Disappearing Gay History: The Ninth Circle Steakhouse, New York City, NY (1961 - 1990)

Disappearing Gay History: The Ninth Circle Steakhouse, New York City, NY (1961 – 1990)

Gone, but not forgotten The Ninth Circle Steakhouse which closed in early 2002 was located in the West Village on 10th Street right off Greenwich Avenue.  And yes, at one time it really was a Steakhouse that seriously rocked in the 1960’s with a quasi-bohemian clientele..

Originally opened and owned by Mickey Ruskin of Max’s Kansas City fame the Ninth Circle Steakhouse played host to array of singers and musicians and  literati including the likes Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Mingus and others who gathered there nightly to drink and eat.

But in the 1970’s what little star power and customers that remained were not enough to keep business going.  Ruskin sold full ownership of The Circle to Bobby Krivitz.  

The restaurant section downstairs was closed and became a disco starting out completely straight but realizing that there were some serious dollars to be made of the newly liberated gay crowd in NYC, The Ninth Circle literally became a gay bar overnight.

After a few years the disco floor was replaced by a pool table.   And now instead of Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendricks the 9th Circles celebrity clientele changed to Rock Hudson and Jack Wrangler. With one of the best damn jukeboxes in NYC.

Today you’ll be hard pressed today to find out much about the Ninth Circle.  Very little can be found out about it on internet and few pictures remain.  What little info you can find calls The Circle  a hustler bar. But it was far from that and  lets be real in NYC in the 70’s and 80’s almost EVERY gay bar in NYC had a few hustlers in it. But to be honest as its business began to fade in its final few years there were more young men working the world’s oldest profession.

For over 20 years The Ninth Circle was the place to to drink and cruise in Greenwich Village.  Weekends would  literally packed people wall to wall.  And customers wanting to get in would be held at the door until some patrons left.  It was literally a sea of men on the make. All ages, all types.  Clones, twinks, and trolls all getting drunk, trying to get laid, and having a great time doing it.

The Circle was so busy that one night in the late 70’s a man walked in the front door and made his way up to the crowded bar pointed a gun at the bartender and demanded money.  The  bartender who was so busy pouring 4-5 drinks at a time glanced at the robber and  without missing a beat told the gunman that he had to wait his turn. 

The gunman was so shocked by this he turned around and left the bar.

I was a patron of The Ninth Circle and  then worked as a cocktail waiter for a few years from 1980-1982.  I was extremely young, 20  years old and this was before right before New York state raised the drinking age to 21. When they did raise it I was “grandfathered” in meaning that because I was of age to drink before they raised it. I still could.  Which made the the youngest legal worker at the bar.  But i tell you, after working there for a while I may have been young, but I was no longer naïve. (Again. Oh the stories I could tell.

Upon entering The Ninth Circle you looked at a long wooden bar leading down 1/2 the length of room.  A long wooden bench ran down the opposite wall  and over the bar was an equally long mirror so you could sit drinking your cocktail and look up at the mirror to see who entered or who might be behind you worth checking out.  At the end of the bar was the waiters station and a jukebox.  Opposite the jukebox was the entrance to the downstairs bar. (Fred Tree’s domain) On the other side of the jukebox against the wall were chairs and tables and a small square area with more chairs and tables and a pinball machine.  At the end of the room stood a doorway with a small staircase that led to the dimly candlelit patio “garden”.  Which was aptly named because there was much green in that garden being the copious amounts of marijuana that was smoked and sold back there. (Along with other various pharmaceuticals of the era: Black Beauties, Quaaludes Valium, etc.)  I cannot even tell you how many times I was tipped in joints, Nickle bags and other substances. (Ah memories. Well what I actually can remember.)

When you ventured downstairs there was a much smaller bar, a pool table, pinball machine, a video game and the bathrooms.  Theis was bartender Fred Tree’s kingdom. This is where most of the “twinks”  and a few hustlers hung out along listening to Tree who told the worst jokes in the world, celebrated Russian Christmas, and  was an all around great guy.  Tree still bartends today at The Stonewall Inn. 

It was really was the best of times to be young and gay.  But in a few years because of what was loomed on the horizon it would become the worst. 

But looking back now, even mixed in with the tragedy of the AIDS pandemic and the loss the followed the memories of The Ninth Circle  are some of the best memories of my life.  What compares to serving cocktails and hanging out with Jack Wrangler.  (Oh by the way and the reason his cock looked so big was because he was really short. I know this for a fact.) Or dancing the night away at Crisco’s Disco, or The Anvil and leaving their drenched in sweat on a Sunday morning at sunrise.  Nothing beat going to Fire Island, The Bartenders Ball or being on the guest list at Studio 54.

Tree, John Koch, Jerry, Michael, Portia, Randy, Sonny, Don and Craig (whatever happened to you man you man. You were my first huge crush) and many more I miss to this day and if you ever read this and are still around PLEASE CONTACT ME.

The Ninth Circle which was my institute of higher learning (literally) and will always be a part of who I am today.

They say what gets posted on the Internet is there forever. 

So consider this is just my way of making sure that the memory of The Ninth Circle never disappears.

Have an interesting  bon mot, humorous story, or raunchy memory of the The Ninth Circle?  Please feel free to post it in the comments section below.

235 thoughts on “Disappearing Gay History: The Ninth Circle Steakhouse, New York City, NY (1961 – 1990)

    1. I worked upstairs with Jerry and John Koch and tree and Sonny from 1987- the closing of the circle and now I work still at julius as well

      1. I remember you. This is Brian, I worked as a waiter when you tended bar. I’m the one that left for the Navy. How have you been.

      2. I’ll be over this June during Pride. Plan on leading an unoffical history walk of the area and Christopher Street covering the 70’s and the 80’s

        1. Hi Billy,

          Your post concerning the Ninth Circle motivated me to contact you. You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you as a waiter at the Ninth Circle. My name is Scott, although for some reason I never fully understood, some liked to call me “Happy,” e.g. Craig upstairs used to call me that all the time. I was in my late teens in the early 80’s. I used to hang out a lot with George (a middle aged Italian guy) and Danny (a kid in his late teens). I was also friends with another waiter, Joel Kenn. I would love to hear from you.


        2. Hey Billy,
          Hope you are well. Would like to see you if you are coming for Pride this summer. I agree that those days at the Circle were the best. Do you still keep in touch with anyone – Sonny, Tree?

        3. Hi my name is Andrew and I’m now 60 years old. I am an English man who was a twink back in 1983 who used to go to the 9th Circle every night for several months and got to know Tree very well. Every time I walked in to the upstairs bar, Tree used to say Hi beautiful blondie and I loved him to bits..what a magnificent chap he was in those days.

          I first went there as a privately educated toff boy but soon became a fixture in the downstairs bar with the “boys” who I loved. We all wore the shortest shorts and took so many drugs down there. On one occasion I completely flipped out in that nasty bathroom at the back because of my drug cocktail and the guys really helped me come down. Mescaline was the drug of choice back then but I had been mixing all day and I’m suprised that I survived that night.

          I wonder how many of those young dudes are still alive now? not many I’m guessing as it really was when AIDS really let rip..Rock Hudson (Trees friend, died shortly after) and how I have made it through those days is a mystery to me..I was pretty promiscuous but never even got an STD. I was young and very cute, so if anyone remembers a blond English kid stomping around with a broken leg in a cast back then..hello! it’s me.

          The Circle will always have a place in my heart as does Tree and the downstairs boys..Love Andrew

          1. Hi Andrew,
            You probably don’t remember me. We met at the Ninth Circle but made a date for later that week (for a late afternoon on a weekday) to meet at the bar down the street. I think the name of the name of the bar was the Headless Horseman. In any case, we got the time confused by one hour, and I ended up leaving after awhile. I bumped into you shortly after that at the Ninth Circle and you asked what had happened.


          2. @ Scott L, it seems that I can’t reply directly to you, but do you know that I think that I do remember us having a missed date (it’s a long time ago) are you the doe eyed boy that I have been wondering about all these years? I was the long legged blonde English boy with the broken leg in a cast. If it’s you actually, we missed a a golden opportunity, because I had split with my partner and was looking for a nice boyfriend..The more that I think about it, I think that it was me. Thank God you survived my friend

    2. Hi, I worked at Ninth circle in 1980,Jerry was bartending also waitered in Studio 54 and Charlies as well.Good to here your memories,flooding mine.

    3. Anybody remember Billy Cramer? He was very nice to me much older than me bc in the late 1980s early 90’s i was just 21. Billy drove a blue and white Ford Bronco. He was a great guy and we used to go between Julius’ and The 9th Circle. I remember Tree and everyone too. Great times there was always this big guy in Julius’ that would try to intimidate me though. Lol.

        1. RON!!!! This is Kip bro!!!!!!
          I KNOW U REMEMBER ME MAN!!!! Good to see!!!
          I still remember your telephone number and am going to reach out to u!

          1. YOU were also very good to me too bro. Keith is no longer with us? I saw that Vikki his wife died a few years ago.

    4. HI i was Rosco there. just a silly name a friend made up for me . i use to shoot pool almost every night in the 80s and early 90s, i was always dressed in black with my solver boots, and my hair bleach blonde and sprayed so much it would stand in the air.i was always looking for sex with a new Daddy and i was a submissive.I was a locksmith by trade i graduated and got the job i walked into the job and said You need me for this job and they said i like Your attitude Your hired/. i was in mid transition then and they sensed that too.

      i remember being in the woman’s room with some of You guys. i started to cry my eyeliner would run., one of you said don’t worry. we are just as real as these pipes on the ceiling.i remember it may have been Brian the bartender say to me i cant stand to see a woman cry. but once a year before that he said top me if you were mine id give you a hair cut lol
      I remember Tree and some customers like Lonnie and his friend I remember i play pool with Tino a lot as well i hope hes alive and well as i hope the same for all of You too 🙂 .i remember a few other People i may not share there name if they felt uncomfortable about it.
      I Love all You guys and have so many wonderful memories even through all the tears

      inside i always felt like a girl and i guess i surprised (shocked) a few people when i came back i the 90s on female hormones 34b breasts and a new look with girls clothing . i have to say though You guys welcome me and made me feel at home. it was difficult for me as i was in love with a Girl but i had all these other feelings.

      so when i got out of prison i came back as Leah.I ran into Tommy on the street he heard about my change through one of the bartenders he and gave me his new number but at the time i moved into someones home in NJ since i was homeless for a while because mom did no want any part of my transition so living with a man in NJ who was an Italian constriction worker but had a heroin and alcohol problem and would become abusive at times so i may have blacked out and only until now 2022 do i remember that Tommy gave me his number to call and i never did.

      I still have all my hair unbelievable but i get that from my moms side and she has a lot of hair too and we both look younger then we are and i am in my early 60s now My hair is still long but not bleached it is just natural now long thick and curly

      it is not anyone’s fault but my own for living a double life. i loved a girl dearly for 5 years and i tried so hard never to hurt her but in the end i did once i landed in prison. i did 4 years in prison for being stupid and being there gave me time to decide if i wanted to peruse taking hormones so i did.i had to tell her my story. many years late she forgave me

      knowing how i felt inside yet projecting possibly a different image to others was not easy though as a Rock musician it was easier top transition through from the Glamor make up and hair

      God Bless You all what a Ride Wow I Love You all and wil never ever forget You

  1. GDM

    You must ahve worked there after I left and was working at/or right befor I was working at Uncle Charlies South. When you were at 9 Circle had Lou Katz done that bad thing yet?

    1. I think I am the ‘Craig’ you mentioned in your story. I worked at the Circle from ’78/9? to ’83. Moved up to Julius’ in ’85 until ’88.
      YES, I remember all those people and ‘good’ times! Do I have stories….you betcha!!!!!! Also have some pictures I wish to post! Looking forward to hearing from you!

      1. Hi Craig, I wonder if you remember me? I was in my late teens in the early 80’s. I used to hang out a lot with George (a middle aged Italian guy) and Danny (a kid in his late teens). I was also friends with another waiter, Joel Kenn. You use to call me “Happy” and once asked me on New Year’s Eve to go to the liquor store to buy some supplies for the bar.

  2. I gave the Ninth Circle the best years of my youth. From when I first walked in in 1975, at 17, though the year I left New York, in 1989. The first, pre-AIDS, post-Stonewall years were sheer glory, the most fun I ever had. (Also the Spike on Freidays, and the Minseshaft or Anvil on Saturdays.)
    I also worked at Uncles Charlies South as a waiter during the Lew Katz years, and never missed Wednesdays 2-1 during the Dynasty years at Uncle Charlies Downtown. What fun. We should start a Facebook page.

    1. You survived it Mark, and given what happened to our friends around that time that is an amazing feat. When I returned to London after my year of hedonism in NYC (half dead) aged 23 I often wondered how many people survived that time; as I said before on another post; I don’t believe that there are that many. I tried to explain to a nephew a few months ago that there is a very short time between being young and gorgeous to being in your 30’s 40’s 50’s and now I’m 60! I will never regret those days downstairs in the 9th and my heart goes out to those we loved and have gone. I don’t remember you personally I’m afraid but we must have rubbed shoulders at some point considering that I was there every day..love Andrew

  3. I met Jack at the Circle in late ’73. We hung out there ’till its closing night. Many incredible memories. Loved Tree and still run into him at Cherry Grove. Jerry was a douche. But John Koch was an extreme right winger when you got to know him. Jack and I are about to celebrate our 38th anniversary! We’re happy and healthy, thank goodness.

  4. Lived on West 4th from ’76-’85 and the Ninth was one of the first places I hit. Whatever happend to that WONDERFUL picture of Joplin between the two front windows? Guy named Gary was the Manager, or one of them at least. Remember Beauty from Julius’?

  5. The Ninth Circle was my first gay bar in 1983. I also just made the drinking age with my birthday being in December of 1963. I so remember the long bar on the left (if memory is correct) and the stairs leading to a very exciting downstairs. Thanks for a great trip down memory lane!!

  6. I used to go here alot in the late 80’s – early 90’s..
    I was mistaken for being a hustler all the time. I was shy and quite. ha God memories! I remember the guy who hung out showing people his newspaper clippings of when he was arrested for that notorious bank robing, that became a film in the 70’s with Al Pacino, who also portrayed him. I don’t know to this day if that was really him.
    I hung out alot downstairs at the bar.. I forgot everyone’s name. I had a crush on one of the bouncers, whom I was told was straight.. ha
    The bartender I would talk to worked the downstairs bar mainly.. I forgot his name! Not this Jerry was it? ha ha He had dark curly hair? 🙂
    It was one of the 1st gay bars I walked into.

    1. I totally remember that guy from Dog Day Afternoon who called himself Dog Day! He always wandered about with those clippings in his wallet. He was really that guy. I worked at Gay Treasures on Hudson St. and ‘worked’ the Ninth Circle from 1989 – 95. Dog Day used to come in to Gay Treasures looking for pics of some prison tranny he was in love with, claiming that when she was a he, he did a lot of modeling. Dog Day would spend hours looking through porn older than I was and waiting for a chance to tell his ‘Dog Day’ stories.
      I worked the main bar at 9th Circle for a while and everyone knew me from the porn store so it was good for an easy local trick but not much money. For better paying gigs, you needs to go up to Rounds.
      Two things your excellent article did not mention – Edward Albee got the name for his play ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ from the bathroom wall; and thanks to the very odd signage, the place was appropriately nicknamed ‘Ooo Ooo Oog’

        1. Hi, I’m Michael. I worked at the circle in the late 70s; first in coat check, than waiter, and lastly bartender (downstairs on weekdays and upstairs Sunday days). I was going out with Patia, the only true woman to dance at the Anvil (I don’t think most of the late night Anvil customers knew;))

          Towards the end I was too deep into the 9Circle >> Crisco’s >> Julius’ daily cycle and I crashed in the early 80’s. I went back to my roots in computers and recently retired after 27 years as a computer nerd.

          Patia and I are living in Florida with fond memories of that time, and those friends. I don’t regret a day!!

          1. Hey Mike & Patia,
            I live in Colorado now. Hope you guys are doing well. I have pictures of you two at a party at my place on Charles St. Remember when we all lived together on Perry St over The Stud Bar?

          2. how could you name off those iconic disco’s without naming gables?? i was a busboy at the silver dollar on christopher st. and i worked off the books at that bar on perry street, that showed gay porn. this jerry bartender at the circle, did he live in hoboken?? i remember tree, sasha and one or two others. yes the mid-late 70’s and early 80’s, i remember them well. especially down at the piers, near the anvil. unfortunatly i hit the streets of san francisco, just as the aids epidemic did. i recall someone telling me on a visit back to the village at boots n saddles, that i alone was responsible for the spread of the newly discovered “gay cancer”. ugh!!!! my last memory of that trip was seeing my young friend mark ross, newly diagnosed himself, and our mutual friend michael boccino from jersey city. marks sister patty ttossed him out in the sreet, untiil he went to live with a bartender named jerry in hoboken. as for tree, i didnt needd ann i.d. card, if i let him brab my bubble butt. i dont recall having to wait outside for patrons to leave so i could get in. ditto for gables!!

          3. Hi Mike, u probably don’t remember me, but I remember you and Patia from downstairs in Tree’s house….do you remember Neil Murphy, my best friend back in those days….Or Vinny, Gail, Bill….so many great memories, before AIDS destroyed it all. I think of people like Little Al who would flick his hair back as he arrived at the bottom step, in my mind dismissing everyone there as beneath him….ha….he was such a doll…..and Tree was everything, and still is…..a legend.

        2. I have written about 1,000 rough pages of a book I hope to publish some day. The NYC/9th Circle days are a prominent part of it. (I believe I am the ‘Craig’ you mentioned in your original article?)

          1. I worked at the 9th Circle from 1967-1970. Bob Krivit was the owner. Main bartenders were the Nazarro brothers, Phil and Snooky. Gay maitre’d downstairs at the steak house, named John I think. 2 big barrels with fake bottoms at either end of the bar. Little grill served burgers on pumpernickel bread. No other choice. Fired along with everyone else and the next night it was a gay bar. No regrets. Great storied place.
            I’m Bobby Ryder

  7. I remember walking back and forth from Julius to the Ninth to see what was happening. lots of cuties in the Ninth I think half of the cute young guys in NYC frequented the Ninth str8 and gay both.

      1. Hi – you mention Michael in JC. Did he live on romane street by journal square with joel walrud? The guy I recall had black curly hair and kinda looked like zappa. He collected records. We spent alot of time together…praying he is ok. We had a fist party one day and he called a friend over. It was the craziest time… his roomate was connected but Michael was really cool. Just looking for anyone from that era…. thank you

        1. Tony, I think I may remember you. Did you have your black leather jacket stolen stolen off the back of the bar stool at the upstairs bar?

  8. A great Place, many wonderful memories of great people , many sadly gone! The best of times in my youth! Many laughs!

  9. Met my first full time BF there, I was only 20 but there was a doorman there who would let me in because we were neighbors, always said he was a photographer and wanted to shoot me nude (I never did lol but always said I was open to it to keep getting in lol) I CANNOT remember his name but he was really tall and we called him “Tree”. Ring any bells for anyone????

  10. As someone who was in the Ninth Circle from 1975 when I was 17 at least 2 or 3 times a week, or more, until 1990 — when it closed — it certainly didn’t stay open until 2002. By 1994 and the Big Gay Games it was already an Italian Restaurant —

    Still, thanks for the memories.

      1. I worked there until it closed when danny Krivitz took over after his dad Bobby died and danny ruined it completely but it acually close in 1993

  11. Hey folks! Thanks for sharing all the great memories about the Ninth Circle. I recall being introduced to the “Circle” as an 18 year old hailing from upper Westchester county. Infact, the Ninth Circle was my “coming out” bar in 1984. I can clearly recall getting a little buzzed on Metro North as my friend and I ventured into the city on that warm Friday night. Not knowing what to expect, I soon found myself walking up those concrete steps and into a smoke-filled bar as David Bowie was playing on the jukebox. My friend gave me a brief tour of the place as Skip the waiter took our drink order. I recall just sitting there in awe admiring all the cute young dudes, most of whom were clad in denim jackets, jeans and sneakers. On my visit to the bathroom downstairs, I recall inspecting the place a little closer, saying wow, I found a new hangout. All the craziness that night seemed so appealing. Finally, a bar I can call “home”. I would frequent the bar a few times a month for the next six years. In that six year period I always had a great time while there and met so many people from different walks of life. Don from Alabama, Joey from California, Jean-Pierre from France and Paulo from Brazil, not to mention the locals. Doug from Jersey (now deceased) Steve from Long Island and countless others. Of course I remember the staff as well. Skip, Tree, Charlie & John (both day bartenders) Jerry, Garrett and Don the doorman. And who can forget patron Fred Lutz who owned Julius’.

    A year later I introduced my straight friends to the Ninth Circle, and after visiting once they were urging me to take them back. What other bar would serve 17- 18 year olds? Again, thanks for the memories, as there will never be another Ninth Circle.

    P.S. It would be great to have a reunion. I’d love to see everyone again.

  12. Thanks for this piece and the memories! It was like my 2nd home from 1977 for the next 8 years. The 9th Circle was the capital of a wonderfully heady era of new found freedom and sense of community. (Btw I’m pretty sure it was not open past 1990.) We should have a reunion!

  13. “Craig (whatever happened to you man you were my first huge crush) ”

    Craig was a crush of mine….. last I heard a long time back he had moved midwest and went on to be a Veterinarian. Lord he made the best drinks. What fun nice guy…

    1. I think it’s might be me you’re talking about? I returned to the Midwest after 9/11, but did not become a vet. I live quietly by myself now in Colorado Springs, CO….quite a contrast from THOSE DAYS !!!! I have pictures?!?!?

        1. Will Kramer you used to take me to the Circle and Julius’ Ron S. and Keith M. LOTS of good times!
          Party time!

          1. KSM, Billy Cramer is alive and well, living in the Mid-Atlantic. I am healthy, God only knows how that happened. Ron told me he spoke with you. Good luck my friend, God bless.

          2. Billy! I live and work in the DC suburbs! Good to see you doing well! I hope you guys had a nice holiday season! Stay well and God Bless you too! It was GREAT talking to Ron! Would love to talk to you also!

          3. I’m not Bill Cramer… see below. Rather I’m Will Kramer. Kramer/Cramer is common name in german.. like “Smith” . My friend at the time Carlos Flores hung out with me in 9th circled.

  14. Wow these are some astonishing comments about the once infamous Ninth Circle! I really enjoyed reading them, of course one person with a greedy appetite for recoginition, (that depraved soul already knows who he is) couldn’t help seizing the opportunity of using this blog to promote his own webpage, but that is to be expected when dealing wirh shallow and vainglorious intellectual witlings, such as he is.
    Aside from that unpleasant distraction, I must say that this was quite a walk through memory lane. I certainly remember Don, the doorman, I use to bring him his dinner some times from the Greek diner. I also worked in a few gay clubs in the city, and I played chess for hours in the garden in the back with my best friend, while avoiding a contact high from the weed people would be smoking. I remember Tree, he was always a gentleman towards me, well most of the time. And back in the early 80’s before the yuppies started to gentrify the village because they got tired of clubs like Uncle Charlie’s and Tracts- that just wanted a more subdued environment without the bar politics of having to buy a drink, or kiss up to some employee for free drinks or drugs- usually snorting cocaine, there were clubs like the Ninth circle, and you didn’t have to pander to any particular “clique.”
    Even my days working as a bouncer at Uncle Charlies, I can remember how people, especially coworkers, who I thought were my friends, really hated me because I didn’t fit into their little Gay circle.
    In fact, I see comments about hustlers who were supposingly straight, who cares, maybe your broke ass could never afford them, so you hated on the whole social interaction-too bad, stop being a hater, and stop acting so squemish, and if you can’t then, stop being so cheap the next time you really want to sleep with that hustler, and spend a couple of dollars- cheap ass queen!
    Whew, not that I got that out of the way, I really liked a few people that frequent the Ninth Circle, I remembered Bruce, he was Bruuswe, because he spoke with a lisp- always good for a pool table fight, and he’d bring me along with him as protection, when he’d get into a fight.
    yes those were the days when I could be enthused with an entourage of friends without having to live up to anyone’s expectations, just drink, get high, have a great time, and if you didnt like me then you could kiss my Italian ass- thats if you were lucky enough!!

  15. I was a hustler back in 92, Julius was my main bar but I often wandered down to the circle to hang out with Sonny. I was 16 at the time and prefered both the circle and Julius over the rest of the bars in the city, not because I was way underaged but because they were down to earth and slower paced establishments. The Ninth Circle closed in 1993, shortly after I left NYC. Sonny Oz was extremely sick from the fall of 1992 until he passed away in the spring of 1993. I would do anything to have another chance for him to send me to the Korean grocery for a hot tea with 2 bags and honey poured into the cup before water goes in.
    I never worked the circle for johns, the clientel were more not as desperate or just cheap compared to the crowd down the street. On the nights the downstairs bar was closed and Sonny was off I would mainly fill the jukebox with tunes from Madonna’s Erotica album, play pinball and nurse one can of Bud for hours and write. I have countless stories from my days as a hustler, maybe one day I will put them together and publish them.
    I am grateful I am not alone in the nostalgic memories of the circle. BTW does anyone remember the trippy videos they would play of random stuff just switching back and forth like someone changing channels every 2 seconds?

    1. Adrian: I’m a book designer and spent much, much time at the Circle back in the late 70s and 80s through the early 90s. If you’d ever like to try to put a book together I can help you, at least get you started. “artandcolour@yahoo.com”

      1. Thanks Casey. I didn’t see your reply until now. It’s a sweet offer. I’ve actually begun working on my book, in addition to working as a writer with a tabloid site. I’ll pop an email over to you including one of the rough drafts of a chapter.

  16. I still cry when I think about the way our lives were in the ’70s-’90s. The Ninth Circle was definitely a part of most of my nights, whether it was the happy hour before Uncle Charlie’s happy hour, lol, or if it was the last call after everyone else’s last call. Memories abound. I hope to find a way to make people understand just what our life and culture was all about someday, it’s so much more than has been portrayed so far from what I’ve seen. Peace and love to all on this post.

  17. Wow. My name is Bernie and I starting working there in 1980; coatcheck then waiter, I went on to bartend and teh Last Resort…every guy mentioned here including The Douche were friends of mine. I also loved reading everyone’s comments. Jesus, DOn the Doorman? haha and that crazy man living upstairs used to give me the hardest time. John, although he was conservative was actually a sweet and shy guy. Skip was a doll RIP to all of them.

  18. Greetings! These posts certainly brought back some wonderful memories. I used to hang-out at the “Circle” from 1984 to 1990 (mostly in 1986). In 1986 I was 21-years-old, and I must say that I had a blast at the “Circle”. Everyone thought I was a hustler. Anyway, does anyone know whatever happened to Tree, Skip and that blond whom I believe was a hustler (I think his name was Bobby?). He would always be playing pool.

    1. Tree went to prison for a while and was tending bar at Julius for a while after his release and then disappeared after a year or so. Skip fell victim to the virus before the 90’s arrived and Bobby simply drifted and vanished.

      1. Didn’t Russell work at Julius for a while? If it’s the same one, I had a crush on him but he had a girlfriend named Julie. They spent a good bit of time up in Buffalo with her family. Tree was super nice to me, I never paid for a drink when he was working…just for the record, I knew better than to climb that one. Anyone remember Erik Harden from Julius? He and I lived together for a brief time before I left the city.

        1. I was always in love with Eric and he knew it and used to tease me all the time and I cried when I heard he passed and still am sad to think of it

      2. Tree also tended at Sneakers on West Street and last I hear he was at Stonewall. He’s be pushing past 80 now. Bobby Goodman from downstairs I had no idea what happened to him or Kevin who he hung out with. I always wondered what happened to Randy the southern upstairs cocktail waiter from the every early 80’s and my number 1 crush Craig the curly headed blond bartender who worked upstairs on weekend nights

        1. Anyone know what became of Jim Stott who worked upstairs-the 12-8 shift? He was also southern-from Tennessee, tall and blonde, funny and kind. Jim’s crew. My memories are not sexual-for me it was a refuge as a young woman during a very difficult time in my young life. Thank you all for adopting me SFH 1979 Barbara Jane

  19. Wasn’t there a sign outside thatsaid Diana Ross made her first New York appearance there? And that is where Serpico had an early meeting when he went undercover?

  20. I went to the Lib, a mostly lesbian bar on the East Side, with my best friend and room mate, Judy Barnett (later a famous New York cabaret singer) probably in 1972. I picked up a gay there who told me the next morning that I was a “9th Circle type,” which in my case meant young and pretty, and preppie, though the clientele was much, much broader than that. I went there the next night and never left for most of the rest of the decade. It was, without a doubt, the greatest gay pick up bar Manhattan had ever seen (and the actual year it closed was 1993.)
    By 1974, I was a reporter for the New York Times, spending virtually all of my waking hours on West 43rd or West 10th St.
    The most important person to befriend at the Circle was Stormy, the fastest and greatest bartender I have ever known, who made matches among the customers between gin and tonics poured at the speed of light. Eventually, he became John Koch’s lover as well as his partner behind the bar. My group included Barry and Jack and Chuck Gibson, a beautiful blond boy from Kentucky. Does anyone know where Chuck is? I lost track of him at the end of the 90’s; I would give a lot to find him again.
    After Stormy, the best bartender (and the best looking, by far) was Bill Carey, who still practices his exquisite craft today down the street at Julius–the only gay bar around to have lasted even longer than he has!
    EVERYONE went to the Circle–from Andy Warhol (usually for about 4 minutes) to William Burroughs (who would stay all night.) For many of us, during the first decade and a half after Stonewall, it was our church: we worshiped there (in a strictly pagan fashion), often, every night, and it taught us everything we needed to know about being gay. I met my husband, Joe Stouter there, the first night he ever walked into a gay bar, on a steamy July night in 1978. “Do you want to smoke a joint?” Every pick up for me began that way, lighting up in the back garden, where most illicit substances known to man were usually available, until the Soho Weekly News had the best taste to write about the line of customers at the dealer’s table. Last year, Joe and I finally got married.
    As the AIDS epidemic took hold, the Circle became more and more of a hustler bar. Then there was the coke bust which netted two of the bartenders. The bartenders had been suspicious of these two customers being undercover cops–but they decided they couldn’t be after they started sucking face at the bar. They had underestimated their devotion to the job.
    The most astonishing fact about the place was the rent the owner paid: $600 a month for an entire West Village townhouse.

    Here is what I wrote about the place in The Gay Metropolis, my history of gay life since 1940:

    Some Greenwich Village saloon owners decided to catch the wave of the new revolution by changing the nature of their businesses. The Ninth Circle, which occupied the bottom two floors of a row house at 139 West loth Street, had been a very successful steak house in the sixties with a slightly bohemian and overwhelmingly heterosexual clientele. In its heyday, waiters there made as much as $15o a night, a huge sum in that period. It was just a couple of blocks north of the Stonewall Inn, but the Circle was “totally straight” and “totally antigay.” John Koch started there as a dishwasher but quickly worked his way up to bar manager. “They used to get on the microphone, and say, `If you’re gay go away,’ Koch recalled. “Everybody would laugh. I don’t know if it was meant seriously or what.” The rent was a bargain: the restaurant owner, Bobby Krivit, who was a veteran of the carnival business on the Jersey Shore, leased the entire building for $60o a month. But by the end of 1971, business had dropped off sharply, and Krivit decided to go in a new direction. His partner had already left him to found Max’s Kansas City, a famous East Village watering hole.
    In January 1972 Krivit told Koch he wanted the Ninth Circle to become a gay bar. At the time, Koch wasn’t sure whether Krivit, who was straight, knew that Koch was gay. The owner asked Koch if he could hire a whole new staff within two weeks, and his manager told him he thought he could. Koch believed this was the first straight establishment in Greenwich Village to “go gay” overnight in the seventies. The old staff was fired, and the bar bought an ad in Michael’s Thing, a guide to New York nightlife, to announce the makeover. The response was instantaneous-and “overwhelming.” The owner hedged his bets a bit by keeping the restaurant going for a while on the lower floor after he converted the upstairs into a gay bar. This transition caused a certain amount of amusement because the men’s room was downstairs, forcing gay bar-goers to walk through the straight restaurant to relieve themselves. But within a few weeks the gay part of the business had taken over the whole place. However, the big black and white sign outside announcing the “Ninth Circle Steakhouse” remained unaltered; no one saw any need to change it. Within a month, it was the hottest gay bar in Manhattan, a distinction it retained for most of the decade. Practically every night of the week, both floors were jammed from wall to wall with beautiful young men, eager to sample the spoils of the Stonewall revolution. “It was like a victory for gay people or something,” said Koch. “They conquered this straight bastion. We really weren’t ready for it. And it just went up and up and up from that.” There were two separate bars, a long one upstairs with a row of low tables in front of it, and a smaller one below, with a dance floor and a pool table. Everyone from Andy Warhol to Harvey Fierstein was an occasional customer. An autographed poster of Janis Joplin next to the front door nurtured the myth that the singer had once been a customer.
    The garden in the back provided a third place to sit on languid summer evenings, and patrons lined up at the same table every night to purchase their drug of choice. Nearly everyone smoked joints outdoors, and no one bothered to be discreet about it. When Koch suggested to the owner that such flagrant commerce in illicit substances might be imprudent, Krivit was always dismissive. “You don’t understand this younger generation,” the owner would say. “It’s good for business.” Koch never witnessed any payoffs, but he was certain there were “Christmas gifts” for the local precinct, and he believed the owner had “big dealings” with police headquarters. “That cost him some money. He’d make a pretty big contribution there, which protected him all the way down.” Everyone remembered Stormy the bartender, whose real name was Norman Sabine. He had walked into the bar for an interview in 1974, and Koch was immediately beguiled by him; he started work that same night. Eventually, Koch broke his own rule against sleeping with a staff member and became Stormy’s lover after the bartender seduced him on Fire Island. Stormy was the fastest bartender most customers had ever seen, serving drinks with amazing speed-and making matches among his customers between almost every two pours. From where the customer stood, Stormy always looked utterly smooth. But he benefited from the camouflage provided by a dark bar, which hid his shortcuts; after washing a glass, he never bothered to dry his hands. As a result, “When we’d take his drawer out at the end of the night it would be half full of water,” said Koch. “All the money was soaking wet. And when he came home from the bar, he was literally soaked from the waist down. He was the messiest bartender I ever knew in my life. But he got it done.” Eventually Stormy and Koch worked behind the bar together on Wednesdays and Thursdays. “We made so much. We used to take the money home and we would just throw it in a dresser drawer. And it used to be such a pain in the ass, like once a month, to count that damned money. We hated counting that damned money! We’d always argue about it: `It’s your turn to count the money. I’m not counting it!”‘ Naturally the owner was delighted with his booming new business, but success was not without its consequences. “He ended up going to a psychiatrist over this,” said Koch. “Bobby was so freaked out that his friends were going to think that he had turned gay.” According to others, Krivit also spent all of his profits on drugs, gambling and girlfriends.
    Krivit died in 1990, and the bar finally closed in 1993.

    Charles Kaiser. The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America (Kindle Location 3497). Kindle Edition.

    1. I have a copy of the original NinthCircle Steak House menu plus Bobby’s young son having fun behind the bar..and a great pic of Bobby enjoying our 1st 9th Circle boat ride displayed prominently in my home.. Bobby & Micky we’re school friends from Jersey City and wanted to open a rest. & bar when because of a NYC bar scandal paid just just under legit. 3 grand for an 18 yr.license. Opened the steak house 1st downstairs…about 6 weeks later got a liquor license. The Village Voice gave the steak house a great revue and it became a big hit almost immmediately. Bobby bought Micky’s share of the business and the historic brownstone bldg. lease and the bar, an off beat straight bar for about 10 yrs.till when business slacked off somewhat and Bobby made it gay almost overnight as history has attested to.Great memories of the earlier steakhouse & straight bar days. Harriet Krivit

      1. P.S. The Ninth Circle was a west village hangout called The College Of Complexes before Bobby & Micky bought it around 1960.

    2. Bobby also spent his money and time with his family who loved and enjoyed him till he passed away.

  21. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.That place became alive again for me as I read this. This article had me thinking of the young men I had known and with whom I had shared wonderful times then. Re: Chuck .. I have one lead on which I have to follow. I will update you with whatever I find out.

      1. Neil was one of the very early casualties….He moved back home to Mineola for his mom to take care of him. I miss him still….we were great friends and used to go on wonderful vacations together, Canada, Cape Cod…a gay “house” in Puerto Rico…very honest and heroic. once he was on his way to Criscos and saw a guy robbing the cars of the people in the club and he chased for blocks…crazy, but brave. very sarcastic whit, but the best friend I ever had. Also introduced me to the love of my life, Kitchen Tom i think he was called in the Circle. We didn’t meet there, he dealt upstairs in the garden and hustled. Neil introduced us in the Anvil at 7am on Valentines Day 1984….We were together for almost 20 years until he died of AIDS, almost 20 years ago. I’m still a member of his family….

  22. My home away from home in the 70s when I lived at 95 Christopher. Used to hang out in the back smoking 🙂 area/tent, or was playing pinball with Stephen Kent or sometimes downstairs with Freddie Tree.

    1. Actually it didn’t close until 93 or 94. I hung out there in 92. I still remember many of the cds that were in the jukebox at the time, Madonna’s Erotica and Roxy Music were my favorites. Not sure when good service stopped but it was definitely before 92. I probably never would have gone there had my friend Sergio not insisted on hitting every bar in the village one night…or at these the ones he knew a16 year old could walk in with no issues.

          1. There seems to be general agreement it closed in the early 1990’s. Perhaps you could change that part about closing in 2002 in the introduction to this site? But much more importantly, Will – thanks for this site!!

        1. From what I was told, by several people that had gone there for years was they served food at one time. I’m not sure how true it was but the layout seemed believable to me. Unless someone else started up the place after 1990, I swear to you I was in 1992. I remember the sign outside. The stairs leading to the front door, which I slipped and smacked my head on the first time I’d ever been in snow. I also remember the pictures on the walls including ones of Bardot and Joplin. I also remember in the dark little alcove were there was a little sitting area next to the stairs leading downstairs had a framed photograph of the group KISS. I usually only came in on the nights that Sonny Oz, my favorite bartender, was working downstairs. After I left NYC in 1993, my friend Al Messia told me the Circle was converted to a restaurant.

  23. I met Neil in78 was my best friend. Craig are you the one that lived with Neil in east village. I stayed there a lot when hm FM merchant marines. Remember kitchen tom. We fell in love in 84 and were together for 20years. He died of aids in 2002 Neil in 85. Always hung downstairs. Remember vinny and bill and bruceshhhhh. Loved that place. I lived in village fm 78 to 81 and the circle w’s my home. Best jukebox…blondie removes pistols…… those were the days……

    1. Tim I was Tree’s weekend downstairs waiter Billy he called me “Fingers” Hung with Bobby Goodman, and Kevin, I knew Neil and was so in love with Craig the blond (he was a bartender upstairs originally from the Midwest.)

      1. Hi Billy what years did you work as Trees waiter. I hung out there daily from 78 thru 80 then I visited quite often after that after I became a merchant marine. Was Craig very close to john Koch if so that’s the same Craig I’m thinking of. Funny but I never hung out upstairs. I was a regular downstairs but I didn’t meet all the staff until Neil became my friend as he was much more sociable.were you collegiant looking. I remember a Billy who I thought bartended upstairs and then went to Julius’.

        1. No I hung out there in 78, 79, Worked downstairs and upstairs the same time Randy (whatever happened to him?) and Sonny worked as cocktail waiters, but mostly worked downstairs on weekends with Tree and Micheal McGuire. I gave backrubs so Tree called me fingers. Craig had curly blond hair right? Jerry lusted for him i think (So did I. Was ,my first major crush I was only 18 – 20 (Grandfathered in on drinking) Neil was an awesome guy. I was devastated when I heard.

  24. Neil was the most honest person I knew. I fronted the money when he went into “business” and then went overseas for a year. He made deposits in my bank until it was all paid. I must know you as I remember Tree always getting backrub. Before Neil came I hung out with the jersey gang, vinny bill Bruce and played pool all the time. Did you know little Al? You didn’t know tom. He was called kitchen tom for giving bjs in kitchen and he also dealt on back porch. We never met in circle, Neil knew him and introduced us at the anvil…… yes Craig had Curley blonde hair. Neil used to mail me cassettes of craigs great punk music collection…..

    1. Yeah we definitely know each other. Remember Jack the telephone guy who used to play DigDug? I always used to battle him on the game and we’d fight for high score. i remember little Osacr. I was so in love with Craig.

    2. sorry, i lost this page for a bunch of years, am back on now. I live down near Toms River Nj now….geesh New Jersey….ha. When I was visiting Neil after I moved from the Village, I’d stay at his place when he roomed with Craig. Craig was gorgeous, but was different from us. He was very smart though, I remember hearing he bought a brownstone in Hoboken years ago thats probably a fortune now. What I’d give to be young and hanging at the Circle again…..greatest Jukebox….great times

  25. I enjoyed reading all the posts about my former stomping grounds. I couldn’t help but notice Jim Hlavac’s posts. Jim: I remember you. In fact, I had a crush on you back in ’88-’89, but I was always shy to approach you. In 1988, I lived in Astoria, Queens and I remember seeing you walking out of Chauncey’s bar on Broadway; and I later discovered that you had a partner with whom you lived. I can’t remember his name, although, he was overweight with black hair, and I remember seeing him snorting coke in the Ninth Circle bathroom and speaking a foreign language. At the time, I was actively bisexual and dating a girl, but also messing with a guy (nothing serious though). It was comforting to know that the Ninth Circle was welcoming to bisexuals. I had many wild nights in “the circle” throughout the 80s, and met some interesting people with whom I’d love to reconnect. In my mid-twenties, I joined the Marine Corps and was shipped off to San Diego, CA for basic training, and then deployed overseas. In 1994, while back in the States, I went back to “the circle” only to discover that it had become a restaurant. I was anticipating having some fun once again in “the circle”. Thanks for the great memories! I’m now 51-years-old and living in San Diego, CA with my 23-year-old twin sons, Derek and Travis.

  26. I was a bartender at the Ninth Circle sometime in the early 90’s. John Koch hired me. This was after Kravits died and his son took the place over. I remember the facelift included a bunch of large murals by Martine (wow, would I love to know what happened to them). I met some of the most fascinating men of my life working the part of the upstairs bar John Koch referred to as ‘the branch’ (so called because all of the ‘old vultures’ would perch there and nurse their drinks). Lenny was the doorman. I worked with a guy named Joe that everyone was in love with. I believe another door person was Aaron…also a beauty. And then of course there were the unforgettable patrons: Tommy DiMastri, Mitch, ‘Dog’, ‘Bleecker’ Mike, Ian Can’t-remember-his-last-name (a witty, extremely intelligent, British sociologist) and at least a dozen others whose names I can’t remember, but who still left a lasting impression on my heart as warm, intelligent, funny, gifted and unique. There were a LOT of underage hustles that frequented the bar. One of them used to press himself close to the bar and allow the patrons to feel his cock unseen for what…a drink…a few bucks? I don’t know. Don’t remember his name. When I came to the Ninth Circle it was a mere hiccup of what it had been. There were left over denizens of yesteryear, but for the most part we were only drink sales and memories. Can’t remember who worked the downstairs bar…believe it was Skip, but can’t remember. Very grateful for the job and the memories. I have a picture of myself painted blue for one of the Halloween parties there. If I can dig it up, I’ll post it.

  27. I have fond memories of the Circle. I went there between 1979 and 1985. I remember Sonny, Tree, and Billy Kohler. My friend Donna and I would go there for me and go to Paula’s on Greenwich for her. Tree would refer to us as “Jersey”. They were great times. They had excellent songs on the jukebox. I remember once I started dancing to “Let the Music Play” and Sonny said I couldn’t dance because they didn’t have a caberet license – then he started dancing with me.

  28. I had a Crush both on Jerry the upstairs bartender and Stormy (think his name was Norman) I loved this place so much, I grew up there, I miss so many people from there…………

  29. Holy Shit – i used to go there after Rocky Horror with the gang back in 83
    I was 15 and a runaway but found a home there
    I will never forget walking by the bar to look inside as a young gay runaway The was a pre-op trans woman sitting at the end of the bar with a friend and i just stood there wanting so badly to understand myself and belong – she turned and looked at me standing there and said “Oh- come here baby welcome home.”
    I get emotional every time i think about that. she knew exactly who i was and why i was standing there and the people in there took me under their wing.
    There was so much culture and generational story telling, there was a community there.
    It was the best thing that could have happened to me
    wow – complete awesomesauce
    i just looked 9th circle up as a hunch

  30. I remember it well in the late 1970’s as just a neighborhood gay bar with an outdoor patio in the back and dance floor downstairs. In the early 1990’s, it became the “Caffé Torino” ,a very popular gay Italian restaurant. It served very good food at affordable prices ! Enzo was the waiter and was from Naples, Italy and very nice. That place lasted several years and they succumbed to crazy high rent increases and closed down around 2009.

  31. The 9th Circle was my go-to drinking/getting laid bar in the 80’s. I was always quiet, but i managed to make some lasting friendships there. I met my partner there in 1981 – he asked me for a light by the jukebox, and we’re still here 34 years later. During our off-periods, I had a very dysfunctional but loving relationship with Bruce C., who Tree always called “Soup.” We had a few legendary brawls right there. but I loved him and remember him only. We were close until he died in early 1992.

    I enjoyed reading everyone’s reminiscences of Tree (loved boys and back rubs), Sonny (always horny, but very sweet), Craig (Billy Bud!), and even Jerry (consensus is correct: douche).

    Thanks for putting this up.

  32. Wow, this brought back some memories. I worked as a waiter there twice. Once before Bobby died 1989-1990, and once after for a time in 1992. I remember Bobby interviewing me and being scared to death of him. He only hired me because I lived near Toms River, where he was from. I wish I could remember everyone from that time, Tree, Jerry, Sonny, Brian the bouncer, etc..But I was pretty well high the entire time I worked there. ;-P. Some memories do come to ming though, like having to run outside to close the windows on Bobby’s sweet little Benz when it started to rain, Someone throwing a bottle through the window the night of the Rodney King Riots. I think i still have some scars from that devil cat that used to sleep on the empty beer cans on the jukebox. I still have some pictures of some of the people I worked with in ’92 that were taken inside the bar, if anyone is interested I’d be happy to share them.

  33. So glad I found this tread and story. Like many of you the 9th Circle was my first gay bar in 1985. I have so may great memories and reading all this opened the flood gates. My best friend Mike and I hung out there regally until 1990 but I always stopped in whenever int eh area after that. Tree was the best! Always looked out for us and still keep up with him on FB. Garrett was our buddy and took good care of us. Brian (the doorman) was kinda the first guy I dated, didn’t last along but played a big part of my coming out and we both lived on Staten Island and remained friends for a few years but then lost touch within. Any one know his whereabouts?
    I had to laugh as I read many of you saying you were mistaken for hustlers because you hung to there. Same thing happened to me and followed me all the way to Charlies West in NJ. Rumors spread quickly that my friends and I were hustlers from NYC because people had seen us there. Oh, the good ole days. I wish I had charged looking back now lol.
    This was a great trip down memory lane and the 9th Circle for me plays an important part in my history. Thanks for putting this out there.

  34. My first boyfriend took me to the 9th Circle around 82 and because of the sign out front I stupidly tried to order a steak. Sonny flicked one of those long BBQ lighters at me and said “Honey, we only serve one kind of meat here.” I used to come back all the time after me and the boyfriend broke up and play the pinball machine in the back. The little bathroom downstairs always had funky graffiti and I would copy it into my journal. Someone wrote “Butt Fuck Babies to Death For Satan” on the wall and under that it said “Ask Tree For His No.1 Acid”. I have a picture from 1987 of me and some friends sitting under the 000000009 painting in the back but I can’t figure out how to upload it with this post. Anyway it’s great reading everyone’s recollections and I look forward to reading anyone who publishes a memoir of that very special place.

  35. Great memories! I was introduced to “the circle” in 1983 while I was a high school senior living in Alpine,NJ. My introduction to “the circle” was quite odd, to say the least. During my turbulent teen years of smoking pot, drinking on the sneak, listening to Pink Floyd and The Who and experimenting with rebellion, I was becoming eager to explore my sexual orientation which I could no longer deny to myself, but kept quiet from others. In December 1982 I got busted for a small amount of marijuana possession in the parking lot of my high school, and court-mandated to perform forty hours of community service at a mental hospital. While volunteering at this facility, a 27-year old male patient would often mention the Ninth Circle during his moments of clarity. He would often express that “the circle” was his hangout prior to his commitment, as he shared the happier times of his life with me. At this point, I became curious to know more about this place. Hmmm…a mostly young crowd of guys with a great jukebox, pool table, and a patio to boot! I got the Ninth Circle address from the Manhattan phone directory and public transit directions from the MTA. Clad in my blue denim jacket with Pink Floyd painted on the back, shoulder-length hair slicked back, and my Marlboros, I was a kid on a mission on that early Friday evening. As I finally approached my destination, I chickened out as I got closer to the entrance, and couldn’t bring myself onto that first concrete step. I was hoping to find a back door, but to no avail. After circling the block a few times, I finally got the balls to walk in behind a group of three guys, so it would appear I was with them. Once I got in, I ordered a beer (a can of Bud for $2.00). After a few beers, I ventured downstairs to relieve myself and struck up a conversation with Tree, who commented that I was cute. I finally found my second home! I came home and emptied my pockets of single dollar bills, loose change, phone numbers, and lint as I decided to revisit “the circle” the following Friday. I recall many good times at “the circle”, and yes, I was the one who constantly played Rod Stewart and Creedance Clearwater Revival on the jukebox. I must have frequented “the circle” 150 times from ’83 to ’90. I met some interesting characters in there as well as some decent down-to-earth guys. Unfortunately, I lost contact with everyone I knew from “the circle” due to a few relocations, but haven’t lost the great memories!

    P.S. Does anyone know the whereabouts of Stephen Z. from Cliffside Park, NJ, Michael Higgins from Brooklyn, NY, Roy P. from Carlstadt, NJ, Chip B. from Ridgewood, NY, and little Billy the hustler?

  36. I knew freddy tree before he worked@ the circle. We always had a crazy time @ his house! Been out west since 1977, butt had the craziest Times/drugs/tricks/being high. Butt the stonewall was the best! Except for the trucks! Dd i miss it? Sometimes. Jimmy browns

  37. I was there in 1979. Brings back some great and not so great memories. Jim Stott? The upstairs bartender?Joe. Always had a toothpick in his mouth? Bobbie-oh well. Tree is the only one I’ve been able to find. “Just follow Barbara, boys.” Michael and P.; Greg,……………….SFH 1979 aka Barbara

    1. Will, for some reason I missed this post! I more or less lived on weekends in the back garden section for most of the 80s. I was usually writing my poems, smoking, & hustling. I used a cane after 1985 and Forrest Tree Branch was a long time friend of mine from Blue’s and elsewhere. I still have some 9th Circle matchbooks! I had a t-shirt, but gave it to the Center Archives. It was, after Julius, perhaps one of the few ‘real’ neighborhood bars which just happened to be gay. It was certainly more of a gathering place than any other bar in Manhattan. And I still miss that cat as it seemed to hate everyone, but would lie on the table bet to me as I wrote.

  38. I still have the Jacket and the t shirt. I remember Don the doorman/bouncer. I remember Billy, Dennis. Jim O R., John Koch, Sonny and the great waiters.Krivett was OK. Gruff exterior but a good heart.B

  39. To Street Editions: I don’t think The Ninth Circle “just happened to be gay. It was originally a straight bar owned by M. Ruskin. By the time Krivett bought it, the demographics of the neighborhood were changing. It went gay overnight. At least that’s what Krivett told me.

    Julius’ is, and alway was a gay bar I think.Fred……..Trevor Boteler………………….

    1. Julius was infamous in the early 60s for not serving obviously ‘queer’ persons until the Mattachine sit-in/drink-in. My phrasing was meant to be jocular in that The 9th Circle was more a neighborhood bar even if the neighborhood was Manhattan or the East Coast!
      As for Fred Lutz,the original owner of Julius who lived upstairs, he was a very internalized homophobic asshole,imho. When he died in the mid 90s (?) and his son, Fred Jr.,took over; Julius had been gay since Stonewall. As I remember, it was the people from Sheridan Square and then Julius which swelled the crowd in front of the Stonewall that first night and gave added impetus to those already confronting the police.

      1. I know. Lutz was a creep.I have memories that are so awful-I’ve never forgotten them. He was a voyeur. A letch. A sadist. And you’re correct. The early Julius’ was alot like Fire Island Pines where I spent summers as a child. Nobody was supposed to be obviously gay. Of course everything Lutz touched was trashy-the Pines wasn’t.B.

  40. I’m glad I stumbled upon this article; it brought back some fond memories. I moved to NYC after high school, and Ninth Circle was a favorite haunt where I had many a fun night with friends. One of the best things about it was the jukebox. It had everything from Mary K. Place’s “Baby Boy” to The Tubes’ “Don’t Touch Me There.” I also remember a friend getting her hat stuck on the antlers of the deer (?) head on the wall. The late 70s and early 80s were the best in the city; it was wonderful to be a part of it. It’s hard to see so many of the places I used to hang out at have disappeared and know that draft beer will never be fifty cents again.

  41. I am sneaking in as a patron of Julius’ when Fred owned it, as someone who wrote poetry there, but is now working on the portraits of artist Larry Stanton larrystanton.net who frequented the Ninth Circle, and whose studio was in the basement next door (east). You can check out my work: takedownportraits.blogspot.com about Brad Gooch, Howard Brookner, and Tim Dlugos, all of whom drank there as regulars.

  42. I’m having a great time reading all this info on post 60’s Ninth Circle. I’ve only heard about it’s previous life from my husband who was a short order cook there in 1967/1968. He had come to the States from France and spoke just a little English, but for him the Ninth Circle was an incredible experience. I have several photos from this time and we still have a Ninth circle t-shirt that he had then;
    If any of you knew and frequented the Circle at that time, I’m sure my husband would love to hear from you. He is actually at this present moment in New York and walking in front of the place where it used to be.

  43. Was there in the summer of 73, and still fond memories of my discovery of NY, as a very young French gay tourist. Used to go everyday for a month.

  44. This blog sure brought back some memories ! The Circle was my coming out bar, in the summer of “88”.
    I met Jerry first, and he gave me a couple of shifts as a cocktail waiter to help me out. (I was between jobs) He then referred me to Julius’, where I was hired by Robert Embry as a cook, to replace his roommate Bobby, who had gotten sick.
    The Ninth Circle then became my home away from home. There was Charlie, Jerry, Tree, Skip, Brian the Doorman, and Joey the Cocktail Waiter. At that time, John Koch and the now infamous “Craig”, were still tending bar at Julius’. Also “Miss” Pauly, Ken “Doll”, “Moose” (Dennis), and of course Fred Lutz. Let s not forget; Mickey, the straight daytime Bartender, who tended to Julius’ heavy hitting-early morning, Senior Citizen crowd ! I know this is a Ninth Circle discussion, but for me, (and I suspect many others) the Circle and Julius’ were synonymous; the proverbial (and literal) “stone throws away” from one and other.
    Anyway, I spent my nights (after work) running back and forth between the Circle and Julius’. Unfortunately for me, I drank quite a bit, and dabbled in other “party favors”. So, the “glory days” only lasted a short time, before my “erratic” behavior got me fired from Julius’, and banned from the Circle. (Believe me, I deserved it !)
    It was 1990, as stated, that the Ninth Circle closed. I do not remember the exact date, but will never forget the last night. (It was a Friday) I had talked Jerry into allowing me back in as a customer a few nights before. However when I returned, “that night”, John Koch, having moved from Julius’ to the Circle by then said; “not on my watch” ! So, tail between my legs, I headed across town to see friends at the Bar; South Dakota. A few hours later, we received word (through the grapevine) that the Ninth Circle had been raided, and that many arrests had been made. (including the entire staff) They never opened the doors again !
    The prevailing RUMOR was that; after Bobby Krivitz died, the bribes were no longer being paid to the powers that be. So, in the next few months, the police made several undercover purchases of the afore mentioned “party favors”, (mostly from Circle Staff) and then the raid. Who knows; Who cares !
    I will always have fond memories of the Ninth Circle, Julius’, the respective staffs, and Patrons of both. I live in New Orleans now, (since 1995) and have settled into a very quiet lifestyle that does NOT include “party favors”. Even so, I don’t believe I’ve ever been anywhere else where I felt a greater sense of belonging.
    In closing, I wouldn’t mind some friendly conversation with the old crowd. Feel free to call; (504) 758-2399. Hope to hear from ya !

  45. The raid at the Ninth Circle was on October 5, 1990 according to the Daily News archives. I remember nursing a nasty hangover on October 6, 1990 when I was awakened by a phone call at 1 p.m. informing me of the raid the evening prior. I was in total disbelief! The “circle” remained open until 1992, and from 1990 to 1992 it just wasn’t the same Ninth Circle.

    1. Thanks for the history lesson Robert. I honestly didn t know that they continued to operate for 2 more years after the raid.

  46. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I have such fond memories of the Ninth Circle. At 17-years-old while living in Morris County, NJ I was introduced to the Greenwich Village and this establishment by a bisexual friend. This was my first adventure into the Village as well as my first exposure to the gay club scene. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for a naive closeted teen. The year was 1984, as my friend and I ventured into NYC to scope out the scene at the Ninth Circle. Trying to secure parking was more time consuming than the trip from Jersey. Eventually, we reached out destination and entered the bar. As I followed my friend downstairs I recall meeting Tree for the first time as I sat at the corner of the bar chain-smoking my Winstons and chugging down some suds. I also recall saying to myself that this place is awesome, I gotta come back! I considered it to be a safe place with like-minded young guys as myself. I finally found a place that gave me affirmation that it was okay to be me, since I struggled with my orientation once I became self-aware at 13-years-old (having been raised in a strict Methodist household certainly didn’t ease things). The Ninth Circle was my safe haven for the next four years and those four years provided good friendships and lots of laughter. One of the most memorable nights at the “circle” was when I had one-too-many drinks (circa 1987) while downstairs on a busy Friday night. I started peeling off my shirt while playing pool. I lost the pool game and accused my opponent of bending the rules. Things got a little heated as I dropped my pants to expose my bare ass and yelled out – kiss my ass! There was so much laughter, but I don’t think Tree was too pleased. Oh! my youthful years!

  47. I first entered at 13, returned at 15. I havnt seen mention of Ossa. Garrett and Jimmy worked together, and, yea, Jimmy talarico ( sonny ) went home with . F.E. Tree. Nothing happened, oh yes this was the time of kelvin or calvin down stairs and tree and Don on the door. Captain Fantastic pinball. Marta Ballducci in coat room. I m / was Ducky. I be got at least 15 yrs of memories. Would drive Bobby to A.C. in his 60s silver convertible Mercedes without a liscence. Love Ducky

      1. Thanks for kind reply Duck Tails or Ducky how ever they called You.
        i remember is that one night You thought i was out to Rob You lol
        You said i looked desperate heeee that was funny ill never forget that,
        Who knows what was on my mind that night i don’t even have a clue

        yea that place was a 2nd home to me and most of us to think about it 🙂

      1. i do not know how i am receiving email from this site. i came into “the scene” after stonewall, and heard about it from thery now and then rollerina and more often the tricks at uncle charlies of marsha p. johnson,

    1. Hiya Barry and Jack, just saw this again and didn t realize they took my alias away so when I replied it came as Gary, not Ducky, so,, buttons

  48. Ok, I wish someone here had memories of the Ninth Circle pre-gay-bar years in the 60’s. I was living on W. 10th and 19 in 1966 – studied at American Ballet Center on the corner of 10th & 6th Ave. and also had a full time job. Female, straight and young. We LOVED the Ninth Circle and saw lots of super stars of the day there — what fun. My roomie and I were fairly poor and could only afford a couple of beers and a burger but they had the BEST hamburgers ever — served on dark pumpernickel bread with a huge slice of red onion. I grew up in the south where most of us ordered our burgers “all the way” — mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, etc. etc…. so this was new to me but till this day, I still make a hamburger every so often with dark pumpernickel bread, red onion and ketchup only. OMG, the memories of that place. One especially memorable evening when we were there, it was a fairly quiet night with not too many people and there, at the bar, stood Lee Marvin in all his glory….puffing on a stogie and throwing down “whatever”…. I can’t remember. Those were The Dirty Dozen days and he was at his pinnacle. We were way too timid to go say hello but we waited until he left and went and took the butt of his stogie out of the ashtray. Kept it for a long time for some strange reason…. now I say “yuk”…. but you know, youth and all that. I do wish there were someone out there that remembers the 60’s at The Ninth Circle — those were such fun years !

    1. Hi Pat, I went to the Ninth Circle from ’63 to ’65.. Initially I dated a guy who took me there and then I liked it so much I started going there alone. I was 18 which was the legal drinking age in NY. The bar was not a gay bar at that time but it had a great mix of artists and musicians. I was friends with Blossom Dearie. Tiny Tim used to stop by all the time and the regular crowd included artist Neil Williams and other artists that my (now) 72-year-old brain can not remember. I started going out with the bar tender–Bob Shoup–who was know as “Shoupie”. I would love to know if anyone remembers him.His nickname for me was “Lolita”. I also had a few dates with bassist Ron Carter who I met at jazz club and had good times at the Circle. I remember the peanuts. One night while sitting at the bar I lost one of my favorite earrings. I waited until closing time and this really great guy who cleaned up the place each night actually found it in the mounds of peanut shells. I remember this juke-box contraption that played little movies with each pop song. It was prelude to videos ’cause this was only 1963. It played early Beatles songs and stuff like that. The bleu-cheese burgers were the best on dark bread with the onion. When Shoupie was tending bar my scotch and waters were free. I remember the big mirror behind the bar and we did eat a few times downstairs. I was friends with a girl who worked at a nearby fabric shop but I can’t remember her name. I remember staying at her apt. one night and she had a huge tub in her kitchen made out of unfinished (rough) concrete and a large cover that pulled down over it to use for a table. Village apartments could be very strange back then. Glad to know someone who remembers those days.

  49. This is apropos of nothing, but I remember being fascinated — as a wide-eyed 14-year-old — when I saw an ad for The Ninth Circle in a Fillmore East program in late 1968. I thought that black-and-white logo was just about the coolest thing I had ever seen — and that was after walking out of a Jefferson Airplane/Buddy Guy show.

    1. Hi Pat
      Just landed on the sight about the Ninth Circle.
      The Circle was one of the hippest places in town.
      I have many wonderful memories.
      I was a regular back in 1962 and 1963 with many visits through 1965. In 1962 the Circle was just gaining ground by word of mouth.

      I was raised in the NJ suburbs about 45 minutes outside of Manhattan. When 15 I had a drum teacher that was a jazz drummer. He turned me on to many NYC jazz clubs and musicians. I began venturing into the city during my early teens and eventually discovered the Village.
      That was back in the Beatnik period before the Hippie scene.

      In the fall of 1962 at 18 years old I was a freshman at Mannes College of Music
      (hated it). Back then Mannes was located on the Upper East Side.

      Yes, those hamburgers were the best! Russian black bread, raw onion and ketchup. The cook was named Sam. I believe he was from Jamaica. The kitchen was in the lower level of the Circle. At that early time of the Circle’s existence the basement section wasn’t used for much for anything. The bartender’s name was Dick. He had a good following and brought many of the initial regulars to the recently opened Ninth Circle.
      I believe he previously was the bartender at the Kettle of Fish on McDougle St. or the Kiwi on Houston St. There was a cool bar waiter nicknamed Snooker. He was probably in his very early 20s. I remember that he had a beautiful girlfriend that would drop by to see him almost every night and they would always exchange hugs and kisses.
      One night a fight broke out at booth on the other side of the bar and within seconds
      Dick – holding a club – jumped over the bar and promptly put an end to the scuffle in no time.

      I also remember that when you entered the Ninth Circle there was a big barrel filled with peanuts. There were wooden bowels for the customers. The peanuts were free and you could have all you wanted. At closing time the floor was covered with the shells.

      Musicians would frequent the Circle:
      Bassist Charlie Mingus, pianist composer Freddie Redd who wrote the music to accompany The Connection, a play by Jack Gelber. Freddie would stop by after his performance at the theater. One night I sat in a booth with Jazz pianist and vocalist Blossom Dearie. Was invited to a late night/early morning party at her apartment but like a dope I opted to hang back at the Circle and continue downing beers. There was so much happening in the city. Great jazz musicians at every club.

      The Circle’s juke box was stuffed with great jazz: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, King Pleasure singing Red Top, Miles and Monk. There was a nice recording of Green Sleeves by co-owner Bobby Krivitz’s wife
      Harriet. Bobby’s partner Micky Ruskin was a nice cat. We referred to him as the sophisticated beatnik.

      So much was REAL! Beatniks, painters, hipsters, musicians, poets, dancers, writers, actors and so many terrific true individuals.
      Things arose naturally, authentic subcultures and were there to discover. No facsimiles or reenactments just the real deal.

      Sure, there were some LGB customers that came to the Circle. It was considered cool and hip to show tolerance and be inclusive. We were all grappling for something different. Many of us did not want any part of the square conformist society with all of it’s trappings along with the petty small opinions and prejudices.
      The pressures to conform were stifling and unbearable.

      Hey Pat, I have really been enjoying sharing these memories. Are you still involved with dance? I still play the drums. Primarily a jazz drummer. Also have a few more memories of the Ninth Circle.
      Ernie Ernst

      Sent from my iPhone

      Sent from my iPhone

      1. Thanks Ernie for your Memories. We started going there about ’73 until it closed. Most nights were like a party. Interesting to hear what it was like in the ’60’s. Elicits was quite a character. His son Danny became a very well known D.J. Good guy.

  50. I stopped going in 1975 when I left NYC. Early 1970’s Jimmy and Victor (they were a couple) tended bar. Great friends they poured our drinks all night, we never paid just tipped them. Bobby the owner upstairs stoned and dealing coke.Phillip, Roland, Brian, Jimmy, Victor my dear Ninth Circle gang.

  51. Wow, what a trip to walk down memory lane. I hung out there in the early 80’s..1980-1985. usually in the front, next to the cigarette machine and the photo of Janis (with my “crew”..Angelo and Bobby from NJ, Tony and Michael from the Bronx and a few others.. Don, the doorman, John and Craig (pretty blond curls) behind the bar. Sonny dancing around, Tree downstairs..Neil next to Richie Leva at Tree’s bar. I remember Sonny removing the record “Flashdance, what a feeling” from the jukebox because it was being played over and over and over again. celebrating my 19th birthday in the back garden with a cake, shaped like a huge dick, from the Erotic Bakery, running across the street to see Garrett at the Headless Horseman……………………..I was young, naive and wide-eyed. The staff always looked after me as their own. Made sure I always left on time to make it back to Queens so my parents wouldn’t be upset.
    Such wonderful memories…

    1. Does anyone remember the “Headless Horseman” gay bar on W.10-th Street in Greenwich Village ? The owner lived in Old Tappan, New Jersey.It was down a flight of stairs there there in the late 1970’s (c.1979-80) or so. However, it seems to have been lost through time and was not there very long either.If you remember it….leave a comment on this blog and tell us of your memories. Thanks so much !

  52. I lived in the basement apartment with my boyfriend, later husband, who was a waiter at the bar/steakhouse -The Ninth Circle. He was Puerto Rican, an artist…Tony Ruiz. This was all before it was a gay bar. Now my daughter is going to NYC for the Labor Day weekend and wants to find it. Anyone have the exact address where it was? Greatly appreciate any input. Loved reading about the Circle! Thanks, Lynda

  53. Lynda, and others, let me repeat a question: does anyone recall the artist Larry Stanton, who also had a basement apartment/studio, either in the building, or due east? larrystanton.net He died in 1984, to give it the period.

  54. Hi…..Mike here – Ninth Circle meant a lot of things for me in the early/mid 1970s. Met the first love of my life there….a cute hippie-type named Bill – slender, beautiful long hair, and not a wisp of body hair on chest or his perfect butt. Together for several years….He was gentle, happy in his own skin (not something all gay people were at that time), kind and generous to a fault…whoever said “opposites attract” was spot on.

    I worked as a bartender at the Ninth Circle for two or so years…..I think it was 1973/74 thru 1975/76 but not really sure…most patrons may not remember me. I worked upstairs on Friday night and downstairs on Saturdays…and one or two nights during the week. One summer I worked the day shift while everyone else was on Fire Island…not much to do but make Krivit his lemonade with two sugars and have a waiter send it up to his “ivory tower.” Bartenders I worked with were John Koch, Stormy, Ronny, Dennis, David and Jerry….upstairs waiter was Asa (a talented artists in his own right and Krivit’s “good luck charm”)…..downstairs waiters were Tommy and of course, Gary Ellis. “Happy” Pratt from Julius’ was a longtime patron as well.

    Doorman at or around the time were Don (heavy set fellow), and Don (bartender Jerry’s friend from across the street), Fred “Tree” and Bob (a total jerk)

    Calvin was trying to resurrect the kitchen…and George was the early morning cleanup fellow.

    At first it was lots of fun….then it became a bit depressing as I realized I was enabling problem drinkers and playing psychologist to those who needed professional assistance. I watched Ninth Circle patrons lose their jobs and their sanity thru late night, heavy drinking, drugs etc lifestyles…..also, the second hand smoke was really getting to me (probably more so than I knew)….

    The whole NYC landscape has changed and previous NYC “Unique NY” landmarks such as Ninth Circle, Balducci, Rays Pizza, Trude Heller’s, Reno Sweeney, Starthrower Cafe, St Vincent’s, Crazy Eddys, and almost everything else is being replaced by Best Buy, Pottery Barn, TGIF and store that you can find in any suburban mall/shopping strip in Anytown USA…..”progress” is sometimes a shame. Thanks for keeping this memory alive.

  55. Yo, you for got one of the most imporantt places on Greenwich ave, Moma’s Chicken Rib. Head waiter Mark White. One of the famous patrons, Miss Kenny kar. I scored many an husband while there, then after supper w/the gang off too the Stonewall. Dancing all nite! Man those were the days!!

    1. Jerry is still alive from what I have heard. Freddie Lutz I doubt he’s have to be in his late 70’s now. But visit the Stonewall Inn and ask Tree.

      Ruby Rims is ion Facebook btw

    2. Jerry – the upstairs bartender is now living in Florida from what I’ve heard. I believe Lutz passed away in the early 90s, I recall Lutz buying me beers one night and inviting me on an all-expense paid trip with him to Berlin; needless to say, I declined.

    3. According to the Social Security Death Index, (which is free to the public under the Freedom of Information Act) Friedrich Lutz (Freddie) was born in 1933 and died on Sept.19, 2011 at the age of 78 in Pennsylvania.

  56. Hi, This is Joey. Just curious if Joe Rizzo is the same person who invited me to the the pool party in Edison New Jersey. We used to hang out at times not sure if I’m getting the names confused. Also does anyone know the story of the peep hole on the wall as you go down the stairs at the ninth circle. You were able to see a candle light on. That reflected from the kitchen.

    1. Joey, I do recall the peep hole in the wall next to the staircase going downstairs. My friend, bisexual Steve pointed it out to me. While looking in the peep hole, you’d see a cross. I thought it was weird and never got an explanation as to what it was all about. I forgot all about that. That was certainly a mystery!

  57. I remember the peephole also;AND, also…don’t remember it ever being explained. That’s a question for the Forum today ! Does anyone know the story behind the peephole ?

  58. The Ninth Circle was very well known by Canadian tourists. In the mid 70’s I would drive from Montreal and park my beat-up Volkswagen Beetle at the Travelers Garage just down the street and leave it there for a few days. First stop was always the Ninth Circle. I remember the Janis Joplin photo, the very cruisy main floor with the long bar. Also that huge floral arrangement behind the bar. I also met my first NYC boyfriend there…..so there were quite a few trips between 1976 and 1982. I still walk by 139 W. 10th Street when I return to Manhattan….memories. There were many reasons NYC was great in those years….and a visit to the Ninth Circle was one of them. I was always excited to see who would be behind those doors, Always had a blast.

  59. Just ask me I’ve been there – Peter Allen

    I was one of the waiter’s working the night of the raid. In one night the entire village changed forever, but many of us knew that a change was coming when Bobby died. Was the raid inspired because the payments to the NYPD stopped? We probably will never know. I do, however remember an envelope kept behind the bar every week. The recipient of this envelope was the NYPC foundation (or something like that). I never saw who received this envelope. Maybe it was an innocent donation.

    Bobby was a wonderful man – a little gruff until you got to know him. Once I ran across the street to get some junk food, when suddenly a cab came out of now where and hit me. My ankle was severely twisted. Although I was working off the books Bobby paid for me to go to his podiatrist and compensated me for the nights I couldn’t work. I remember one night he came downstairs and I was hanging out in the bar (crutches next to me) and he chased me out of the bar – as I should have been home.

    Another person that stands out in my memory is Buddy. Many people may have seen him as an agent of gloom and doom – for example when the AIDS crisis hit he was telling folks that mosquitoes could probably transmit the disease. Did you know he was in the Mattachine Society ? He once showed me a newspaper picture of him at one of the first gay marches. Sadly, I was the last person to see him alive – but that is a story for another place and another time.

    Who could forget Ian? Author of many sociology books and eager to discuss Sociology with anyone who would listen. When he was younger he was banned in South Africa and the Kennedy’s assisted getting him into Harvard ( I found this article if you are interested https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1966/5/18/kennedy-and-south-africa-pthe-last/ )

    I remember the night Kevin Kite came into the bar (Father Ritter’s accuser) and the discomfort felt by many of the older patrons.

    John from Dog Day Afternoon would come in sometimes. Where else can you find such an eclectic group of folks? Ranging from the Head of Anesthesiology at St Vincent’s to street hustlers from Priests to thieves. Credit goes to Bobby for allowing this to happen, sadly it could not survive without him.

    Many other wonderful memories, and thanks for everyone sharing theirs. As for the peephole, I doubt there is a story and if so it died with Bobby. I tend to think, keeping with the Ninth Circle story, that it simply shows that there is a sliver of hope left, even to the Denizens of the Ninth Circle.

    Before I left NYC I was given advice from one of the Hustlers that worked mainly out of Julius’. If anyone happens to know him please let me know. His name was Charles, light skin, red hair with a gap between his front teeth. I know his girl friend had given birth to twins – funny his twins are nearly 30 by now.

    I would also be happy to hear from anyone else that went to the Circle around that time period. ( a.soaring.falcon@gmail.com )

    1. Joey???? the Waiter?? Its me Danny the Bartender upstairs near the juke box?? and downstairs for tree many times. Is this you?? wow

      1. Dan, you were always one of my favorite people working at the Circle. It is good to see that you are doing well. I see from the comments below that you are over at Julius’. I am sure that it is a nicer place without Freddie Lutz there 🙂

        I no longer live in NY area, but periodically – prior to Covid – make it up there. If I make it up again I’ll make sure to drop in and say hi!

        One more thing. Please keep yourself safe. It is good to see NY recovering, but still has a way to go.

        Awfully good to hear from you.

        1. Ahh, Brian! Very good to hear from you again. Hope things are working out well for you. I have fond memories of us working together.

          I visited NYC about a year ago, walked past where the Circle used to be – felt empty for it to be gone. Walked in Julius’ – wasn’t the same place.

  60. Joe, Thanks for the story.
    The “first gay person I ever met” (or so I thought at the time – LOL) took me to the Circle after we met at the pier at the end of Christopher Street. I wasn’t an insider but was a regular weekender from that point on through the late 70s/early 80s and the Circle meant a lot to me (probably enough to keep me in NYC longer than I would have otherwise). It was very special but I have often wondered why. I would love to hear your thoughts (or anyone else’s) on why it seems like it was irreplaceable. Also, it stayed open for a few years after the raid – right? – so why did the raid make such a difference?
    All the best to you and everyone who was part of it.

  61. Not sure if it was only the raid that changed the Circle. Bobby died shortly prior to the raid and the bar was inherited by his son Danny. I only visited the bar once after the raid and it was a sanitized version of it’s former self. I cannot speak any more on this time period.

    As for your question on why the bar was so special, I’ll give it my guess but others may have other ideas. Everyone was accepted in the Circle. at the end of the day it was the customers who made it what it was. Some may mention the odor of pot smoke or the other drugs – but every bar in the village had that.

    The Circle didn’t cater to a specific group ie Leather, preppy or older/younger crowds. Upstairs you could carry on long conversations. For example you might see a bank robber (dog day afternoon) talking to a c-level executive. A priest talking to a porn star. Who you were didn’t matter, and you were free to join in the conversations. Same downstairs, except rather than conversations there was a lot of partying going on. Everyone was welcomed. Everyone, while they were here, were equal.

    I started my previous comment with a title of a song supposedly written about the Ninth Circle. I’ll leave this one from a line from the same song.

    Seen Angels and Sin there … I’ve been through it all – Peter Allen

    1. I worked with Tree downstairs, and waitered a few times upstairs in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Waited on, met, and in some cases tricked with all types of people. Porn stars (Jack Wrangler, Jamie Wingo), soap actores, businessmen, blue collar guys. It was a bar for everyone from twink to troll as we would say in those days. It was a great place. I still dream about working there sometimes.

      1. The name is familiar but i’m trying to remember you. I hung out in the circle regularly in 78 and 79 until I became a merchant marine. I only hung downstairs with Tree, Neil Murphy was my best friend, but also knew the jersey crowd (Vinny, Bill, Bruce, Gail, Bobby). It was my first gay bar and the best, and downstairs was the greatest, partying in the ladies room, playing pool….I was “married” to Kitchen Tom for 20 years until he died of AIDS. He mostly hung upstairs and dealt back in the garden…but I think that was after I didn’t hang out there all the time. Kind of funny that I never met him there, we met at the Anvil at 7am….ha, introduced by Neil.

    2. Joe, Will, both comments really ring true. It did not cater to a “type” and everyone was welcome. I guess it was a culture born in a post-Stonewall celebration when gay people could finally feel good about themselves (and people did seem to feel good about themselves in the Circle!). At the same time being gay was still taboo and we shared the sense of getting away from that, and being gay or bi was enough in common to bond over regardless of age or anything else.

      Throw in the Greenwich Village cool factor, and, oh right, lots of very hot young guys just looking for fun in various forms.
      And it all came together in one place – at least I never saw anything else close in NYC, then or later.
      Thanks to everyone who made it so great!

      The place deserves NYC landmark status – seriously.

  62. Thanks for the article and all the memories in the comments! I never saw the 9th Circle, and I have never been to NYC, but I agree these stories need to be written down and saved! Memoirs eagerly looked forward to! Thanks to you all!

  63. Nobody’s mentioned the NYU connection. I attended nyu as an undergrad between the years of ‘78-‘81 and after coming out at the Gay People’s Union I met friends there that introduced me to places like the Circle, the St. Marks and the Anvil. I thought I had died and went to heaven! Us NYU guys would go to the St. Marks for student night on thursdays and convene at the circle on the weekends, closing the place and going to the anvil it breakfast st Tiffany’s. So many hot boy next door types in those early days at the circle, all clad in sneakers, jeans and often with football jerseys. Sadly, that type is just about non existent in the NY of today. I wore glasses when I first went there and usually just went to the back garden to talk to friends. In late ‘79 I got contacts and changed my look and got up the nerve to stand in front of the jukebox, the main cruising area. Apparently, my new image clicked and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Besides usually picking up someone every weekend, I made a circle of really smart friends who congregated in a semi circle near the jukebox every Friday and Saturday through ‘81. Besides me, Rob SANTANIELLO and my NYU friend Joe, there was Frank who was Dutch, Alex Rodriquez, blonde Phillip who was a hairdresser, Carl-quiet and extremely cute, Bobby, Jon Gallagher, and tall Jody who was new wave from the start. Other than Joe, I’ve lost touch with all of them and wonder if they’re still with us and if so where they are. They made me feel so welcome and complete. I remember the circle even sponsored a bus trip to great adventure which I went on. Still have the commemorative shirt! I remember arriving at the circle in the winter of ‘80 on a Saturday night with two feet of snow on the ground…and the bar was still packed! Once CHARLIES opened, the circle suffered and I pretty much stopped going there when I became a CHARLIES DJ in ‘82. But I always bemoaned the yuppie revolution and the loss of those nights among straight appearing but very gay regular guys at the circle. I also fondly remember the bart Eder Craig, who often gave me free drinks…and Neil Murphy, who I did sleep with and was one of the nicest guys I ever there.

    1. I was a regular at Uncle Charlie’s Downtown on Greenwich Avenue opposite Perry Street for nearly its entire existence. I believe it opened in 1980. It was a restaurant. I moved to Greenwich Avenue in 1981 but I had already been to Charles’s several times. The bar at this restaurant proved to be more popular than the restaurant itself. So they closed the restaurant. One night in 1980 or early ’81 when it was still a restaurant, or so I thought, not that I was planning to order any food, I went there and this cute, little blond guy introduced himself to me and told me he was a waiter and they just finished the last night of the restaurant. The final night of UCD as a restaurant. UCD was becoming a bar exclusively. This guy told me he was an aspiring pianist. I have forgotten his name. I never saw him again.

      Living nearby I ducked in regularly over the years. I used to watch Dynasty there. Wednesday nights, I think. I think Charlie’s closed in 1997. I recall they chartered a bus uptown at the end. Really. I was on it. Anybody remember that? I don’t remember where the bus went or why.

  64. I worked at the NINTH CIRCLE from 87-until it closed – it was an incredible place until Danny Crivet ran it into the ground and changed its feeling, destroying its character with those stuipid Martine “paintings” by the artist HA HA
    (Im sure hes still drawing the same two characters!).
    Bobby Crivet was great to me, Danny not so much!! but to me the ninth circle will always have an incredibly special place in my heart! I loved it

  65. Hi everyone
    I remember the circle real well! Used to get on the 8:05 train from Amityville and let Saturday night start! First Uncle Charlie’s, then pick up a falafel, then right to the circle! Meet to of my great loves there Damien and Mikle O from Kingston NY, wonder what ever happened to them??? Anyway you might remember seeing me there well built long, long jet black hair always drank jack and coke oh my name is roy

      1. Well excuse me. They never afforded that courtesy to Jonathan Frid of Dark Shadows. We didn’t even afford such courtesies to Barry Manilow and Harvey Fierstein when they visited Uncle CHARLIES around the corner.

  66. Does anybody remember a cute waiter who worked there in 1975 or ’76 named Jimmy? He had black curly hair. I’m not sure if he ever tended bar. I had a friend who had a crush on him and who would ask me if I had seen Jimmy when I would go to the Village.

    1. I was just reading thru the comments and saw yours from 9/20. I remember Jimmy vividly! He was a great guy. He had a boyfriend named Jonathan who was a bartender at Phoebe’s on the Bowery. (Its still there). He put “Johnny Angel” and one other song in the jukebox for Jonathan.

      1. Just now seeing your post. Nice to hear from you. This was the 70’s, right? Do you know whatever became of Jimmy?

        1. It was the mid-70s. I used to go to Phoebe’s every so often to hang out with Jonathan and order Manhattans. I was at the 9th Circle almost every night, and there was Jimmy entertaining the room — friendly and funny. I don’t know what became of him. My absolute favorite person was Kelvin, the bartender downstairs. What became of him?

          1. Sorry, I didn’t know Kelvin. I went to the Ninth Circle sporadically.


            I saw Jimmy at Riis Park one time.

            Those were the days.

            (Late post due to an unsafe-site-warning message. I figure, why take chances …)

  67. Talarico ( Sonny ) I lived above Cafe Degli Artiste between 75 and 77. Remember Jeans Patio across the street on the corner of Perry

    1. Southwest corner of Greenwich Avenue and Perry Street in the 1990’s was the World of Video (big gay section) which had previously been located on 7th Avenue (South) and before that on 10th Street.

  68. I used to swing by the Ninth Circle frequently as an NYU student, 1981 – 1985, usually going there after the obligatory cruise through the homogenous ‘stand and stare’ of Uncle Charlies. The Circle always intrigued me as it simply reeked of character and history. I was very much a wallflower, never had the nerve to pick up anybody, or whatever, but I was fascinated by the bohemian, cruisy, eccentric – and yes, sometimes sketchy – atmosphere. Downstairs was lively, upstairs in the front seemed to be more of the old-timers and the rear had that bohemian cafe kind of vibe. If I was lucky, I’d get a seat at the bar, order a scotch on the rocks and nurse it while I ‘people watched’ – again, never having the nerve to strike up conversation or actually try to get picked up. I felt we were all misfits of every sort, and it was a very welcoming and unique place. (these comments have brought back unexpected flashes of memory … the peephole! the huge floral arrangement behind the bar, and of course the Janis Joplin photo) Wil Kohler in the original article says “Oh the stories I could tell” Well, please do! Please tell more! 😉

    Reading this has really awakened a serious sense of nostalgia in me. Will is right, there is so little to be found on the internet – the primary image being the picture used for this article. Steeped in nostalgia, I recreated the ‘logo’ and made (and ordered) myself a t-shirt on cafe press, just for myself. The font isn’t exactly right, but I think I captured the overall look. I can’t wait for it to arrive. I thought I’d share the link here. I’m really not trying to make an opportunistic buck, but just thought maybe someone else here might enjoy it, too:


    Please keep the reminisces and the stories coming!

  69. I lived on Perry, was a 9th Circle regular, worked at David’s Pot Belly from 1974. The Circle was home base; everything emanated from there. I could be an ‘out’ gay man there, without condescendence and fear, and that was a big deal during the 1970s. At the Circle, I hung out with intense and fantastic people. Reading through the thread, I was recalling bits and pieces, like during the July 77 blackout there were tables on the sidewalk with lots of candles, Kelvin bartending downstairs, Stormy smoking Winstons. I became a music critic for the Soho News, then a press agent, and booked bands at rock & roll dance clubs (former discos), all the while drinking and drugging till I left in the early 80s and went to treatment. Right before COVID, I went to NYC, found the Circle, stopped and reminisced. I’m glad I was there and with some of you. Get in touch! Henry

  70. I recall the 9th circle amongst a haze in memory from the 70 80 era. I would swing through the village frequently. I worked at Haymarket and O’Neal’s and gaiety theater in HK in 79-81. Wish I could find Randy or Kim and Dale, Rocky, and a bunch of faces I cannot recall names. I lived with Jay Lazarus – he was ancient then and is likely passed away now. Came into the scene with Billy (who adorned the cover of Topman magazine) and Rhonda ( who od’d in winter 80 – rip). Man i wish i could see these people again. I was a teen in ‘79 and still waited tables and cruised. No one gave a shit about age then-probably one of the things what caused raids. Miss old NYC. Used to visit before C19. Would love to see photos. These places defined my youth. I recall Ian (from Bank st) and the Penthouse overlooking the west side highway. Or the rocky horror on Friday’s on 8th street playhouse. I saw it was a bazaar a few years ago. Absolutely sad.

  71. I loved the 9th Circle. From 1974 thru 1982. it was my home away from home, especially when I was homeless. I am still a friend of FreddyTree (online) and used to “hang out” (smoke) in the back tent, but especially loved the company in the downstairs bar where us alleged “hustlers” felt welcome (and showed off). I came in often with Stephen Kent who went right for the pinall machines and was a champ at it (among other things). Stephen also played keyboards in my band. Met some really fun, wild and great people (and also ran into a priest from my parish in Brooklyn). It was a laid-back but crazy and wonderful time and the memories are priceless.

  72. Another memory of the circle..I was with Lonnie and Roy (his Mexican Nurse ) boyfriend, and there was a pop star playing on the fruit machine by the door to the cellar and upstairs..as soon as he realized I recognized him, he ran away. It was Joe Jackson if anyone remembers him

  73. I was a naïve 18-year-old hick from upstate NY when I was emancipated from my house/family of origin in 1976, and even though I was enrolled as a full-time student at SUNY @ StonyBrook, I was more interested in the hedonistic lifestyle offered in NYC, specifically Times Square. I worked at the Gaiety Male Burlesque Theater for 2 years, avoiding any consequences, and was mentored by many street savvy colleagues who took introduced me to the more nefarious side of NYC lifestyle: clubs and drugs. The Ninth Circle was a pit stop for the nights we spontaneously wanted to go out dancing after performing at the Gaiety past midnight. It was renowned for harboring a regular drug dealer who sat perched like a king in the back patio, with a discreet line of customers who knew the drill: know exactly what you wanted and have your cash ready. We would enter the Ninth Circle with nothing but scoring from the king in mind, be confronted by desperate but ambitious go-go boys trying to make money, weed through the cocktail crowd to arrive at the patio, where the king of drugs was seated. We always left satisfied and swiftly left the Ninth Circle without even checking out the downstairs disco venue as we always had a more upscale destination to get high and dance, dance, dance. I walk by the location of Ninth Circle and think about how much time has passed since I was an 18-year-old withy no fear of consequences. Believe me, those consequences eventually caught up with me, which I write extensively in my published books.

  74. Does anyone remember this dude Bobby who hung out at the circle in the mid-eighties? He looked a lot like KC from KC and the Sunshine Band (when KC was smokin’ hot in his early thirties). This dude Bobby was funny as hell too, and always very sociable. He was a graduate of NYU and lived in either Rockland or Westchester County. Just curious as to his whereabouts!

  75. God I loved this place. Met my first serious BF there 78-9. Ran into Tree not too long ago and reminisced. (yes he LOVES to talk lol) I think of ALL the freedoms kids have today, but I don’t remember being aware we DIDN’T have them. You could start at West and Christopher and ping-pong up the street across 7th hitting 20-30 bars along the way, there was nothing you could “get” that couldn’t get rid of with some shots, and Safe Sex just meant putting your wallet in your sock. I wonder if we weren’t more free 🙂

  76. Does anyone know who the caricatures were of on the back of the Ninth Circle matchbook covers? At least 6 different ones that I know of. And anything about the artist, Martine? I saw the reference to the murals he painted. Thanks!

  77. I’m Jonty. I was on a two-week trip to New York in 1978 from London. I found my way to The Ninth Circle where I met Gordon who was a regular. He lived in Queens and worked at Macys. We had a great time together. I’ve often wondered whether he survived the times and how he’s doing.

  78. I can’t believe I just came across this page. I worked at the circle for about a year in 1991. This had to be the greatest gay bar I have ever been in…and my first. Met so many amazing people and friends here.

  79. Does anyone also reall another long forgotten and short-lived gay bar in the village named: “The Headless Horseman” on W.10th Street,off Greenwich Avenue in the late 70’s? It was located one flight down from street level and across from the old Ninth Circle…back in the gay!

  80. I first experienced the ninth circle back in 1978 and ended up hanging there off and on until it closed in 93. Loads of great memories and friends made there. A group of us including John Koch would go out to brunch on Sundays then he’d open up the circle and we’d hang there getting plastered. Always had a line of drinks backed up. Taylor Meade, Riddy Dodge, Klaus, Evan, Joe Boria, Tom Heitman, Artie Schoener, god so many names I’ve forgotten. I still have some drink chips kicking around in my junk drawer.

  81. I was here from ’74 thru ’83. It was my favorite place in the Village. With the big Janis Joplin picture up front, the tent out back for us “smokers”, the downstairs bar with Freddie Tree, and playing pinball with Stephen Kent (who later played keys in my band). I was known as “Bobby” back then. (Even ran into some priests from my parish in Brooklyn but I won’t mention names and you didn’t hear it from me!) Miss it a lot and have lots of fond memories.

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