Thirty years ago today on April 28th, 1990 a homemade pipe-bomb exploded in a popular gay bar in the West Village of New York City which prompted a massive protest march on Manhattan’s Sixth Precinct station mobilized by the then newly formed Queen Nation and years later was found out to be one of the first terrorist bombings on U.S. soil by a radical Islamic group.
Uncle Charlie’s Downtown was located at 56 Greenwich Avenue and was a hugely popular gay video bar in the 1980’s and 1990’s, packed nightly where gay men would gather to drink, watch video, play pool and cruise.
In the early morning of April 28 at least 3 men were injured when a pipe bomb exploded at about 12:10 A.M. Sergeant Tina S. Mohrmann described damage to the building as ”minor.” but at that time the NYPD also called it “unrelated” to a hate crime.
One patron at the nightspot, Frizzell Green, said he was standing at the bar when the blast went off in a trash can five to six feet from him, producing a cloud of smoke and sending debris in all directions.
After the NYPD basically dismissed the explosion the newly formed Queer Nation founded by by AIDS activists from ACT UP mobilized over a 1000 protesters in a matter of hours. The group gathered outside Uncle Charlie’s at 9:30 P.M. then marched their way to the NYPD’s 6th Precinct, blocking traffic at times and chanting ”Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia has to go.” As the march proceeded, many bystanders along the street and in sidewalk restaurants cheered and applauded and joined in
It wasn’t until 5 years later in 1995, just two years before Uncle Charlie’s Downtown would close its doors for good that it was discovered that that an extremist Muslim terrorist ring was actually responsible for making and planting the pipe bomb.
Federal prosecutors plan to present evidence that some of the 12 men charged in a terrorist conspiracy to blow up New York City landmarks were also responsible for a host of other crimes, including the 1990 bombing of a gay bar, international arms smuggling, drug trafficking and the attempted murder of Mikhail S. Gorbachev. In a letter from prosecutors to defense lawyers released yesterday, the prosecutors accuse El Sayyid A. Nosair, one of the alleged leaders of the terrorist ring, of bombing a Greenwich Village gay bar, Uncle Charlie’s, on April 28, 1990, injuring three people. Mr. Nosair, who like the other defendants is Muslim, attacked the bar because he objected to homosexuality on religious grounds, according to the letter.
Nosair was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his “war of urban terrorism”
Over three decades later the pipe-bombing of Uncle Charlie’s Downtown, was one of the first terrorist attacks on American soil by radical Islamic groups and is still overlooked by many mainstream historians.
Another in a long line of under-reported and missing pieces of our LGBT history.
April 28 1977 – Florida Governor Reubin Askew asks Miami voters to rescind a recently passed ray rights ordinance saying, “I would not want a known homosexual teaching my children. Askew was an ally of Florida Orange Juice spokesperson Anita Bryant, who conducted an anti-gay crusade and signed legislation prohibiting any gay or lesbians in Florida from adopting children.
April 28th, 1990 – Over 1000 people attend Queer Nation’s first major demonstration. Queer Nation founded by AIDS activists from ACT UP mobilized over a 1000 protesters in a matter of hours outside Uncle Charlie’s Downtown in NYC responding to pipe bomb which exploded at about 12:10 A.M injuring 3 men in the very popular Greenwich Village gay bar and marched their way to the NYPD’s 6th Precinct, blocking traffic.
Five years later in 1995 it was discovered that an extremist radical Muslim terrorist ring led by El Sayyid Nosair who was convicted of involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was responsible for the pipe bomb attack
April 29, 1933 – Singer Rod McKuen is born in Oakland, California. His “new age” songs made him a celebrity in the late 60s. He told an interviewer “I have had sex with men. Does that make me gay?”
After moving to Paris, Stein met Alice B. Toklas in 1907; she called her “Pussy” and Gertrude was “Lovey” to Alice. Their apartment on the Rue de Fleurus became a famous meeting place for artists and writers.
During the period Toklas and Stein were together, they frequently exchanged love letters. Alice was an early riser, and Gertrude, who wrote late into the night, left her tender, passionate notes to cheer up her mornings. “Baby precious Hubby worked and / loved his wifey, sweet sleepy wifey, / dear dainty wifey, baby precious sleep,” Stein once rhymed.
Toklas gained wide attention with the publication of The Autobiogrphy of Alice B. Toklas (1933), which is actually Gertrude Stein’s memoirs. It records Toklas’s first-person observations of Stein’s life and her friends, among them Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque.
The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook came out when Toklas was 77. It contained 300 recipes and became famous because of one special dish, Toklas’s Haschich Fudge (“which anyone could whip up on a rainy day,” as she wrote),
May 1, 1974 – Studio One disco opens in West Hollywood, CA. Started in an old WW2-era bomb-sight manufacturing building, Studio One has a long history that played a big part in the lives, politics and gay rights movement.
May 1, 1974 – Gay activists march in Portugal for the first time, demanding an end to the country’s sodomy laws and a repeal of all statutes that discriminate against gays and lesbians.
May 1, 1975 – Maine Legislators decriminalize homosexuality between consenting adults by repealing its sodomy laws.
May 1, 1975 – Published reports confirm that Paul Newman is having financing trouble with his attempt to bring The Front Runner, a 1974 novel by Patricia Nell Warren. considered now to be a classic of LGBT literature to the big screen. Newman eventually allows his option to lapse.
May 1, 1976 – Christopher Street magazine a gay-orientedmagazine published in New York City, New York debuts. Known both for its serious discussion of issues within the gay community and its satire of anti-gay criticism, it was one of the two most-widely read gay-issues publications in the USA. Christopher Street covered politics and culture and its aim was to become a gay New Yorker. Christopher Street printed 231 issues before closing its doors in December 1995.
May 2, 1895 – Lorenz Hart was born in New York. Richard Rogers wrote the perfect scores for Hart’s words. They became some of the best songs of the ’20s and ’30s. It was a closely guarded secret he was gay. No one knew until a biography came out 30 years after his death.
May 2, 1972 – J. Edgar Hoover dies, and leaves the bulk of his estate to Clyde Tolson, his “companion” of over 40 years. To this day no one really knows th truth if Hoover was gay or not. But for LGBT history’s sake lets hope that it wasn’t so.
May 3, 1912 – Writer May Sarton is born in Wendelgem, Belgium. The writer of some of the most lyric poetry of the 20th century. Satron didn’t see herself as a “lesbian” writer, instead wanting to touch on what is universally human about love in all its manifestations. When publishing her novel Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing in 1965, she feared that writing openly about lesbianism would lead to a diminution of the previously established value of her work. “The fear of homosexuality is so great that it took courage to write a novel about a woman homosexual who is not a sex maniac, a drunkard, a drug-taker, or in any way repulsive” wrote Sarton in Journal of a Solitude. After the book’s release, many of Sarton’s works began to be studied in university level Women’s Studies classes, being embraced by feminists and lesbians alike
May 3, 1989 – Christine Jorgenson, pioneering transsexual, dies of cancer at age sixty-two. Jorgensen was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery—in this case, male to female.
Jorgensen grew up in the Bronx area of New York and upon returning to New York after military service and increasingly concerned over (as one obituary called it at the time) her “lack of male physical development” Jorgensen heard about sex reassignment surgery, and began taking the female hormone ethinyl estradiol on her own. She researched the subject with the help of Dr. Joseph Angelo, a husband of one of Jorgensen’s friends.
Jorgensen had intended to go to Sweden, where at the time the only doctors in the world performing this surgery were located. During a stopover in Copenhagen to visit relatives, however, she met Dr. Christian Hamburger, a Danish endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. Jorgensen stayed in Denmark, and under Dr. Hamburger’s direction, was allowed to begin hormone replacement therapy. She then got special permission from the Danish Minister of Justice to undergo the series of operations for sex re-assignment.
Jorgensen chose the name Christine in honor of Dr. Hamburger and she became the most famous and outspoken figures and for transsexual and transgender community.
May 4, 1993 – “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” opens on Broadway. Millenium Approaches is part one of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes the Pulitzer Prize-winning play in two parts by American playwright Tony Kushner.
The two parts of the play are separately presentable and entitled Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, respectively and have been made into both a television miniseries and an opera by Peter Eötvös.
Angels in America received numerous awards, including the 1993 and 1994 Tony Awards for Best Play. The play’s first part, Millennium Approaches, received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The play garnered much praise upon its release for its dialogue and exploration of social issues. “Mr. Kushner has written the most thrilling American play in years,” wrote The New York Times and decade after the play’s premier, Metro Weekly labeled it “one of the most important pieces of theater to come out of the late 20th century.”