|Birth: ||Sep. 30, 1941|
|Death: ||Apr. 19, 2010|
Flamboyant businessman ran Caesar's
Joseph C. Wicks, 68, the flamboyant former owner of Caesar's Show Bar and an iconic figure in Toledo's gay community, died of cancer Monday in Hospice Northwest Ohio.
The oldest of six children, Mr. Wicks was born Sept. 30, 1941, in Warren, Ohio. He served for four years in the Navy and was one of the original crew members of the USS Enterprise.
Mr. Wicks owned several bars in Toledo over the years, but he was best known for Caesar's Show Bar, a drag bar renowned for its splashy female-impersonator shows.
Mr. Wicks opened the bar at 133 Erie St. in the early 1980s, but moved it to an old downtown theater on Jefferson Avenue and Ontario Street. The bar closed in February after being taken over by new managers.
Friends and family described Mr. Wicks as a larger-than-life personality and proud gay man who naturally drew people to him with his eye-catching appearance, big sense of humor, and quirky one-liners.
"He was a big guy. His head was shaved and he had a Fu Manchu mustache and a beard, so he already got your attention by just walking in the room," his sister Vicky Goggin of Texas said. "And then for him to be flamboyantly gay was unbelievable."
Ms. Goggin, who is 12 years younger than Mr. Wicks, said her brother would promote Caesar's wherever he went, even handing out balloons with his face printed on them during a vacation to Monterrey, Mexico, in the 1980s. She said people would recognize him wherever he went.
"He was infamous, everywhere we went, he knew people," Ms. Goggin said, recalling a random visit to a restaurant in Florida where several people came running up to greet him. "He was just fun, he was a lot of fun."
Jeff Jackson, a friend, described him as "one of the most charismatic people I've ever met in my life." He said customers would visit Caesar's in the middle of the day to talk with him and laugh at his jokes.
Legions of drag performers made a name for themselves at Caesar's. Although Mr. Wicks occasionally dressed up and took the stage for special occasions, he preferred to stay himself. But he did dress up during Caesar's opening months to help market the bar.
"I dressed up as Cleopatra carrying a great big sign, and I went to all the gay bars in town and some of the straight bars and it said, 'Cleopatra recommends Caesar's,'•" Mr. Wicks told the Blade in an interview.
Despite his upbeat personality, Mr. Wicks' life was not without its tragedies. The biggest was the loss of his male partner, who performed on stage as Denise Michaels before his death in 1987 of Legionnaires' disease.
"That was the love of Joe's life," Mr. Jackson said. "He never got over Denise's death. That was the one thing you could never tease him about because he would punch you."
In addition to his business endeavors, Mr. Wicks was an avid cook, loved crossword puzzles, and was known for his willingness to help those in need. Friends and family said he would take in people who had nowhere to stay or had got into trouble in their lives.
"If they were hungry, he'd feed them. If they didn't have a place to stay, he'd open up his house and let them stay there as long as they needed to," his sister Peg Lizardy said. "He was a very, very generous person."
Ms. Lizardy said her brother maintained his optimism and sense of humor even as he grew sick with lung and then skin cancer in the last few months of his life. "He wasn't just a loving brother, he was my best friend," Ms. Lizardy said.
He is survived by brothers Charlie Wicks, Michael Wicks, and Floyd Wicks, and sisters Peg Lizardy and Vicky Wicks-Goggin.
Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. today at the Urbanski Funeral Home, 2907 Lagrange St., followed by a gathering at the Spitzer Building (Madison Bistro), 520 Madison Ave
Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery
Plot: Section WAL36 Row C Plot 29
Created by: Chargrr
Record added: Apr 24, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 51543085