Artwork, photographs, and papers of Columbus, Ohio artist and founder of the Red Party (circuit party) Corbett Reynolds. These papers include materials related to Rudely Elegant, Reynolds's bar and dance club in Columbus.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents the life and activities of artist and gay-oriented nightclub impressario Corbett Reynolds of Columbus, Ohio. The collection includes correspondence; photographs; press releases, exhibition catalogs, publicity materials and flyers relating to exhibitions of Reynolds's work; articles and clippings; a VHS videocassette; and posters. The collection also includes posters, photographs, and ephemera related to Reynold's gay-centric bar Rudely Elegant and his circuit party, the Red Party. The papers were donated by Reynolds's son, Andrew Jensen, who writes, " . . . taking many items from his home and, in some cases, throwing them in the trash. I knew the historic importance of these posters, some of which may be the only ones to survive intact, so I took it upon myself to save them from this same fate."
The collection is organized in three series and four subseries.
Series 1: Posters and Artwork, 1979-2001, undated. This series includes original posters for recurring theme parties and many of the Red Parties. This series also includes original artwork and designs by Reynolds.
Subseries 1.1: Rudely Elegant, 1980-2001, undated. This subseries contains original poster art done in silk screen, collage, and other types of media, and reproduced poster art created by Reynolds to advertise his annual Red Party as well as other themed parties. This subseries also includes the poster for the final Red Party, Red Fetish, held in September 2001. This artwork was used at Reynolds's bar, Rudely Elegant, as well as in other venues.
Subseries 1.2: Posters and Artwork, 1980-1999, undated. This subseries contains original artwork either created by Reynolds or given to him. It includes materials associated with Reynolds's art installations as well as a wallpaper design and images of his artwork.
Series 2: Photographs, 1962-2001, undated. This series contains photographs from Reynolds's home in Victorian Village, Columbus, Ohio. It also contains photographs from many of the Red and themed parties. It includes photographs of Reynolds himself and as his drag persona, Cora, Miss Bat-N-Rouge. There are photographs of his art and some of his art installations.
Series 3: Personal Papers, 1980-2015, undated. This series contains papers relating to Rudely Elegant and Reynolds's theme parties including the Red Party. It also contains personal papers and news accounts.
Subseries 1.1: Rudely Elegant, 1992-2000, undated. This subseries contains ephemera and material relating to Rudely Elegant and various Red parties.
Subseries 1.2: Personal Papers and News Accounts, 1980-2015, undated. This subseries contains a scrapbook, correspondence, biographical material, resumes, exhbition material and ephemera, material related to various works of art by Reynolds, and many news accounts about Reynolds, his art, and his contributions to Columbus society and the local LGBT community.
The collection is organized in three series.
Series 1: Posters and Artwork, 1979-2001, undated
Subseries 1.1: Rudely Elegant, 1980-2001, undated
Subseries 1.2: Posters and Artwork, 1980-1999, undated
Series 2: Photographs, 1962-2001, undated
Series 3: Personal Papers, 1980-2015, undated
Subseries 3.1: Rudely Elegant, 1992-2000, undated
Subseries 3.2: Personal Papers and News Accounts, 1980-2015, undated
Biographical / Historical:
Corbett Reynolds was born in Tacoma, Washington on April 7, 1944. He was educated at the Columbus College of Art and Design and graduated in 1966. For many years he was an artist and designer specializing in wall coverings and textiles. He made his home in Columbus, Ohio and purchased a late nineteenth century mansion, 1153 Neil Avenue, in the Victorian Village section of Columbus. In 1975 he purchased the Avondale Theater on West Broad Street in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus. With the help of his friends, Corbett turned the Art Deco theatre into a gay-centric nightclub and named it Rudely Elegant. Rudely Elegant officially opened in 1977 and was inspired by the discos in New York and Chicago. The decor of Rudely Elegant was changed regularly for thematic parties and events. Guest performers at the club included Grace Jones, Sylvester, and Divine.
It was with the circuit party that Reynolds gained a national following for Rudely Elegant. Circuit parties, also known as disco parties, began in the late 1970s. These dance parties lasted one night only, and were generally tied to one unifying theme or color. The parties were mainly found in cities with a large gay male population. With the advent of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s many parties became fundraisers for local service organizations and charities associated with HIV/AIDS. The parties became popular, more elaborate, and more expensive into the 1990s. Some patrons would follow the parties from city to city as the year progressed. By 2000 the popularity of the circuit parties had seemingly peaked and their number has been in steady decline.
Reportedly, Reynolds began his circuit party, know as the Red Party, in 1977, one of the first in the United States. Reynolds chose the color red as his theme because it was his favorite color, and "It is the color of passion, both in love and creativity." The parties had themes such as: Red & Black (1993), Red House Saloon (1998), and Big Top Red (2000). Reynolds's other themes included Tropicana, Halloween, Black, and Uniform. Rudely Elegant closed in 1985 but Reynolds continued to have themed circuit parties at other locations, eventually locating for good at the Valley Dale Ballroom near Westerville. The parties are said to have drawn 3,000 persons from around the United States. Many of the parties had guest hosts, among them Holly Woodlawn, Mink Stole, and Tammy Faye Baker Messner. David Borchers assisted Reynolds with many of these events, and they have been described as ". . . part installation, part performance art, much dancing, and magic and spectacle like no one had seen in Columbus before (or since)." The last Red Party, Red Fetish, occurred in 2001.
Additionally, Reynolds continued his artistic activities. He created many works of art and art installations in Columbus and New York City. He also received grants and corporate commissions from a number of agencies and individuals. He died suddenly on May 1, 2002 and is buried at the Crawford County Memory Gardens, Galion, Ohio. Reynolds had one son, Andrew Jensen.
Donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian by Andrew and Tawna Jensen, 2016.
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.