Roland Labbe discusses growing up in Maine in Millinocket, Winterport, and Lewiston, before moving to Worcester, MA at 14 with an older lover. He also talks about his time as a young man in New York City; that made him realize that Portland needed a gay bar which he opened in 1967: “Roland’s Tavern” on Forest Ave. He shares stories about challenges he faced in opening Portland’s first gay bar, including licensing struggles with the city of Portland and hostility from police and some of the public. He discusses his tremendously supportive family, with his mother and siblings often working the bar. The interview includes his accounts of being seriously gay bashed on more than one occasion and his determination to see each perpetrator held legally accountable. Labbe also describes opening a discotheque in Portland, the Phoenix Bar, in 1977. He describes both bars being lost to fire (one due to arson, the other accidental). He shares his involvement in the AIDS epidemic and his experiences of loss and grief. Labbe talks about being selected as Grand Marshall for Pride Portland in 2020 and receiving the Icon Award.
University of Southern Maine Special Collections
Millinocket, ME; Lewiston, ME; Worcester, MA; NYC; California; Portland, ME; first Portland gay bar; Roland’s Tavern; family support; licensing problems in Portland; closeted gay city council member; Phoenix bar discotheque; gay/straight mixing; lesbian/gay mixing; queer bashing; homophobic harassment; legal battles; loss of bars to fires; activism; Positive Action; AIDS; loss and grief; homophobic resurgence; Our Paper; restaurant ownership; Blackstone’s bar; changing conventions in drag; Grand Marshal Pride Portland; Icon Award recipient.
History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Oral History | Women's Studies
Chapkis, Wendy PhD, "Labbe, Roland" (2022). Querying the Past: LGBTQ Maine Oral History Project Collection. 91.
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