MAYBELLE AND BEE’S BAR was outside the San Antonio, Texas, city limits and harder to regulate for the police, sheriff, military police, and liquor control boards. Therefore, we could dance there. It’s not that we were doing anything illegal. In 1963, we ourselves were illegal. If we got caught dancing with someone of the same sex, that would mean we were homosexual, and since it was against the law to be homosexual, we were subject to arrest.
Maybelle would leave the bar and come stand in the doorway between the bar in front and dance floor in back. If her red bandana was sticking out of her front pocket instead of tied around her neck, this was The Sign. Police coming. Police here. We would be dancing gayly, men with men and women with women, and in the time it took to say “Bossa Nova Cha-Cha- Twist,” we switched partners in mid-beat, and seconds before the police appeared in the doorway, were dancing in male/female couples.
The police slowly circled the room, peering for a man touching another man’s hand under the table, a woman’s knee pressed against another woman’s. They circled the room twice. They knew we were gay. We knew they knew it. They knew we knew they knew it. The game was on. When they caught someone being illegal, that is, being themselves, off that person went to jail. When they could catch a bunch of us dancing, they’d get a big catch for their paddy wagon. This time, we won the game, and they left grudgingly. They would be back. But for tonight, we turned the jukebox back on and commenced dancing gayly.
– Carolyn Weathers