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Tess's

1936 1942
8711 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Also known as Tess's Continental and Tess's Café Internationale.

"When Your urge’s mauve, [go to] Tess's Café International on Sunset Boulevard. The location offered supper, drinks, and the ability to watch boy-girls who necked and sulked and little girl customers who… look like boys." from How to Sin in Hollywood, 1940

Café Internationale was owned and operated by Elmer and Tess Wheeler and catered to women. They featured performances from women singers dressed in male drag — two who were quite well-known were Tommy Williams and Jimmy Renard. According to Lillian Faderman in Gay L.A., Marlene Dietrich was in the crowd when Tommy Williams performed there one night. 

As a result of the Navy ban in 1942, state authorities revoked the liquor license for Café Internationale. Owner Elmer Wheeler sued in 1942 to have the license reinstated, but he died that December and the club closed for good. His widow Tess opened another club later and became a fixture, along with her partner Sylvia Reiff (who was said to look like Radclyffe Hall), in the burgeoning Los Angeles lesbian scene after the war.

Attr — "1942: Navy Bans Gay Clubs," Playground to the Stars, 2019; Faderman, Lillian and Stuart Timmons, Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics and Lipstick Lesbians, UC Press, 2006, pp. 87.
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