Stinson and Lewis Are at It Again

Photos Courtesy of Carla Sue Broecker.

Two of Louisville’s most daring risk-takers from a business standpoint are George Stinson and Ed Lewis. In the 1970s they established and were successful in running The Downtowner, Louisville’s first gay night club. It featured lavish shows with female impersonators and entertained enormous crowds of gay and straight patrons.

Urban renewal caused Stinson and Lewis to have to take their night club operational skills to a different location. Located on Floyd Street between Market and Main, it was called The Connection and had an enormous dance floor, show bar with female impersonators and a more intimate piano bar where the crowd changed throughout the evening. One well-known female Louisville artist used to love to get up and sing “Crazy” accompanied by the pianist. She didn’t need a whole lot of liquid courage to perform. It was fun, and once again, very successful.

Several years ago, the specter of urban renewal raised its head again and the two partners began to think about a next step if their Floyd Street location was needed in the city’s plans for further development in the east Main Street area. This time their next step was a really big one, and it has now become a reality.

In an area that would not necessarily jump to mind, they developed a plan for a whole entertainment complex. Centered on a block south of Broadway bounded by Floyd, Breckenridge and Brook streets in the shadow of the old Male High School, now Salvation Army Headquarters, their plans have really taken shape. The complex opened a boutique hotel with a purple and orange striped façade in an old building fronting Floyd Street. It already has guests that include some overflow from other downtown hotels when they are full.

Last week, they opened the entertainment “jewel” of the plan. Called C2 Entertainment Venue, it is a two story theatre/meeting space that will hold nearly 2,000 guests depending on whether it is set up with tables or all chairs. With a wide stage and theatrical lighting equipment, the 25th annual Entertainer of the Year finale was held in Stinson/Lewis’ own facility. Previously it had been held at Caesar’s in Indiana, The Louisville Palace and the Kentucky International Convention Center. This event brings regional winners of female impersonator contests from all over the country to Louisville for a grand championship. It was a dream come true for the two Louisville developers.

While there are still finishing touches to be added to C2, it is already quite an eye-popper with its silver and gray wall finishes, silver leather chairs decorating the lobby, an eight foot crystal chandelier in the main lobby and a number of “water walls” that are ready to be installed. You will have to go to see to understand a water wall. Call it high glamour.

Finally, the complex also has two free standing restaurants ready to be started, a free-standing guest house, a sauna and a commercial laundry room already in operation to take care of the sheets, pillow cases and table cloths on a daily basis. Ask Stinson and he will tell you he likes to operate the gigantic ironing gizmo that presses the sheets.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WALTER

You’ve seen him on the bench with most of UofL’s sports teams because he is one of the doctors who takes care of the players. He is well-known orthopedic surgeon Walter Badenhausen. And while he may not spend as much time in the actual operating room as he once did, he has a keen mind and eye for diagnosing “what’s wrong” when a player is hurt.

Last weekend his wife Gerri and daughter Traci celebrated his 88th birthday with some friends at Anoosh Bistro that included Barbara Partlow and yours truly. Others who came from different tables when they recognized the event were Eleanor Goldberg, Herbert Redmon and Sandy Metz.

What a nice man. There aren’t many like him. VT