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Jack was born in Pelahatchie, Mississippi in 1944. His father owned a logging and lumber business, and later a small engine repair shop. Jack’s mother came from sharecroppers who later switched to raising poultry. In this community, Jack came to learn the value of hard work and education.

The whole town of Pelahatchie had one school: Pelahatchie High, which ran K-12. After Jack’s graduation in 1963, he enrolled at Hinds Community College, where he realized that his entire education to that point had been in segregated schools. Jack later trained to become a radiologic technologist at University of Mississippi Medical Centers (UMMC). Jack worked in his field for several years before reaching the conclusion that at heart, he wanted to create places where gay people like himself could congregate. Shortly after his 21st birthday, Jack and a business partner opened Mae’s Cabaret. He continued to work as an X-ray tech during the day. 

Mae’s was the first of several ventures that Jack would own over a 50-year stretch, including Jack’s Saloon, the Star Restaurant, Jack and Jill’s, People’s Café, and JC’S (Jack’s Construction Site). At first surprised by Jack’s choice of profession, Jack’s parents got on board and worked the doors for years at Jack’s establishments – becoming well known as Mama and Papa Jack.

During the 1980s, Jack witnessed firsthand the wretched intolerance of some Bible Belt Christians towards people with AIDS. His own cousin’s death affected him deeply. Jack found countless ways to combat the epidemic, including raising money to open a home for local men rejected by their families. The home was named Sandifer House after Eddy
Sandifer, a gay activist known throughout the South.

Jack closed the last of his bars, JC’S, in 2016. Around that time, the Washington Post dubbed him “the patron saint of Mississippi’s gay scene”. In a state where gay life often plays out in don’t-ask-don’t-tell fashion, Jack’s drinking establishments have saved dozens of lives. 

OUTWORDS interviewed Jack at his rambling old home in the Fondren neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi. Jack jokes about how he used to think about hanging up a shingle as a spiritual advisor. After meeting him, it seems like a good fit. He’s warm, soft spoken, and perceptive.

Behind Jack’s house is a 1949 Cadillac in need of a paint job. The best things in life – like Jack’s brand of authentic Southern hospitality – will never go out of style. 
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] So do me a favor, start off and tell me your name, first and last name, and spell it all out for me.
Jack Myers: Okay, my full name is Little Jack Meyers Jr. Wait, let's start over, I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Jack Myers: It's Little, L-I-T-T-L-E, Jack Jr. Myers, M-Y-E-R-S.
Mason Funk: Okay, so literally, on your birth certificate, Little Jack Jr. Myers? That's amazing.
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] And then how do you want to be identified on screen for example? Imagine we're putting up your name underneath you, how would you want to be identified?
Jack Myers: Just Jack.
Mason Funk: Jack Myers, okay. Please tell me the date and place of your birth.
Jack Myers: My birthday is November the 30th, 1944, I was born in Pelahatchie, at a clinic, Pelahatchie in Rankin County, Mississippi.
Mason Funk: Okay, what's the county called again?
Jack Myers: Rankin, R-A-N-K-I-N.
Mason Funk: Okay. Interesting, why do you mention that you were born in a clinic?
Jack Myers: [00:01:00] There wasn't a hospital around I guess, close.
Mason Funk: Right. So you were born almost like in a local doctor's office?
Jack Myers: It was an old house they had converted to a clinic.
Mason Funk: Right. So tell me a little bit about Pelahatchie, Mississippi.
Jack Myers: Very small.
Mason Funk: So this is a good example of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, and then tell it ... Start with the name of the ...
Jack Myers: [00:01:30] Okay. Pelahatchie, Mississippi is a small town east of Jackson about 20 or 30 miles, and that's where I was brought up. Six miles in the country. We had [inaudible] for chickens and foxes for watchdogs, it was so far in the country, you know? Didn't have any close neighbors. It was home.
Mason Funk: And what were your -
Natalie Tsui: [00:02:00] While you're glancing over in this general direction every so often, for whatever reason, people get really freaked-out when they watch a video and the person looks right at the camera, so if you could avoid looking at this area.
Jack Myers: Oh, okay.
Natalie Tsui: That would be really helpful. So if you glance off, do it in that area.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Thank you.
Mason Funk: And mostly just, if you have any tendency to want to include Natalie, she's here, [inaudible] so just ignore her.
Natalie Tsui: I don't exist.
Mason Funk: She doesn't exist for the purpose of this interview, okay.
Jack Myers: [00:02:30] Okay.
Mason Funk: So, tell me about your family. I know that your mom ... What were they called, your mom and your dad, and did you have any siblings?
Jack Myers: No, I didn't have any siblings, I was an only child. And my dad came from a huge family, and my mom came from a huge family, and it was the same little community.
Jack Myers: [00:03:00] My dad's folks were sawmill people, and my mom's family was sharecroppers.
Mason Funk: So, I would imagine, a pretty modest existence.
Jack Myers: Very much so. I drove a school bus in Pelahatchie my junior and senior year, I think it was, and made $45 a month. My dad had a congenital eye defect
Jack Myers: [00:03:30] and wasn't able to work a lot, he had a lot of surgery. The last surgery he had, he seemed better than he had his whole life, he was probably in his 40s or 50s, and it was pretty rough sometimes.
Natalie Tsui: There's this weird creaking sound.
Mason Funk: I think it's coming from that room.
Natalie Tsui: Oh, okay.
Jack Myers: It's not this chair is it?
Mason Funk: Well I don't think it was the chair, I think it was coming from the kitchen. Is that-
Jack Myers: Harry.
Mason Funk: [00:04:00] Harry's in there? We can hear everything.
Jack Myers: Harry, are you in there?
Natalie Tsui: No, I think he stepped out.
Jack Myers: No, he's in there.
Mason Funk: Oh, so let me just go and ask him.
Natalie Tsui: Is it this chair? No.
Jack Myers: This one. [crosstalk]
Mason Funk: Our mics are so sensitive.
Natalie Tsui: I think maybe just limit moving around.
Mason Funk: Okay, all right.
Natalie Tsui: In addition to that, because I can hear it. I can hear it all, that mics pointed right at you.
Jack Myers: I think it's this chair.
Mason Funk: Yeah?
Natalie Tsui: I think you're right there. Would you mind [inaudible 00:04:28] the mic so it's just pointed at his mouth a bit more. So that it's pointed a little bit less down.
Mason Funk: [00:04:30] Right.
Natalie Tsui: So we can kind of eliminate some of the chairs creak.
Jack Myers: We can change chairs.
Natalie Tsui: That's great.
Mason Funk: Let's try it this way, she's got the headphones on, she'll tell us if it's working okay.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, so we're-
Mason Funk: I know, all this technical stuff, it makes it seem like everyone's like, ah, but then hopefully we just forget about it. Once we get in a groove we'll be good. So, how would you describe your mom and your dad? What kind of people were they?
Jack Myers: Hard working people.
Mason Funk: So could you start off by saying, my mom and my dad?
Jack Myers: [00:05:00] My mom and my dad were very hard working people. Dad has three brothers, and my dad was a logger, one brother bought the timber, and the other one ran the sawmill. And my mom worked at the ... She made sleeping bags for a big company. And then she worked for the processing plant for a poultry supply,
Jack Myers: [00:05:30] they started with the chickens and raised them and took them to the plant and processed. She worked there for a long time. My dad did too. And then my dad was a mechanic, we did a lot of shade tree stuff. He also worked on small engines, stuff like that.
Mason Funk: So pretty much whatever, any kind of work he could do, it sounds like probably.
Jack Myers: Exactly.
Mason Funk: [00:06:00] How do you think, this is for someone like me, from Los Angeles, it's like a different world, and I just wonder how do you think your parents saw their lives? Did they have goals, were they optimistic people? Were they pessimistic people? How did they feel about their lives?
Jack Myers: Oh, we always had a good time. I mean you know, my parents partied too. There was not too many dull moments.
Mason Funk: [00:06:30] What would a typical party or what kinds of things kept the moments from becoming dull?
Jack Myers: Well mom was 16 when I was born, so we kind of came up together, almost, you know. I think dad was 17 or 18, and we had a lot of company, because he had people that worked for him,
Jack Myers: [00:07:00] and mom had a lot of friends, and there wasn't a whole lot of people my age to play with in a neighborhood, unless you wanted to walk a mile, you know. I remember getting my first bicycle and all that, I thought I had a car. It was kind of tough.
Natalie Tsui: It is, it's the chair that's creaking, so should we just try and replace the chair?
Mason Funk: Let's try replacing that chair.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, I'm gonna cut. So if you just want to maybe restart?
Mason Funk: [00:07:30] I'm not gonna restart the whole interview, we'll just carry on.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, it wasn't that much creaking, I don't think.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, it's true.
Mason Funk: So I just want to get a picture of what it was like when your folks would have friends over. What would you all do? What kinds of activities, and what did you all do for fun?
Jack Myers: Mostly just listened to music and danced, that's all. Drank a lot.
Mason Funk: [00:08:00] Was that kind of part ... We've been trying to understand, is drinking just more, sort of, more part of the culture here in the South, would you say?
Jack Myers: Yeah. It's all part of it, except for the Baptists, they drink at home, and never go anywhere. Then stumble to the polls and vote dry every time.
Mason Funk: Sounds like there's a few stories there.
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Can you tell me more?
Jack Myers: No, I better not.
Mason Funk: [00:08:30] Okay. Were your folks religious?
Jack Myers: Not-
Mason Funk: An example again, if you could take my question and weave it into your answer.
Natalie Tsui: Since this is happening, if you could not rock back and forth?
Mason Funk: Yeah, it's better if you don't.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Don't treat it like a rocker.
Jack Myers: Okay. They wasn't really religious.
Mason Funk: Sorry, again, my parents ...
Jack Myers: My parents were not real religious. They weren't strict on me in that kind of way, but I went to church just about every Sunday.
Jack Myers: [00:09:00] But the church that I went to wasn't the same young people that I went to school with, they went to another high school, they went to Pisgah, I went to Pelahatchie. But then I started going to the Baptist church in Pelahatchie, and that was where most of my friends were.
Mason Funk: And did you hear ... So you started going to the Baptist church in Pelahatchie with your friends.
Jack Myers: [00:09:30] Yeah, well the other church was Baptist too.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Jack Myers: And I was the music director for a long time. Then I started going to Pelahatchie.
Mason Funk: And, were the religious messages that you heard, were they sort of, of the hellfire and damnation type, what was the overall feeling of this church that you went to, the Baptist one in Pelahatchie?
Jack Myers: [00:10:00] It was reserved. It wasn't any loud preaching and screaming. I've been to a lot of Pentecostal, my grandmother was Pentecostal on my mother's side, and they really got down with the preaching. She and I used to go to her church every other Sunday, or whatever. And they were more loud than the Baptists.
Jack Myers: [00:10:30] Not saying I didn't enjoy it, you know. But I loved the gospel music. I love gospel music. The Gaithers, all that bunch.
Mason Funk: Yeah. So was it important to you, would you say, your religion, as say a high school, that become a centerpiece of your life, would you say?
Jack Myers: [00:11:00] Well a lot of it was the only social outlet you had, besides school, you know. Go to church on Sunday, Wednesday night for prayer meeting. It was just kind of a social outlet. But, I mean, I took part in a lot of stuff.
Mason Funk: So, how did you progress from say, your teenage years, to being, at the age of say 21 or so, opening a gay bar in Jackson? How did you get from there to there?
Jack Myers: [00:11:30] Well I lived at home until I was 18, and then I went to school at Hinds Junior College, and from there to Radiologic Technology School at UMC. It was kind of a lonely life in Pelahatchie, it's not the reason I went to school, but from changing from that, going to school made a big difference.
Jack Myers: [00:12:00] And then up to x-ray school. I was at university for two years, '64, '5, and '6, I think it was. And I graduated from there and worked in research a while. And I didn't really come out until I was 21. And then started going to the bar, and then I got a job as a bartender, and that's how it all started.
Jack Myers: [00:12:30] I worked there even when I was working at the VA, when I first started working at the VA, I was a bartender part-time. Mostly on the weekends, because the bar in Jackson was a weekend bar, and a lot of people from out of town would think oh, all these people from Jackson coming out, no, they wasn't from Jackson, a lot of them were from small towns around here. They would come into town on the weekends,
Jack Myers: [00:13:00] because Mississippi, probably, didnt have two or three bars in the whole state. People would come to Jackson on the weekends. They didn't realize, that don't go on every night. It was very dim through the week.
Mason Funk: When you say you didn't come out until you were about 21. Tell us the story of coming out. Who did you come out to?
Jack Myers: [00:13:30] Well, I was downtown. I really didn't know what the term gay meant. I was downtown, and somebody offered me a ride, and turned out to be a good friend of mine, and he just point blank asked me if I was gay. And I told him, yeah, I felt fine. And then later I found out what gay was. It wasn't feeling fine, it was just a way of life. So that's kind of how it started.
Mason Funk: [00:14:00] Did you have any idea, were you aware by that point that you were attracted to guys?
Jack Myers: Yeah, I had some experiences in high school. Maybe one, about all.
Mason Funk: How did you think about that experience when it happened?
Jack Myers: I knew that's what I wanted. I mean, I'd been with a lot of women, but I have a preference.
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] So, you knew that's what you wanted, did you feel any accompanying, any other feelings, any less positive feelings about it, like shame, or guilt, or that you had to hide it?
Jack Myers: No. I never had a guilt trip.
Mason Funk: Do you realize that sounds a little unusual? Especially, even people who come out in big cities sometimes deal with enormous amounts of guilt and shame.
Jack Myers: [00:15:00] No. I just found it to be a way of life.
Mason Funk: Huh. So you decided, having become a bartender, first of all, the bar where you became a bartender, was that a gay bar?
Jack Myers: Yes.
Mason Funk: Okay, could you tell us about that bar?
Jack Myers: It was a small bar.
Mason Funk: What was it called?
Jack Myers: The Raincheck Lounge. The first bar was called The Sports Lounge, a man owned it.
Jack Myers: [00:15:30] And then a lady was working with him, and I think he moved to Florida, and she opened her own bar, it was called The Raincheck. She asked me to come work with her. And she and I worked together for a long time. And she seemed to think that we needed a bigger place, because crowds were bigger. That was a two room bar, and we didn't have a dance license
Jack Myers: [00:16:00] because the back room didn't have an exit door. We had a light fixed at the front, if the police came in you buzzed the light in the back, and people would sit down from dancing, because it wasn't supposed to be dancing. So anyway, she decided we needed a bigger place, and I found a bigger place and got a home equity loan and rented it and got secured and all that stuff, and then she changed her mind, so I was kind of stuck with it by myself. And then that's where it all started.
Mason Funk: [00:16:30] So tell us about the bar, about the police raids. You mentioned them in passing.
Jack Myers: Yeah, well it really wasn't like a raid, it was just kind of like harassment. It's the first big dance open gay bar that Jackson had, and they'd want to check the license and IDs, and you couldn't sell beer after 12:00, and if they came in at five minutes after 12:00,
Jack Myers: [00:17:00] you couldn't have a cup or can or nothing that had beer on it, so that was a big hassle too. You had to have a health card. I think one of my employees, they took to jail because he didn't have his card on him. It was $50 to get him out. Then they ... My accountant asked me if I had a cabaret license, because we had a door charge.
Jack Myers: [00:17:30] I told him, no, I'd never heard of them. He said, "Well, you go and get them, they don't cost anything, but get them." Because at that time, you had to pay 10% of your door charge was for taxes. And went and got them, and sure enough that weekend Vice came in and said we need to see your cabaret license, and just said, "Right there." I stayed a step ahead of them. They didn't give me any trouble, except for the first show that we had.
Jack Myers: [00:18:00] A drag show from Atlanta came down, and they came in and said that we couldn't have the strip show, and I said, "It's not a strip show, it's a drag show." "Well, you're not gonna have it." I said, "Okay, that's fine with me." So I paid the people off and they went back to Atlanta. And we got an appointment to see the chief of police the next week. This is way back, must've been in the early '70s, Lavale Tullis was his name, an older man,
Jack Myers: [00:18:30] true Baptist, and he told us, if the Baptist churches could have womenless weddings, we could have our drag show. But he said, "I do want somebody from Vice and Narcotics to see the first one." "No problem. I'll let you know when we're gonna have it." So they came, and the guy said, "I don't see any problem." I said, "Well you see now, it's not a strip show." And I think they decided it was okay to have one. So we didn't have any more trouble after that.
Mason Funk: [00:19:00] What was his rationale? You said, if the Baptist church can have what?
Jack Myers: Womenless weddings.
Mason Funk: What's that?
Jack Myers: They do a mock wedding, where the men are the women and the women are men. That's just a comedy drag type thing, you know. He said, "If they can do that at the church, y'all can do it at your club." So I said, "Amen."
Mason Funk: [00:19:30] So, I'm sorry, but you've got to tell me more about these womenless weddings. This is a tradition in a Baptist church, like they would get you there for fun?
Jack Myers: Yeah, back then it was. I don't think they have them now. But, every once in a while you'll see where some football team or something will do a fundraiser where they do a womenless wedding, guys have to dress up like women, they have a bride and all this stuff. I guess it's just a country thing.
Mason Funk: [00:20:00] I see, so the big deal would be that there was these football players dressing up as women, and it's obviously played for laughs.
Jack Myers: Oh yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I gotcha, okay.
Jack Myers: It was a big comedy thing.
Mason Funk: But his point was, well, they're basically doing the same thing as you guys. It sounds like a very rational logic that he used.
Jack Myers: Exactly.
Mason Funk: But it doesn't sound like that's ... That's the norm that people kind of expect to hear about from people in small towns, especially religious folks. The sheriff, for example.
Jack Myers: [00:20:30] We never had a problem with the sheriff.
Mason Funk: Huh. Do you think ... I'm just gonna ask this point blank, do you think people have a lot of stereotypes in their minds about the South that are just not that way in real life? Like the intolerance, or the heaviness of the religious atmosphere?
Jack Myers: [00:21:00] It's religion and ignorance too, because people don't understand that you're born like this. You don't turn yourself to be gay. You don't make yourself be gay. And they just don't, they don't take the time to try to understand, and they've just got their own thoughts about ... You know, a gay person has a preference too. And they don't see that. That's a big problem.
Mason Funk: [00:21:30] How have you ... What are some of the encounters or the experiences you've had, where you've seen that mentality kind of clash with gay people who are just trying to live their lives?
Jack Myers: Almost on a weekly basis. Around the bar a lot.
Mason Funk: Can you give me some examples?
Jack Myers: Well, it's just, "He's queer, I don't want to have nothing to do with him." I'm like, "Well, you don't even know this person. You just form an opinion of somebody before you even
Jack Myers: [00:22:00] know what their name is, or even spoke one word with them, or whatever." You can't judge a person just because they say he's gay, or whatever, and I'm not gonna have anything to do with him. But it's slowly realizing that it's a way of life, accept it or not.
Mason Funk: Cool. Tell me about your folks. You told them that you were gonna open a gay bar. Tell us that story.
Jack Myers: [00:22:30] One of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was tell them that I was opening a gay bar.
Mason Funk: Sorry, I didn't know who them was, your parents, so start over.
Jack Myers: I'm sorry. Now, what do we need to do?
Mason Funk: One of the hardest things ... Just mention your parents, instead of saying them.
Jack Myers: One of the hardest things that I had to tell my parents was that I was opening a gay bar, because at that time I had not come out to them.
Jack Myers: [00:23:00] They were getting ready to leave, and I just kept trying to get up the courage. I finally got up the courage when we got on the front porch and they were ready to leave. Daddy made the comment, "Well I'm not going." And mamma said, "Well, I'm going, if you don't want to go, you can stay at home. I'm going." So then after that, they started being my door person,
Jack Myers: [00:23:30] and worked with me the whole time that I had a big nightclub. They ran the door. Everybody called them mom and papa Jack.
Mason Funk: And that was here in Jackson?
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: So, did they come live in Jackson at that stage?
Jack Myers: They lived with me off and on, two or three different times. And then when my dad got sick, they moved in with me next door. He passed away over there, and then mom never spent another night in Pelahatchie, she stayed with me,
Jack Myers: [00:24:00] and then she and I moved in this house, and she passed away here. He died in 2006, and she passed away in 2015.
Mason Funk: Goodness, wow.
Natalie Tsui: Sorry, he's just rocking.
Mason Funk: Oh yeah.
Natalie Tsui: I noticed that since we switched to this chair, I can see the wire running through your shirt. It looks like a wrinkle, but I just want to fix it really quickly.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: It's right here.
Jack Myers: All right.
Natalie Tsui: So do you mind if just stick my hand into your shirt for a second? You don't have to untuck it. Just gotta ...
Jack Myers: [00:24:30] Is it kinda pulling?
Natalie Tsui: I think actually, I got it. I just had to wrap it so that it was not ...
Jack Myers: Okay.
Mason Funk: Yeah, and so then if you can ... I'll remember as well, I'll try to remind you.
Natalie Tsui: Maybe you can do a hand signal.
Mason Funk: Like calm down.
Jack Myers: My mouth's getting dry. I have some medication I take.
Mason Funk: [00:25:00] You want some water?
Jack Myers: Yeah, I need to get a swallow of water.
Mason Funk: Sit tight. I'll bring you some.
Jack Myers: I've got some lemonade sitting there on the table.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Should I cut?
Mason Funk: No, it's okay. Is this it?
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Jack Myers: Thank you.
Mason Funk: Here you go. Sure. So, forgive me if I want all the details.
Jack Myers: [00:25:30] Go ahead.
Mason Funk: It's just my nature. So, tell me again the story of ... Give me a beat by beat, you decide you're gonna open a bar, you decide you want to tell your parents, they must've been visiting, I guess, because you mentioned they were about to leave. So just kind of walk us through the moments until you get to the front porch, and you take the big plunge. Just kind of paint me a picture of that story.
Jack Myers: [00:26:00] They had come over to visit, and they were getting ready to leave, and I keep saying, "You've got to tell them, you've got to tell them." And we made it to the front porch, and I just told them that I was opening a bar. They said, "Oh, really?" "Yeah, but it's gonna be a gay bar."
Jack Myers: [00:26:30] And mom was like, "Well I want to go." Dad said, "Well, I'm not going." She said, "Well, you can stay at home if you want to, I'm gonna go." So they came in the first night, and then after that they started running the door for me. Everybody started calling them mom and papa Jack. We were talking the day after that, or whatever, mama said, "Well I knew half the people that came in there." I said, "Well they're my friends, and you never knew, see." I knew that was gonna happen.
Mason Funk: [00:27:00] So did they know what a gay bar was?
Jack Myers: Probably not.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, say my parents probably didn't know, etc. Go like that.
Jack Myers: Okay. My parents probably didn't know what the word gay was, because just like my experience when somebody asked me if I was gay, told him, yeah, I felt fine, I didn't know what it was. But I don't think they realized what it was until later.
Mason Funk: [00:27:30] What made you feel so strongly that you wanted to tell them? That not only were you opening a bar, that it was a gay bar? Why?
Jack Myers: I didn't ever keep anything from them. Except when I first came out, and then later on, I guess they realized I was gay too.
Jack Myers: [00:28:00] But after they started running the door, and getting to know people and all that, we didn't have any problems.
Mason Funk: Did they ever express any disappointment, or regret that you were gay?
Jack Myers: No, never. I've just always been disappointed that I didn't produce a grandchild for them. But ... I'm rocking, I'm sorry.
Jack Myers: [00:28:30] That's the only thing that I regret. And I could have, but I just, one thing, I didn't want that responsibility, trying to live two lives and all that. But they never expressed anything about, well, you never had a child, or anything like that. They never did throw a guilt trip on me.
Mason Funk: [00:29:00] Did you have some significant long term relationships where they got to know your partner, over the years?
Jack Myers: That came along later. They understood. In fact, I'm sure at some points they were living with me when I was with somebody, but we never had any problem. They were treated just like everybody else.
Mason Funk: [00:29:30] Given how much, how many men ... Well, first of all, let me ask you about this bar. Tell me more about that first bar you opened. What was it like, who came, what kinds of activities did you engage in to get people in the door, and sell booze, and make money?
Jack Myers: We had some little pageants, and we had people from Memphis that came here, people from Alabama that came here, people from Texas, all around, because there wasn't that many drag queens in Jackson, you know.
Jack Myers: [00:30:00] But they started coming out of the woodwork after the bar started its height, they came, started coming out more.
Mason Funk: And you say the drag queens started coming out of the woodwork here in Jackson?
Jack Myers: There wasn't any place they could go, you know, even after I had JC's, just a small cruise bar,
Jack Myers: [00:30:30] we had a lot of cross-dressers, some of them wasn't gay, but the bar mostly was the only place they had to go that they'd feel comfortable. And there was a little group that met, I think it was the first Saturday of every month, they would get together and have a party, and come to the bar later, in full drag, but they were straight, but that was just, they liked to cross-dress. But there was never any problem. They just felt comfortable being there. My stomach.
Mason Funk: [00:31:00] Your stomach. You also mentioned, in passing, when we were sitting on the couch, you mentioned someone who owned the black, there was a black bar. So was there sort of like where the bars were actually segregated for the most part, or how was it?
Jack Myers: [00:31:30] You're in the South, you're always gonna have a black and a white whatever. And there's a black gay bar here that's very active. They have the shows, and out-of-town guests, and all that. And then we have another bar here that's called Wonderlust, it's just open Thursday through Saturday, and they have a show on Saturday Night, every Saturday night at 12:00, and they have people from out-of-town do guest spots.
Jack Myers: [00:32:00] And a lot of straight people go see the drag show, especially a lot of couples love it. And then this most recent black bar that we have is between here and Clinton, and they have their shows and all that, but I've never been. When they had the drag bar downtown, [inaudible] owned one of them downtown. And we had whites that come in too.
Jack Myers: [00:32:30] It's predominantly black. But like I said, being in the South, a lot of stuff is still kind of separated, but people are welcome to intermingle or whatever, no problems.
Mason Funk: They're welcome to, but they tend not to, it sounds like.
Jack Myers: It's a lot of people who wouldn't dare go. Some people. I wouldn't mind going. Probably most of them know me anyway.
Mason Funk: [00:33:00] Going back to the years when you were growing up, you were born in '44, and you were growing up like you say, in the '50s, and that's obviously when the desegregation movement began, the civil rights movement. How did that effect ... What are some of the things you remember noticing, just from that era, just in terms of the changing, the race, the coming of the civil rights era, the tensions that created?
Jack Myers: Most of that happened, a lot of it happened when I was in high school. I worked part-time at the Western Auto in town,
Jack Myers: [00:33:30] and I remember the Freedom Rider buses coming through town. People would line the streets just to see the bus pass. Then I remember when they had the sit-in at, I think it was one of the drug stores downtown on Capitol Street, they had a counter, food counter, and they had a sit-in. Then they had some marches and stuff. I remember all that, but I didn't see it.
Mason Funk: [00:34:00] What do you remember?
Jack Myers: Well, I had a black mama too. I had a lot of experience how they had to live and always had feelings for them. Because most of the people that worked for my dad were black men, and they always had a hard time, just like my dad did.
Jack Myers: [00:34:30] But they had it much worse, living conditions and stuff, just comes time it'd break your heart. And with mom and daddy working, I had a black mama that kept me, and she passed away, and all of her kids were friends of mine. But I mean, I lived, basically, like they did. At least we had a heater in the house,
Jack Myers: [00:35:00] they had a fireplace. But I always had feelings for them, how they were treated. They were treated bad. But the ones that worked for us, they would stand up for my daddy in a minute, or even me, if I needed them, or whatever. I know what they went through. I was there.
Mason Funk: What are some of the things you remember witnessing, when you say you know what they went through?
Jack Myers: [00:35:30] Just the hard times in the winter. And them having to raise their own garden for food, and that type of stuff. But I mean, we did the same thing. But the community that we lived in, all the women would get together and maybe do corn one day, and beans the next day, and kill hogs in October or September,
Jack Myers: [00:36:00] when it, cool weather. And they were always there to help. And I just saw it all. But it's a lot better now.
Mason Funk: Tell me more, was it ... I've never heard the term, a black mama. Was that kind of almost like a common term, back in the day, someone would say, well, I have a black mama?
Jack Myers: Yeah. Well, her daughter ... My uncle, daddy's brother, was married to a Minnie Myers, and
Jack Myers: [00:36:30] my black mamma had a daughter named Minnie Myers, and black Minnie would always send me a Christmas card every year, and she'd say, "your black Minnie Myers", that's how she signed it.
Mason Funk: Your black mama, you say she had a bunch of kids who were your friends as well?
Jack Myers: [00:37:00] Yeah, they were older, but they helped daddy do the logging and my uncle do the farming. The one who ran the sawmill did all the farming, he did cotton, and corn, and peanuts, and fields of peas, and all that type of stuff, and they all get together and work to can it, and whatever.
Mason Funk: Huh. So the woman who was your black mama, would she come and go every day, she would basically look after you?
Jack Myers: [00:37:30] No, I'd basically go stay with her. Sometimes she'd come to the house. I remember sometimes on the weekends the boys would go out and party and she'd be by herself, and she got scared, she'd get up and walk to our house and sleep on the couch.
Mason Funk: Wow. How long did you stay in touch with her as you got older?
Jack Myers: She passed away before I graduated high school. I still want to go back and see if they have a tombstone for her. I know where she's buried.
Jack Myers: [00:38:00] In fact, I went by the church the other day, and the fence was locked, I couldn't get in. I just want to make sure that she has a headstone.
Mason Funk: Sounds like she was an important person to you.
Jack Myers: I learned a lot. She and I used to cook. She called me her baby. "Oh, baby, don't do that."
Mason Funk: What kinds of things would you cook together?
Jack Myers: [00:38:30] We would fry cucumbers and just anything. After I grew up I thought, I never had friend cucumbers until my aunt Minnie, her name was Desiree Walton, and Desiree fried me some cucumbers. But she took care of me.
Mason Funk: [00:39:00] Wow. I don't know how I went on a tangent, but it's really interesting, again, it's a piece of just the fabric of our country and people that you don't oftentimes hear about, so I appreciate you sharing that. So tell me also, when you say you remember the Freedom Riders going through your town.
Jack Myers: Yeah, that was Highway 80, which Interstate 20, took the place of Highway 80.
Jack Myers: [00:39:30] Highway 80 went through every little town. And 20 kind of bypasses all of them. All of them have an exit right off the Interstate, but it's not like having the main red light in town, now it's a caution light, or a 4-way stop.
Mason Funk: And so you remember these buses coming through?
Jack Myers: [00:40:00] Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Mason Funk: What did you know about these so-called Freedom Riders, who they were and what they were there to do?
Jack Myers: I remember when we got our first TV, I can't remember a lot about that being on TV. We didn't even get a newspaper, it was just mostly word of mouth. I guess the merchants in town kind of kept up with what was going on,
Jack Myers: [00:40:30] and it was word of mouth that the Freedom Riders would be through, and sure enough they came through. Everybody charges to the main highway to see the buses pass by. Again, I'm assuming they were on their way to Jackson, for the march and sit-ins and all this stuff.
Mason Funk: And who were the Freedom Riders? For those who have no idea.
Jack Myers: I don't know, I didn't know by name or personally.
Mason Funk: [00:41:00] No, I mean like ... [inaudible] What were the Freedom Riders?
Jack Myers: I guess they were black activists that ... Trying to get as many people as they could together to participate in the ... They had a march here, and then they had the sit-in at the ... It might have been Walgreens, but H.L. Greens, it was a big drugstore downtown. They had a long lunch counter, and they all went and sat down at the lunch counter, because they had their section.
Jack Myers: [00:41:30] Because I remember in the '80s, we bought the Old Mit Theater downtown and moved the big bar into it, that was our third move. And they had a balcony upstairs, and the blacks had to go upstairs. And the whites got the front seats. And even when they filmed-
Mason Funk: Hold on one second.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah, there's ...
Mason Funk: That's a loud truck. Just bear with me one second.
Jack Myers: [00:42:00] Okay.
Mason Funk: Back up and say when we moved to the theater ... You mentioned you moved there as your third location.
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: So just go ahead.
Jack Myers: When we moved into the theater downtown, it was the Old Mit Theater, we remodeled it, and opened it up as Mae's Cabaret, that was the name of my first bar. Mae's Cabaret was on 49, we were there maybe three years, and then we moved downtown, upstairs in a place called The Wagon Wheel for years, was a straight club.
Jack Myers: [00:42:30] Stayed there about three years, then we bought the Old Mit Theater, and remodeled it, and they had a side entrance that they went in. All the blacks went upstairs to watch the movies and the whites sat downstairs. And when they filmed "The Help", a lot of it was done here in Jackson, they used the old Capri Theater up here,
Jack Myers: [00:43:00] and they made an entrance on the side, black and white. And then, when I was at UMC in '64 and '65, all of the water signs had black and white on them, or black and colored, or whatever, white and colored. And one night, almost midnight, they had a crew come in there and took all the signs down from the water fountains and signs off the bathroom doors, knocked holes between the dining rooms in the cafeteria
Jack Myers: [00:43:30] because it was all separated. And I think the university found out all their federal funds were gonna be cut out if they didn't do it. So they came in there, worked all night doing that work. I remember that happening in probably '65, somewhere in there. But it happened the two years that I was working there. And, I was a junior student, and they brought the four civil rights leaders,
Jack Myers: [00:44:00] three of them, three civil rights leaders from Philadelphia, that they, the sheriff's department up there murdered and buried them in a pond dam, and they dug them up, and they came to UMC, and I was on call, so I had to ... The senior student and I did all the x-rays on the bodies.
Mason Funk: Wow. Tell us that story for those who don't know. And when you mention Philadelphia,
Mason Funk: [00:44:30] clarify that it's this town here in Mississippi, not Philadelphia that people think they know, not the big one. So tell us that story, how you ended up interacting with these bodies.
Jack Myers: Okay. I was on call at UMC when I was an x-ray student.
Mason Funk: Say what UMC is.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Mason Funk: Oh yeah, stop your rocking.
Jack Myers: I wish I could tighten that screw up, you can't tighten these chairs up.
Mason Funk: Sorry, when you say, "I was on call at UMC." Just say what UMC is, what it stands for.
Jack Myers: [00:45:00] When I was on call at, we called it University Hospital, now it's Mississippi Medical Center, or University, UMMC, University of Mississippi Medical Center, in '64, or '5, I believe it was, is when they, three civil rights leaders came from, I believe it was from New York to Philadelphia, and subsequently was murdered by the sheriff's department up there, or somebody, and was buried up in a pond dam. And they found the bodies and shipped them here to UMC,
Jack Myers: [00:45:30] and I was there working that night, and the senior student and I had to do complete body x-rays on them, that was kind of interesting. They weren't decomposed too bad. But it was very interesting. We had to do complete body x-rays on them.
Mason Funk: What did those body x-rays reveal?
Jack Myers: [00:46:00] Some shots and some broken bones, and different fractures, some to the head, some I think, some bullets in some of them, broken arms and stuff. If I'm not mistaken, there was one black person with that group, and the two guys,
Jack Myers: [00:46:30] the two white guys that came with him were gay activists in New York. So they came to the South with a black guy, to help him out, but nothing was ever mentioned about the two white guys being gay. I'm thinking they were, but I'm not positive. But rumor had it in the gay community here, that the two white guys were gay, and they were helping the black guy with the movement at the time.
Mason Funk: [00:47:00] Interesting. It's an interesting example, if indeed this was true, of these days people talk a lot about trying to get gay people to be more interested in the struggles of black folks, trying to get the communities to sort of work closer together.
Jack Myers: Right.
Mason Funk: Yeah, that's a really interesting story. Who would know if those guys were ... I don't know if anybody would know if they were gay or not.
Jack Myers: I think Eddie Sandifer told me the story, and if somebody would know, he would know.
Jack Myers: [00:47:30] He was a big activist in the gay community here. I just wish he had lived for you to talk to him.
Mason Funk: Me too. Me too. So were you aware at the time ... Again, for folks who have no idea about these murders, which ultimately became really famous, the murders of these two white activists, and the black man who was murdered with them. It was a pretty important event, were you aware at the time, of the controversy surrounding these murders?
Mason Funk: [00:48:00] When you were doing these, essentially ... I don't know if these were autopsies, or-
Jack Myers: It was a part of the autopsy.
Mason Funk: So were you aware of the importance of these murders, or was it, or did you not have that perspective?
Jack Myers: Yeah, I mean, these guys gave their life for something they believed in. They were trying to get the black and white community to come together, and they just went to the wrong town.
Jack Myers: [00:48:30] I don't know what transpired there. What the deal is. I think they found their car burned up, and took them several weeks to find the bodies. They were buried in clay and pretty well preserved.
Mason Funk: Between the time when they disappeared, and when their bodies were found, were there lots of newspaper articles?
Jack Myers: Oh yeah.
Mason Funk: Can you tell us about that?
Jack Myers: [00:49:00] I don't remember much about it. I know it was a big story. I just don't remember much about it. It was sad.
Mason Funk: Sad in what way?
Jack Myers: To see those three young guys, their life ended so violently. Because I saw what happened to them, the results of what happened to them.
Mason Funk: [00:49:30] Yeah, it's a really, I mean, gosh, talk about you being present for one of these moments that we, everybody knows the story of those three guys. And that you were the guy who ended up performing x-rays on them is kind of amazing. So, switch back over to the gay bar story.
Mason Funk: [00:50:00] Give me, I don't know if it's possible, but can you give me an overview of ... You mentioned you've owned gay bars for about 50 years, starting roughly with that first one when you were 21. Is it possible to say I owned this bar, then I owned this bar, and then I owned this bar, and then I owned this bar, and then I retired?
Jack Myers: I can try.
Mason Funk: Okay. If you can try to give me an overview, it would be helpful.
Jack Myers: Okay. The very first gay bar I owned was on Highway 49 North, here in Jackson.
Mason Funk: [00:50:30] I'll only interrupt once, but if you can name the bars as you go, that'd be great.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Mason Funk: So start over.
Jack Myers: Okay. The first gay bar that I opened here in Jackson was named Mae's Cabaret, because everybody called me Mae, that was my nickname in the gay community. If you go to Pelahatchie, everybody know me still, but I was known as Mae, so we named it Mae's Cabaret. And we were there three years,
Jack Myers: [00:51:00] then I rented a bar downtown that was a well known nightclub for a long time, called The Wagon Wheel, it was upstairs. And we stayed there three years, it was called Mae's Cabaret. And then from there, we bought the Old Mit Theater, it was Mae's Cabaret, and believe it or not, our first opening night we had a very-
Mason Funk: Sorry.
Natalie Tsui: [00:51:30] Loud.
Mason Funk: Just start again.
Jack Myers: Let me ask you something right quick, off camera.
Mason Funk: Sure.
Jack Myers: Do you remember Dorothy Moore? She recorded "Misty Blue".
Mason Funk: Okay, I know that song.
Jack Myers: She was very big when we opened that theater, and she had a booking agent and she had a manager and all this stuff, and she wasn't supposed to do anything for me without them being involved, but she did, so I'm not gonna call her name, okay.
Mason Funk: [00:52:00] Okay, fair enough. Okay. It might be good, honestly, I hate to do it, but it might be good if we just start over again, back with the first Mae's Cabaret out on Highway 49.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Mason Funk: And then work your way forward from there, this time hopefully we won't be interrupted.
Jack Myers: Okay. The first gay bar I opened in Jackson, dance bar, big club, dance floor, the whole nine yards, was called Mae's Cabaret, it was on 49 North, and we named it-
Natalie Tsui: [00:52:30] Sorry to interrupt. You're looking at the camera every so often, so just don't look here.
Jack Myers: Okay. The first gay bar I opened in Jackson, the big dance bar, was Mae's Cabaret, it was on 49 North, and it was named Mae because all the gay people here called me Mae, just a nickname. We were there three years then we moved downtown to the Old Mit Theater, no not the Old Mit Theater,
Jack Myers: [00:53:00] the old Wagon Wheel, it was upstairs, it was a nightclub here for years and years, straight club, and stayed there three years, and then I bought the Old Mit Theater, and we remodeled it, and moved in it. And our opening night, we had a popular singer from here in Jackson was our headliner, and we had over 800 people that showed up. And if we hadn't had the balcony, we wouldn't have had a place to seat them.
Jack Myers: [00:53:30] And then, let's see, I went from there, went to San Francisco to visit my cousin, and he found out he was positive. And he was moving back here, or either I was gonna move out there, but to be with him. And I always wanted a small cruise bar. And when I was coming from the airport, I went down Capitol Street and there was a little bar there on Capitol Street that ... Everybody used to go to Capitol Street to shop.
Jack Myers: [00:54:00] I remember from high school, we'd go to Capitol Street to do all the shopping. And my dad and my uncle would go to this little bar and drink and play pool. And there was a sign in the window that said, For Rent. I said, "Oh Lord, I'm stuck in Jackson." So, I rented that place, I think it was 200 and something dollars a month, and it was called Jack's Saloon, and I had the two of them. And then the old theater burned in '80-something,
Jack Myers: [00:54:30] and we opened a bar across the street from it, which eventually turned out to be a black bar. It was called Club City Lights at the time, but before that, when we opened it, it was called The Interchange, and we were there for a while. Then on to the Star Restaurant downtown, it was a gay bar and restaurant. We had the first mixed drinks. All the others were beer, bring your own bottle.
Jack Myers: [00:55:00] And then in the midst of that, I bought JC's in '91, I think it was, it was there about 25 years. Closed it July of last year.
Mason Funk: Okay, good. That's a good overview to have. Now let's go back, one of the things you mentioned in passing was your cousin [inaudible] becoming positive.
Mason Funk: [00:55:30] So, tell us, from your point of view, being here in Jackson, when you first became aware of AIDS. How did you first hear about AIDS? Or what was probably called something different before it was called AIDS.
Jack Myers: I think probably going back and forth-
Mason Funk: Hold on one sec.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Mason Funk: There's a little ... Okay.
Jack Myers: Probably going back and forth to California to visit my cousin. And then it started in Mississippi too,
Jack Myers: [00:56:00] the big AIDS epidemic hit pretty hard here. So he decided to move home, and I just kind of let the bar go to the side, I had a good manager, and went and lived with him. He bought him a house. I believe mother and dad were living here at the time, but I stayed mostly with him. But he and I ran the bar successfully,
Jack Myers: [00:56:30] we called it Jack and Jill's. Jack's Saloon would bring it the other side, another building and opened it up and called it Jack and Jill's. And then he passed away in the mid '90s, I can't remember exactly when. I have to think. I have to think for a minute.
Jack Myers: [00:57:00] Yeah, he passed away, and then we got the ... I had another business partner, we opened up the Star Restaurant, that's the one that had the mixed drinks. And then we moved here on Northview, where the bar is now, we was there about seven years. And that's where Wonderlust is now. It's a girl that has it. They just open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Mason Funk: [00:57:30] So when your cousin came back from San Francisco, effectively to die, did his folks know he was gay when he came home?
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: They did. Can you tell us that story. Who was this cousin, and how is he related to you,
Mason Funk: [00:58:00] and the story of him coming home. You mentioned in more detail, earlier, you mentioned that you guys first got him a hotel room. Just kind of fill that out for us.
Jack Myers: That's somebody else.
Mason Funk: Oh, that was somebody else, okay. So then, start with your cousin's story.
Jack Myers: My cousin came home when he found out, I think they predicted him, gave him six months to live.
Mason Funk: Sorry, just start off by saying when they found out what. Just speak ...
Jack Myers: [00:58:30] When my cousin Michael Myers was diagnosed with AIDS in San Francisco they gave him approximately six months to live, and he moved home. He bought him a house and lived in Jackson, and I went and stayed with him while he was sick. It was hard. He and I were real close. In fact, he was still in high school,
Jack Myers: [00:59:00] and I talked him into going to the bar with me, because I was working at the bar, at The Raincheck, the one that the lady had, and on the way back he admitted to me that he was gay. He said, "I got something that I got to tell you." I said, "I knew." But you know, it was never really been discussed about that. He said, "I got something I got to tell you." He said, "I've had a boyfriend all through high school." And I said, "Well, I kinda knew." So that broke the ice between us, being gay.
Mason Funk: [00:59:30] And then, he decided at some point to move to San Francisco.
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that. Where did he go from here?
Jack Myers: He moved around a good bit. I think he lived in Washington D.C. for a while. And he wound up in California. He was a bartender in San Francisco, a place called The Giraffe.
Jack Myers: [01:00:00] I'd go and stay with him weeks at a time. In fact, his mom went with me one time. We spent three or four days, and I stayed on, and she flew back. But, they knew he was gay.
Mason Funk: Did he tell them? I mean, I assume he came out to them.
Jack Myers: Well, when he came home the weekend, I think maybe the weekend before he moved back here, or a weekend before he moved back,
Jack Myers: [01:00:30] and he told his mom and daddy that he had six months to live, and told them what was going on. Of course, it was devastation to her, because that was her baby, he was the youngest of I think it was five or six of them. He had three brothers, and three sisters.
Mason Funk: How did his mom and dad react?
Jack Myers: [01:01:00] I wasn't there.
Mason Funk: But in general you probably witnessed how they reacted in the grand scheme of things, his mom and dad?
Jack Myers: Oh she had a hard time. She would break down and cry and talk to me about it. She told me at one point, "I just hope I go before he does." She got her wish. She had a heart attack and died before he did. And I told him, I said, "Mike, your mom got her wish."
Jack Myers: [01:01:30] He said, "What?" I said, "She wanted to go before you did." Kind of heartbreaking, but I just thought he should know that.
Mason Funk: [01:02:00] I think you mentioned that there were other stories that you heard about or witnessed of men here maybe coming home to Mississippi, or living here, whose families didn't show them much love or respect.
Jack Myers: Well there was so many people here in the small towns that moved away, where gay life was more open and popular than it was here. There's no place here to go. And there was one guy from a small town here that came home,
Jack Myers: [01:02:30] he was sick, and he came home, told his parents what were going on, and they carried him to UMC, University Medical Center, dropped him off and never came back. And then when he got well enough to be discharged, they got in touch with the Gay Alliance, Eddie Sandifer, Eddie called me, so we got him a room to live in until we bought a house, and it was called the Sandifer House.
Jack Myers: [01:03:00] And we took money from the door at the bar on the weekends and paid for the note on the house and kept the house going, that and donations and fundraisers. And then Eddie passed away, but the house kind of faded away way before that, because I guess medicines got better, and people were doing so much better and all, but it hit us hard here, real hard.
Jack Myers: [01:03:30] Because we didn't have anybody that had any knowledge about the treatment and stuff. There was one doctor that stood out, Dr. Bill Causey, and he was wonderful. He just took everybody under his arm, did everything he could to help them. He kept up with the most recent drugs and treatments and all this stuff, and he just devoted his whole, just about his whole practice for the gay community.
Mason Funk: [01:04:00] So who was this guy, Dr. Bill Causey, was he here in Jackson?
Jack Myers: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Mason Funk: So, you kind of told his story as part of another story, but I wonder if you would just, if I said to you, who is Dr. Bill Causey, and what meaning did he have for the gay community here, could you just answer that?
Jack Myers: Dr. Bill Causey was a, I believe it was an epidemiologist,
Jack Myers: [01:04:30] is that the right term for an infection specialist? I think it is. I might be wrong. He devoted his biggest part of his practice, then he had another doctor with him, Dr., can't think of his name right off. Anyway, Bill Causey would help anybody any way he could. I know he was a tremendous help to me, because I had a couple of people
Jack Myers: [01:05:00] that was diagnosed, and they came to stay with me when they found out that they were terminal. They'd say, "If my parents don't want to fool with me, can I come stay with you?" And I had one in particular that went into a coma, and he was seeing the infection specialist at UMC, University Medical Center, and I called and they said, "Bring him on to the hospital." So we got up there and they said, "We don't have a room."
Jack Myers: [01:05:30] I said, "Well, I'll be right back." So I went outside and I called Dr. Causey, and he said, "Just put him back in the ambulance and bring him on to Baptist Hospital, I'll take care of him." It was just like that. Dr. Causey went out of his way to help a lot of people, a lot of people. What else?
Mason Funk: [01:06:00] I don't know. I was thinking, I was waiting to see if you had anything else you wanted to say about him.
Jack Myers: I just didn't want to bring up the other part we talked about.
Mason Funk: Yeah, yeah, I totally understand. Can you, I know you've been over it, can you go over again, how the AIDS epidemic hit here at a later date,
Mason Funk: [01:06:30] presumably than, it kind of had a delayed effect maybe, here in Mississippi.
Jack Myers: I think it was kind of delayed because no doctor had ever had any dealings with it, they didn't know what to do, other than to keep people comfortable, basically. There wasn't any treatment at that time. It wasn't like San Francisco where they had a lot of research going on,
Jack Myers: [01:07:00] and all that. Nobody here was doing anything. But Dr. Causey kept up daily with what treatments they were using and all that stuff, and he brought a lot of people out of it, and some of them are still living. A lot of them.
Mason Funk: So he was really the first doctor here, would you say in the whole state?
Jack Myers: I'd say the whole state, for a long time, long, long time. I've never heard of anybody that topped him.
Mason Funk: [01:07:30] Did he take flak, do you know, in the community, for showing so much, for being willing to work with people with AIDS?
Jack Myers: Did he get any flak?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Jack Myers: No. No, everybody respected him. He knew his stuff. He's probably one of the
Jack Myers: [01:08:00] few infection specialist doctors we had here. Dr. Michael Morgan, I believe it was, was with his office, and he has since kind of thinned his practice down, but he sees a lot of AIDS patients. But he just ... I mean, I like Dr. Morgan, but Dr. Causey was just always more helpful to me,
Jack Myers: [01:08:30] about seeing somebody. "Oh yeah, I'll work them in, don't worry about it." Because he had a load, he had a case load.
Mason Funk: And because of your role owning these bars, did you have just an awareness, a much greater awareness, you'd be almost like the operator who would know, you knew who needed services, who needed help.
Jack Myers: Yeah, the state health department was a tremendous help too.
Mason Funk: [01:09:00] Oh really, how so?
Jack Myers: I say the state health department, it was, they had a group of people that was able to get funding for housing and they paid the utilities and stuff for nine months I think it was. Let people get on their feet to get back to work or whatever, they just didn't have a place to go,
Jack Myers: [01:09:30] nobody to take them in. And [inaudible] people it was poverty level. I forget the name of that group. It was associated somehow through the health department. And the health department, they came to the bar several times and talked to people. Anytime somebody wanted a place to have a meeting or something,
Jack Myers: [01:10:00] I offered the bar. And we had several different outreach groups that had meetings at JC's. I just can't remember all the groups, there's so many, so many.
Mason Funk: Listen, why don't we take a little break.
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: And we can resume in a few minutes.
Jack Myers: I think JC's had 2500 square feet.
Mason Funk: [01:10:30] Oh wow. So, and you say cruise bar, in the sense that people go would go there cruising?
Jack Myers: Right.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Jack Myers: But I tell you what-
Natalie Tsui: Rolling.
Mason Funk: Just one sec. Okay, go ahead.
Jack Myers: I tell you what happened with the small cruise bars, is social media, it put them out of business, because people don't have to go out anymore to hook up or whatever. What's so sad about it, is the young people
Jack Myers: [01:11:00] are losing their social skills to sit down and talk to anybody. It's all this ... You never have to go out, you never have to talk face-to-face. I think that's what happened to JC's. The crowd just dwindled and dwindled. But our closing night, the parking lot was full, the street was full, the bar was full, and I'm going, " Where have y'all been? Why haven't you been coming out?"
Jack Myers: [01:11:30] And it's the social media that just killed the small bar business. Now the bigger bars are active on the weekends, but it doesn't even pay them to open through the week. In fact, it costs them. I bet you their Thursday nights cost them money to open this place, because it's close to 10,000 square feet. It's where you can close half of it off, but still,
Jack Myers: [01:12:00] 5,000 feet is a lot of space to fill up. But they pack them in there on Saturday night.
Mason Funk: Which place are you talking about?
Jack Myers: Wonderlust. I don't know where she got that name.
Mason Funk: Do you have any hankering to ... You closed JC's, but do you have any hankering to get back in the business?
Jack Myers: Oh, I look every time I leave this house. If I could find the right spot. JC's was kind of secluded, off the beaten path,
Jack Myers: [01:12:30] you almost had to know where you're going. We didn't get a lot of people just stragglers that stop by to see what was going on, because it's only a block long, and it dead ends into a neighborhood. And the rest of it's businesses that don't depend on off street traffic. And it's two blocks up. But the social media, I always blame it on social media,
Jack Myers: [01:13:00] because there's so many websites now. You don't have to leave home.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I have friends who bemoan the same thing about even just cruising a given neighborhood.
Natalie Tsui: [inaudible]
Mason Funk: Oh, okay.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Sorry.
Natalie Tsui: Cut.
Mason Funk: Okay. Go ahead. Sorry again.
Jack Myers: I don't miss the bar from having to run around on, especially to get everything together for the weekend, and do this, do that, the air conditioning needs to be cleaned, blah, blah, blah.
Jack Myers: [01:13:30] I don't miss all that very much. I miss seeing all the people. The only time I see them is if I run into them at the grocery store or some social event or something like that. I go to this bar maybe once a month, but I don't go out that much anymore, just no place to go. My favorite was small bars.
Mason Funk: For you that's a huge change, because you used to be the guy who was like, it was your world to a degree.
Jack Myers: [01:14:00] Exactly.
Mason Funk: That's why you probably go out looking for the right spot.
Jack Myers: You see, when I was at ... I worked at VA for a long time. And got a scholarship and went to Duke for a year in some special radiology training. I had a business partner then, that ran the bar along with my folks while I was up there for a year. But I was home at least once or twice a month,
Jack Myers: [01:14:30] I'd fly home. They had one little cruise bar in Durham, and then they had a big bar in Raleigh, I think it was. That's when I had the bar upstairs.
Mason Funk: [01:15:00] What do you feel, in the years that you ran these bars, a big chunk of time, almost half a century or so, what's the most satisfying thing for you of having owned and operated these bars here in Jackson, for so long?
Jack Myers: I just enjoy meeting people and socializing, I guess. Like we were talking earlier, I can't remember any trip
Jack Myers: [01:15:30] or vacation or anyplace I've ever gone that I didn't run into somebody that didn't recognize me out of the crowd. "What are you doing here?" "What are you doing here?" Even like the story going to Florala, Alabama with the straight friends of mine, they didn't know I was gay. I was telling Tim earlier, I lived in a little town, Eupora,
Jack Myers: [01:16:00] and this lady and her daughter, we became friends. They lived in a house in front of my apartment, and they wanted me to go with them to Florida to hear their son-in-law preach. So we took off to Florida, and they didn't know at the time I was gay, and we stopped in Florala, Alabama to fill up with gas, and this feminine, feminine little queen comes running out of the store, Jack Myers, I hadn't seen you. I said, "Oh, Lord, the gig's up.
Jack Myers: [01:16:30] They know it." I can't think of a place I've ever been that somebody didn't know me.
Mason Funk: It's funny, because on the surface you don't seem like a particularly big personality. But, people, either you're keeping it really low-key for us right now, or people just got to know you anyway, just by being in a bar.
Mason Funk: [01:17:00] There's not really a question in there, but it's funny to me, because that guy was clearly really excited to see you.
Jack Myers: Yeah, I don't think I've ever met a stranger.
Mason Funk: What does that mean?
Jack Myers: Well, able to sit down and talk with them. I just enjoy meeting people.
Mason Funk: What role do you think the bars have played, here in Jackson, your bars, what space have they filled?
Jack Myers: [01:17:30] They've taught me a lot. I don't know where to start. You just meet so many people. One of my friends told me one time, he said, "You have the best knack for ..." let me think how he put it, "for characterizing people, than anybody I've ever seen."
Mason Funk: [01:18:00] You're rocking.
Jack Myers: Oh.
Natalie Tsui: Maybe if you sit up a little bit, and it kind of makes you a little bit harder to rock.
Jack Myers: Is that better?
Natalie Tsui: It's a little bit too close.
Mason Funk: It looks awkward. I'll just ... If I do this, if you notice my hand like this, it means you're rocking, okay. But let's-
Natalie Tsui: I have to reframe slightly.
Mason Funk: No, but it doesn't look natural, you need to sit back. And I think I'll just, if I do this, or I go like this, just take that as your cue, okay? But I want to go back. You say you learned so much, and your friend said ...
Jack Myers: [01:18:30] My friend told me one time that he had never met anybody like me, because I could characterize a person real quick.
Mason Funk: What does that mean, exactly?
Jack Myers: I guess, from being around the bar so long, and meeting so many people with different personalities, and you can tell who's truthful and who's not, you know, stuff like that.
Mason Funk: [01:19:00] And you said you learned so much. What kinds of things, what kinds of lessons, or insights have you gained?
Jack Myers: Just by talking to people and just characterizing them real easy. I guess you talk to so many ...
Jack Myers: [01:19:30] When I'm at the bar, I'm mixing with the crowd, I don't sit down. I never did sit down at the bar, unless I was tired or something. I mixed with the crowd, get to talk to everybody, get to know people.
Mason Funk: Would people end up talking to you, telling you their kind of most private parts in their lives?
Jack Myers: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You get kind of deep sometimes.
Mason Funk: [01:20:00] Without naming names, or going into too much detail, do remember some of the really maybe important times when ... Or things that people told you, different individuals who really kind of used you maybe as almost like a priest or therapist?
Jack Myers: I thought about hanging a shingle one time. Yeah.
Mason Funk: What would the shingle say?
Jack Myers: [01:20:30] Spiritual advisor, counseling, marriage counseling, on and on and on, because people seem to open up when they've had a few drinks, get stuff off their mind, talk about it. Talk to somebody that's not gonna tell everybody what their business is. Kind of confide in me.
Mason Funk: [01:21:00] I asked you a little bit ago, what role you feel like these bars play here in Jackson, the other thing I was thinking about was in terms of the gay community here. What do you think they found at your bars that they couldn't find anywhere else?
Jack Myers: I wish I had some of the letters that people have written me. In fact, I dug, and dug for one, all week, and I can't find it.
Jack Myers: [01:21:30] I wanted you to get a copy of it. And if I find it, I'll fax it to you, or email it, or whatever. But I used to get letters like that all the time, thanking me for giving them a safe place to go when they didn't have anyplace else to go, they could come to the bar, and kind of was an outlet for them, to come out and be themselves for a while.
Jack Myers: [01:22:00] Like, thank you for protecting us, and looking out for us, that type stuff, provide a safe place. Because we always had an off-duty policeman that worked for us, on the weekends. In fact, one of them worked for us for 30 years. He and his wife and I became friends, mom and daddy, mom and papa Jack were all friends.
Jack Myers: [01:22:30] Very nice man, and his wife, his wife was a school teacher. She taught English. And she would tell me some of her experiences with some of the students being gay, and didn't know it. Said, "That child just needs to come out of that closet."
Mason Funk: And what would you employ ... You said you employed this guy, this off-duty policeman for 30 years. What was the purpose of employing him?
Jack Myers: [01:23:00] Security.
Mason Funk: Okay. And that was part of ... You mentioned that in the context of these people saying they felt like they had a safe place, so he was part of that?
Jack Myers: Oh yeah, they talked to him.
Mason Funk: And as long as he was around, what?
Jack Myers: They felt safe. I mean, I had several others that worked too, but-
Natalie Tsui: [01:23:30] Oh, theres a motorcycle.
Jack Myers: Probably. Some of the cars that come by here, with those bass speakers, sometimes these windows are just trrrrrr.
Mason Funk: Yeah, boom, boom, boom.
Jack Myers: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: So, you were saying that as long as he was around, it just created an atmosphere of safety.
Jack Myers: [01:24:00] Yeah, as long as he was around. He was black, but nobody ever saw that. They just saw him, he was such a good person. A lot of times he would help people out if they needed help through the police department or something like that. Several times he went with me to talk to the chief about, just about different stuff, some laws, and about beer laws, or something, where I didn't feel like the policeman was treating us right about the beer laws
Jack Myers: [01:24:30] or something, he'd go with me. He'd get it all straightened out. No big deal. And then we had, I think it was three different females that worked too. They never had a moment's problem. Them and the crowd, everybody loved them. Of course we had to carry half a million dollar liability insurance with the police department named on it,
Jack Myers: [01:25:00] so it would cover them, being off duty. Half a million or a million, I can't remember.
Mason Funk: Wait, explain that more fully for me.
Jack Myers: Our liability insurance, we had to name the Jackson Police Department on there. I think it was a million, or a half million, it's been so long I can't remember. But the police department had to be named on it.
Mason Funk: Meaning they were effectively insured.
Jack Myers: [01:25:30] Right.
Mason Funk: By the way, were these bars, this is really an obvious question, but were they mostly guys who came, or were they mixed bars?
Jack Myers: It's always been a mixed crowd here. All this time I can only remember Jackson having two bars that was so-called the girl's bar. I can't remember the name of one of them, one of them was called TGB's, which was The Girl's Bar.
Jack Myers: [01:26:00] But the girls just never supported them like all the people together. When they tried to split off and have a girl's bar, because the females here and the guys get along so well. In a lot of areas, females, no pun intended-
Natalie Tsui: Don't look at me, because I'm not here.
Jack Myers: Okay, They just don't get along with the guys, but here, everybody gets along.
Mason Funk: [01:26:30] Something just popped into my mind that I wanted to go back to, you mentioned the idea of back in the early days, you'd have, if the cops arrived, there'd be a switch. I've heard this story for various bars at various places, but what I don't know is, how would you know the cops were coming in, in time to flip a switch to alert the patrons?
Jack Myers: Well, that's the place I was talking about called The Raincheck. And this lady I worked for, her sister ran the door.
Jack Myers: [01:27:00] And she sat probably as far from here to that fan, had her little table where she took up the cover charge, and I rigged her a button under the table, she could punch the button and a bright light would come on in the back. And if they came in, and she recognized them, she would. Sometimes she'd be talking to somebody or something, and Doris would have to holler,
Jack Myers: [01:27:30] "Sister! Are you watching that door?" She'd be looking for the button. They knew, some of them knew.
Mason Funk: Yeah, they had to figure it out after a while, right?
Jack Myers: Because I remember one time, this guy said something to Doris about, "Doris, you're just gonna have to put a back door in there now, if you're gonna have people back there dancing. She said, "Have you ever tried to hem a queen up, they'll make a door where they want." He got a kick out of that.
Mason Funk: [01:28:00] Explain, this is probably really obvious, but what would be the advantage of putting in a back door, so that people could just [crosstalk]
Jack Myers: Emergency exit.
Mason Funk: Ah.
Jack Myers: You have to have the panic bars where the doors would open.
Mason Funk: Right, right. I heard a story from a guy in Chicago, this is back in the '50s. He said the cops would raid a bar that he would go to in Chicago, but the problem was ... I don't know if this is true or not, but he said the cops would basically back the paddy wagon up to the back door. Did you ever hear of anything like that? So the people, when they ran out the door, they-
Jack Myers: [01:28:30] They went right on in the paddy wagon.
Mason Funk: Yeah. You heard of that?
Jack Myers: Yeah, I've heard stories like that.
Mason Funk: Let me take a break. I always ask Natalie if she has questions. Now, she's gonna ask you a question, but you still have to answer to me. Do you have any questions?
Natalie Tsui: I do. Okay, well, you started quite a few gay bars, so I'm wondering, I mean of course you probably know the importance of gay bars in the queer community
Natalie Tsui: [01:29:00] as a gathering place, as a safe place, so I was wondering if you could talk about that. About creating that space and what that means to you.
Jack Myers: It means the world to me. That they feel safe coming to the bars that I had. Oh, okay.
Natalie Tsui: And then also, if you could repeat the question in your answer.
Mason Funk: So, what means the world to you? Maybe start with saying, "The fact that ..."
Jack Myers: The fact that people considered my bars as being a safe place to go because of the security we had, and ...
Natalie Tsui: [01:29:30] You're rocking.
Mason Funk: Oh yeah.
Natalie Tsui: You're doing a bad job of recognizing it.
Mason Funk: I forgot. I forgot, I forgot. Okay, let's try. Honestly, sitting forward doesn't solve it, because it makes you look like you're in school.
Natalie Tsui: Oh, that actually looks okay, right there, for camera at least.
Mason Funk: Okay, so let's try it. And I'll try to ... So start over again, "The fact that ..."
Jack Myers: The fact that people say coming to the bar they felt safe, because we did have security
Jack Myers: [01:30:00] and always tried to have a place that was kind of off the beaten path that people wouldn't passing by just to stop to see what's going on. I always looked out for my patrons. Is that what you're talking about?
Natalie Tsui: If you could expand on that a little bit more. Kind of like-
Mason Funk: Well you said it meant the world to you, I guess that's the part that we want to hear about. What it meant to you, that you could be part of this, providing this-
Jack Myers: [01:30:30] Oh, okay.
Natalie Tsui: And any examples you had of seeing people come together at your bar.
Mason Funk: And again, talk to me, and don't rock.
Jack Myers: Okay, let me think a minute. It just means the world to me to have people think that my bars were safe places to go,
Jack Myers: [01:31:00] because I provided that. Before I rented a building I would check it out to make sure that it was off the beaten path, and nobody was going to be stopping by just to see what's going on, because they saw a crowd. I lost my train of thought. I'm getting old.
Mason Funk: [01:31:30] Do you want to follow-up with another question? I have a couple more, but you can go if you have anything.
Natalie Tsui: Along those lines, I think it's implied, but what was the danger of opening a gay bar back at the time. Were there things that happened that would have made you hesitant about it?
Jack Myers: Oh yeah, gay bashing.
Mason Funk: So, tell me about that.
Jack Myers: We never had a real problem with that, any of the bars I had,
Jack Myers: [01:32:00] like the one downtown on Capitol Street, and on a mid street, some of the main streets, occasionally you'd have maybe a pick-up load of guys come by and scream different stuff, but as far as stopping and trying to start any problems with people, or trying to do something in the bar, that never happened, because our best protection is when they saw a policeman there in uniform, you know they're not gonna fool around that much.
Jack Myers: [01:32:30] But every once in a while you'd have some church group come by, but they'd never stop. They just come driving by slow, screaming different stuff, fags, and all this stuff, but I think ignoring them was the biggest thing that upset them. They'd just give it up. I know one time when I had the saloon on Capitol Street, we had some guys that tried to cause some problems,
Jack Myers: [01:33:00] and I think they left their car and we chased them down the street with a baseball bat. Of course, nothing ever happened. The next day, one of the guys came by and he said, "I wanted to stop and apologize to you." I was down there working. I said, "What are you talking about?" And he said, "For y'all standing up last night, when we tried to show our butt, and say something about you being gay and all this stuff." He said, "You guys really stood up for yourself."
Jack Myers: [01:33:30] And he said, "I admire you all for that." It made me feel better. I know it took a lot for him to come back and say that, you know, but he did.
Natalie Tsui: Actually I have two questions, but maybe they'll be short. So the first one, you might have answered this before, but can you talk about your first experience going into a gay bar?
Mason Funk: And start by saying something like, "The first time-
Natalie Tsui: [01:34:00] And how did you feel going there, and how might've that influenced you deciding to open one?
Jack Myers: Let me think about it a minute. I think it was the Sportsman Lounge was the first one I ever went to, that's when I was 20, I think it was. The first gay bar that I ever went to, I think I was about 20 years old,
Jack Myers: [01:34:30] and a friend of mine that I had met that I knew he was gay, he knew I was gay, and he wanted me to go to the bar, and I was kind of hesitant and he talked me into going. Of course I had a good time after I got there, and later became a bartender there. But it was ... I think I mentioned his name to you before, Lamar Hoover was one of the guys that I admired or something,
Jack Myers: [01:35:00] one of the questions. He kind of helped me out a whole lot. He'd say, "We're going, we're going." And he and I became best friends. His family was up in Winona, Mississippi. And he was quite a character. But he helped me a lot, coming out.
Mason Funk: Is he still around?
Jack Myers: No, he passed away.
Mason Funk: [01:35:30] Do you have another question?
Natalie Tsui: Okay, yeah, this is my final one. So since we're talking about this, I'm curious, how did you feel when you heard about the news for Orlando, about the shooting at the Pulse nightclub? How did you feel as a bar owner, how did that news impact you?
Mason Funk: Talk to me.
Jack Myers: Let me think a minute. We had a vigil.
Mason Funk: And make sure you mention Pulse.
Jack Myers: Mention what?
Mason Funk: [01:36:00] Pulse, the name of the bar, so we know what you're talking about.
Jack Myers: Oh, okay.
Mason Funk: And maybe just start with, when I heard ...
Jack Myers: When I heard about the Pulse in Orlando, it was really heartbreaking to even think about somebody coming in killing that many people, especially a guy that, I think, it's my understanding, that he had frequented the bar before. And some way he got past security.
Jack Myers: [01:36:30] We had a candlelight vigil at the bar that night, and the whole parking lot was packed, we had it outside. It was very sad, very sad. I think it was about 10 or 15 people that spoke. I think it was on the local news here, but we got some good coverage.
Mason Funk: What kinds of things do you remember people saying?
Jack Myers: [01:37:00] Oh, Lord, I can't remember. Some of those people I had never seen at the bar before, and a lot of them were straight people, even people from our community up there, people that lived around the bar. Because I know when JC's had been open for a while,
Jack Myers: [01:37:30] the first strip bar that we had in Jackson was on the corner, where you turned to go to JC's, and the whole little community up there got into an uproar about the strip bar being on the corner. And this little lady was talking, and she said, "We're just not gonna have that strip bar in this community down here, we're just not gonna put up with it. Now, the little gay bar down the street don't ever cause us a problem."
Jack Myers: [01:38:00] I said, "Thank you for the advertisement." It was funny, the way she ... You just had to hear her talk. But the community up there accepted us, we didn't have any problem with that.
Mason Funk: Do you think there's, I don't know, for me, and for Natalie, this is my first ever time really spending time in the South, talking to people,
Mason Funk: [01:38:30] certainly on this project, it's our first trip. And I'm always trying to put my finger on sort of the South as a place that on one hand has a reputation for being intolerant, maybe more conservative, but on the other hand, maybe in some ways it's more tolerant, in spite of itself. I don't know if you relate to that at all, in terms of how people are down here. Like that lady, as an example.
Jack Myers: [01:39:00] It's beginning to get more acceptable than it's ever been before, I know that. In fact, the other day, I saw two guys walking down the street holding hands. Go Jackson. You know. I guess they realize they're gonna have to put up with us. But now, there's still some businesses here that, since they passed the right for marriage,
Jack Myers: [01:39:30] they won't have anything to do with ... If they know it's a gay order, like, I think one of the bakeries here, they wouldn't do a wedding cake. And some of the other stores won't tolerate different things. But our governor has had a lot to do with that, I think. He's so religious,
Jack Myers: [01:40:00] and hell-bound to stay in politics that he's afraid, if he took sides of something, it might hurt his political career.
Mason Funk: Do you notice a change, or a sense of change since, in the run up to the presidential election, since the election? In terms of the overall atmosphere in the state. Maybe especially regarding to LGBTQ people?
Jack Myers: [01:40:30] Not really. I mean there's a lot of people here that don't like Trump, and there's a lot of people here that do like Trump, and all of them are outspoken either way they feel. I don't know what he's gonna turn out to be.
Mason Funk: [01:41:00] The letter, the letter that you searched for this week, that you didn't find. Do you remember just, in case you're not able to find it, what was the essence of that letter? And if you could start off by saying, "I remember one letter I received," or something like that.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Mason Funk: And don't rock.
Jack Myers: I remember one letter I received that I want to find a copy of it,
Jack Myers: [01:41:30] from a guy that really made me feel proud of what I had done for this community. He just put it in words, that he just couldn't appreciate me enough for what I had done for this community, and giving him a safe place to go, a place to go and party and have a good time and not have to worry about being gay, trying to hide it, whatever. I'm gonna try to find it. I know it's here.
Mason Funk: [01:42:00] Was he someone who had to hide in most of his life?
Jack Myers: He came from a small town. I think he was a librarian of that county, or something, but he moved to Jackson. He just was like a regular and become one of my best friends, and he just couldn't praise me enough for what I had done, and he wrote me a letter. I've got it here.
Mason Funk: [01:42:30] Yeah, I'd love to see it. It makes me wonder, I think you alluded to this earlier, but were a lot of the patrons, as far as you know, or many of the patrons who would come into your bar, did you get a sense that many of them were living, were maybe married, or had jobs where they couldn't come out in a million years.
Jack Myers: [01:43:00] A lot of ... The biggest part of them were people that-
Mason Funk: The biggest part of who?
Jack Myers: The biggest part of my clientele was gay people that feared for their jobs. They just felt like they were at a safe place. The work people or either the bosses, or whatever they worked under, would probably fire them if they found out they were gay, for no reason other than that.
Mason Funk: [01:43:30] Did they worry about coming to your bar and seeing someone ... I know the basic idea is if you're in a gay bar, and you see another person, then your secret should be safe, but did they worry about seeing someone who would out them?
Jack Myers: I have a friend right now that won't go to the bar, because he's in the education part of the state, and he just don't want his students to know
Jack Myers: [01:44:00] that he's gay, he just thinks it'll cause some problems, which I can understand that, the position that he holds.
Mason Funk: Wow. What do you think, or how do you react when you see that there are still many, many people here, and everywhere
Mason Funk: [01:44:30] who literally are ... They can't conceive of being openly gay for example, in their position? What does that say to you about where we are, how far we've come, and how far we haven't come.
Jack Myers: I mean, if it's me, I'd be changing positions. They couldn't take me for what I am. I just can't see going through that. I might be wrong, God forgive me.
Jack Myers: [01:45:00] But if they can't tolerate somebody doing a good job and being gay, couldn't tolerate the gay part of it, it's always wrong, in my book.
Mason Funk: Is there anything you feel like ... Oh, I know what I wanted to do, because you mentioned that one woman who, or that one person who you had mentioned in your questionnaire, and that reminded me that there was another person as well.
Jack Myers: [01:45:30] Who?
Mason Funk: Who you mentioned.
Jack Myers: Eddie Sandifer?
Mason Funk: No, I feel like it was somebody else. So I just wanted to look up real quick.
Jack Myers: Lamar Hoover?
Mason Funk: Well, let me, if you don't mind, I'm gonna just double check.
Jack Myers: Go ahead. Let me run, I want to get this thing I have of Eddie Sandifer.
Mason Funk: Okay, great.
[01:46:00] [break]
Natalie Tsui: [01:46:30] Yeah, you can sneak out, okay. Okay.
Mason Funk: Oh, thank you.
Jack Myers: From his services. I think it tells a little story on there somewhere.
Mason Funk: [01:47:00] Wow. Oh wow. Huh. Wow, boy am I ever sorry that I missed him. Born in 1929. Holy moly. So I'm gonna take a photograph of this, of these pages, but I just wanted to ... I'm gonna set this right here for now. And let me just check your interview, here.
Mason Funk: [01:47:30] Okay, it was Eddie Sandifer and Lamar Hoover, okay, got it covered. Is there anything you feel like we haven't talked about that you would want to talk about? I honestly feel like you've probably seen so much history,
Mason Funk: [01:48:00] and I just want to ... I actually thought of one other question as well, which is, as you mentioned, every time you go out in the car you're looking at locations, what are the important ingredients for a gay bar here in Jackson? And maybe you can say, "When I go out looking around for possible locations for a gay bar, these are the things I'm looking for."
Jack Myers: Number one is-
Mason Funk: Again, start of the way I started off.
Jack Myers: Okay.
Mason Funk: [01:48:30] And don't rock.
Jack Myers: What I look for when I go out, every time I leave the house almost, for a location for a small cruise bar, gay cruise bar, is a location being off the beaten path, and a safer part of town,
Jack Myers: [01:49:00] and the way the social media's cut in on the small bar business, some cheap rent. That's kind of what killed JC's, my rent and my dropping off of people, I guess, staying on social media, and meeting people rather than getting out, talking to them face to face. Social media's kind of like a box of chocolates, you know.
Mason Funk: [01:49:30] What would you say, because one of the key purposes of OUTWORDS is really to bring the stories that our so-called elders and pioneers have lived, and their experiences for the younger queer community. What would you say to them about the benefits of getting out of their phones and say, going to a physical location, what would you say to them?
Jack Myers: [01:50:00] Well you get to sit down and talk to a person face to face, and really get to know them better than texting back and forth, and never know who you're talking to, or dealing with, or whatever, because I mean, you read all the time about people on social media meeting somebody and it wasn't the person that they thought they were talking to, or being beat up and robbed, or even killed. But that happens in bars too.
Jack Myers: [01:50:30] But at least you do get to sit down and talk to the person face to face.
Mason Funk: And what do you think, I mean it may seem obvious, but what do you think you gain by talking to somebody face to face, that you don't gain by texting?
Jack Myers: Number one is sitting and looking them in the face and talking to them. You learn a little bit more about the person really, personality. It'd be hard for me to characterize a person's personality by talking to them on a text back and forth.
Mason Funk: [01:51:00] I almost forgot to ask, but you eluded earlier, did you, in terms of your own personal life, your romantic life, did you have any long term partners, how did that all play out?
Jack Myers: The longest relationship I ever had was 17 years. And then I think one was 7 or 9, about it.
Mason Funk: [01:51:30] That's pretty long though, that 17 year relationship, who was that?
Jack Myers: Joey Holly, he's still around. I think I met him when he was 20 or 21. I might have been 30, I can't remember.
Mason Funk: [01:52:00] And how old were you at the time, roughly?
Jack Myers: Lord, I'd probably have to get to a calculator.
Mason Funk: Were you about the same age, were you older?
Jack Myers: I was, this had been a long time ago, I was probably in my 30s or 40s, and he was 20, something like that. I think I was twice as old as he was.
Jack Myers: [01:52:30] He just liked older men, so did the second one.
Mason Funk: So how would you describe your relationship with Joey?
Natalie Tsui: I can see the wire [inaudible] so if you just, let me just adjust it.
Mason Funk: Pull it down.
Natalie Tsui: Oh yeah, if you pull it down. Basically, if you are leaning back I can see it.
Jack Myers: Let's see if I can get this. Did that do it?
Natalie Tsui: [01:53:00] Yeah, that's great. Thank you.
Mason Funk: So how would you describe your relationship with Joey?
Jack Myers: It was good for a long time, and it just ... He had some drug problems, and I just couldn't deal with it.
Mason Funk: Is that fairly common here in Jackson?
Jack Myers: [01:53:30] I think the big thing here now is meth, especially between the lower income people, is meth. But I saw a report last night that the bureau of narcotics said that meth around here had really decreased because they have controlled the nasal medicine, Sudafed, you have to have a prescription for it now, in Mississippi.
Jack Myers: [01:54:00] You used to buy it off the shelf. They were reporting last night how much it was down. Most of the meth here's coming in from Mexico, and that's a big problem here.
Mason Funk: Cool, I have four more questions, just four simple final questions, and these are just ... I ask these questions to every person at the end. The first one is:
Mason Funk: [01:54:30] If somebody comes to you, maybe at the bar, and says, "I'm thinking about coming out." Whatever that might mean to that person, what little piece of wisdom or guidance would you offer that person?
Jack Myers: Oh, let me take you by the hand. I got a lot I need to teach you.
Natalie Tsui: Would you mind saying it again? There's a weird tapping noise.
Mason Funk: Yeah, you did a lot of rocking on that. But, you can try saying that again, although the way you said it was great. But,
Mason Funk: [01:55:00] specifically what would you want to teach this young person?
Jack Myers: If they asked me to?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Jack Myers: Just let me take you by the hand, and lead you right on-
Mason Funk: Sorry, when you nod like that there's a little clicking sound, sorry. I'm so sorry.
Jack Myers: I know it, but I just can't. Well, my advice would be, let me take you by the hand and lead you through this, because you need somebody to help you.
Jack Myers: [01:55:30] It's hard when you first come out and you don't know what's going on, and you don't know this person or that person or whatever. I'll be glad to teach you a lot.
Mason Funk: What are some of the do's and don'ts?
Jack Myers: Don't go home with the first person that asks you, unless you're really into it, or whatever. Shop around.
Mason Funk: [01:56:00] How about coming out in the social sense, like job, friends, family, etc., what are some of the guidelines you'd give this person?
Jack Myers: Don't tell everybody at one time. Just kind of get to know them first, and feel them out
Jack Myers: [01:56:30] before you unload your problems on them, because they could be detrimental, the way things are now. It's come a long way from what it was.
Mason Funk: Do you remember any particular incidents where you saw people make really bad decisions? Like, you knew them in the bar, and then they went and did something sort of rash in their life and caused a lot of turmoil?
Jack Myers: [01:57:00] Oh dear.
Mason Funk: Come on now.
Jack Myers: Yeah, but I hate to bring it up. I don't want to call any names.
Mason Funk: You can keep it to, this one person, or ...
Jack Myers: [01:57:30] It's just so many. I mean I have people ask me all the time for advice, especially if they start seeing somebody that I know. I'm not gonna unload the book on at one time. I just tell them to be careful before you get too involved,
Jack Myers: [01:58:00] check them out good, because it could be a bad experience for you or them, whatever.
Mason Funk: This is mostly, these are people who are just ... I mean, is this just kind of ordinary trying to figure out whether they want to date this person, or that person, or is it partly because of the social situation?
Jack Myers: [01:58:30] You have so many different social groups here, that's the reason I was saying earlier that there's so many different social groups here, being no bigger than Jackson is, but it's not a real big social town, but you do have your little groups, that some of them are kind of problem people, just tell them to be careful about that.
Mason Funk: [01:59:00] You're still being a little bit vague, I hate to say it. You don't have to name names, but I mean, and I'm not looking for dirt, per se, but I'm just trying to get an understanding of what it's like to run bars in a place like this, and to be who you are, and the kinds of advice people seek from you, or the kinds of things you see them doing.
Jack Myers: [01:59:30] Lord, I mean, I've had people want my advice about going into certain businesses and stuff like that. I tell them what I think about it. Then some people fall head over heels in love in one night, crying the next day, and we'd talk about it.
Jack Myers: [02:00:00] Like I said, I should've hung a shingle.
Mason Funk: Let's see. Going back to my so-called final four, the next question I have is what's your hope for the future?
Jack Myers: [02:00:30] Number one is peace with everybody, and stop all the violence, we have a lot of that here in Jackson. A lot of shootings and all that stuff, you're probably keeping up with some of the news. But just to end all the violence. I mean, whether it's violence against gay people or straight, or whatever, and it's not happening.
Mason Funk: [02:01:00] Has there been violence lately here, an uptick in violence against gay people?
Jack Myers: Not really, not really against gay people. I only know of one instance where a guy went to a straight club and tried to pick up somebody and I think that guy complained to the security or something, and they just threw the guy out.
Jack Myers: [02:01:30] About the only thing that has happened recently. But I think he put his own self in that position. He should've known better. Might have been one of those that hadn't been out much. I mean, I wouldn't go to a straight bar here and try to pick up somebody. If they tried to pick me up, might be a different story. But it ain't gonna happen, so I ain't worried about that.
Mason Funk: [02:02:00] Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Jack Myers: I'm just hoping that the younger crowd will gain something from this. Just to see some of the stuff that I've been through, and positions I've been in, that they'll gain something from this.
Jack Myers: [02:02:30] I mean, I try to treat people fair. I was taught that at home. And yes ma'am, and no ma'am. And it's just not happening like it used to. Kids are not being taught at home, that's a big problem. That's where it all begins.
Jack Myers: [02:03:00] I can just see it, it starts with the parents, and the parents are not teaching the kids like they should. And like I said, it all begins at home.
Mason Funk: I have one question a little bit off to the side here.
Mason Funk: [02:03:30] What was that? Yeah, I do remember what it was. We were in a town in Texas called Gun Barrel City, doing a couple of interviews, and one guy I interviewed, he was out, he even lived with his legally married husband in a house, and he said, "Everybody knows we're gay, it's all fine." But he also had very definite ideas about what was acceptable in terms of being out to people,
Mason Funk: [02:04:00] telling people he was gay who might not know. For example, he said at the checkout line in the supermarket, if someone said, "Are you married?" He would never say, "Yes, I'm married to a man." Because to him, that was being too in your face.
Jack Myers: Yeah.
Mason Funk: How do you relate to that? Because in LA, that's a very ... Or San Francisco, it's a very different story.
Jack Myers: [02:04:30] I kind of feel like he does. You say, "Yes, I'm married." That's all you need to know. It's none of their business if it's a man or a woman. But you don't have to throw it in their face, like some people would. "Yes, I'm married, and to a man." You know. It wouldn't go over very well here, I can tell you that.
Mason Funk: What if someone makes an assumption that you're married ... I've had a person say to me,
Mason Funk: [02:05:00] "Oh, you gonna go home and cook dinner for your wife?" And I say, "No, as a matter of fact I'm gonna go home and cook dinner for my husband." I would say that in LA, how about here?
Jack Myers: Some people would, yeah. I know some of the people that are married would do that. I wouldn't. It's like the little service station here on the corner, two guys went in there
Jack Myers: [02:05:30] and one of them very feminine, and the other one was all tattooed up, and they asked the tattooed one if he was gay, and he said, "No, but my boyfriend is." That was kind of a joke, you know, but he really meant it. But he was gay, it was just a joke. But I wouldn't say anything. It's just none of their business.
Jack Myers: [02:06:00] Nine times out of ten somebody'd have something to say about it. Stay low-key.
Mason Funk: Is that a survival mechanism, or is that just your personality, or what?
Jack Myers: I'd say it's personality, because it's nobody's business, to me it's not.
Jack Myers: [02:06:30] I'm not gonna stand on the street corner and advertise it. But if somebody asks me, I'd tell them, yeah, I'm gay. I had a round at the Chrysler dealership the other day, sitting in the room, waiting for my car to come out, and a couple sitting here, older couple, a young black man over here, and a white lady and a black girl sitting by me,
Jack Myers: [02:07:00] and somehow the subject came up about the marriage, and being gay and all that stuff, and the one guy was like, "Oh yeah, you can tell them, you can just tell when they're gay." I said, "Can you tell I'm gay?" He said, "No man, you ain't gay." I said, "Yes I am." And the girl beside me, she said, "I'm so glad you told him that." He's got his own little thing about what gay people are, and she said, "I'd have never known you was gay if you didn't say so." But I did say, "Yes I am." Kind of shocked me.
Mason Funk: [02:07:30] Yeah, I think in that case I'm on the same page with you, that-
Jack Myers: I just got tired of him yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, you know.
Mason Funk: So you see some benefit in basically coming out, because it shatters people's, or disturbs their notions of them, of what's what.
Jack Myers: [02:08:00] Yeah, some people have their ideas about what gay people do, this is just all they do, whatever. And, they don't understand that a gay person has preferences just like they have. It just don't click in their head.
Jack Myers: [02:08:30] They think a gay person will just go with anybody, whatever. They got a lot to learn. That's the reason I say there's still so many ignorant people out there that don't take the time to try to understand, and we have a lot of them in Mississippi.
Mason Funk: Excellent. I have one final question, because I did have four. The final one is,
Mason Funk: [02:09:00] this project is called OUTWORDS, and essentially I'm going around talking to people like you all over the country. What do you see as the value of a project like OUTWORDS? And if you could mention OUTWORDS in your answer. And don't rock.
Jack Myers: I think OUTWORDS is a good thing because it's letting people know that this has gone on years and years ago, and people have survived it, and put up with it, and still able to talk about it.
Jack Myers: [02:09:30] So, maybe help people do a little better understanding of what we've gone through and put up with and where we are. And look at it a lot different. This will help a lot.
Mason Funk: Great. Okay. We have to do 30 seconds of what we call room tone, which-
Natalie Tsui: Room tone.
[02:11:00] Okay, that should be good.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: July 09, 2017
Location: Home of Jack Myers, Jackson, MS