Tag Archives: #LGBT #GayHistory

Gay History – September 24, 1982: The Centers for Disease Control Uses The Term “AIDS” For The First Time

Gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) was the name first proposed in 1982 to describe an “unexpected cluster of cases” after public health scientists noticed clusters of Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia among gay males in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.  During this time, the phrase “gay cancer” was also used.

In 1982,  there was 355 cases of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and/or serious opportunistic infections in previously healthy young people had been reported to the Center for Disease Control.  By mid 1982 a total of 20 states had reported cases and the disease was no longer solely affecting gay men; there were a small number of cases among heterosexual men and women. Over half of those identified as heterosexual had used intravenous drugs at some point.

“By mid-1982 it was clearly different. People were starting to shake in their pants. It was clear that it was more than isolated incidents” said G’dali Braverman, an AIDS activist living in San Francisco

It was not until July at a meeting in Washington, D.C., that the acronym AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was suggested

On September 24th. the CDC used the term “AIDS”  for the first time replacing the previous name of GRID, and released the first case definition of AIDS: “A disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known case for diminished resistance to that disease.”

At that point in the plague two to three cases of AIDS were being diagnosed in the USA every day.

AIDS.gov reports that 50,000 new Americans becoming infected with HIV each year and over 35 million people worldwide have dies of HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began.

PLEASE remember while science has made great strides in research that the AIDS epidemic IS NOT over.

 STAY HEALTHY, HAVE YOURSELF TESTED, AND USE THE PREVENTIVE MEASURES THAT YOU DEEM FIT.

Forgotten Gay History – The Anvil: 500 W. 14th Street NYC (1974 to 1986)

One of the most notorious and fun gay after-hours nightspots in New York City of the 1970’s and 1980’s was THE ANVIL located at 500 W. 14th Street.

Built in 1908 by the Conner Brothers, this building was originally known as “The Strand Hotel.” The three-story hotel catered to sailors and was located on a patch of land known as Dalamater Square.  

“It is a three-story structure, on the ground floor of which is a saloon and the upper part of which contains 28 rooms,” stated a court document from 1914.

“[The Strand] accepts only men as roomers,” the document added, and caters “to the class of trade that has business at the river front.” Ehmmmmm.

Opened in the fall of 1974 The Anvil, a split-level “after hours nightclub” opened on the north facing side of the building which was now the infamous hot-sheet,  pay-by-the-hour Liberty Inn. The statements “accepts only men” and “the class of trade that has business at the river front.” really hadn’t changed all that much.

The bouncers were as brutal and as wonderfully sleazy as The Anvil itself.  And they always took care to notice of the number of people that were in the club at one time as to not break fire regulations and give the city an excuse to raid them. With lines that sometimes formed around the block on a busy Friday or Saturday night unless you were known or a fellow bar employee you could wait hours to get in.  While (some) drag queens were welcome, women were not. Although a few did make it in mostly due to trickery or their celebrity status The Anvil was one of the hottest, sleaziest, and most glorious places to be for gay men of that period.

The main floor contained a dance floor, a rectangular bar and a performance area all painted black where everything would go on at once.

The after-hours atmosphere of the Anvil was wound up and kenetic from the amount of alcohol and drugs its patrons had already consumed, and would consume by the end of the night.

Male dancers would perform on the bar as bartenders poured drinks around them.  On the smallish stage on the dance-floor drag performers such as Candy Stevens that would perform bizarre acts with a five foot snake while fire-eating. Other drag performers were “The Famous Yuba” who was one of the first performers there and who stayed until the end. Loretta Fox, Dana Terrell, “The Long Legged Lady of The Night…” Arien West, Diana del Rio, The Amazing Electrifying Grace, Brandon Forte, and Ruby Rims the infamous singing waiter from The Duplex wound perform.

Between drag shows the disco music pumped away at an earsplitting volume as shirtless and sweaty men danced to the beat packed together side by side.  Poppers were passed freely from man to man and from time to time you could actually feel the floor bounce and shake beneath your feet to the beat of the music.

Downstairs was the coat-check run by the ever jovial Patrick. There was another small bar downstairs and a large screen on which gay male porn of the period was played. Behind the screen was a cavernous backroom where it was pitch black and never boring.  Shouts of “Gentlemen watch your wallets.” would echo through the basement as Patrick called out the warning every 15 – 20 minutes against pickpockets.  (Rumor also had it that there were tunnels beneath The Anvil that ran directly to the piers. But it has never actually been proven.)

Patrons would emerge (I included) sopped with sweat and wearing sunglasses after a long Saturday night in the dawns early light only to pass people from bordering neighborhoods going to early Sunday morning Mass. 

Because of the era involved there are no interior photographs of the Anvil available to publish. But it was really nothing spectacular. You see it was not the inside of The Anvil that made it what it was.  It was the patrons, gay men who many of whom are gone now which is why it is important to remember these scared gay spaces of yesterday.

The Anvil was closed in 1986 another victim of the AIDS epidemic and the clean-up ou “sex establishments” in NYC.   And while The Anvil is long gone, the Liberty Inn lives on as NYC’s highest rated  romantic couples short stay hotel.

Its nice to know some things never change.

Have a story you’d like to share about The Anvil?  Post it in the comments section for history’s sake.

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Sex Club Anvil NYC | Ephemeral New York