Image courtesy of personal collection of Evan Finch.
In the early 1960’s an up and coming star named Aretha Franklin asked for some R-E-S-P-E-C-T from Indianapolis audiences when she performed at the Pink Poodle, a popular night spot at the time. Other notable performers to visit the Pink Poodle were John Coltrane and Redd Foxx.
The ownership of the Pink Poodle was something of a mystery. An October 1960 article from the Indianapolis Recorder reported Indianapolis businessman Isaac “Tuffy” Mitchell owned the Pink Poodle, which he denied. Instead, Mitchell contended, William S. Zaphairiou owned the tavern fixtures and Mitchell’s wife, Esther, owned the real estate. However, Mitchell was listed as the owner of the tavern fixtures in public records, and as the owner of the Pink Poodle in a 1965 Indiana Supreme Court case.
Mitchell might have been hesitant to hold himself out as the owner of the Pink Poodle because he had a bit of a criminal record, and, in the early 1960’s, was involved in an illegal gambling operation. The enterprise landed him in federal prison for tax evasion, and resulted in the indictment of twenty-two Indianapolis Police Department officers on charges of bribery. The Indiana Supreme Court case in which Mitchell is mentioned involves the conviction of one of those officers.
It’s likely the Pink Poodle closed soon after the controversies surrounding Mitchell, as it no longer exists; but it was once a very happening place in Indianapolis, ‘back in the day.’