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The story actually begins more then 20 years ago.  St Paul, like most cities, was much different in the 1970's then it is today.  In fact, from those that remember, nightlife in St Paul outpaced Minneapolis.  My how things have changed.

For this story, we're going to concentrate on 1 address - 490 North Robert Street, a nearly 6000 square foot space located at (and below) street level in the old Rossmor Building.  The Rossmor itself is not the original name - the building, constructed about 1916 and now referred to as the Rossmor was originally home to the Foot, Schulze & Company, until about 1940.   The commercial building remained as such with a variety of commercial and industrial use, as well as artist lofts.  In fact, were it not for the artists and commercial tenants, the building may have suffered the same fate as others, later abandoned and demolished for "urban renewal" projects of the 1960's; and now "developer" residential building of the current decade.

"Urban Renewal" - an often bad word combination your Parents never taught you.

vj chris video memoir

For some time in the 1970's, the big industrial space at "490" was home to one of the Twin Cities first (and I am told "officially gay") nightclubs, named the Grande Finale.  Those who recall this space, remember the bleachers, a huge dance floor, and a performance by the Village People and Grace Jones.  If only the walls could talk.  I don't have data on the exact years it operated, but at some point, after running it's course, it closed, and the space became a short-lived "straight" club.  The Rossmor Building, Circa Early 1900's, Robert Street, St. Paul Minnesota

Then in 1986, as our community was becoming engulfed in the AIDS crisis, 2 ladies, well-known in the city, Doris and Molly, opened "Rumours".  The bar and club quickly became a staple in the Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian community.  In the early days, the bar also occupied the space directly next to it, where an intimate bar, referred to as the "Green Room" operated.  Here, conversation and piano music filled the air. 

From the second half of the 80's, and well into the mid 1990's, Rumours opened its' doors, its' heart and its' pocketbook to give to a community so desperately in need of money and support for those dying of AIDS.  If you lived through this time in our nation's history, we were not living with AIDS, we were dying of AIDS.  There were no miracle drug "cocktails" to keep you alive, and the few that survived did so in a painful existence.  The owners, staff and patrons of Rumours held countless benefits, raising funds, and awareness. 

Largely in part due to these events, organizations like "Every Penny CounThe Rough Facade of the Rossmor ts" and the "AIDS Bicycle Trek" formed.  These were the true grassroots organizations, made up in most cases entirely of volunteers.  Most corporate sponsors we see today turned away from groups like this in the 1980's.  This "giving back to the community" made Rumours anything but "just a bar".  It was indeed a good neighbor, a friend, a place where everyone knew your name, and we were all brothers and sisters.

Towards the late 1990's, the face of AIDS was changing.  The need for almost regularly scheduled fund-raisers had diminished.  Still the bar owners remained active, always saying "yes" to any organization needing space to host a fund-raising event. 

The bar and club scene was changing as well, and so, after a glorious run of more then 10 years, the owners and staff decided to give the popular nightspot a complete facelift.  In late October of 1997, the club closed for almost 2 weeks as staff, management and workers created an entirely new and modern club.  The results were astonishing!  Trikkx held a grand re-opening in November of 1997, and a new era in our life began. 

Changes in smoking laws, lower DUI limits, ever increasing insurance costs, exhausted owners, and a weak economy through much of the current decade took it's toll on Trikkx.  By 2003, business at this "institution" was at an all-time low.  In the same year, as if things couldn't get worse, the now nearly 90 year old industrial Rossmor was acquired by Pak Properties, and conversion to residential condominiums would begin. 

{Sidenote: For some historical images before the conversion, and to see how one artist felt about the conversion, take a look at: http://www.maquah.net/Rossmor/photos.html

And for another viewpoint, "Le Rossmor est morte; Vive le Rossmor!" by Michael Fallon: http://www.mnartists.org/article.do?rid=32608 }

By 2004, the owners of Trikkx again kicked in substantial funds to make interior improvements, and business improved.  But, as residents starting moving in, the old nightclub had a whole different set of rules to follow.  The slight upturn in business was quickly turning down again.  The battle had only just begun.

In early 2006, after 20 amazing years, Trikkx got a new owner, in the younger spirited Jason Mooney.  A patron of the club since 1997, he had only heard through stories from those who were there what a wonderful existence Rumours and Trikkx had for 20 years - a good neighbor, a community place, a business that always played by the rules.  This indeed was a wonderful place to make as his home for 20 more years.  Before Jason took over as owner, he had already invested in the club.  This wasn't just a business decision, much more it was a personal one - a chance to keep part of the GLBT history alive in the new Downtown St Paul!

Preserve your past ... a past embedded in the Capitol City.  A past that included (then) St Paul City Mayor Jim Scheibel participating in the 1990 AIDS TREK!  Indeed it was a different time.  Considering that Mayor Norm Coleman (later 1990's) refused to sign the Pride Proclamation during Pride Month - even when a celebration was held in his very city.

I recently found a video of an AIDS Benefit Show from 1990 featuring Lew Striklen, Lottie, and MANY other familiar faces of the past.  Numbers included songs from "Grease", the "Good Ship Lollipop" and "Lean On Me", an amazing show finale - back when Rumours had 3 BARS!

Thank you! Chris

Posted 9/28/06, Updated 1/17/07

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Copyright 2007 Trikkx Nightclub, St. Paul MN