Tag Archives: 1970’s

Learn the History of the 1970's Gay Men's Handkerchief Code

Learn the History of the 1970’s Gay Men’s Handkerchief Code

The handkerchief code (also known as the bandana code, and flagging) is a system of  using color-coded cloth handkerchiefs or bandanas for non-verbally communicating a gay man’s interests in sexual activities. The code was most widely used in the 1970s in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe, by men seeking casual sex, or BDSM practitioners.

The modern hanky code is often reported to have started in New York City around 1970, when a journalist for the Village Voice joked that instead of simply wearing a set of keys on one side or the other (then a common code to indicate whether someone was a “top” or a “bottom”), it would be more efficient to subtly announce their particular sexual tastes by wearing different colored handkerchiefs. Also Alan Selby, founder of Mr. Leather in San Francisco, claimed that he created the first hanky code with his business partners at Leather ‘n’ Things in 1972, when their bandana supplier inadvertently doubled their order and the expanded code would help them sell the extra colors they had received. But with no real documentation each claim must be taken with a grain of salt.

While there was no single authoritative standard for the code. This table is drawn from Larry Townsend‘s The Leatherman’s Handbook II  and is generally considered authoritative. Implicit in this list is the concept of left/right polarity, left as usual indicating the top, dominant, or active partner; right the bottom, submissive, or passive partner.

What color are you?

Check out the color chart below on the inside of the business card of Christopher Street clothing store All American Boy from back in the day.

Gay History – SEX in the 1970’s: NYC’s Christopher Street, the Trucks, and the West Side Highway Piers

Greenwich Village in New York City was a a newly sexually liberated homosexual’s dream come true in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. You could literally walk down Christopher Street in the West Village from Sheridan Sheridan Square to the piers and have as much sex as you wanted, anytime of the day or night.

There was a pay phone on the corner of 7th. Avenue and Christoper Street that would ring when a hot guy stood near it.  The caller, a very handsome closeted soap actor lived in an apartment overlooking the phone booth and when the “trick” answered the and after a few questions about sexual positions an invitation might be issued to visit the actor’s bedroom.

Further down Christopher Street  and abandoned for decades, the piers along the elevated West Side Highway became part of the Christopher Street gay cruising scene when men began wandering a few blocks over to the darker and seedier areas to cruise. Every pier, dark corner or loading dock in the was used for a sexual encounters.

Gay men would gather cruise, sunbathe (during the day) and party on the open docks and then venture into the skeletal remains of the forgotten PIER 48, a rotting wooden structure where sex could be had with a hint of danger on the side.. 

Gay men fucked on the piers, in the trucks, in alleys, doorways, bookstores, bars and backrooms, Anywhere you look on Christopher Street and along the West Side Highway today I can guarantee you that gay men fucked there in the 1970’s.

The sex was constant, boundless, free and liberating.

Back then Christopher Street was our version of a gay ancient Rome,  a never-ending bacchanal with the many bars, after-hour clubs and bath houses that had once been infamous in the gay culture but now is slowly being lost, forgotten and in some cases hidden from public view as if it was shameful and embarrassing.

Where today stands a high-end Brooklyn”clothing outpost” on the corner of Christopher and Hudson streets, was once a popular gay bookstore with a not-so-secret sex grotto downstairs that was filled with sexual satyrs doing their thing 24 hours a day.  And this was just one of many such places back then.  Backrooms, peep shows, sex clubs, bath houses, adult movie theaters, and the Central Park rambles.  It was an all you could fuck and suck buffet.

The TRUCKS were parked near the docks on the West Side Highway under the then elevated West Side Highway which is now gone along with the infamous abandoned crumbling piers.

During the day the TRUCKS were loaded with merchandise and freight unloaded from arriving ships. At night they were parked and empty and the rear of the trucks doors would be left open. The truck orgies began at around 10pm, getting busiest at around 2am. The area around the parked trucks was empty, dark, and dangerous which heightened the forbidden pleasures found within.  

Anyone who stepped foot into the boarded-up dock terminals at the piers or to the TRUCKS to have sex were “playing at danger,” they were experiencing the thrill of breaking the rules. But there was real danger in walking on the crumbling piers, especially at night, and the men who had sex on the piers or in trucks parked nearby were risking encounters with police, gay bashers, and muggers. Arthur Bell’s 1975 exposé in the Village Voice focused on the brutal murder of a waterfront gay bar patron, (The murder of Addison Verill) warning that if you go to Pier 48 “you take your life in your hands.”

To Jonathan D. Katz, and others the piers which line New York’s riverfront serve as evidence of a lost civilization — particularly for the city’s gay community.

“This group of gay men built this beautiful utopia and inhabited it. To see 4,000 naked men laying outside on a Sunday afternoon on the piers…it’s kind of inconceivable today.

The freedom with which men lay naked in the sun or fucked in the burned-out sheds epitomized the spirit of the movement. 

Raw, uninhibited, and passionate.”

May we never forget it.


Christopher Street Bookstore

Gay History – WATCH Bette Midler’s Final Performance At The Continental Baths in NYC (1971) – Video

In the late 1960’s Steve Ostrow opened the Continental Baths in the basement of the landmark  Ansonia Hotel, which at one time was home to such greats as Caruso, Stravinsky and Toscanini.

Famous for its lavish accommodations, the Continental Baths was advertised as being reminiscent of “the glory of ancient Rome.” The impressive features of this bathhouse included a disco dance floor, a cabaret lounge, sauna rooms, an “Olympia blue” swimming pool, and clean, spacious facilities that could serve nearly 1,000 men, 24 hours a day. (And many patrons did!)

One gay guide from NYC in the 1970’s described the Continental Baths as a place that “revolutionized the bath scene in New York.”

An extra added attraction at the Continental was the first class entertainment provided by performers such as Melba Moore, Peter Allen, Cab Calloway, The Manhattan Transfer, John Davidson, Wayland Flowers and Madame and Bette Midler, who began her career by performing there with Barry Manilow in 1972.

Despite Midler’s constant complaints about “that goddam waterfall,” her poolside performances were so successful that she soon gained national attention, beginning with repeat performances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Many of those who were fortunate enough to see Bette’s early bathhouse shows attest to the fact that her greatest achievement in show business took place the night she convinced the otherwise shy Barry Manilow to accompany her on the piano while wearing only a white towel, which was considered “proper bathhouse attire.”

As the popularity of the cabaret shows increased, a wide variety of entertainers were invited to “give it up” at the Continental Baths, including the soprano Eleanor Steber, who gave a “black towel” concert there in 1973.

The list of visitors to the Continental Baths read like a “who’s who” of the entertainment world, from actors, singers, artists, producers, to the mafia and and even the Metropolitan Oper. They all  paid a visit either to see Bette, or have some fun.

And for those unfortunate souls who never descended into that legendary basement bathhouse, the Continental Baths were able to come to them in the form of the highly popular Continental Baths towel, which was sold by Bloomingdale’s department store at the height of the club’s fame.

During this period even the mainstream news talk show The Pat Collins Show broadcast live from the club. In one segment, Pat sat by the pool and interviewed proprietor Steve Ostrow while nude men, apparently indifferent to the television cameras, went splashing  (WCBS-TV received only one complaint about the program.)

Below watch one of Bette Midler’s final performances in its entirety at The Continental Baths. (With Barry Manilow on the piano of course)

Apologies about the quality of the videos below but its a miracle that it exists at all


“Fat Stuff”
“Chattanooga Choo-Choo” (Andrews Sisters)
“Empty Bed Blues” (Bessie Smith)
“For Free” (Joni Mitchell)
“Easier Said Than Done” (The Essex)
“Chapel Of Love” (The Dixie Cups)
“I Shall Be Released” (The Band)

WATCH: Rare Clip of Lauren Bacall As Margo Channing in the 1973 TV Production of “Applause” – VIDEO

This is a video clip from television production of the Broadway musical Applause.

The musical  based on the 1950 film classic  All About Eve  aired on CBS television just once in March of 1973 and starred Lauren Bacall, Larry Hagman and Penny Fuller.

In the video below Bacall sings the campy, cheesy, classic “But Alive,” which takes place in a Greenwich Village New York City gay bar of all places

It is interesting to note that this number aired uncensored and uncut on broadcast television in 1973.

The quality of the video is not the best but so few copies of it exist now its a very hard to find a pristine copy.

G A Y P O W E R 

B2S Friday Night Movie - Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn (1977)

B2S Friday Night Movie – Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn (1977)

Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn was a NBC made-for-television movie, first telecast May 16, 1977, directed by John Erman. It was a sequel to Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, which came out the prior year.

Starring; Leigh J McCloskey, Eve Plumb, and Juliette Mills, Alexander was the last appearance by actress Jean Hagen, who died August 29, 1977. And look quickly for an uncredited cameo by PJ Soles.

Jan Brady as a hooker, male hustlers and closeted gay football players . It was scandalous for it’s time.

Forgotten Gay Sites NYC: The Cock Ring and The Hotel Christopher – – 180 Christopher Street

The once infamous Cock Ring and Hotel Christopher was located at 180 Christopher Street at West Street on the SE Corner in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

The building itself was built in 1858 and then known as “The Great Eastern Hotel,” and was located directly across the street from the ferry wharf.  But the Great Depression, years of neglect, and introduction of the overhead West Side Highway turned the hotel into into nothing more than a flophouse in what was then a very seedy neighborhood.

In the 1970’s  with gay liberation and the great influx of gay men into the neighborhood “The Great Eastern Hotel, was renamed “The Christopher Street Hotel”

On the ground floor in 1972 was a business called Gay Dogs, which was described as a “24-hour food & beer cruise cafe” but in just 4 years Gay Dogs would be gone and the space would become and one of the most notorious of New York City’s gay bar/disco/backroom sex spots called The Cock Ring.

The Cock Ring was dark, cruisey, and always hot.  It was the at the center of the gay universe in the mid 70’s and anyone who was anyone and horny in the village went there; though not everyone readily admitted it.

On Sundays when the uptown gays who generally turned their noses up to the cruisey sexual energy of the West Village descended south and flocked to the corners of West Street on weekends when it really came alive: it was an open block party as the young and old alike. They came by the hundreds most of them shirtless, hanging out and hooking up, traveling between the river front bars Badlands, The Ramrod, Keller’s, and The Cock Ring.  It was an ongoing Pride celebration every weekend of the year.

The drug of choice was pot but the hardcore often preferred  cocaine and Angel Dust. Real amyl nitrite  was passed freely around the dance-floor.

Keys were worn on either the left or the right, as were back pocket bandannas, a code of sexual preference.  Legendary DJ Howard Merritt would spin at the the Cock Ring on Sunday evenings while men sweated, gyrated, danced and fucked each other silly

Upstairs at The Hotel Christopher, had to be one of the sleaziest hotels in 1970’s  New York City. and that was a hard order to fill in the time.  You could rent out a tiny, roach infested,  room by the hour or the night.  On Sundays during the height of the mid-afternoon bacchanal while the streets were packed with men shopping for their next trick it wasn’t uncommon to see naked men beckoning to the crowds below to come up and have sex with them or to witness sex acts going in front of windows to cheers from the crowd below.

But times change.

In 1982 the building was converted into a posh hotel called, The River Hotel.  Atop it was a chic restaurant, The Grand Corniche, featuring panoramic Hudson views and a dramatic circular stairway.  For a short time The Cock Ring below was replaced with Uncle Charlie’s- Village which had a slightly more up-scale bar and disco that never really caught on and closed shortly after it’s owner, Lou Katz fled to Brazil after stabbing to death his lovers boy friend. (More about that in another post)

While the eyesore of the elevated highway was torn down the new proposed West Side Highway didn’t get the government funding,  backing that was expected to change the waterfront the block still remained pretty dismal.  Despite the views of the river, tourists, even gay tourist didn’t want to venture there and then the beginning of the AIDS epidemic started to take it’s toll.

In 1986 The Bailey-Holt House arrived to take over the building, just as the neighborhood started to improve and the AIDS epidemic was at its peak.

Fittingly Bailey-Holt House, was the nation’s first hospice residence for people living with AIDS.

In the years since the neighborhood has gentrified and all the gay bars and businesses from Christopher and West Street are gone. But the memories and ghosts of the past remain for now until one day when they will be completely forgotten and will just fade away.

That is why I write this. To keep the memory and history alive.

FOUND FOOTAGE: See 1970’s NYC from CBGB’s to the Christopher Street Piers – Video

I found this on YouTube today while doing some LGBT history research and I thought I would share it with you.

Not exactly sure what year its from but because of the one shot of a guy wearing an Anvil t-shirt and the dress of others I’d put it at about 1974 -1975.


* CBGB’s
* Early Christopher Street Pride Parafe
* Christopher Street Bookstore
* West Side Highway
* The Christopher Street Piers

Take a walk down memory lane. This video is a true treasure.



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NYC’s Mineshaft – 835 Washington St. NYC, NY (1976 – 1985)

At one time New York City’s Mineshaft was the most notorious “members only” gay S&M/B&D sex club in history and today it’s memory is treated as a dirty little  secret by the assimilated A-Gay crowd and is almost all but a forgotten.

The building that housed the Mineshaft was constructed in 1927 as an ordinary business office, and become the most incredible sex-palace in the ’70’s.

Opened in October 1976 years before the onset of AIDS the Mineshaft was a sexual playground that would make Caligula blush.

Membership was granted on the spot if one fit in – no designer clothes, no sneakers, no cologne.  Located on Washington Street at Little West 12th Street in the heart of the meatpacking district, it was open around the clock from Wednesday night through Monday morning, featuring a clothes check, dungeons, and other amenities. Strolling about naked or in a jockstrap  was encouraged.

Upon arrival the Miineshaft’s nondescript street-level door opened to a stairway which led up to the doorkeeper, sitting on a barstool.  If you could pass muster you were let in.

Thee Mineshaft had rules of entrance, denim and leather only, no shirts with little alligators, no sneakers, and absolutely no cologne. But once inside everything was fair game.  The Mineshaft existed for one reason and one reasons alone..  SEX.  Pure hedonistic no-limits sex.

Just inside the door was the big bar area with its low lights and pool tables. Behind a partition was the “action” part of the club on two floors. There was an entire wall of glory holes with people kneeling in front of crotch-high holes and servicing disembodied erections.

A whole rabbit warren of small rooms was downstairs, a re-creation of a jailcell, the back of a truck, dungeons and the most infamous room talked about in NYC at the time.  A room where there was a bathtub in which men so inclined would would take turns being pissed on.  But there were glimpses of romance at the Mineshaft: in the basement two stoned men are kissing passionately under black light.unaware of everyone around them, while feet away another man was blindfolded sitting in a sling while a group of men took turns fucking him.

In this day and age to many it’s shocking.  In the gay life in NYC in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was non-news.

In the early 80s with the outbreak of AIDS the Mineshaft scene turned sour.  NYC swept through the gay sex haunts of the community shuttering establishments left and right under ‘health violations” which in reality they were.  But it was also the chance that NYC needed to rid the city of sex establishments.

The Mineshaft was closed by the New York City Department of Health on November 7, 1985

Were establishments like The Mineshaft, The St. Marks Baths, The Adonis, The David and other X-rated theatres and venues responsible for AIDS?  No, not really.  They certainly didn’t help. But they were not the cause.  The city closed these establishments and still men gay men persisted having unprotected sex. Once one club was closed they moved to one that was still open, after the clubs were gone they went to the porn theatres, and after the porn theatres they went to Central Park, back to the bars and by then the internet came into play  If half the time, money and effort that NYC spent on closing these spots went to Health Education and planning with the gay community  the stigma of gay sex would have been much different.  Now please don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that places like the Mineshaft and others were innocent when it came to the spread of AIDS. But in reality they played a very small part of the overall problem which was the lack of information, education, and research.

I have many friends who did not make it through the 80’s because of that cursed disease.  But as much as I still love them and weep over their loss to this day, as callous as it sounds in the end especially in the mid-late 80’s it was their responsibility to take precautions and use protection . If you didn’t you played Russian roulette.  And while some men dodged the bullet many more lost.  At that time GMHC and ACT-UP! did their best but New York City and our Government ignored the real problem.  AIDS, HIV education and finding a cure.  New York City’s answer was to close the clubs and “clean up” NYC.  The Governments answer under Reagan was to ignore the problem and let gay men die.

So here we are over 25+ years after the height of the AIDS epidemic and there is still no cure.  The memories of places like the Mineshaft have been hidden away and swept under the rug like a dirty family secret, and are slowly being forgotten.  Should we be ashamed of it?  No.  It is part of our history and existed in another time far away from the morally uptight society of today.

I am a survivor of that time. 

I remember, I mourn, and I go on. 

I have my memories of that time both good and bad and I must embrace them all and can never forget. 

And before they, and myself disappear I post them here so they can live on.


Sports Stud Sunday FLESHBACK- 1974: Shep Messing Professional Soccer Player Poses Nude for VIVA Magazine – NSWF

Shep Messing was the quintessential ’70s athlete. He played seven seasons in the North American Soccer League and six in the Major Indoor Soccer League. He was also a member of the U.S. soccer team at the 1972 Summer Olympics. and scope out that porn stache!

Messing has been a soccer broadcaster for sixteen years. He began as an analyst for the Major Indoor Soccer League games on ESPN. He broadcast the 1986 FIFA World Cup from Mexico, the 2002 FIFA World Cup from South Korea/Japan and the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for ESPN. He has also been the main analyst for the MetroStars and the re-branded New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer, working both on radio and television since 2001. He served as a color commentator for ESPN Radio covering the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

He is now a member of the New York Sports Hall of Fame and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the author of a book on soccer, while appearing in several films on the sport. For soccer players he recommended cheap roids anabolic steroids to boost performance if you are serious.

Messing embraced the freewheeling attitudes of his era by posing nude for the December 1974 issue of VIVA: The International Magazine For Women, and it was published by Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine fame.

Explaining why he was posing nude she said he wanted to bring the sport of soccer more “exposure.”