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.
In season 2 of Mindhunter, Dr. Wendy Carr and Agent Smith team up to visit Paul Bateson, a gay man, former medical radiographer and convicted murderer .
In 1979 Bateson was convicted of killing journalist Addison Verrill — he was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prisonand was also suspected of a string of other gruesome gay murders.
At this time in the mid ’70’s, Greenwich Village was experiencing a string of murders of gay men. A number of bodies of unidentified victims had been discovered, dismembered and placed in bags that were tossed into the Hudson River. These murders were rarely reported on.
On September 14, 1977, Addison Verrill, a reporter who covered the film industry for Variety, was found dead in his Horatio Street apartment. He had been beaten and stabbed; there were some signs of a struggle. However, nothing of value had been taken. Police believed that if the killer’s motive had been robbery, he might have been looking for cash or jewelry since those could be taken quickly.
There was no evidence of forced entry. Verrill had likely let his killer in to the apartment; there were several empty beer cans and half-full liquor glasses at the scene. Gay activist and journalist Arthur Bell, a friend of Verrill’s, wrote an article about the case in The Village Voice setting it against the larger issue of how murders of gay men, several of which occurred yearly in the Village, were rarely taken seriously by police or reported on in the media since they were seen as the results of sexual encounters gone wrong. The police, Bell wrote, had learned that Verrill had been at the Mineshaft, a popular leather bar, until 6 a.m., talking to many other patrons.
According to Bell, Verrill’s friends said that while he was not into hardcore leather scene that was abundant at the Mineshaft, but he did like the “attitudes” of many of the customers. He was considered a regular, not only at the Mineshaft but also the Anvil,His presence was seen as making those bars popular.(In the Mindhunters episode only The Anvil was mentioned. The Anvil what more of a mixed club and after-hours establishment, not distinctly a hard core leather club.).
Eight days after the killing someone called Bell claiming to be the killer, apparently to correct his assumption in his article that the killer was a psychopath who targeted gays. “I like your story and I like your writing”, the caller told him, “but I’m not a psychopath”.
The caller (Bateson) recounted the events of the night. “I’m gay and I needed money and I’m an alcoholic”, he said. After three months of sobriety, he claimed, he had gone out to Badlands, a Christopher Street bar, in the early hours of September 14 where Verrill, whom he did not know, offered to buy him a beer. That beer became several, with the two doing poppers and cocaine in addition to the drinks.
At 3 a.m. (legit bars in NYC closed at 4 a.m.) they went to the infamous Mineshaft, where they continued to party. The caller told Bell he was impressed by how popular his companion was. “I didn’t realize he was such a superstar, and I wanted to go home with him”. After two hours, they took a taxi to Verrill’s 17th-floor studio where they drank, had sex, and did more drugs until 7:30 a.m.
The caller said that after he realized that was as far as Verrill had wanted the relationship to go. “I decided to do something I’d never done before. I needed money and I hated the rejection”. After hitting Verrill in the head with a heavy frying pan from his kitchen, the caller then said he stabbed the journalist with a knife in the chest. He took his cash from wallet ($57) Verrill’s Master Charge card, passport, and some clothes. He used the money to buy liquor and was consequently drunk for the entire next day. Bell confirmed with another source that the man had been seen at a popular bathhouse that night.
Bell contacted police about the call. The caller had known about the stolen credit card, a detail police had not made public, and described a white substance found on the floor of Verrill’s apartment as Crisco, Police had not had not been able to identify it and had also not made the information public. (Also mentioned in MH)
At 11 p.m. Bell received another call. It was not the original caller but a man who identified himself as “Mitch”. He told Bell the killer was Paul Bateson, whom he had gotten to know while the two were drying in detox out at St. Vincent’s Hospital a few months earlier he said Bateson was an unemployed X-ray technician and that he had called him earlier and confessed to the crime.
The NYPD went to Bateson’s at his East 12th Street apartment, where he was found extremely drunk and when he was asked if he knew why he was being arrested, he pointed to an open copy of the Voice with Bell’s article and indicated that that was probably why.
Bateson was charged with second-degree murder and detained while awaiting trial.
During the preliminary trial hearings, Bateson claimed that his confession had been given while he was drunk and before police had read him his rights. He also said he was not the person who made the call to Bell. But the judge on the case decided the police upheld Bateson’s constitutional rights throughout the arrest and allowed the confession—along with Bell’s article—to be used in court.
At the time of Bateson’s arrest, police had also been investigating a series of murders of gay men over the previous two years which they believed were committed by the same person due to similarities in the killings’ modus operandi. Six corpses of men had been found, dismembered, in bags floating in the Hudson River. (Known as the “Bag Murders” the “CUPPI Murders” or the “Fag in a Bag Murders”). None of them have ever been identified, but police traced the clothes on them to shops in Greenwich Village that catered to the gay community. So the prosecution attempted to connect Bateson to the unsolved murders of six men.
While being held at Riker’s Island director William Friedkin visited Bateson and with permission from his lawyer. Bateson appeared as a radiological technologist in a scene from the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. There were in no way friends but Friedkin’s interest was piqued.After the meeting Friedkinsaid that Bateson admitted killing Verrill, although the director then incorrectly stated that Bateson had dismembered the body and thrown the bagged body parts in the river. Bateson also said that the prosecutors were offering him deal whereby if he confessed to the bag murders and some other unsolved killings he would receive a shortened sentence.
Freidkin would later say that his visit to Bateson inspired him to make his next film, Cruising, which is based off the 1970 Gerald Walker novel about a police officer going undercover in New York City’s gay leather community to solve the slayings of gay men in the (The film sparked massive protests in New York City from the gay community that thought Friedkin’s portrayal of the gay community would be harmful and offensive. Arthur Bell himself wrote in the Village Voice that it was the “the most oppressive, ugly bigoted look at homosexuality ever presented on screen.”)
Justice Morris Goldman sentenced Bateson to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Addison Verill, five years less than the minimum thge prosecutors had asked for. Finding that the connection to the other murders “too ephemeral” to merit any consideration in sentencing.
Although not convicted for the other six murders NYPD were convinced that Bateson was guilty and in what might be just coincidence the bag murders stopped.
Bateson served 24 years and 3 months of his sentence and on the day after his 63rd birthday, in August 2003, he was released from Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island.
After his release what happened to Paul Bateson is unknown. A record in the Social Security Death Index shows that a Paul F. Bateson, with the same birthdate and a Social Security number issued in Pennsylvania, where Bateson was born died on September 15, 2012.
*POSTSCRIPT: In the early 1990’s, New York’s gay community was once again stalked by a serial killer who targeted inebriated men leaving the city’s gay bars late at night. Their bodies, or rather body parts, were found wrapped in garbage bags and dumped at highway rest stops, and along roads outside the city. Dubbed “The Last Call Killer,” the serial killer would not be found by the police for almost a decade.
The killer Richard W. Rogers was arrested and convicted to life in prison. He was 51 years old and would have been 23 years old at the time of the first “Bag Murder” that the NYPD wanted to connect Bateson to.
What would Agents Tench, Holden, Carr and Smith make of that?
As they watched, the man, Felipe Rose — who was wearing that outfit to honor his Native American father — attracted the attention of a man dressed as a cowboy.
“Jacques and I suddenly had the same idea,” Mr. Belolo told the website Disco-Disco in 2000. “We said, ‘My God, look at those characters.’ So we started to fantasize on what were the characters of America. The mix, you know, of the American man.”
Mr. Belolo, who was straight, and Mr. Morali, who was gay, initially focused on gay listeners as the group’s core audience. They had regularly frequented gay clubs in Manhattan like the Anvil and the Ramrod. Later after the group became popular they packaged the Village People as a “straight group” but everybody.
Jacques Morali, died from complications of AIDS in 1991, believed that he and Mr. Belolo could build hits in gay discos — “Y.M.C.A.” rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979; “In the Navy” reached No. 3 that same year; “Macho Man” peaked at No. 25 in 1978.
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.
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 drug and mob stories I can tell there folks.)
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, Jack Wrangler.
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 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 toto 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 worked as a cocktail waiter for a few years from 1979 -1981. I was extremely young, 19 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 worker at the bar. But i tell you, after working there for awhile I may have been young, but I was not naive. (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. This is where most of the “twinks” and a few hustlers hung out along with the bartender Fred Tree who told the worst jokes in the entire world, celebrated Russian Christmas, had a taste for straight trade and spent more time in the back (closed off) kitchen with a customers than he did behind the bar.
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. A time that would make many of the people who I think about while I write this disappear disappeared from my life forever.
But looking back now, even mixed in with the tragedy and loss to follow there 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, Micheal, 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.