The Show Me St. Louis Classic began Labor Day, 1983. Several bowlers had attended the Bluegrass Classic in Louisville earlier in the year and decided -- “We can do this” – and this began the planning of the Show Me Classic Invitational bowling tournament. The founding committee consisted of Ed Croci*, Lindell Guthrie*, Mike Madden*, Gene Fuchs*, Tom Kelemen*, (* deceased), Gerry Kemlage, Marvin Eaton, and Vince Andrzejewski. The first tournament had an attendance of 98 bowlers, with the majority from St. Louis and Kansas City. The bowling events took place at Crossroads Bowl, which was located at Brentwood and Clayton in St. Louis. Over the years, Western Bowl, Strike and Spare Bowl, Tropicana Bowl and Brunswick Zone Lakeside have also hosted the Show Me Classic. The Show Me Classic was the sponsor of IGBO Annual 2004.
In the beginning, the majority of the fundraising for the Show Me Classic was from the league raffles and the infamous “Washington Avenue Revue” drag shows. Debonair stars such as Helen Bedd, Sofonda Peters, Beneatha Sheets, Sofina Slut, and Maxine Padd plied their “talents” and raised thousands of dollars for not only the Show Me Classic, but also for AIDS organizations in the St. Louis area during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, which claimed many of the early St. Louis bowlers and friends.
St. Louis was the first tournament to offer an open bar at the banquet, which other tournament soon followed.
The bowlers were the first activists for breaking down many of the gender barriers in the St. Louis area. These bowlers included both women and men from the beginning. If one was not accepted or hassled in gay establishments, then a boycott took place. The gay and lesbian bars briefly lost business when they realized these bowlers made such an impact. Slowly the bars and restaurants became more open to all. You could hear the chorus of “Here come the bowlers!” after league play in many establishments.
An interesting fact is the bowlers were the first to organize a “gay” sport in St. Louis and became members of IGBO back in 1983. As other groups noted the success of the bowlers, other groups also began to organize. Softball, volleyball and dart leagues also began to be established, with many athletes crossing over from one sport to the next. Because of the organization of sport groups, Team St. Louis began for interest in the Gay Games.
The Show Me St. Louis Classic has had a rich and varied history in St. Louis, with many good times and a few sad from the loss of many beloved individuals, but always memorable. I hope you enjoyed this brief highlight of some of our accomplishments. The Show Me St. Louis Classic will be celebrating its 35th anniversary over Labor Day 2018.