A Gay Old Kat

The Krazy Kat club, 1921.

Via The Comics Reporter, the website Shorpy has a  great collection of photos from the 1920s of the Krazy Kat club, a Washington DC hangout/speakeasy that appears to have been quite a hub of bohemian activity. The police busted it more than once. The clientele included college kids, flappers and gays. A diary by a gay man kept in 1920 refers to the Krazy Kat club as a “Bohemian joint in an old stable up near Thomas Circle … (where) artists, musicians, atheists, professors” congregated.  

The gay angle is worth pondering because of the club was named after the comic strip Krazy Kat (who can be seen on the door sign in the photo above). Krazy was the first androgynous hero(ine) of the comics: sometimes Krazy was a he, sometimes a she. As creator George Herriman stated, Krazy was willing to be either.

 Is it possible that Krazy’s shifting gender identity made him/her an icon for gays? 

Or it could be that the owners just liked comics. The building that housed the Krazy Kat club remained a gay hangout for decades to come and also held on to its connection to comics: it was later renamed The Green Lantern.

It’s also the case that Krazy Kat attracted outsiders of all sorts, not just gays. In the 1930s in Chicago, there was a Krazy Kat club organized by teenage African-Americans, also interesting in the light of the fact that Herriman had some black ancestry and used African-American themes and motifs in his strip.

5 thoughts on “A Gay Old Kat

  1. Very interesting post, and I’m finding this Shorpy site to be pretty cool as well.

    The real reason krazy kat would be a gay icon is that he had a crush on ignatz mouse. Since ignatz regularly pelted him with bricks, it would appear to have been an early s&m relationship.

  2. To answer Brad’s question, the Shorpy site with the photos has a comments section for those who have more information. As it turns out, one reader made the connection between the club and a review of a book called Jeb and Dash: A Diary of Gay Life, 1918-1945 (Ina Russell, ed., 1993). I linked to the review in the post, but here it is again: http://www.indegayforum.org/news/show/26902.html

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