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Fruit Loop Run Tours Downtown Phoenix's Gay Landmarks

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Marshall Shore, the Valley's Hip Historian, has a penchant for history, specializing in the unknown, the weird, and, come Friday night, the queer.

The Fruit Loop Run, a brainchild of Shore and Roosevelt Row, is a walking tour of once-open gay clubs along Roosevelt Street, a thoroughfare steeped in vibrant homosexual history. Phoenicians are encouraged to arrive in their campy best -- a call-back to the drag shows that used to color RoRo -- for the free event, which starts at 6:30 p.m. November 15.

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"The Fruit Loop Run takes us back to an era when 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor was building popularity to gay anthem status, [and] the best way to hear about [the] community was word of mouth," Shore writes in an e-mail. "The Valley has a reputation of paving over history and losing those stories."

He cites bars like the Captain's Table, Kaye's Happy Landing, Cruising Central, and the 307 as mainstays during this period of revolution and relentless partying. Though their doors have since shuttered, the buildings have ushered in a new kind of gay club, including the now-closed Amsterdam and the popular Bliss/reBar.

The tour starts at 220 East Roosevelt -- today, The Dressing Room. It continues clockwise around the Loop, ending at the site of the long-gone 307, where, depending on the mood and the quality of DJ Paul Raia's spinning, actual dancing in the streets is highly probable this Third Friday.

Throughout the 1970s, Phoenix Police took to referring to this area, roughly designated as Roosevelt and Portland streets between First and Third streets, as "The Fruit Loop." The anchor of the area -- and era -- was the 307.

Housed at 222 East Roosevelt Street (though originally located at 307 East Roosevelt, hence the name), the 307 was a notorious gay and drag bar, arguably the creator of a sea of downtown seed. It was home to Diana Ross-inspired drag shows of lip synchers in sequins -- queens, transsexuals, and aspiring art connoisseurs abounded. Even today the building boasts, albeit quietly and out of street view, a noted DeGrazia mural.

It was also where, perhaps not unexpectedly, in 1991, Danny Bonaduce, the child actor known for the hit series The Partridge Family, was arrested for robbing and beating a transvestite prostitute he attempted to pick up in his car.

During its heyday, drugs ran rampant and nights ran late -- allegedly, because little has been accurately written down about this period in downtown's long, largely desolate history. The only way to hear these stories today is the same way one heard about the bar back in the '70s: through those who had lived it.

Some of those stories will be recounted Friday night in an effort to share this unique corner of downtown's history with a younger, removed generation of eyes and ears.

The event doubles as a launch for Tales of the Rainbow Cactus, a joint project between Shore and One Voice, an LGBT community center in Central Phoenix.

The goal is to not only acknowledge Phoenix's colorful queer history but to celebrate and explore it through panels with prominent figures of the movement and open conversation. These types of events are popular in large cities where cultural diversity is championed, like New York City or San Francisco, but not in the Southwest, Shore says.

And with today's social and political shifts, he adds, losing those pioneers and their stories would devastate a community already often under siege.

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