CHICAGO (WLS) — Some witnesses describe portions of a 45 minute puppet show at the Rogers Park bar Touché as racist and transphobic.
Cris Bleaux was working the bar Tuesday night.
“I couldn’t really believe that I was seeing that caliber of what I was seeing, literal almost blackface going on in front me,” Bleaux said.
White puppeteer Jerry Halliday performed with several puppets, including a Black one named Sista Girl. Halliday spoke in a stereotypical black accent.
“He started spewing jokes that were incredibly problematic, incredibly racist,” Bleaux said.
Some patrons offended by the routine decided to walk out of the LGBTQ bar. Miguel Torres left after five minutes.
“I couldn’t understand what was happening and I just needed to get out of there immediately,” Torres said.
Bleaux, who worked as a bartender at Touché, said he quit his job on the spot.
“I just took off my work keys, went down to the office, threw them on my boss’s desk,” Bleaux said.
Halliday defended his performance in a statement to ABC7 saying “my intention is always to make folks laff [sic] and have a good time, in unity and mutual respect.”
He was booked as part of Touche’s 45th anniversary celebration.
“He had appeared here a couple of times and he was well received, which is why in planning for the 45th anniversary, we thought it would be good to bring somebody from our past back,” Touché manager David Boyer said.
Boyer called it a mistake allowing the performance to continue Tuesday night. Now the bar is planning what they’re calling a community gathering to discuss what happened.
“It has weighed heavily on me, people that I care about, and I hurt them,” Boyer said.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.