By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Above the dance floor at Mable Peabody's Beauty Parlor and Chainsaw Repair—instead of the customary disco ball—a rotating, mirrored chandelier hangs, casting flashes of red and blue light over the barstools, walls and patrons of Denton' s only gay bar.
But the chandelier is a new addition to the nightclub, and in fact, no thanks to an arsonist's blaze that forced the bar out of business for nearly two years, damn near everything about Mable's is new. Including the bar's location.
Gone are the mirror-paneled wall behind the "stage," the well-worn chairs and the giant (rubber?) penis. Actually, just like before the fire, Mable's doesn't have a "stage"; rather, it just has a bare space on the floor where a band can set up its equipment.
Though the club used to host loads of local shows, Mable's niche was booking touring underground acts such as The Groovie Ghoulies, Tracy + the Plastics and Glass Candy. Back then, the club typically booked shows on Tuesdays and Sundays. Says Dwayne Ray, who used to run sound and help with booking gigs: "Because those shows brought in a completely different crowd, the regulars referred to it as 'straight night.'"
After opening in 1979, Mable's served as a safe watering hole for Denton's gay and lesbian community until an arsonist (using the bar's own liquor to set the nightclub ablaze) torched the bar in March 2007.
Last year, though, just in time for Halloween, Mable's reopened at its new 1125 E. University Drive location. And, this Friday the 13th, the venue is hosting its first proper concert since reopening its doors. Promoted as Gay Prom Bloodbath, the night's set list boasts Hollywood's sexed-up, electro-trash act Punk Bunny along with three of Denton's more provocative bands: Darktown Strutters, Pocket Change and Rival Gang. Rival Gang's Julie McKendrick booked the show.
"We've played with Punk Bunny three times before," McKendrick says. "They contacted me about putting a show together. I knew that Mable's had recently reopened, so I wanted to try to have it there because I thought it'd be the perfect place.
"It doesn't have that nasty, dive-bar feel that it used to. It's a little more like a big-city bar. But, the new Mable's is badass! It looks great, and it's twice the size, making it much more conducive to these kinds of shows."
So, why, then, did the nightclub wait so long to have its first show? Owner Kelly Sanders explains: "Since we reopened in October, it's been a struggle to just get the place staffed properly and get things like karaoke nights going. So we held off on having shows, waiting until just the right time."