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Film Review: Last Call At Maud’s
by Becky Tan

Paris Poirier, USA 1993

In 1966 Rikki Streicher opened Maud’s Bar in San Francisco, California. It was hugely successful until 1989, when, after 23 years this longest running lesbian bar closed, partly based on post-AIDS influence. This documentary presents more than 20 lesbian women, who share their experiences in Maud’s. We learn how it was to be gay, beginning in the 1960s or even earlier back to the 1950s or 1940s, when homosexuality in general was dangerous. Women went to clubs with a man, then danced with women. If the police arrived, they immediately changed back to the male partner. By communicating and creating friendships, they could identify their situation. One said, “I had never heard of lesbianism before.” Another said, “Maud’s bar made me feel queer and that’s how I wanted to feel.” Another finally knew what she was. At the same time gay men in San Francisco became much more public yet had even fewer disadvantages than in earlier times.

Gay women, however, continued to suffer not only from their sexual situation, but simply for being a female, having difficulty finding jobs or even earning money. In Maud’s Bar women were waitresses, but only men were allowed to attend to the bar and make the drinks. Then in 1973 a gay woman took the case to court and won. Gradually, lesbianism became more politically accepted, finally achieving a liaison with the state community. LAST CALL AT MAUD’S is an amazing film based on 30 years of archives, photos, and filmed interviews. My screening was almost sold out for this presentation and practically all the guests were women, with perhaps 10 men present. I am so grateful to the Hamburg International Queer Film Festival without which I would have never experienced such an overwhelming film.