In Montgomery, Alabama, a ‘Stonewall’ Rebellion That Didn’t Make LGBT Headlines – The Daily Beast

Ted Nobles isn’t an easy man to get in touch with. 

In the early 1980s, Nobles served as the co-owner of Hojons, a two-story bar he operated with his then-boyfriend, Rick Camp, in Montgomery, Ala. The bar was named after the couple’s dog, a Lhasa Apso with wispy hair. Camp died of complications related to HIV/AIDS in 2001, weeks before the 9/11 attacks. Nobles is recovering from throat cancer and recently had 60 percent of his tongue removed.

At first, Nobles didn’t seem likely to talk. Multiple Facebook messages and emails went unanswered. Friends couldn’t reach him. The most recent phone number for his address was out of service. 

But the day he spoke over the phone, Nobles had just received a letter in his mail slot from The Daily Beast requesting an interview about the police raids at Hojons throughout the 1980s, which some compared to the events that led to the Stonewall uprising in 1969. While the story of queer resistance against police brutality is heavily associated with New York City, Hojons challenges the singularity of that narrative.

Unlike Stonewall, nobody rioted at Hojons. Instead the gay bar fought back by claiming the space over and over again, no matter how many times authorities tried to shut it down. To survive in Montgomery, Hojons won two court victories and successfully fought the city’s mayor to enforce those rulings.

When asked to put a word to his feelings about the bar, Nobles is silent for a moment. He will be headed to speech therapy later in the week, but for now, he has to choose his words wisely. He thinks he has found the right one.

“It was phenomenal,” Nobles tells The Daily Beast.

Hojons: A Place of Disco Respite

Hojons was Montgomery’s answer to Studio 54: a Southern fried take on the opulent excess of the disco era. The bar was housed in a renovated warehouse with ceilings 20 feet high, a giant bulb mirror behind the bar, and a DJ booth overlooking the dance floor. Hojons was the kind of place regulars went to hang out with friends and listen to their favorite Sylvester song.

Not everything about its homegrown charm was idyllic, however. Interestingly, its new owners chose to keep intact an old scale used to weigh cotton during the Civil War, a legacy of a past less distant than many would have liked. Alabama schools had only been forced to desegregate 17 years earlier.

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