By Rick Sutton
INDIANAPOLIS – When Vivian Farris signed on to manage at Talbott Street night club in 2002, she had no idea what she’d agreed to do.
“It’s an incredible place,” Farris said in a recent interview. “I’m going to miss it.”
The iconic night club closed six weeks ago. It was a vital piece of the LGBT community fabric for 14 years. Owner Michael Strapoulos announced the closure plans in early summer. On adjacent property, he’s developing upscale homes, but there are no immediate plans for the Talbott building.
The night of the club’s closure signaled an end to an era in the community. “We raised a lot of money for a lot of causes,” Farris said. Over the last 14 years, numerous local groups and political causes held events at the club, often in conjunction with the Legends Showbar’s resident divas – the Indy-area drag queens.
“They’re the best in the nation,” Farris said of the queens. “The time they spent, the money, the professional costuming and shows…I’ve seen similar shows all over the country. Ours were the best.”
Farris talked about her first few months as manager of the club. She was still holding down a job in the hospitality industry, which required travel. The moonlighting made it difficult for her to keep up with voice-mails and regular mail.
While on a plane to Dallas, she opened a letter, and thought out loud: “Who the hell is Cadillac Barbie?” The future namesake of the IndyPride parade had evidently been trying to reach her, and he resorted to snail mail. His request? That Talbott host a Garage Party after-party, to raise funds for Indiana Youth Group.
“It worked,” she said of the communication with Barbie, aka Gary Brackett. “We had a nice long relationship with the Bag Ladies, and I really admire their dedication. They are great at raising money for good causes. There’s nobody like them anywhere.”
Farris said Talbott worked because “we stayed in tune with the community.” She’d served on Pride and Damien Center boards, and her phone list is huge. The staff worked each week to produce solid shows, bring in nationally-known DJs, and provide a good overall experience for customers.
“Every weekend was a production,” she said. “We worked hard to market properly, and we think the entertainment…was relevant.
“The space was conducive to fun. Lots of folks came. We had good customers, and we had to give them good entertainment.”
Since 2014, Farris has had a different job: She owns Illinois Street Food Emporium, a popular northside eatery. But Talbott is in her DNA.
“That place was something special.”
Q&A with VIVIAN FARRIS, Former Manager, Talbott Street Nightclub:
What will you miss most about Talbott Street?
“The music, the events, the people. Lots of teaching moments there.”
Any strange happenings at TS?
“You can’t print the best ones. But during one performance by Jocelyn Enrique, we were backstage, enjoying the event, and I got a tap on the shoulder. The fire marshall was there. The show went on. We didn’t get in trouble.”
I’ve heard there were a lot of practical jokes among the staff. Is that right?
“Whenever (owner) Michael (Strapoulos) wanted to get the mike and talk to the crowd, we’d find tricks to play. We’d hand him a mike with no battery. He liked those pranks as much as anyone.”
Your staff was amazing.
“I required them to be involved in the community. They’d often work 1`2-hour shifts over Pride weekend, close the bar, then get up the next morning, go play on the softball team, and win.”
Why was Talbott so special?
“I always felt safe there. The crowd was great, the music was good, we had great staff people. Times have changed, and those memories are always going to be there.”