track down, historian/ researcher Michail Takach has recently found evidence that this place actually existed. He found that The 'Legion Bar' was operated by Nicholas Marmigas throughout the 1940s, but was gone by 1949.
According to contributor 'Bunny' in recollections to Takach in November 2015:
"The Legion Bar was the hot spot in the 30s and 40s. It had this big, big bar up front. And a backroom that was sometimes a dance hall or restaurant or something. All that room ever was to me was a sex room! You could have sex right behind the jukebox if you paid a little money. I think it was something like a quarter or 50 cents. Can you imagine a 25 cent blow job? If you offered them money, and asked about the back room, they let you do it. Nobody cared.
"It was a little sad though. I went there in the 1940s. I was all of 15 years old. You think I would be the hot new kid on the block, but I wasn't! All these men, sitting around in the dark, I looked around and thought this is gay life? This is the rest of my life? These men, they were so nervous they were shaking, shaking so much they would spill or drop their drinks. There was no eye contact. There was no talking, you talked and you were asked to leave. There were no names. There was no "next time." This was it. Get your 50 cents worth and get out!
"I stopped for a cheeseburger at the White Tower next door on the way out. I remember thinking, that was scary but scary in a sexy way.
"By the time Angelo opened the Mint Bar, places like the Legion Bar were history. And thank Jesus Christ for that! 50, 60, 70 years of living that way? NO THANK YOU MAAM."
"That whole family got in big trouble. I don't remember why. One of them died. Then I know they sent one or two of them to the House of Correction. Then they tore the place down. I don't know if it was an actual VFW Post or what. Everyone just called it the Legion Bar."
As Bunny mentions, a man named Angelo Aiello learned how to bartend here, and apparently picked up the business model of quietly catering to gay customers. He took his knowledge over to the Mint Bar where he began bartending in 1949 when it was opened by Christ T. Mares. He did not, apparently, allow gay men to give each other handies and blowies "behind the jukebox" -- which Bunny stated was the appeal of the Legion Bar.
(That location for some time held a parking ramp with a Firestone Store at the base. That ramp and store were torn down in 2015 for safety reasons.)
(A book, "LGBT Milwaukee" by Michail Takach, seeks to make the story of LGBT Milwaukee accessible, visible, and portable for future generations--before it is too late. Early information about the rumored "Legion Bar" is one of many early LGBT landmarks documented in the book.)
Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Information and interview by Michail Takach.
Photo by special permission of Milwaukee County Historical Society.
Last updated: July-2021.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.