Speed Read: The Vogue Turns 40

Indy’s most iconic music venue officially hits middle age this year. We look back at some marquee moments.
It wasn’t always the hottest nightclub in town. After being launched as a family movie theater in the 1930s, The Vogue hit hard times as suburban multiplexes became all the rage in the 1960s and ’70s. It spent several years as a porn theater before John Ross bought it to turn it into a live-music venue. “The first sign on the marquee was ‘PERVERSION CONVERSION,’” Ross says.

The Vogue has played host to Johnny Cash, the Ramones, and … Dick the Bruiser? Current owner Steve Ross, John’s brother, has said he’d try anything once to see if it would work. In the early 1980s, The Vogue hosted a couple of wrestling matches headlined by Hoosier legend Dick the Bruiser. Bartender Jock Maggard, a mainstay at the nightclub for 33 years, says paying the star at the end of the night was terrifying. “He had this gruff voice and always looked like he would rip your head off,” says Maggard. “But he turned out to be the nicest guy.”

There was also a horse. During a Sunday dance-party night, a woman rode in through the back door on a horse and onto the dance floor, says Vogue general manager Marcus Johnson. On those nights, people often dressed in costume, and the woman, clad in a nude bodysuit, was dressed as Lady Godiva. She and her horse “danced” on the floor for about 15 minutes before they rode off into the figurative sunset.

The green room kind of sucks. Originally the building’s coal chute depository, the tiny cinder-block green room is possibly the biggest knock against The Vogue by visiting musicians. It doesn’t even have a bathroom, so artists either use the toilet on their tour bus or, like the Black Keys’ Pat Carney, sneak in through Naked Tchopstix’s back door to use the restroom there.

A little ink could have gotten you free shows for life. In 2012, The Vogue offered lifetime passes to the first 20 people who got a tattoo of a ticket stub from their favorite concert at the venue. They were snapped up quickly. Some of the tattoos were very artistic and well done, but others … not so much. Curious? You can still find them on The Vogue’s Facebook page.

Miley Cyrus fans don’t have a sense of humor. According to the marquee, “Miley Cyrus Unplugged” was slated to happen at The Vogue … on April 1, 2008. Not realizing it was a prank, Cyrus fans from across the Midwest made a beeline for Indy and began queuing up for tickets. They were not amused when they learned it was merely an April Fool’s joke.

Some performers can get friendly with the staff. After the late Sharon Jones brought down the house with her band the Dap Kings, audio technician John McConnell asked if she liked the sound. Jones was so happy, she wanted to show her appreciation in a very physical way. “She leaned in for what I thought was going to be a hug, but instead gave me a kiss like mommies and daddies give each other,” McConnell says. “She told me, ‘We don’t hug each other where I come from.’”

One of the coolest Vogue concerts didn’t happen inside the venue. When Broad Ripple lost power on the night of the Delta Rae show last year, the staff asked the band to do a few songs for the crowd outside. “An IMPD officer shined his car’s spotlight on the band as they performed in front of the box office,” Steve Ross says. “During the last song, the power suddenly came back on and illuminated the marquee. It was pretty magical; everyone was really elated and giggly.”