Lost and Found Club Photograph Collection
Building on the success of the Plus One and the Pier as Washington, DC's first gay-oriented dance palaces, Donn Culver and Bill Bickford opened the Lost and Found at 56 L Street SE on October 7th, 1971. Lost and Found was Culver and Bickford's second venture. They had opened the Pier, a popular club at 1824 Half St. SW, in 1970. Earlier, with partner Henry Hecht, Culver and Bickford had started DC's gay dance scene in 1968 with the Plus One.
The Lost and Found lasted 27 years at its SE location; from 1991 to 1993 it was renamed Quorum, but in 1993 the old name was resurrected. A generation of Washington, DC's LGBT community met, partied, and danced at the club. Bill Bickford is credited with creating the name of the club. The club's colors were black and mandarin orange with chrome yellow accents.
From the outset, there was a close relationship between the owners of Lost and Found and leaders of DC's organized drag community, Carl Rizzi (Mame Dennis) and Alex Carlino (Fanny Brice). Fanny Brice, head of the Henry Street drag house, was the Lost and Found's first production director, directing shows and special productions. The Lost and Found was supportive of the drag community and was a prime mover, with Bill Oates, behind the Waaay Off Broadway theater at 55 L St. SE. Mame Dennis starred in the opening production of Cabaret at the Waasy Off Broadway.
Lost and Found got off to a rough start in the autumn of 1971 when its admissions policy which appeared to exclude African-Americans, women, and people wearing drag came under attack. Two years before the city passed its human rights law, Title 34, a coalition of local organizations formed the Committee for Open Gay Bars and began picketing the new club. One of the club managers was famously quoted by in the Gay Blade as having claimed that the club was catering to its clientele who were mostly bigots. Picketing and discussions with the owners carried on for several months before a compromise was reached on the club's admission policies (which still excluded customers in drag).
Within a year, though, the Lost and Found was already an institution sponsoring spectacular shows, winning grand prize for its float in the 1972 Mardi Gras parade, and the place to go for Sunday brunches and tea dances.
Donn Culver died in a fall from the roof of the Lost and Found in the summer of 1993 while putting up balloons for the Gay Pride festival. Bill Bickford later was involved with the creation of the Remington's club (639 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) on Capitol Hill.