V28-3 Chicago Gay Businessman and Activist Chuck Renslow Dies

Vol. XXVIII No. 3 - SUMMER 2017

By Brian Treglown

Chuck Renslow, a longtime pillar of the gay community in Chicago, has died at the age of 87.

Renslow’s businesses endured over a six decade period. He owned and ran bars, a health club and a bathhouse, gay newspapers and magazines, restaurants, and a bookstore. Through his businesses he knew celebrities from Marlene Dietrich to Rudolph Nureyev to Divine to Sally Rand.

His bar Gold Coast is believed to have been the first leather bar in the country. It opened in 1958, and when it closed in 1987, it was regarded as one of the oldest leather establishments in the world. His bathhouse Man’s Country is still open in Andersonville. In 1979 he founded the International Mr. Leather contest.

In the ’80s, his political activism caused him to publish the newspaper GayLife. He was also an accomplished photographer, and his dance photography is in the Newberry Library Dance Collection.

Renslow had a number of partners over the years, including Dom Orejudos, who he was with for 40 years. He was an important advocate for Orejudos’ artistic works which went under the name “Etienne.”

He also co-founded the Leather Archives and Museum in 1991, and served as its president for many years.

Renslow had a large involvement in Chicago politics. He advocated tirelessly for passage of the gay and lesbian civil rights ordinance in the ’70s, and served as a Democratic Party precinct captain for eight years.

Renslow was born in 1929 in the Logan Square neighborhood and graduated from Lane Technical High School. He is survived by many friends and family.