Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bossier Strip Part 2: Red River Babylon

Vivian native and mystery writer Eric Wilder agreed to share some of his memories of the Bossier Strip with the readers of My Bossier.

Red River Babylon
While growing up in north Louisiana, I wasted many hours at a place known locally as the Bossier Strip. Billed as the largest bit of neon between Las Vegas and Miami Beach, this three-mile row of nightclubs, restaurants, liquor stores, and striptease joints had it all.
Probably the biggest and most popular nightclub was Sak’s Boom Boom Room, later known as Sak’s Whisk-a-go-go. Clad in flashing neon of reds and yellows, the building looked like a rocket under full launch from Cape Canaveral. There was always live music of all varieties along the strip, but Sak’s provided the biggest venue to the biggest soon-to-be-famous artists.
The thing I remember most about Sak’s was the bikini-clad go-go dancer suspended in a cage above the dance floor. There was no nudity but a distinct aura of sex abounded along with the loud live music, strong drinks and uninhibited dancing. I saw many acts and a friend recently reminded me of the comedian and singer Rusty Warren performing her bawdy ballad Knockers Up.
The Bossier Strip prospered because it had a captive audience – the men and women of Barksdale Air Force Base, the largest SAC base in the world. Even the smallest of clubs had live music, along with the mystique of illegal gambling and prostitution, courtesy of the Southern Mafia.
Today, the “Strip” is mostly history, replaced by legal gambling in gaudy riverboats moored along the Red River between Shreveport and Bossier City. Many music venues still exist, along with the palpable undercurrent of sex and danger that provided the place with an excitement like no other, and will likely never disappear.

11 comments:

  1. Was the whisk a go go the place with the dance floor lit from underneath?

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  2. I honestly don't remember. We weren't looking at the floor ~

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  3. Yes, Saks had the lighted -dance-floor.

    I was 18 when I worked as a Go-Go Dancer at Saks, 1972. I loved it, $300 a week plus tips. We wore zip-up body suits and white go-go boots. Merle Kemmerly was good to his girls. Ruby & June were the bar-tenders. I dated Tookie, Merle's son. I worked there till 1974 when the Banditos came in, brought their women to dance topless.... so I quit. We all ate at the Kickapoo or the Studio Steak House. Most of the dancers lived together and we slept till noon, shopped a lot & loved working together. There was Bee-Bee, Kathy, Elaine, & me. Those were the good old days:)

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  4. this was my father's place ,,,,stories welcome 504-324-1139 karlos kemmerly tuminello

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  5. https://www.facebook.com/groups/46423873920/
    please come and visit this group. "you know you're from Bossier when..."
    We would love to connect.

    ReplyDelete
  6. https://www.facebook.com/groups/46423873920/
    please come and visit this group. "you know you're from Bossier when..."
    We would love to connect.

    ReplyDelete
  7. https://www.facebook.com/groups/46423873920/
    please come and visit this group. "you know you're from Bossier when..."
    We would love to connect.

    ReplyDelete
  8. supposedly Kennedy flew in in 60's via Barksdale, gambled and womanized the strip !!

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  9. I'm not from Bossier but I did live there for awhile in the good old days; and I mean old! Before casinos. I was a go-go dancer/ b-girl at a country joint called The Longbranch. I'm sure it's ancient history now. Also got involved with a movie being filmed in the area, as a set decorator. I single handedly "psychedelicized" the entire interior of a lounge called the Lake Club I believe, outside Shreveport. Well it was 1969. And I was from San Francisco. People came for miles just to watch "the hippie" paint. I should have charged admission! I was also in the movie but it never got released. The working title was Carnival in Hell and it featured the Bandidos. For what it's worth, in 1969 things were relatively innocent at least on the strip. No pole dancing yet, no nudity or even topless dancing! I wore mini-skirts with high heeled boots (fashion of the day even back in San Francisco). There were 12 of us working at the Longbranch, and we each had certain songs on the jukebox to dance for. Mine were ALL of Credence! To this day, Proud Mary takes me back to Bossier! I didn't THINK I was naive at the time, having gone there from the Haight Ashbury and all... but boy, I was. I only found out later there were hookers in our little group! I believe we were all with Bandido men; I'm sure there were tons of other things I didn't know, and I don't want to now! But I did wonder why some of us made a lot more money than me and a couple of the others! I was outta there before the advent of the strippers/ topless dancing and there's no way I would recognize the area today. All in all not that bad an era, really compared to how things changed; but then, the same can be said of nearly everywhere today. Enjoyed this blog, thanks for the memories.

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  10. In 1964 when I was 17 and a senior at Bossier High School some friends and I went to Sak's Boom Boom Room. No ID was asked for. They were having a dance contest and the MC called my name - which a friend have given to him. So I went up on stage and danced like crazy but didn't win the contest. Ah, the good old days!

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