The Lost & Found Discothèque – an Institution and Icon for a Generation of Gay Chicos

This article is about the Lost and Found discothèque — “the gay bar” as some of us referred to it — which was located at 56 L Street South East in the District of Columbia, Los Estados Unidos/the US.  (Rant:  By the way as a former District resident:  It’s District of Columbia, not “Washington DC.”  There is no Washington in DC.  They mean the same thing and District of Columbia is the official name of US nation’s capital.  See link above.  (End of Rant)

Hola a todos. The dance floor would be packed when the Lost & Found’s excellent DJ, Bill Owens, played Linda Clifford’s – If my friends could see me now, Donna Summer’s – MacArthur Park Suite and Love to Love you Baby, Loleatta Holloway’s sassy – I may not be there when you want me, but I’ll be right on time (that title always makes me laugh), Bionic Boogey’s – Risky Changes, The Richie Family’s – The Best Disco in Town/African Queen, Vicky Sue Robinson’s – Turn the Beat Around (skillfully mixed by Bill Owens with her follow-up song:) Should I Stay Should I Go?), George McCrae’s – Rock Your Baby, Barry White’s – Love’s Theme (this piece will really take you back to that time, or at least it has that effect on me.) Ralph McDonald’s – Calypso Breakdown, Sister Sledge – We are Family, Abba’s – Dancing Queen and many others from this list.

As regular readers of pink barrio may know, I lived in the District of Columbia during the late 1970s. One of the things I enjoyed doing while living in the District and one of my main reasons for living there was to go with mis amigos/my friends (Charles, Michael and others) to the Lost & Found (L&F). The L&F was a bar/discothèque where Queer chicos came to dance to the large repertoire of disco music being produced at that time. It was quite a time musically for disco music and for me personally (see here and here). At the Lost & Found, each week there was some new music to dance to. The Lost & Found was the first gay bar in a major city I ever went to — that was exciting! — with Charles (muchas gracias, Charles) from the Conservatory where we were training together in music at the time. Nearly every week Charles would ask, “You want to go with us into the District this weekend to the gay bar (meaning the L&F)?” We’d sometimes go to eat in Georgetown at Mr Henry’s (which I think is now closed or at least the Georgetown location is) and then go to the L&F over in SE. The L&F was an institution in DC for an entire generation of gay chicos/gay boys who lived in DMV (the District, Maryland and Virginia) and beyond. Los chicos came to the L&F from all over. Some people drove all the way from Richmond Virginia — isn’t that over a 2-hour drive one-way? — to come to the L&F. I met many students from Georgetown and George Washington Universities at the L&F and some of us became best amigos. They were really nice guys. Where are they now? I don’t know (sadly). And most unfortunately my best amigos Charles and Michael who became partners after I moved to San Francisco died as a consequence of HIV/AIDS. It’s still hard to believe that Charles and Michael are dead. Charles had a major influence on all of us. He helped many of us come out of the closet at that time and I’ll always remember him. He was a very nice and kind person.

The L&F was located in a warehouse area over in SE which at that time was not a very good area. For those who don’t know much or anything about DC, it’s divided into quadrants: NW (Northwest), NE (Northeast), SW (Southwest), SE (Southeast). SE was a rather desolate area and required a vehicle to get to so I usually went with Charles to the L&F on viernes/Friday and sábado/Saturday nights. Metrobus didn’t go there and DC’s nice Metro was just being built. Near the L&F there was a discothèque for “straight” Blacks and I would see las chicas calientes standing out front after “last call,” and they reminded me of the office workers I would see around K Street at Connecticut Ave during the week, many of whom looked like models. They were very chic-looking and looked right out of Georgetown moda/fashion, but since they were Black I suspect none of them lived in mostly-white and wealthy Georgetown. Down the street a few blocks was the Pier 9 discothèque. That was owned by the same guys who owned the L&F. The Pier 9 had a laser show, a fog machine and other things. It was more of an upscale bar. I was only there a couple of times since we preferred the L&F, and that’s where we would be nearly every Friday and Saturday nights and sometimes for Tea Dance on Domingo/Sunday. We looked forward to it all week in part because the L&F’s very talented DJ often played new disco music that local radio stations did not play. I met lots of nice people there and became amigos with some of them and we remained amigos until I moved to San Francisco where I lost touch with them. Or they had graduated from Universidad/University and left the District. DC is a very transient city especially considering that it’s the Distrito Federal or DF/Federal District — and not a state — and where the thoroughly corrupt D and R Oligarchy federal government is located. And it’s also a glaring example of taxation without representation (that’s on the District licence plates) because District residents have no voting representation in that corrupt cesspool called congress. If this government isn’t proof that scum floats to the top of the pool, I don’t know what is.

I don’t like predatory Google — they seem to have lost themselves and their purpose and now seem to be trying to take over the world with one fucking corporate scheme after the other — but they are the only place to get the map/picture to show you. This is what the area around the Lost & Found looks like now which you can see here. The area looks nothing like it did when I was going to the L&F. It looks like the Real Estate Industrial Complex and their Corrupt LiarsTM have struck there too, just like in now-Conservative, Lobotomised, Techie San Francisco. After I looked at this map, I looked elsewhere in the District around where I used to live and it looks like they’re building cookie-cutter glass boxes/luxury condos there just like they’re doing in San Francisco and in other major cities. There is this obsession with building Luxury Designer Condos (Dahling) all over the world now it seems, or at least here in The Cesspool/the US of Hypocrisy and in Britain/Europe.

I had heard that the L&F had been torn down, but the building there on the right (at that link) in that picture looks like the building where the L&F was, although I admit I only saw the L&F building at night, except for an occasional Domingo/Sunday Tea Dance. It’s now a taxi company. Won’t they tear down the taxi cab building so they can throw up another one of these bougi glass towers? Today the area around the L&F reminds me more of what Connecticut Avenue and K Streets looked like if anyone remembers how that looked in the late 1970s. The Navy Yard Metro stop is a few blocks away. I could certainly have used that Metro station in the late 1970s and it wouldn’t have been so difficult to get down there from where I lived.

A Lost & Found reunion?

On one online site, some people who went to the L&F were talking about a L&F reunion. That’s probably not a good idea. A reunion is best left online. Why? Well, for many reasons: From what I’ve seen and read, the District is nothing like it was in the late 1970s. (Disappointment) The L&F is not even there now. (Disappointment) As you can see from the Google map, that area has luxury condos (Dahling) and offices now. It seems that the District is like every other city in The Cesspool/Imperialistic Empire with this obsession over “Luxury Designer Condos” (Dahling) for the bougi/wealthy. I had read that the L&F had been torn down to make room for a sports stadium, but that’s not the case from what I can see. Someone who lives a few blocks from there wrote in a comment what I’ve already said: the area is now condos and offices. Who would have thought that would happen to SE DC? But back to why a reunion is not a good idea: Everyone who would go to the reunion is 40+ years older now and won’t look anything like they did in the late 1970s, that’s if anyone who goes to the reunion had even met each other or knew each other back then. These are just random people talking about a reunion. So no one really knows anyone other than from casual on-line conversations and sharing memories of the L&F. There may be some people who would go to the reunion who have stayed close over the 40 years, but I suspect not many. Then there’s the price of round-trip airfare to the District, all of that Homeland Insecurity bull shit there (“terror! terror! terror! Stay afraid of your own fucking shadow!), the cost of a hotel, the cost of food and other costs. This is all adding up to be quite a lot of dinero/money and for what? I think the experience might be a disappointment, and that’s why I wouldn’t go. Not that I could afford to go anyway. I would prefer to stay with the memories I have because those memories can not be reenacted at a reunion because too many things/factors are different now. And the people that I went to the L&F with are dead (Charles and Michael, and maybe others). The only thing that would be the same from that era would be the 1970s disco music played at the reunion, and that’s about it that I can think of. I think the question, “and who are you?” might be a common question heard at this reunion, should it ever take place. Because on the surface, the only thing in common that the people at the reunion would have is that they are Queer, went to the L&F and their shared interests in the music played and in the bar which is no longer there. Everyone could go to the address of where the L&F was, but it may be better to just look at it from the map I’ve linked to online. I can hear the taxi company employees asking, “What are all these people doing out there in front of our building? Do they need a taxi?” (depending upon how many showed up at this reunion). And then if the reunion people tell them why they’re there, they might be nicely received or they could possibly be subjected to some anti-gay comments (one never knows!), and that would certainly fuck up any good feelings about the reunion. I think it’s best to keep the reunion online.

My last days living in DC before moving to San Francisco were mostly spent at the Fraternity House, a new Queer bar that opened near Dupont Circle. Our little group started going there because it was much easier to get to from where we lived than the L&F.  I lived near Washington Circle (Foggy Bottom/GW University) and Charles lived near Thomas Circle.  The Fraternity House was not a dance bar, unfortunately, and was much smaller than the L&F. It was a stand-around type bar. It was in business for decades. I hear that today what used to be the Fraternity House is now a single-family home. WTF?

At that time (the disco era), it was all about the music, dancing, being with amigos and meeting people. At least for us it was not about drinking and getting drunk the way it seems to be today where the drug alcohol is the priority along with “partying” with meth.  We all stayed in really good shape from dancing. We didn’t need to spend outrageous amounts of dinero/money on gym memberships to stay in shape. We stayed in shape aerobically by dancing and we enjoyed ourselves.

As someone wrote in their comment: “Once on the dance floor, it was hard to get off as one great song lead to another.” Yes, there was no shortage of music being produced at that time. And often Bill Owens played music that the L&F has received — with priority being given to discothèque DJs — before it was made commercially available, by even just a few days.

Unfortunately, after I moved to San Francisco one of the owners of the L&F died preparing for an event at the bar. If I have what happened to him correct, he was up on the roof of the building preparing a sign for an event and/or putting up balloons and a strong wind blew him off the roof. That must have been a strong wind! He later died from the accident. (And people still say there’s a loving and merciful god! What “loving and merciful god” — who the so-called “christian” sheeple claim is “all-powerful” — would allow an accident like that to happen? WTF? Why didn’t your “all-powerful” prevent that accident? And don’t give me that mealy-mouthed bull shit about, “You know, we don’t know what ‘his’ plan is.” Oh yes we do. Your “he” god is a masochist, at the very least. So fuck off!).

Even though none of us knew it or thought about it at the time, the Lost & Found really was an institution/an icon for an entire generation — our/my generation — of Queer boys/chicos.

I guess knowing that and our many memories of the place and our experiences there are the best (mental) reunion any of us could have.  And the music of those days can take me right back to those nights and my life at that time that I would “dance the night away” with one of my friends or a new guy I’d see and ask to dance, and he’d say “Yeah, sure.”  Chau.—el barrio rosa


The Lost & Found

The Pier 9

2 comments on “The Lost & Found Discothèque – an Institution and Icon for a Generation of Gay Chicos

  1. Wes in Arlington

    I’m shocked. I remember reading that you used to live in the District but I didn’t expect to see an article about the Lost and Found here. I had to read the title I think 3 times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Thanks a lot for this. It’s a really nice tribute to a well-known DC gay institution. It’s sad to hear that one of the owners died in an accident. I hadn’t heard that. What you wrote took me back to that time along with the Barry White because I relate to some of it because it was true for me too. I spent many weekend nights at the Lost and Found and met a lot of nice guys there. Today I work in the District but live over in Arlington (screen name).

    BTW, did you go to the YWCA Bakery for their chocolate chip cookies?

    1. el barrio rosa Post author

      Hola Wes in Arlington,

      Yes, didn’t everybody go to the locally-famous YWCA Bake Shop for their chocolate chip cookies and/or brownies? There were long lines on the sidewalk outside the Y at lunchtime with office workers lined up for their just-baked cookies. It’s sad that it’s closed now. And the two women who made the cookies never wrote the recipe down, so that’s gone. They must have made the same amount of cookie dough each time I would assume. People have tried to duplicate them over the years without success. I remember them well. At that time I would eat lunch with amigos at either the YWCA Cafeteria or the now-closed Scholls’s Cafeteria on Connecticut Avenue. Then I might go by Gary’s Records on Connecticut Ave to see if he had some new music I had just heard at the L&F. His mother who worked with him would usually say, “we’ll have it in by 4pm today.” Gracias for your comment. Chau.

Fin. The End.