Annie Kaylor, a bartender and night manager of Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse near Dupont Circle who became the gay-friendly restaurant’s namesake and public face for more than 30 years, died July 24 of natural causes. She was 86.
People who knew her, both gay and straight, have said Kaylor became a beloved figure on the 17th Street residential and business strip since she began working at the restaurant in 1952, four years after her brother George Katinas opened the then Paramount Steakhouse in 1948.
“Her commitment to impeccable service with a fun attitude, welcoming hospitality to all, and unwavering support to the GLBT community and Dupont Circle neighborhood has set a high standard for everyone else to follow,” according to a message posted on the restaurant’s website prior to her death.
The website says Kaylor and her sister Sue Stout were part of the family-owned restaurant’s all-female service staff who, beginning in the early 1950s, established its reputation as a place of openness and acceptance of all people, including gays.
“Their sense of acceptance soon made the restaurant a gay mecca, where the gay community could come and feel comfortable and safe without being harassed and discriminated upon,” the website write-up says.
“In the 1960s Annie’s name was added to the name and thus Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse was born,” the website says.
Dito Sevilla, a bartender at Floriana Restaurant located across the street from Annie’s and a longtime Annie’s customer, said Kaylor’s reputation as a friend and ally of the gay community and her warmth toward her gay customers is legendary among those familiar with the 17th Street restaurant strip.
Sevilla said one story he has heard repeatedly from older customers who knew Kaylor back in the 1960s appears to capture her warm personality.
“In the late ‘60s or early ‘70s there were two men sitting at a table and she saw that they were holding hands under the table,” Sevilla said he recalls customers telling him. “And she walked up to them and she sort of startled them. She said, ‘You guys don’t have to hold hands under the table.’ She said, ‘No, no – you hold those hands right up here on top of that table.’”
Although her appearances at the restaurant were less frequent in recent years following Kaylor’s retirement, the Annie’s website write-up says she enjoyed talking to longtime customers and staff during her regular visits. Sevilla said she was especially moved when the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington came to the restaurant to sing for her on the occasion of her 80th birthday party.
In prior years, Kaylor rode in a special Annie’s car in D.C.’s Pride Parade, which travels along 17th Street past Annie’s restaurant.
“A CELEBRATION OF LIFE is slated for Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at Annie’s from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., which would have been her 87th birthday,” reads a fax from loved ones regarding plans for Annie’s memorial. “The memorial service is still being planned by the family. Details to follow.”