Very little is known about the "Pink Pony", remebered as a men's bar existing from the mid-1950s to the late 1960's or early 1970's. It is mentioned in interviews by both Josie Carter and Bunny, and a few others, but doesn't appear in gay guides: possibly because it was in the inner city, increasingly black vs. mixed, and somewhat "unofficial" as a gay bar. (The building no longer exists.)
Researcher Michail Takach found mention of the Pink Pony's opening in 1953 in a Milwaukee Journal news article. It included a definite "wink wink" comment: "if you're one of those who fancies pink squirrels, we hear they make them up nice at the Pink Pony."
Contributor Josie Carter calls this bar one of her favorites, and the best place in town to get ice cream drinks circa 1960. Another contributor (R.B.) recalls: "My mom said that in the 50's there was a lesbian bar called the Pink Pony that she went to with her lesbian neighbor."
In 2018, Takach wrote the following summary of the business in a Facebook post:
After the legendary Tic Toc Club (1940-1955) collapsed under its operating costs, owner Albert Tusa took over the Pink Pony (1834 W. North Ave.,) a highly fashionable cocktail lounge in the former Cohen’s Jewish Delicatessen.
Tusa's reputation for being "open-minded" and risque, earned after years of hosting traveling drag shows at the Tic Toc Club, followed him to the Pink Pony. The bar was known for being gay-friendly almost immediately. Josie Carter spoke highly of the Pink Pony in several interviews.
"If you’re one of those fellows who fancy Pink Squirrels, we hear they make them up nice at the Pink Pony," said a Milwaukee Journal column in 1953. "You'll find it on the shady side of the street." (Almost every word of that reference being, of course, heavily coded gay references of the 1950s.)
Very much the Bryant's or At Random of its time, the Pink Pony specialized in "fancy" drinks that weren't commonly found at Milwaukee' taverns. Although the Pink Pony advertised regularly in local papers, nobody has been able to locate a single photo of the business. Curiously, many American cities seem to have had "Pink Pony" gay bars of their own.
Despite the 1967 riots, white flight and the Park West Freeway project decimating the neighborhood, and the bar changing hands many, many times, the Pink Pony remained in business for over 20 years. It was eventually destroyed by a series of arson-related fires in 1976. It's been a vacant lot ever since.
More information about this business is welcomed from anyone who can contribute it.
Credits: web site concept, contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Major information contributed by Michail Takach.
Last updated: August-2023.
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