Queen of Hearts is one of the many casualties of the Great Flood Events of early 2016. Many folk in the Meramec River Valley credit it to extreme weather that may be caused by climate change, along with an overbuilt levee at Valley Park and too much construction in a flood plain. Here is the story on Fenton’s Queen of Hearts.
by Don Corrigan (South County Times)
Although most of the homes and businesses damaged by a raging Meramec River in January 2016 now have recovered, the waters delivered a knockout blow to a longtime Fenton landmark: Queen of Hearts.
The Queen of Hearts has had an unsavory reputation over the years, and there probably will be few tears shed by city officials when the bulldozers finally come to take down the rickety, water-logged structure at 731 Larkin Williams Road.
However, Queen of Hearts, which was known for scantily-clad dancers and occasional run-ins with officers of the law, certainly did have its fans. Many of them have expressed their strong feelings for the place on Facebook, as well as on a notorious website known as the Ultimate Strip Club List.
“I’ve loved this club. I am married and me and my husband went there all the time. The atmosphere is also very laid back,” remarked lover girl, a pseudonym for a reviewer on the website.
Another reviewer named Goldring observed: “What a great time I had. I usually go to the east side, but just did not want to spend a couple hundred dollars on a Saturday afternoon. So I stopped by Queen of Hearts. What a great time!”
A slew of comments on the Queen of Hearts Facebook site includes vivid memories of Ladies Night Out with the Chippendale Dancers. Some comments indicate displeasure with those upset with such an establishment finding a home in Fenton.
“You know what is sad? That people come to this page to be a bunch of immature hate mongers,” noted Carrie Allen-Lambert on the Facebook site. “I’ve worked in hospitals, factories and offices and met just as many promiscuous ‘ladies’ in those lines of business.”
Still another comment came from a woman distraught over the demise of Queen of Hearts from the flood waters: “It can’t be gone forever… Freda always beats the Meramec. Is Freda still the proprietor? I worked there in the late eighties and Freda was always good to her girls. Always.”
Freda Brockman, age 83 and now a resident of Murphy, confirmed that the iconic Queen of Hearts is now closed forever. Brockman said she bought the property in 1968 and managed the bar for three decades.
Queen’s “Good Girls”
“I bought the place in 1968 and it was a good place to relax, drink and have a little entertainment,” said Brockman. “I was not just a bartender. I managed the girls who worked there. I was like a mother to those girls. They were good girls — great girls.
“They were always being portrayed as bad girls in the media,” added Brockman. “I would put them up against any of the women living in Fenton. They were decent and I actually introduced a lot of them to Jesus and to God. And most of them still stay in touch with me. We’re family.”
Brockman conceded that the Queen of Hearts sometimes made the news, and not in a good way. However, she said all that was after she left as the manager and she said she could not comment on those instances.
In August of 2008, two Jefferson County women were arrested for allegedly engaging in public sex acts with other female employees at the Queen of Hearts. Felony drug charges also were issued in connection with drug sales at the tavern.
Other charges were leveled regarding lewd displays of breasts and genitals and oral sex displays involving employees with other employees.
“I don’t know about that,” said Brockman. “I can’t comment on that.”
The negative publicity about Queen of Hearts has prompted some Fenton residents to call for its closure for more than a decade. However, the flood that began in late December 2015, and which wreaked havoc on Fenton Olde Towne and shut down Fenton’s MSD sewage treatment plant for weeks, also shuttered the Queen of Hearts.
Can’t Save It
“Business at the Queen of Hearts is over,” said Fenton Mayor Mike Polizzi. “The river knocked the building off its foundation and the wood rot is at such a point where it just cannot be saved.
“FEMA absolutely will not allow it to be repaired or rebuilt,” added Polizzi. “It is history and it is up for sale and the city could buy it.
“Fenton is about 80 percent ahead of the game to buy it as compared to others who might be interested,” added Polizzi. “That’s because FEMA would cover about 80 percent of the sale price if the city takes it over. We don’t know what we would do with it at this point.”
Polizzi said the property could be used as a location for food trucks to park. Food and beverage vendors might be welcomed by hikers and bikers who use the nearby Meramec Greenway Trail along the river, just north of the Highway 30 bridge.
“We have had a couple of buildings that are flood casualties along Larkin Williams Road,” said Polizzi. “The union hall on the eastern edge of Fenton Park has finally been taken down.”
The union hall was for workers at the Chrysler factory, a plant that fronted the north side of Interstate 44 in Fenton. The hall, which was sometimes the site of outdoor union picnics, has not seen much activity since the closing of the Fenton Chrysler plant.
“The flood took out some familiar places,” said Polizzi. “Queen of Hearts has had a jaded history. It’s now another victim of the great flood.”
The great flood did not have to be so “great” as far as Brockman of Queen of Hearts is concerned.
“I have never seen the water get as high as our last flood, and I have been through a few of them. It was just incredible,” said Brockman. “Fenton should have built a flood levee like Valley Park, but it chose not to, so it’s paying the price.”