Gay History: Remembering NYC's "Ice Palace 57" Gay Disco (1977 - 1985)

Gay History: Remembering NYC’s “Ice Palace 57” Gay Disco (1977 – 1985)

Not to be confused with Fire Island’s Ice Palace of course.

Ice Palace 57 was a gay discotheque located in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood that operated from 1977 to 1985. The club was a popular destination for the gay men in the community during a time when being openly gay was not widely accepted.

The club was founded by two brothers, Anthony and Michael Joffe, who were inspired by the disco movement that was sweeping the city in the late 1970s. They wanted to create a space that would be welcoming to gay men and allies, and they succeeded in doing so..

Located on West 57th Street in Manhattan, Ice Palace 57 faced many challenges during its eight-year run. The club was located in an area that was known for its high crime rate, and the owners had to take measures to ensure the safety of their patrons. They hired security guards and installed metal detectors at the entrance to the club. the club became a symbol of the city’s vibrant gay community and a safe haven for those who wanted to dance and express themselves freely.

The interior of Ice Palace 57 was designed to be a spectacle. The club’s interior was designed to resemble an ice palace, with walls made of white, glittering tiles and floors covered in white carpeting. The lighting was dim, with disco balls and strobe lights providing a pulsating and energetic atmosphere. The bar was located in the center of the club, with a large dance floor surrounding it. On either side of the dance floor were seating areas, where people could take a break from dancing and socialize with friends. The club’s sound system was state-of-the-art for the time, with speakers strategically placed throughout the room to create an immersive audio experience.

Ice Palace 57 was known for its music, which was a mix of disco, funk, and soul. The club had a roster of talented DJs who knew how to get the crowd moving. Some of the most famous DJs to play at Ice Palace 57 included Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, and David Morales.

One of the unique features of Ice Palace 57 was its drag shows. The club had a stage where drag queens would perform, entertaining the crowd with their outrageous costumes and over-the-top personalities. These shows were a major draw for the club, and many people came specifically to see the performers. Performers included: Lady Bunny, RuPaul, and Lypsinka. One of the most famous drag queens to perform at Ice Palace 57 was Divine, who went on to become a cult figure.

Ice Palace 57 also faced discrimination from the outside world. The club was frequently raided by the police, who would arrest patrons for “lewd conduct” or other offenses. The owners had to fight back against these attacks, hiring lawyers to defend their club and their patrons in court.

Ultimately, the club’s run came to an end in 1985, when Ice Palace 57 was forced to close due to financial difficulties as the AIDS crisis was began to take a more serious term. But its legacy lives on as a symbol of the gay community’s fight for acceptance, equality, and the right to be fabulous.

Do you have any memories of Ice Palace 57? If so post them in the comments and help keep gay history alive.

3 thoughts on “Gay History: Remembering NYC’s “Ice Palace 57” Gay Disco (1977 – 1985)

  1. Funny, I don’t recall that hood (corner 57th and 6th, (oddly same building where my dentist is now lol) as being dangerous back then, it’s a block from Berghdorf’s lol. NOR is is in HK btw. I remember it was the first place where someone asked me if I wanted to do “toot” and I had no idea what too was. I also remember a night when The Weather Girls were performing live and I happened to be right next to the door the entered from and one of them just sort of pushed what looked like a 10 yo boy (her son?) to me as if to say “watch him” lol. So I stood with my hands on his shoulders while they performed. Miss those days.

  2. Why do you fail to mention Jimmy Merry, who opened and owned IP57. I also don’t think that 57street & Ave of the Americas (1 block west of Tiffany’s) is considered Hell’s Kitchen. Facts matter.

  3. Hi there, I’m trying to locate Vinny Massaro, whom I met at Ice Palace in the late 1970’s or possibly the early 1980’s. He lived in the west Village with a psychiatrist, was blond and I think possibly an ex-Marine. Does anyone know of him and if he is still alive? Thank you to anyone who can respond.

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