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Gay bar becomes a haven in storm-ravaged Galveston

MYT 5:17:18 AM

GALVESTON (Reuters) - As Galveston told its remaining residents on Monday to leave the Texas island devastated by Hurricane Ike, Robert's Lafitte, a gay bar, was planning a pre-curfew drag show and Tina Turner sing-along.

The first of two bars to reopen after Ike's onslaught on Saturday, Robert's Lafitte is a haven in the storm -- for gays, straights, anyone who needs a place to drink and find comfort.

"You can see there's not too much worry and stress on people's faces," said Dixie Monroe, a transgender barmaid who wore a tiger-print cowboy hat and a low-cut top.

Outside, Black Hawk helicopters clattered overhead and emergency teams searched for people stranded in the flooded city of 60,000 people. Up the street lay a huge field of splintered wood.

Big Mouth Robert, the establishment's owner and a former female impersonator, said the bar took 3 feet (1 metre) of water and closed when Ike's fury blew out the windows. But after a mop-up the next morning, Robert's Lafitte was back in business.

"All of our customers kind of demanded it," said Robert. "It's their bar and they kind of dictate what's going on. We're survivors."

Tina Turner is the artist of choice at the bar, given that she survived another Ike -- her abusive husband Ike Turner.

The bar is setting out food donated by locals for people in need. Some 20,000 people are thought to be still on the island and food and water are scarce.

"It's more than a life saver. This is like the Coast Guard," said Brian DeLeon, a straight restaurant worker who had not visited the bar before.

"These are the people who take you up out of the water and make life livable. Once I get back to work, I'm coming back here."

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