Memphis was ground breaking in that it held a gay pageant even before the first national pageant in Nashville in 1972


Memphis’ Guild Theater held the first ever openly gay event in Memphis history, Miss Gay Memphis, on October 31, 1969. Halloween night was chosen so that there would be no arrests for then-illegal cross-dressing.


The organizer and owner of the theater was the late Bill Kendall. His theater was known for showing arthouse films, which included LGBT films, European films and what Shelby County considered illegal smut.


Charged with showing pornographic films under the state’s 106-year-old obscenity laws, Kendall took his case to the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 1974, the court ruled the laws unconstitutional.

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