Gay bar in rural Missouri hell bent on beating the odds

Norma Jean's in French Village, Mo.
Norma Jean’s in French Village, Mo. Boom Magazine

The name Norma Jean’s (Marilyn Monroe’s given name) was inspired by the art deco glass block that forms the bar – there’s also a glass block divider on the restaurant side, which he hopes to open later this year.

“It’s very art-deco and that comes from the 1950’s and Marilyn was the biggest icon of that era,” offered Gore. “I wanted a fifties kind of theme for the bar.”

Gore realizes that Norma Jean’s is an improbable idea – but he believes in helping his community and this is just the the latest in a lifetime of challenges he’s met head on.

“I came out in 1982, I was the first openly gay man in Farmington,” said Gore. “I was shot at, I was beaten one time. I’ve been called every name in the book but it’s made me stronger. It’s also made me want to make a change and make a difference in other people’s lives.”

“The younger generation probably has an easier time coming out because of my generation who came out at an earlier time. It took a lot of courage but it also took a lot of sacrifice on our part.”

Gore is every bit an inspiration. Born with a congenital heart defect, he had his first open heart surgery at 27 and a debilitating stroke at age thirty. At 35, he had an aortic aneurism and two years ago had his heart valve replaced for the third time.

He’s candid about his health – in fact, it drives him.

“I’m terminal, but we all die at some point,” Gore explains, his voice drifting off. “I’m dying to live, not living to die. I want to make something of my life and I want to make a difference.”

Gore is folksy and forthright, telling the story of three brothers who came into the bar one afternoon right after it opened. It was clear they weren’t there to welcome the new LGBT establishment to the village.

“If some of the people from across the lake come over and they misbehave, I’ll just ask them to leave. And if they don’t, well, ya know, I’ve got something for that too,” he said with a Puckish grin, nodding to the holstered hand gun he keeps close by.

“I have so many friends from all walks of life,” he continued.” I was with the Patriot Guard of Missouri – I rode a motorcycle and I stood in the flag lines for the soldiers who were killed in the wars. We were standing up against the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.”

Gore’s dedication is palpable as he describes the need for LGBT visibility in rural Missouri. He spent six weeks working late into the night (with the help of his best friend) upgrading the property in preparation for the opening.

Gore is also keeping on his landlord to make some needed repairs.

“My landlady has put me in a very awkward position because I still have no water on over in the restaurant side. I still can’t get my inspection, and I think a lot of my money is going to come from the food,” he explained. “I would hate for everything I’ve done here to be lost.”

Norma Jean’s is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. – 1:30 a.m. and located at 6200 Hwy Y in French Village, Mo. For more information, check out their Facebook Page or their website.

© Boom Magazine. Missouri's statewide LGBT news source.
An LGBTQ Nation media partner.

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