LGBT Atlanta weighs in on unforgettable Backstreet memories

To read a look back at Backstreet from Charlie Brown and former owner Vicki Vara, click here.

“The one thing Backstreet offered to Atlanta was a true all-inclusive environment to be exactly who you wanted to be. It was both fantasy and reality. The drag shows there will be forever stamped in my soul. Atlanta was a great place to come out of the closet and Backstreet was just the epicenter of adult nightlife for a lot of people with no place to turn to. After a 24-hour slumber on that dance floor you felt like you had lived! Backstreet was such a special place!”

-Sam Acker

“If I posted to this my folks would know I snuck out when I shouldn’t have and had a fake ID.”

-Aaron Jones

“My best friend at the time said I needed to meet this friend of his so we all met at Backstreet one evening – he introduced us, “David, meet David,” Yes, both our names are David. Over the years we dated, moved in together, got married – it’s been, what, 22ish years, and it all started with a friend introducing us at Backstreet. No, it wasn’t a flashy dance and drink-fueled encounter that maybe the place is known by many for, we just sat at one of the bars and got introduced and chatted, but, it’s my best Backstreet memory.”

-David Bradford Jr.

“I actually celebrated my 21st birthday at Backstreet. It was a Wednesday night, so not super busy, but I remember the drag show had a performer that could play the violin and did so during one of her numbers, and it made me want to do anything possible to get back to Atlanta and experience everything gay life could be.”

-Luke H Thornton

“Going to Backstreet as ‘Pamela Sensation’ with my ‘sisters’ and roommates ‘Dee Dee’ and ‘Claire,’ dancing my wig off till 3 a.m. then go back to the car, change into a boy, put Pamela in a bag, check the bag in, and go back to dance some more. Then getting picked up by a boy, getting into boy’s car and say: ‘Wait a moment, I forgot about Pamela.’ Watching boy’s face as I walked back to his car with the bag.”

-Pamela Sensation

“Busting state elected officials on the dance floor!”

-Beth Borror Cope

“Watching The Goddess Raven onstage with my then-boyfriend, now my husband, Brandon—together 14 years! Or dancing downstairs as Ziggy threw dozens of glow sticks in the dark into the crowd while ‘Sandstorm’ was spinning by DJ Rob Reum! Magical place, we’ve never been to a place like it, there’ll never be another one.”

-Dane Griffith

“How do you describe Backstreet? If you never got to experience, you’ll never know.”

-Christopher Clark

“Meeting my soulmate, the love of my life, Richard Silveira on the dance floor on Nov. 3, 2002. He watched me dance for about an hour and never said a word. I finally walked over to him and said, ‘Hi, are you gonna watch me all night or are you gonna say hello?’ Backstreet was our weekend home, pretty much. When Backstreet closed, nothing was ever the same. It wasn’t fun going out any longer. Now, we don’t go out at all. There will never be another like Backstreet.”

-Rodney Burns

“My 21st birthday! Charlie Brown stuck a tiara on my head and crowned me the birthday princess of Backstreet!”

-Kacy Tasker


“Walking in my first Pride as part of the Backstreet Love Boat. I pulled Raven through the streets of Atlanta on an inflatable island in a sailor hat, white hotpants, sunglasses, and combat boots. That is still my favorite Backstreet and Pride moment ever and I’m 45 now.”

-Roderick Bentley

“I’m torn…so many moments! Any night Sweet Daddy would drop the video screen to play George Michael. Or staying to be the last one on the dance floor to help Erik Hayes lug his records out. And the time the electricity went out when Rob Reum was spinning. No one wanted to go home, and my dear friend Robin Cross and little Chris ran out to his vehicle, grabbed his boombox with a Rob cassette in it and came back in with it thrown up on his shoulder, blasting! The crowd went wild and we continued dancing like nothing ever happened!”

-Jimmy Sugarbaker

“Backstreet was a rite of passage for every young gay man in that time period. My first experience was in 1982, around Thanksgiving, still ‘straight,’ and all the employees were dressed as Pilgrim women. Wow.”

-Russ Lenox

“Backstreet was my first gay club when I turned 21. It was like Studio 54. Tthere was nothing like it. Lots of great cocktails, boys, drag queens and great sex and blow in the bathroom stalls. A place to let your freak flag fly. It was a night of debauchery. Backstreet lives up to its name … sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. There will never be another club in Atlanta like Backstreet. I miss you everyday.”

-Donnie Hall

“You have no idea how much fun I’ve had and the great unforgettable memories at Backstreet. I literally grew up with my Backstreet friends and family over the years. I can’t explain just the fun, experience and the amazing memories I had over many years. Miss everyone I know and have met throughout the years.”

-Kai Uslu

“I think my best memory among all the hundreds that I can recall is the night I got up the nerve to introduce myself to Stewart ‘Sweet Daddy’ Gardner. I had first heard Stewart spin about a week prior to this at Pride in Piedmont Park in a tent. It was the most awesome day that I could remember in my gay life because I was introduced to music like never I’d heard before. It was a wonderful display of togetherness with all walks of life in attendance at the tent that day when I first heard Stewart spin.

In the middle of all the love and dancing and a straight couple dancing with their child in their arms, someone acting crazy tossed a cocktail on Stewart’s record while he was spinning. Instead of rage like one would’ve expected, Stewart smiled politely, dried off his turntable with a towel and started right back spinning as security was escorting the guy away. I knew that I had to meet this person who had introduced me to dance music. I didn’t know any DJs at the time in Atlanta and was terrified, but when I knocked on the DJ booth door he not only answered but invited me in. From that day I was his biggest fan and went on to continue to meet so many people that are still in my life today, and a few who have been lost but never forgotten as a result of his kindness. Eric Hayes, Rob Reum, Lydia Prim, Tim Adorni, Jimmy Sugarbaker, Bart Clennon, Aimee Barefoot, Tracy Levine and countless others that would take awhile to connect the dots. Thank you Stewart, you will always be remembered for your unique personality.”

-Robin Cross

“The blind man that stripped naked, then unscrewed his glass eyes and threw them on the dance floor! The security found one!”

-Derek Freeman

“A friend got a spoonful-size bump of K on the dance floor and fell out the fire doors onto Peachtree. The flood lights came on and everyone stopped and stared as I pulled him by his feet back into the club.”

-Brad Kitchings

“I accepted a job in Atlanta in the summer of ’97. Then I immediately got cold feet and backed out. I came to town to tell the potential boss why I had changed my mind. That night I went out to Backstreet. As I leaned on the railing across from the upstairs bar, I watched the writhing mass of shirtless men on the dance floor below. And it hit me: ‘All professional concerns aside, I personally need to live freely and openly like that, to experience that.’ And I felt a great peace about it. Called my future boss the next morning and said that I was taking the job – for sure!”

-John Bernhardt

“Crossing over to DJ Tony Mason during one of his early morning Church sets.”

-Dylan King

“Meeting the young man who became my second partner almost immediately. Stunning young college sophomore. I’d admired him for an hour but didn’t have the confidence to approach him. Then I’m on the balcony overlooking the dance floor and to my left he appeared, smiling at me, then speaking. He came home with me that night and we were inseparable for a year. But he felt he’d committed prematurely before ‘sowing his wild oats’ and we separated, remaining friends. My heart was broken. He died of AIDS in 1989. His name was Ed. I’ve never stopped loving and missing him.”

-Terry Wood

“Dancing on the boxes at the back of the dance floor. Watching Raven set the stage on fire, literally…weekly. Every performance by Shawnna Brooks! Charlie’s amazing monologues. It was the cornerstone of the gay community.”

-Alan Rogers