Bet van Beeren (1902-1967)
Bet van Beeren, ‘the Queen of the Zeedijk’, was the legendary owner of café ’t Mandje on the Zeedijk from 1927 until her death in 1967. It was one of the first bars where homosexuals and lesbians did not have to hide their sexual preference. From an early age Bet realised that she liked women and she did nothing to hide this fact. Dressed in a leather jacket she would race through the city on her motorbike, occasionally carrying a new conquest on the back. Her bar became the first meeting place for gays. This did not mean everything was tolerated in ’t Mandje: kissing was not permitted. ’t Mandje was not exclusively a gay bar: the clientele consisted of a colourful blend of sailors, artists and curious heterosexuals. A visit to the bar was not without its risks though: when she was drunk Bet would cut off the male customers’ ties and hang them on the ceiling. After Bet passed away her sister Greet kept the café going for many years. In 2008 Bet’s cousin Diana van Laar reopened the famous place. Part of the café’s interior – including customers’ ties, photo collages and scribbles – has been reconstructed in the Amsterdam Museum.
Photo: Sem Presser