Known throughout the gay community for her signature “beehive” hairdo and fundraising skills, Darlene Lutz Montalbano became a member of the San Jose area LGBTQ community in 1969. She began working as a bartender for Mom and Pop, the original owners of The Savoy (women’s bar) in 1972. Over the years she worked as a bartender at Toyon Bar, continued working for Toyon when it moved from Cupertino to The Alameda in San Jose, and then went back to Savoy for a short time in 1984. Darlene then found an opportunity to open her own bar, Dar’s Hideaway in the old Silver Fox bar in Cupertino.
Darlene was also one of the first women to be accepted into Casa de San Jose, San Jose’s gay court/fundraising organization. Darlene was the first woman Empress of CASA. She raised a great deal of money, organized many successful picnics and other events, and brought the men and women of the gay community together.
She assisted in some capacity with CASA for years after her reign, and then worked with the IRLM (Imperial Royal Lion Monarchy, another gay court), to continue organizing events and raising money for various causes.
During the AIDS crisis in Santa Clara County, she rallied the women of the community to support individuals diagnosed with AIDS with many fundraising events, hosting spaghetti dinners, gay cruises on the San Francisco Bay, and lending any support needed.
She feels the younger LGBTQ generation doesn’t have the same opportunities these days to connect:
“The younger community doesn’t have guidance from somebody who is my age or someone who is willing to get out there and get people connected. I miss that myself. It was a joy to be able to do stuff for other people.”