For one night, Johnny’s was back in business.
In honor of Johnny Moses, who died last week, Sean David said his bar, LeBoy, was Johnny’s for the night of March 21. Moses, 79, owned Johnny’s in Fort Lauderdale from 1980 until he sold it to David in 2005. Originally, it was located on Himmarshee and eventually moved to Broward Boulevard. Eventually, David closed that bar and opened LeBoy in 2014.
David said he “felt obligated” to honor Moses because he was “a pioneer” who operated an openly-gay bar back in the 80s when it wasn’t as easy to be openly gay. “That was when you’d get beaten up . . . He’s a very major part of the community.”
The stories of Moses’ commitment to the community came up time and again, from former customers and employees.
“He was good to the community. The community really lost a friend,” said Al Gibson, a former employee. “He was strict, but he had a soft side. Johnny would always come in and if he didn’t like what you were doing, he would slap his hand down and say ‘I will not have that.’ He was a good boss. But he liked things to be done his way.”
Gibson said Moses was always holding fundraisers for non-profit organizations, such as Poverello. “And we brought in a lot of money.”
Former employee Richard Rogers, better known as Sally Starr, remembered the yearly Thanksgiving dinner Moses would hold because he knew a lot of gay men wouldn’t be spending the holiday with their families. No one was turned away. “He didn’t care if you never came to Johnny’s [as a customer]. He just wanted to help people,” Rogers said.
For some customers, the bar itself was a help to the gay community.
“It was the place to go. What a fantastic bar. We knew the bartenders. We knew we were safe,” Will Carl said. “What a man he was. He was warm. He was friendly. Just an all-around good guy.” Louis Epps remembers Johnny’s as a safe place where there were no fights, no trouble. “It was great. It was always packed. He had a good following.”
But Moses the man was also remembered via a few drinking stories and more.
“Johnny liked red heads. If the kid had freckles, red hair, and blue eyes, the kid didn’t have to do a thing,” Gibson said. Rogers remembered having a couple of strong drinks with Moses one night after they left Johnny’s and had a hard time walking. “Johnny called us a cab and the driver said, ‘where to?’ Johnny said, ‘the end of this block.’”