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Caesar's Showbar Collection

 File — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS-317

Scope and Contents

This collection gives researchers a glimpse into the lively history of Caesar’s Showbar and showcases its role in the Toledo community.

This collection is divided into series as follows:

Series One, Artifacts, consists primarily of promotional items with the Caesar’s logo such as pens, balloons, and menus. Also included are a disco ball from the bar and a large framed portrait of Denise Michaels.

Series Two, Photographs, contains photos of several drag performers and Joseph Wicks. Many of the photos of female impersonators are signed by the performers.

Series Three, Publications, contains various pamphlets, brochures and advertisements for Caesar’s and the bar’s charity performances. Also included are newspaper articles about Joseph Wicks and the campaign to rename a Toledo street in his honor. Of particular interest is an original sketch by Peg Lizardy of the Caesar’s logo.

Series Four, Awards, holds plaques awarded by Caesar’s and awards the bar received, most notably an award from David’s House Compassion in recognition of Caesar’s support of HIV/AIDS activism.

Dates

  • 1980-2012

Biographical / Historical

Joseph C. Wicks was born in 1941 in Warren, Ohio. After four years of service on the original crew of the USS Enterprise in the United States Navy, he returned to Ohio to open several bars and restaurants. Wicks and his partner, a man who performed on stage as Denise Michaels, helped to develop an LGBTQ entertainment scene in downtown Toledo.

Wicks was not just a businessman, he was a man with vision and imagination, bringing the first disco and lighted dance floor to Toledo. Among his many accomplished ventures in the bar trade were: Camel Lot, Camel Lot Complex, Freudian Slip-Up, The Warehouse, Hooterville Station, and Caesar’s Showbar. Each establishment catered to the varied interests and demands of patrons, both gay and straight. His restaurant undertakings included the main street restaurant and deli, Auntie Em’s, Brenda’s, Joe’s, and The Arlington.

Caesar’s Showbar, to date Toledo’s longest-running gay bar, opened at its original location on 133 Erie Street and eventually moved to its more famous location on Jefferson Avenue and Ontario Street. While Wicks did not normally wear drag, he promoted Caesar’s by dressing in costume as Cleopatra and holding a sign that stated, “Cleopatra Prefers Caesar.” Shortly after opening, Caesar’s Showbar became a prominent nightspot for the LGBTQ community, offering three drag shows a night, six days a week, in addition to hosting the "Miss Glass Citi" pageant. Charity performances were also a key part of the bar's identity; Caesar's was a key participant in the annual "Sex, Drag, and Rock and Roll" fundraiser for HIV/AIDS awareness programs for Planned Parenthood and David’s House Compassion in the 1990s and 2000s.

Wicks continued to run Caesar’s successfully until 2005, when a TARTA bus crashed into the front of the building. Unfortunately, Wicks was unable to collect enough money to fully repair the building. After being diagnosed with multiple cancers, he agreed to partner with another business to eventually take full ownership, resulting in Caesar’s closing in early 2010.

Wicks was a compassionate and charitable man. In an interview for the Toledo Blade, a friend stated Wicks would help anyone in need, taking in people who had nowhere else to stay, or helping those in need out of trouble. Wicks’s sister, Peg Lizardy explained, “If they were hungry, he’d feed them. If they didn’t have a place to stay, he’d open up his house and let them stay there as long as they needed to. He was a very, very generous person.”

Joseph Wicks died on Monday April 19, 2010 at age 68. After his death, members of the Toledo LGBTQ community campaigned to rededicate a street in Toledo renamed in Wicks’s honor, but the project was ultimately defeated.

Extent

4 Linear Feet

Title
Caesar's Showbar Collection
Subtitle
Caesar's Showbar
Status
Completed
Author
Hunter Magrum
Date
December 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Edition statement
First Edition

Repository Details

Part of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections Repository

Contact:
2801 West Bancroft Street
William S. Carlson Library, Fifth Floor
Toledo Ohio 43606 United States
419-530-4480