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Mary's bar in Houston inspired hyperbole for decades, which made it both literally and figuratively legendary. The bar exemplifies everything a gay bar can be, good and bad: a free-wheeling sanctuary for sexual self-invention and expression, a transformative space for political organizing, and a home for alternative kinships and memorialization. For all its live-and-let live attitude, the bar's past also includes controversies about its racial politics that complicate its legacy. With a decades-long run, Mary's has been commemorated more than perhaps any other gay bar in America except the Stonewall Inn, and two terms recur in accounts of the place: raunchy and institution. The subsequent interlude on the Main Club in Superior, WI likewise demonstrates how a single venue can anchor, even manifest a local queer community.

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