Tag Archives: 1980

Gay History - November 19, 1980: The NYC Ramrod Shooting.

Gay History – November 19, 1980: The NYC Ramrod Shooting. 2 Killed, 6 Injured In Hate Crime Murder Spree

On the night of November 19, 1980 Ronald Crumpley 38,  a former Transit Authority policeman and son of a minister, spent the evening cruising the streets of New York’s Greenwich Village in his father’s stolen blue Cadillac. He fired three shots from an automatic handgun at Sim’s Deli shortly before 11:00 p.m. wounding at least three people and shattering the front plate glass window. Minutes later, he drove to Christopher Street and stopped in front of two gay bars, Sneakers and Ramrod, which were next door to each other on the West Side Highway (West Street).

According to witnesses Crunpley waited about two or three minutes in front of the bars then drove around the block, returned, stepped out of the car calmly, walked up to the curb and shot a man standing on the curb waiting for a cab. The man fell to the ground, then he shot another guy who ran around the corner. He then started spraying both bars through the plate-glass windows with an Uzi machine gun. Then he got back into the car and drove off.” 

After Crumpley drove off, he stopped again at 10th Street and Greenwich Avenue not far from The Ninth Circle and fired eight more shots at another group of men. This time his shots missed, and as police cars approached he sped away. As many as 15 police cruisers chased Crumpley to Broadway and West 10th Street, where Crumpley abandoned the Cadillac. Officers found him trying to pull himself up underneath a parked van’s undercarriage.

All told Vernon Koenig, an organist at Greenwich Village’s St. Joseph’s church, died on the operating table at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Jorg Wenz, Ramrod’s 21-year-old doorman, died soon after surgery. Rene Malute, 23, was in intensive care, and five others were admitted in stable condition.

Thousands visited the site of the Ramrod attack in the following nights leaving flowers and remembrances. But the attack itself was barely mentioned in the news media.

Crumpley was arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, and possession of illegal weapons. Police found four weapons: a .357 Magnu, a .45 caliber automatic pistol, a 9mm automatic pistol, and an Uzi. Crumpley told police that he attacked the bars and the deli because he hated homosexuals. “I want to kill them all,” he said. “They’re no good. They ruin everything.”

During Crumpley’s trail, the prosecution presented 35 witnesses, and the defense five. At issue was Crumpley’s mental state at the time of the shooting. Crumpley’s psychiatrist testified that Creumpley suffered from paranoia. Crumpley himself took the stand and said gay people were “agents of the devil” who were following him continuously. The jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed to Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Wards Island.

In 2001, Crumpley’s lawyers petitioned the Manhattan Supreme Court to review the state of his mental illness and pleaded for his release or transfer to a less secure institution.

He was the model of normalcy under questioning from his own lawyer. But under grilling by prosecutor Patricia Bailey, Crumpley described a lingering resentment over numerous men whom he “knew” were gay and who were “attracted to me”. Crumpley adopted a soprano voice to imitate a man he thought was following him on Eighth Avenue and said gays sometimes “put themselves in a situation where they know they’re taking chances.”

The judge turned down both his requests.

Crumpley died in a psychiatric hospital in 2015. Though the attack on the Ramrod is not well remembered outside of Greenwich Village, residents have never forgotten the event. Coming as it did shortly after the election of Ronald Reagan and a Republican takeover of the US Senate, the attack felt like an ominous harbinger of things to come. Eight months later the New York Times would report on the strange, “rare cancer” afflicting homosexual men.

The Ramrod closed permanently following the attack.

Ramrod – NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
West Street '79 [includes Badlands, RamRod] - Leonard Fink — Google Arts &  Culture
Ramrod – NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
One of the few existing pictures of the inside of the Ramrod

WATCH: “The Making of Cruising”(1980) William Friedkin Documentary [Video]

With the television version of “Cruising” currently airing on FX as AHS-NYC we thought it might be a time for a refresher of the original.

The 1980 movie “Cruising” directed by Willam Friedkin and starring Al Pacino had a huge (mostly) negative impact that it made upon the LGBT community.  But other than darker aspects the movie, it in itself is a time capsule of a life and places long gone in NYC .

The film loosely based on the novel of the same name, by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker is  about a rookie NYPD cop that goes undercover to bait a homophobic serial killer in the gay leather and  S&M world of New York’s Greenwich Village.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (back when they actually had a task) in a letter to the New York Times wrote that “in the context of an anti-homosexual society, a film about violent, sex-obsessed gay men would be seen as a film about all gay people.  The psychosexual dynamic of Cruising is certainly questionable—deliberately so, to some extent—though in chalking up violent homoerotic impulses to unresolved daddy issues, the movie may be a greater insult to the intelligence of psychoanalysts than to the sensibilities of gays.”

Village Voice writer Arthur Bell was the person who raised a call for full out sabotage on the movie writing that Friedkin’s film “promises to be the most oppressive, ugly, bigoted look at homosexuality ever presented on the screen,” he wrote, “the worst possible nightmare of the most uptight straight. I implore readers . . . to give Friedkin and his production crew a terrible time if you spot them in your neighborhoods.” and they did.

Over 40 years later despite the movies contents which today seems schlocky and mediocre at best Cruising is easily the most graphic depiction of the NYC gay sex underground  ever recreated or seen in a mainstream movie which makes it a faux documentary and a time capsule of days gone by.

Filmed in such legendary bars as the Ramrod, Anvil, and Eagle’s Nest (The Mineshaft barred Friedkin from the premises ), Cruising is a flashback to a time of  poppers, color-coded pocket hankies, hardcore disco, bathhouses, backrooms, park cruising and yes even Crisco. 

Like it or not the movie Cruising is a part of our history. You can get a better understand of the film and the era it was made in The Making Of Cruising documentary below.


*Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance – The Skatt Brothers aka. Canada’s Village People: Life At The Outpost (1980) – Video

The Skatt Brothers (or Skatt Bros.) was a Canadian band formed in 1979 was supposedly modeled after the Village People for parallels in music, but for a straight audience and by straight (?) masculine men.

They did not succeed.

Sean Delaney formed the band in 1979 and was signed to  Casablanca Records by Neil Bogart. In 1979, the band released Walk the Night , on the Strange Spirits album. ” Walk the Night” which was widely popular, reaching #9 in the Billboard charts and #1 on various national charts.Walk the Night is considered the band’s cult classic and most famous released but in 1980 the band released a single called Life at the Outpost which while not as popular did reach the Top 25 internationally and hit Number  #13 in Australia.

This official video was done by the Australian record company, without the actual Skatt Brothers, using male models instead when repeated requests to the bands management company to produce a video for Life At The Outpost went unanswered.

It’s the the finest music video never to reach popular rotation and a must see.

Even I don’t remember the 1980’s being THIS  gay.