Magic, love, and acceptance: the saga of 1470 West.
For LGBTQ+ Gen-Xers (and late stage Baby Boomers), the nightclub 1470 West was and is massively important. Life saving to many. It was not only a safe haven for queer folks from the Miami Valley (and beyond), but one of the hottest night spots of any kind in Ohio. The original location was in Kettering in the Hills and Dales shopping center. 1470 West moved from its Hills and Dales location at 1470 West Dorothy Lane in Kettering on May 24th, 1997 and soon relocated to Downtown Dayton at 34 North Jefferson Street.
The nightclub wasn’t always known as 1470 West. The original name was Sweetwater, and it was an early 1980’s discotheque owned by Tom Utterback (along with his brothers Jerry and Gary Delaney). After disco faded, he changed the name of the club to mirror its actual address on West Dorothy Lane.
I interviewed a mix of the club’s patrons and employees. They shed light on and fondly remembered a special time in their lives…an era. Below is a story of discovery, dancing, affirmation, and acceptance.
The saga of 1470 West.
How did you hear about 1470 West?
Dwaine Wheeler, admin of the 1470 West Facebook Page and the main DJ for 1470 West: I was the DJ at Infinity, a big gay club in Miamisburg, when a customer I knew had the inside scoop that Sweetwater was going to become a gay club. I had worked for Tom at Sweetwater and in no way wanted to be his opening DJ. Too much pressure and knew it would be the end for Infinity, so I was the opening DJ for the Brook's at Visions (which had been a rock/live/dance club called The Living Room North way before it was a strip club).
Mary Buck, managed the nightclub from 1983-1994: I knew the owners. I worked coat check for the first year it opened.
Jennifer E, clubgoer: I started doing community theater at Dayton Playhouse in 1985. The actors often went there for cast parties.
Kori Whittaker, clubgoer: My best friend and I were regulars at the Asylum. One night a friend of ours from there invited us to 1470 and we loved it.
Rory Benson, clubgoer, rave/event promoter: That’s a funny question. Let's say it was 1994 or 1995. I was in high school and under 18. Maybe it was a few of the older kids? Whatever, the two main places we wanted to go dance were 1470 West and the Asylum. Different, but both fun in their own respects.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins, clubgoer: I was going to Miami University in Oxford, and friends from my dorm were carpooling over to what I was told was a really cool dance club. I was in. We were also told it was gay-friendly, so my friends who were gay or thought they might be were really excited. It was '94-'95, so being “out" was something that only a tiny minority of college students were willing to do. Those of us straight allies were more than willing to go to try it out and see if we liked it too.
Robert Partida, clubgoer: I heard about 1470 West from friends.I was living in Cincinnati then, and would drive up fairly often.
Heather Gard-Edwards, clubgoer: I was 18 in 1990, going to art school in Cincinnati, and my roommate had heard of 1470s having “Alternative Night” on Thursdays, so we loaded up her car and found our way there.
P.J. Dixon, clubgoer: It was October of 1987, I was in my first quarter of my freshman year at Wright State University, and I had a group of friends hanging out in my dorm room, when one of my “alternative-punk” friends, came looking for me; she had just heard about this cool alternative/gay club and excitedly wanted to know if I wanted to go. I remember exactly where I was in my room, and who was standing next to me, when I first heard about 1470 West—it was like everything in my world stopped, and for a brief moment a bubble formed around my friends who were standing there with me; life had just opened up a world of possibilities I had only imagined and fantasized about! Of course I said, “Yes,” instantly!
What was your first time going to 1470 West like?
Dwaine Wheeler: I didn't walk in until I was the DJ. It was a unique night. 3 DJs; one high as hell, one looking for trade and me.
Mary Buck: It literally blew my mind the first night it opened (I was also the door person handling the cover charge so I had a counter to know how many people entered).
Jennifer E: I was a freshman in high school and it was a cast party for Evita. I was in the chorus with a lot of students from the Wright State University theater department. They knew people and got me in with zero problems. I was 14.
Kori Whittaker: From the first time I walked into 1470 it had a different feel than other clubs I had been into. It didn’t feel like the normal bar scene, there was just a positive energy that was present.
Rory Benson: Bewildered, with wide eyed amazement. Young straight guy from a smaller suburb, 100% in for everyone doing their thing. All super welcoming and all ready to release inhibitions for an evening of fun.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins: It was dark and loud, the way a dance club should be. The floor wasn't too crowded, but the people dancing were really into it, which was awesome. It just had a great vibe. Being a young female college student, I was so used to men inappropriately and rudely hitting on me, but that didn't happen there. Everyone was there to hang out and dance. There were also plenty of tables and chairs so you could sit down with your friends.
Robert Partida: Being in my early twenties, I was a bit nervous the first time I went. I remember walking inside for the first time and being amazed at how cool the space was. I had become accustomed to the smaller, almost neighborhood sized gay bars in Cincinnati. At the time the closest comparable place was The Dock, which was in full swing then. The Dock didn’t really compare in several ways to 1470 West. One was, the clientele at the Dock was far more cliquish, and it didn’t have the open welcoming feeling 1470s had.
Heather Gard-Edwards: I had never been to any kind of club before, but they played all the music I loved and there were so many people there that I didn’t feel self-conscious at all dancing my heart out. I just loved losing myself in the lights and smoke and sea of bodies dressed in black (except for one very tall bald man dressed in all white, who was there every week looking the same).
This was a whole new world for me: dance club ambiance, neon lights, wide-open space, accessible dance floor, all the music I loved, plus some newer dance stuff I hadn't heard yet.
P.J. Dixon: It took a few weeks to coordinate our pilgrimage to what would soon become MY Mecca—my sanctuary!
It took a few weeks because I am in a wheelchair and few of us had cars, but the moment I walked into 1470s West at the Hills and Dales Shopping Center, . . . I was in love! It was the highest, most vibrant, positive, fun energy I had ever experienced! Without question, I had found a place my soul could express its freedom!”
I walked in, at the young, impressionable age of 18 and was instantly enveloped by an ambiance of vibrancy! After showing my ID and paying my cover, I turned counter-clockwise and, for the first time, saw the inside of what, literally, would become my sanctuary for the next 4 years! I’m crying as I write this!
You have to understand, I am a disabled guy with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, which created certain limits in my life; I was only expected to live until I was 7 years old—and here I was walking into MY FIRST DANCE CLUB—on one level with wide-open space (no obstacles)—and the loud dance music I LOVED instantly caused my somewhat immobilized body to move! I felt SO ALIVE!!! And So EXCITED to Be Alive!!!
This was a whole new world for me: dance club ambiance, neon lights, wide-open space, accessible dance floor, all the music I loved, plus some newer dance stuff I hadn't heard yet. In my mind, the dance floor was SO BIG—AND PEOPLE WERE DANCING, which I LOVED! I remember marveling at how free, open, and accepting everyone was, and how every single person in there appeared to feel completely safe to be themselves.
The ambiance of 1470s was warm and felt like I’d found my people—open, loving, accepting, fun, vibrant, . . . I miss it and tear up when I think about how much I miss my second womb!
Why did you like 1470 West?
Dwaine Wheeler: It was like driving the biggest, best sports car on the planet.
Mary Buck: Loved it from the first night and I am strictly a heterosexual lady.
Jennifer E: I had so much fun at that cast party. Dressed to the 9’s, with older people feeling like I could conquer the world. The lights and music lit up my soul like I had never felt before. An awakening of sorts.
Kori Whittaker: I liked it because I didn’t feel judged when I was there. It always felt like the owners and management cared about their patrons. Ralph and Jerry (1470 West club managers) were ever present in a positive way sharing their light with people.
Rory Benson: To be a little too honest, there are not so many places that would let the underage kid in and even ignore a few drinks now and then. But it was way more than that. That was just a bonus. It was a weekly event where we could go and hear nothing but dance music. People were dancing and that was the norm. Techno and other dance mixes of the era were commonplace. Everyone dancing was regular and independent of anything or anyone around them other than the beat.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins: “It was an all-inclusive, welcoming place. It was mixed company racially, gender, and sexual-orientation -wise, and everybody was fine with it. And most of the crowd were regulars, so you got to know lots of people just from friends-of-friends, or just running into each other every week. And you knew if they hung out there, they were also okay with the same things you were okay with. A lot of the time, I didn't even come with anyone, I just knew I would know lots of people once I got there. Then you made the rounds, from table to table, saying “Hi" to everybody, and then jumping to the dance floor when the songs you liked came on. “
And then after-hours went on after 2 AM, the bar staff had to collect all the drinks after last call, but then they still kept playing music. 48-year-old me has a hard time fathoming it now, but I could keep going another hour. Then on to Denny's or Waffle House to grab some Grand Slam Breakfast. And trying to sneak back in the house around sunrise. And repeat for the summer.
That was pretty amazing.
Robert Partida: 1470 West had an ambiance or vibe about it. Somehow more sophisticated, to my young fresh from the cornfields eyes, heart, and soul. Still, even with the sense of sophistication, everyone was welcoming, and mostly a lot of fun!
P.J. Dixon: For all the reasons I mentioned earlier, PLUS . . .
I felt like I owned the place! After a while, security would just waive me in without carding me or charging me a cover, and it allowed me to feel like a VIP! Honestly, 1470s was my sanctuary, my safe haven, my home, and the warmth of the space and people ALWAYS felt like I was returning to the womb! In 14’s, I felt as if anything and everything was possible!
1470 West, hands-down, had THE BEST DJ!!! We ALWAYS had the most fun there—and ONLY the nicest, most openly-loving and accepting people came. In many ways, it was as if a Vortex would open-up, only a few of us knew its secret location, and after we stepped through the portal, it would shut and our world was safely contained!
I loved it so much I was there Wednesday and Thursday nights, and many Saturday nights, too—for almost four years straight!
How important was 1470 West to you?
Dwaine Wheeler: Super important! Besides being a job, my chosen family came to see me almost every night.
Mary Buck: I had a brother who was gay, so I had some understanding of their lifestyle. I knew the hardships these people had in life and it was so good to see them happy and affectionate with each other. Straight people were very welcome also and we posted a sign saying "We serve gay and straight people...if you are offended do not enter... otherwise join us and have a great time".
Jennifer E: 1470 became a place where I could be free. Free of my mother who jealously tried to live vicariously through me. Free of social constraints, free of judgements. The darkness allowed me to slip into barely
lit corners and do things I would not do in the light. I started going more frequently later in my teens. Every Thursday I went with my roommate, (moved out as soon as I graduated) Jason Davis, and we held court on the dance floor. We worshiped Nitzer Ebb, Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode (to name a few).
Kori Whittaker: It was extremely important to me. It was the place where I spent time with my best friend, it is the place I made new friends, and it is the place I met my husband.
Rory Benson: It had a lasting impression that has stuck with me for my entire adult life. Aside from befriending and making me a permanent ally of the gay community, the music stuck for life. Raves were becoming a part of my existence and in the region. I ended up transitioning over to almost solely warehouse parties after the club closed and met some of my best friends. I ended up promoting those events through the late 90s and early 2000s, which left me traveling all over the world. All of these memories will last forever.
1470s represented a safe place where gay people could meet and discover ourselves. That was massively important then, the AIDS crisis was a full blown epidemic. To feel and be free for an evening was a release from what seemed like an almost apocalyptic existence. A divine gift surely.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins: It was a special part of my college years. It introduced me to tons of alternative and club music that now lives in a Spotify Playlist. (There's an official one that went around a few years ago thanks to I believe a DJ.) It let me experiment with who I wanted to be, in a safe space where no one judged me.
Robert Partida: Like all of the gay bars of my youth, 1470s represented a safe place where gay people could meet and discover ourselves. That was massively important then, the AIDS crisis was a full blown epidemic… at least in the gay community. To feel and be free for an evening was a release from what seemed like an almost apocalyptic existence. A divine gift surely.
Heather Gard-Edwards: These Thursdays were the only time we went out, piling as many people into my roommate’s Dodge Colt as we could, usually with one very tall skinny man folded up in the hatchback area of the car, and often with 2 layers of people in the back seat. There wasn’t any kind of dance club in Cincinnati at this time, so driving to Dayton/Kettering was our only option.
P.J. Dixon: 1470s was my home, my sanctuary, my greatest joy at the time! It was the best club in Dayton—and still remains my favorite club I've ever been in! And this is TRULY because it was so comfortable and open and relaxed and caring and friendly. And the music was incomparably THE BEST MUSIC I've ever had in any club I’ve ever been to—and I’ve been in a LOT of clubs around the country!
1470 is where I grew up—it gave me a chance to see people that were different than me easily and peacefully mix with people like me (alternative-esque)—and accept, honor, and defend these differences! Plus I made soooooo many friends!!!
To this day, 1470s remains my favorite part of my college experience! I only brought the people I loved, respected, and trusted the MOST because I wanted to protect the sanctity of the space! In my heart, mind, and soul, 1470s was reserved for people that were open to alternative lifestyles without judgment. People I didn't think would appreciate the value, and the safety, NEVER got invited—by me, anyway! I did what I could, though, to spread the word to those people who I knew would appreciate the music, the people, and the ambiance.
It was unquestionably a second home for me. If it was cold and rainy or snowy outside, and you walked into 1470, it was always warm—both emotionally and physically—because EVERYONE was genuinely friendly and fun.
It was honestly a place I learned to drop my ego because in 1470, I learned that I didn't have to have alcohol to be able to dance. It gave me a chance to let go of that fear of what other people might be thinking of me—so a safe space where I was encouraged to be myself, not someone others expected me to be!
What was your favorite moment at 1470 West?
Dwaine Wheeler: 10 pm when I would show up for work.
Mary Buck: There are so many great moments and also sad ones because we lost so many people to the AIDS epidemic.
Jennifer E: Hanging with my bestie Jeff Hare in Mary’s Place and watching him pick up boys to take back home. Helping my drag queen friends get into costume for their shows. The best ever was the Divine show. I had pictures of Divine/Glenn in my high school locker.
Kori Whittaker: Meeting my husband. We would see each other around the club and maybe say “Hi” from time to time. Then on April 23, 2000 we finally got together, we got married April 28, 2008 and we are still happy together.
Rory Benson: That’s not a fair question. I was not old enough to start going earlier so the years until they shut down the Hills and Dales location are all special to me. It was beyond sad that it was forced to close. The new location was just not the same.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins: Oh my. It was at the upper bar area. I plead the fifth.
Robert Partida: When 1470 East was open in Columbus, a White party was arranged. Seventy or so of us participated, it was a magical evening. We danced at both nightclubs, flirting with all those handsome men! A blizzard struck that night, top speed on the chartered tour bus back was 25 miles per hour. I didn’t mind at all, I’d gotten together with an Air Force Lieutenant from Wright Patterson Air Force base. We spent the trip back making out! Wound up spending the night with him!
Heather Gard-Edwards: There was a man with a huge mohawk who we saw get physical with any guy who dared bump into him on the dance floor. One visit, I accidentally bumped into him and practically saw my life flash before my eyes. But I was a miniscule 5’3” girl, at least a foot shorter than him (not even including the hair), so he asked me if I was ok and resumed his dance. I flashed a look toward the table where my friends were and each of them had their mouths hanging open and told me later they were sure they were about to witness my demise.
P.J. Dixon: I remember meeting a super cute, blonde girl named Molly, and we were having a great conversation and connecting. At some point, the waitress came up and gave me a free drink, and I was a bit confused because I didn't order a drink. The waitress simply said it was from a secret admirer. Wow, How Cool!
Shortly after that, Molly got up to go to the bathroom, and this gently assertive gay man, named Ron, slipped into Molly’s seat and said he had sent me the drink. At the time I had waist-length, blonde hair, and he commented that he loved my long, blonde hair—and then he started flirting with me, which was flattering. Even though I'm a straight man, I loved the attention, and it was truly flattering to have someone flirt with me unabashedly. This lovely experience with Ron gave me a chance to really connect with my sexuality and become even more open to other people's sexuality. Ron went on to become my hairdresser for the next three years. Unfortunately, Molly and I just became “friends.”
How did you feel when 1470 West closed?
Dwaine Wheeler: Pissed off. Kettering did everything they could to close us and the shopping center. They won. We cried.
Mary Buck: Was sad to see it closed but, just my personal feeling, once it moved downtown it was never the same.
Jennifer E: I left Ohio in 1995 and had not been back at all. When I heard (via social media) that they had moved downtown I knew the magic had gone, and when they closed for good it was the end of the era of my life where I was a punk kid in the Midwest trying desperately to be cool.
Kori Whittaker: I hadn’t been a regular for a while before 1470 closed, but it was still sad. I know what it had meant to me and to so many others and it broke me up that future LGBTQIA, goth, and weirdos wouldn’t have this space to make them feel safe and protected.
Rory Benson: I think everyone had to be sad about it. It was losing a legacy. Sure, I wanted the downtown location to succeed but I just didn’t care about it as much.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins: Devastated. I was there on the last night at the old place. We were just all so disappointed. We knew anywhere else wouldn't be this cool.
Robert Partida: I had moved to Key West by the time it closed. Some sadness because others had lost a truly wonderful place to gather.
Heather Gard-Edwards: We had stopped going before they even moved downtown. I’d visited with some local friends after I moved away from Cincinnati, but life got in the way of me having this kind of fun anymore, sadly.
P.J. Dixon: While I had already graduated college and moved away from Dayton, I was heartbroken. 1470 was a staple of my college existence.
Even though I heard they were reopening downtown, . . . I was sad because that secret vortex at the Hills and Dale Shopping Center was our HOME! Again, I genuinely felt like I owned the place—and they tore it down! I'm actually in tears as I write this thinking about how sad it was when 1470 closed because it was our home!”
What was your favorite thing about 1470 West?
Dwaine Wheeler: The people. So many diverse, fun, smart, humorous, and exciting humans.
Jennifer E: The music was amazing. Living a club kid lifestyle in the 80s and 90s taught me about inclusivity and acceptance of all people.
Kori Whittaker: There was a feeling of family among a lot of the regulars; think of Cheers. I am still friends with so many of the people who were regulars at 1470, and I know the same is true for many others.
Rory Benson: That it was fully welcoming to everyone.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins: Dancing, dancing, dancing. Next to the speaker, with the lights going, the video screens playing, eyes closed. Maybe Prince, maybe NIN, maybe Soft Cell, maybe Mighty Dub Katz. Yes, okay, meeting lots of guys there too, but mostly the dancing.
Robert Partida: Besides the vibe and people, my favorite thing was the dance floor! It was huge and semi surrounded by tables. I love to dance and am fairly good at it. It felt like a movie scene, dancing and showing off my moves to the surrounding crowd.
Heather Gard-Edwards: Being with people who loved the music I did, and the clothing I did. Being able to lose myself for a few hours, feeling the beat and dancing my little heart out.
P.J. Dixon: Everything noted above: the music, the dance floor, the friendships, the connections, the energy, the warmth; it just always felt like our womb—it was the right people at the right time! And, again, I'm in tears because I miss how completely nurturing 1470 was for so many of us; it was a womb where we were loved, accepted, connected, and protected! There will never be another 1470s—and I was fortunate to grow-up in its warm, nurturing spirit! 1470s will forever be missed!!!
What do you think is the ultimate legacy of 1470 West?
Dwaine Wheeler: Dayton has been recognized nationally for LGBTQ healthcare, quality of living and more. I like to think that it started at 1470 West. We watched over our customers.
We were a safe haven and they could just be themselves. Because of the culture at the time many gay people were still in the closet. Many people were from small cities, but they came from everywhere. Fire law occupation was 880 and we filled that almost every Friday and Saturday we were open from 1982-1998.
1470 West also has an Alternative/Industrial Hardcore legacy, for an almost completely different crowd from 1990-1997. Alternative Thursdays. You know, the people who like to wear black and smoke clove cigarettes. Another underground group of people who had nowhere to go until I talked the owner into doing it. Every Thursday was amazing. Capacity by midnight. The Breeders played in our back room, we booked Dead Or Alive but they ditched us.
We were also the first regional club to offer After Hours. We did that by pulling all drinks at 2:20am and would at 2:30am let 16 (years old) & up in because we served only pop, water and coffee then. It had a two fold effect; one was that the customers could stay late, sober up and drive home safely. Two was showing off the place to a younger crowd who helped us later on when they turned 18. Took me a while to talk Tom, Bob and Mary into that.
Mary Buck: “he legacy in my mind is it opened up the minds of so many that had such strong negative feelings about gay people. We had very few police calls....maybe six in my 12 years managing. To have 2,000 plus customers every week that speaks volumes.
Jennifer E: I hope there are still some good dance clubs in Dayton. Last time I was there the city seemed so gutted and I wondered if there was still a scene. I know there was another club, Asylum for a while but it never had the same feel. I just hope that the mystique of 1470 is still alive somewhere in Dayton.
Kori Whittaker: I think the legacy of 1470 is one of love and acceptance. The people I became friends with at 1470 are among the most open and accepting people I know. That love gets passed on to our children, and eventually to their children.
Rory Benson: I Moved to Columbus in 1998 and there were some great gay clubs there too. Axis and Wall Street especially. I didn’t understand it then and probably did not fully get it for another 15 years. But young naïve me assumed that every city had a thriving gay club scene. Boy was I mistaken. For such a small market, Dayton was so lucky to have 1470 West. And for such a rich history before I fell into the place. There is no question in my mind that having access to 1470 permanently influenced the direction and experiences of my life.
Jennifer (Kremer) Jenkins: It was a group of people that were just at the right time at the right place to make a place for themselves when they weren't accepted everywhere. They didn't feel safe, or sometimes, weren't even allowed in other establishments. The mass shootings in the last few years at gay-friendly nightclubs have really made me appreciate what that club did. I live in South Florida, so the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando just upset me so much- the patrons at that club were in one of the few places that they felt really safe, like they could really be themselves and dance with and dress like whoever they wanted. And that was taken away. It enforces how important those spaces are, and I hope they continue to grow and be protected.
That kind of legacy can’t be bought or manufactured. It’s almost as if the stars aligned and golden light shone down upon all of us.
Robert Partida: The sense of community, but real community and a common bond in a way that other places didn’t have. Even now when I visit Dayton and meet people, when 1470s comes up it automatically bridges any gap and brings closeness, even after all this time has passed.
That kind of legacy can’t be bought or manufactured. It’s almost as if the stars aligned and golden light shone down upon all of us. We certainly needed it during that time.
Heather Gard-Edwards: For me, there’s some irony involved. I didn’t know the Dayton area at all, but started working here (commuting from an Indiana town an hour away) 3 years ago, and as I got to know the city, I wondered where exactly 1470s had been, only that it had been torn down. I knew the club name was the address but I had no idea what street the address pertained to. And when I found out it was Dorothy Lane, and pulled up the address on Google Maps, I realized the office I work at is literally ONE MINUTE from where my beloved club had been. My kids are grown now, and I wish so much that I could’ve taken them to 1470s because I know they would’ve loved it there too. We freaks need a place to fly our freak flags and be with others like us. As they say in Rent, “To being an us, for once...Instead of a them”
P.J. Dixon: 1470s was our version of Burning Man! It was Dayton’s original safe place for people to express themselves authentically without judgment and with complete support and acceptance, and I can't imagine another place like 1470 West!!!