The Camp 10 - Jan Allen
Jan Allen in Missie B's office. Photo: J. Long
Well, the weather is still teasing us, but I’m not complaining. Keep the snow away for as long as possible! As we get closer to the winter holidays, we begin to think about how we can help others in the community. This month, I interviewed Jan Allen, who has been a manager at Missie B’s for more than 20 years. Once again, Missie B’s will be holding the Angel Tree Christmas Fund to raise money for gifts for those who might not otherwise receive one. If you are able, stop on by and make a donation, or consider donating to another charity of your choice.
How long have you been with Missie B’s, and what do you enjoy about it?
I have been with Missie B’s since June 1994. Buddy Taylor, who managed the bar until April 2002, hired me part-time to help out with karaoke. Then in December of that year, I was hired full-time to tend bar. I think the thing I enjoy most about Missie B’s is the diversity and that it is always a fun atmosphere.
What positive experience has been the most memorable for you while managing at Missie B’s?
There have been so many, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the KC Cares fundraiser that we did in June as a benefit for the victims of the Pulse [nightclub] shooting in Orlando. It was amazing to see how the employees and entertainers of the gay bars worked together in a united effort. We also had the support of our vendors, members of the news media, city offices and the police department. It was truly one of the most amazing events I have had the privilege to be a part of. Thanks to the efforts of Sidekicks, Bistro 303, Sidestreets, Buddies, Ragazza, Hamburger Mary’s and Woody’s sports bar, and all the people who came out to support all of us, at the end of the day, WE are a community that raised over $50,000. The two funds that the money was distributed to were $26,600 to Pulse Employee Recovery Fund and $26,600 to Pulse of Orlando Inc.
Has the bar crowd changed considerably in the last few years as the country has become more accepting of LGBT people?
Why not, or how so?
The clientele here has gradually changed over the past 10-15 years. It started with the occasional bachelorette party and has progressed into nearly every week having several parties. In addition, we are starting to see a few more heterosexual people coming in just for the shows and dance. I think that may be a result of the growing acceptance of gays, but I also think that people just want to have fun. I think the other part of the change is that because gays are more widely accepted, a large number of gays are comfortable going to predominantly straight clubs where they are accepted. So I guess at the end of the day, it works both ways, and predominantly straight bars are seeing more gay clientele.
Missie B’s is participating in the Angel Tree Christmas Fund. What is this, and who benefits?
It is an annual event that was started here by Buddy Taylor the first Thanksgiving we were open. We do the Bartender Revue every Thanksgiving night to raise money to buy Christmas gifts for people who would not otherwise have a Christmas. In the early days, we bought gifts for children affected by HIV/AIDS at what was then referred to as Sharon Lee’s clinic. Several years ago, Michael Burnes, owner of Missie B’s, came up with the name “Angel Tree.” For a number of years, we placed paper angels with the names and wishlists of children on a Christmas tree and our customers and staff would adopt the angels and buy gifts and then would bring them in for us to take to the clinic. In those days, we would organize a party at the clinic where our resident Santa (Bob Magaha) would go and distribute the gifts to the children. This was very effective for several years, but eventually we had to stop having the angels physically adopted because it was too difficult to get everything back to the bar in a timely manner. These past three or four years, we still let people adopt them with a donation and then we go out and hand-pick gifts. For the past two years, in addition to 20-30 kids from what is now Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care, we also have provided toys and clothes to MFCAA [Midwest Foster Care & Adoption Association], we have stocked the pantry at St. Michael’s Veterans Center, and we have also been able to provide gifts to the seniors at Summit nursing home and have been able to donate to the Good Samaritan Project Children’s Christmas Party. This, of course, is only possible with the support and generosity of our customers.
Is there a need for volunteers?
We usually have a wrapping party once all the gifts are bought and delivered to the bar. At that time, the entertainers and staff volunteer to help with all that.
Recently there was a memorial for Mean Jean. For those of us who may be unaware, who was she, and what did she do for our community?
Jean [Clark Holman] was a well-known and respected member of our community. She was the manager of Tootsie’s and then Grandma’s. She had been in the bar business even before I was, and from my experience, far from mean (although she was very protective of her customers and, I have been told, was very agile and could leap over a bar, baseball bat in hand, if the situation deemed that type of action necessary). She was one of a kind and will be missed by many in this community.
Kansas City has a long history of lesbian bars, but in recent years, those have perished. Why do you think that KC can no longer sustain a lesbian bar?
I don’t think it is just lesbian bars. We have seen a good many bars close for various reasons. There was a time when I believe there were as many as 20 or more gay bars in Kansas City. I think that a number of things have happened. I know from my observation, the first decline in business was when the city adopted the smoking ban, which came at the same time as the sharp increase in gas prices and cost of living, so I think all of those played a part. The service industry as a whole suffered a decrease in business. I think now there are some other factors like the crackdown on drunk driving, the internet, and the fact that most people do not have the disposable income that we once had and have to make choices and maybe only come out once or twice a week.
Many members of the LGBT community are concerned after the results of the recent presidential election. What advice do you have for those who are worried?
I think that Mrs. Clinton fought a good fight and was very gracious in her concession speech and the people who are Clinton supporters should heed what she said and follow her example and give Mr. Trump a chance. Let’s see what he does. I have seen over this past week that he has softened his stance on some issues and I think he will eventually change on other issues. Most importantly, though, I think some people in the community are rightfully concerned about him setting us back as far as our rights, but I don’t think he can singlehandedly do anything. I don’t believe he can overturn a Supreme Court ruling nor do I think he will try. Our forefathers set forth checks and balances so that we are somewhat protected.
How long have you and your partner been together, and do you plan on marrying?
I have been in a relationship for over 18 years, and no, we don’t have any immediate plans to marry, although I guess you never know.
I like to end with something fun. What drink best represents your personality and why?
Well, I am not much of a drinker anymore, but someone suggests perhaps a hot toddy – self-explanatory. LOL