Though the bar is now gone, its legacy lives on. 2013 marked the 30th anniversary of The Miss Dickinson Avenue Pageant, the oldest comedy drag pageant in the country. With contestants and former winners spanning in age from teenagers to adults in their 50s, The Miss Dickinson Avenue Pageant (Miss D for short) encompasses the spirit of community and friendship that Bill Brock fought so hard to create and preserve. Dickinson Avenue not only patches together more than 40 years of gay history in eastern North Carolina, it also offers its audience a backstage-pass for a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to pull off what could possibly be the zaniest drag pageant in the world, The (30th Annual) Miss Dickinson Avenue Pageant!
See... What Had Happened Was...
In eastern North Carolina in the early 70s it was hard to be out and proud. Sure, groups of gay men could meet in secret at The Fiddlers Three or have private house parties, but there was nowhere east of Raleigh where gay people could publicly be themselves and be safe. In 1973 a group of friends convinced Bill Brock, already a local business owner, to convert his country western bar, The Paddock Club, into the area's only safe haven for the gay community. For more than 30 years The Paddock Club changed the lives of the LGBT community of eastern NC by giving them a space to be free. The Miss Gay NC America pageant got its start there, Playboy Magazine named it the #1 place in town to 'pick up chicks,' and even Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock danced in shows there while attending East Carolina University.
The story of The Paddock Club and Miss Dickinson Avenue is more than the story of a bar and its patrons;
it's a story of persecution and compassion, fear and hope, perseverance, history, family, and love.