THE AUSTIN COUNTRY:
a good gay place to be
by Wayde Frey
"There are both positive and negative elements of
gay bars. We want to be a positive one." This statement sums up the philosophy of Austin Country manager
Spiller feels that the 15 to 20 people associated
with the Country are more like a family than a business. Several have been there for seven years. They
feel the Country isn't just another bar, but a gay
community. Spiller says "It's the only bar environment
I'd feel comfortable working in."
The bar is owned by Keith Edwards and Bunch Brit-
tain. It has several sections, including a dance
floor with an elaborate light and sound system, a
patio, pool tables, an aquarium, a plush quiet bar,
and a big screen TV viewing room. Improvements are
being made constantly. The latest is a brand-new
deck for the patio.
Owner Bunch Brittain is active in gay politics,
both in Austin and statewide. He serves on the steer-
r "%. -^"^
Bunch (in boat) and Keith (pumping) deliver the beer
at Hippy Hollow Splash Day (sponsored by the Austin
Country and the New Apartment Lounge).
ing committee which directs the lobbying efforts of
the Human Rights Advocates of the Texas Gay Task Force.
Bunch has taken an active role in establishing communications between the gay community and law enforcement
officials in Austin. He also serves on the Holy
Trinity church of Austin board of trustees.
The Austin Country has been the scene of fundraisers for numerous lesbian/gay organizations. It
has hosted benefits for the Metropolitan Community
Church of Austin (MCCA) building fund, the California
"No on 6" Campaign, the March on Washington, and Gay
Community Services of Austin.
Two traditional annual events the Country sponsors
are Splash Day at Hippy Hollow (the first Sunday in
May) and the party at Keith and Bunch's suite in the
Menger Hotel in San Antonio on Saturday night during
Fiesta in April.
The Country staff doesn't believe that the Country
should be the only bar in town, with everyone packed in
like sardines. Manager James Spiller recalls other
popular and successful bars. In the 1950's, there was
The Manhattan on Congress Avenue. It was a delicatessen by day and a gay bar at night. Its sign was later
part of the Pearl Street Warehouse decor.
The New Apartment Lounge is the longest-lived gay
bar in Austin. Bob Clifton's Griffon Club and the Tap,
both on Guadalupe, have passed, as have the once popular gay discos Friends and Lovers and the Pearl Street
Warehouse. English's on Guadalupe was a gay bar called
the Carousel in the early 1960's.
The Austin Country's building has an interesting
history. According to James Spiller, it is actually
three large barns connected together. They were originally used as a stable. General Pershing kept his
horses there at one time. The maze of small rooms up-
Doorkeepers Jerry Shayne, left, and Bill Durrell
stairs, which still exist today, originally housed
prostitutes. In the early 1970's, a lesbian bar called
Pearl's Place opened on the ground floor. A huge portrait of Janis Joplin hung behind the bar. Then, it
was a straight bar called the Waterloo Country for
three weeks. Keith and Bunch opened the Austin Country
as a gay bar in 1973.
The Country staff works on the sound and light
systems constantly. The DJ plays rock and new wave
music as well as disco, and it's all good dance music.
The Country tries to create a "party" atmosphere and
plans to feature "theme party" nights, such as "Rock"
and "Country and Western" nights scon. The "Miss Thing
Fantasy Ball and Cotillion Revue" was held May 21. The
Austin Country has hosted entertainers like Mr. Tiffany
Jones, The Montrose Men, R.C. Cola, and the Blandscrew
Sisters. Weekly features include cookouts on the patio
at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, the Monday night male dance contest, and the Thursday night female impersonators'
Performers scheduled during June 1980 include Tiny
Mac and Tragedy Ann, Pauletta Lay, R.C. Cola, Lindsay
Love and Lindsay McCall, Linda Weatherby (of the Blandscrew Sisters), and Teresa Cole and Chatty Kathy. The
Country will be hosting the Texas competition for Miss
Gay U.S.A. on July 6.
The Austin Country management is dedicated to continuing to improve its facilities and services to provide an enjoyable environment for the Austin community.
The City of Austin has plans to perhaps expand the
police station onto the land the Country now occupies.
If this ever happens, Spiller says, the Austin Country
will simply move to some other location in the area.
Ilii I ii,
Terry Stout, left, and "bar back"