Tag Archives: The Christopher Street Hotel

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.