Tag Archives: 1985

Gay History: November 7, 1985: NYC Closes the "Notorious" MINESHAFT, READ The NY Times Article

Gay History – November 7, 1985: NYC Closes the “Notorious” MINESHAFT – READ The NY Times Article

New York City yesterday closed a bar frequented by homosexuals, contending that it permitted ”high-risk sexual activity” linked to the spread of AIDS.

It was the first such action taken by the city since New York State enacted new rules designed to curb the growing incidence of the deadly disease by empowering local governments to shut down bathhouses, bars and other places where dangerous sex takes place.

In court papers signed late Wednesday by Justice Jawn A. Sandifer of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the city asserts that the bar – the Mine Shaft at 835 Washington Street, near Little West 12th Street, in Greenwich Village – is not only in violation of the new anti-AIDS regulations but also is a public nuisance and has been operating without a liquor license.

At a hearing set for Tuesday, the city will ask that the bar be closed for a year. Its owners, listed in court papers as the DAJ Real Estate Management Corporation, could not be reached yesterday, and its operators were not identified.

A ‘Notorious’ Place

The Mine Shaft is a ”notorious and well-known place,” in the words of Richard Dunne, executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

In graphic depositions written by city inspectors, a portrait emerged of a dark place with black walls, back rooms, open cubicles without doors and the accouterments of sadomasochism. They reported seeing many patrons engaging in anal intercourse and fellatio – the ”high risk” sexual practices cited in the state rules – and hearing sounds of whipping and moaning.

At a news conference with city lawyers, Mayor Koch said in answer to questions yesterday that by closing the place, the city was not trying to impose any restrictions on sexuality, but to save lives.

”Maybe it brings to the consciousness of those who have a predilection to engage in this suicidal behavior how ridiculous it is, how self-defeating it is and how lethal it is,” he said. ”Maybe it will deter them as well. We don’t know. But we’re going to do the best we can.’

Opposition to Closing

Others, including homosexual activists, argued that closing the Mine Shaft and places like it would have no impact on sexual activity, and suggested that by closing the bar, the city had taken a step toward government regulation of private behavior.

”The Governor and the Mayor have taken us down a slippery slope that may lead to re-criminalization of private sexual conduct in general,” said Thomas B. Stoddard, legislative director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. ”Once the government starts on that road, it is very hard to make distinctions between kinds of establishments and kinds of conduct.”

City inspections will continue, said the Mayor, who also sent letters to 10 establishments believed to be in violation of the state rules, asking them to report to him by next Thursday what they have done to prevent high-risk sex on their premises.

A Call for Education

Mr. Dunne of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis said he did not believe that closing the bar would have a salutary effect on sexual behavior, or on the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

”You don’t get AIDS from buildings, you get AIDS from a virus that is transmitted sexually,” he said. ”The only thing that is going to stop it is education and the adoption of behavior changes. I don’t just mean people going to the Mine Shaft and to the bathhouses. I’m talking about the whole gay male population, and I’m talking about all intravenous drug users and their contacts.”

Mr. Koch, who until recently had taken the position that closing bathhouses, sex clubs and the like would not stop high-risk sex, said he thought closing the Mine Shaft might stop some of the sexual practices that had been taking place there.

”The Bible says, if you save one life, it’s as though you have saved the whole world,” he said, alluding to a similarly worded passage that is actually in the Talmud.

Frenetic Activity

The city was expected to act a day sooner than it did in closing the Mine Shaft. The Mayor announced early Wednesday that an establishment would be closed that morning, a pronouncement that set off frenetic activity at City Hall. According to the city’s Corporation Counsel, Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., the Mayor was ”confused” about the complexity of the process and the need to prepare detailed court papers.

A large portion of the court submission is made up of the depositions from three inspectors with the city’s Consumer Affairs Department, who visited the Mine Shaft between last Friday and last Sunday.

In sparse, almost clinical language, they describe what they saw.

”The bar was approximately 20 feet long,” one inspector wrote. ”Near the bar in the center of the floor was a pool table covered with a sheet of plywood. To the rear of the bar was a coat room where a man was checking all coats that were not leather. Located on the floor, there were two horses which I would describe as the type used in a gymnasium. The interior of the premises was painted black.’

Warning Signs

The inspectors wrote of seeing several men ”in various stages of undress” fondling each other, engaging in oral and anal intercourse and doing so in the open. They said that they observed men moving from one sexual partner to another and that although signs warned of AIDS and offered to provide condoms, condoms were not being used.

Two of the inspectors said they heard sounds of whipping and moaning, but did not investigate ”for reasons of personal safety,” one wrote.

Mr. Koch praised the inspectors, who had the option of refusing the assignment. ”It’s tough stuff to read,” the Mayor said. ”It must be horrific, horrendous in its actuality to witness.”

(Mary Koch. Oh Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease.! – WK)

Image result for the mineshaft nyc
Image result for the mineshaft nyc
Image result for the mineshaft nyc

Gay History – September 18, 1985: Ronald Reagan FINALLY Mentions AIDS For The First Time

Although AIDS was first identified in 1981, and the victims, mostly gay men were succumbing to the disease at an epidemic rate, President Ronald Reagan did not mention it publicly for over four years. 

When Reagan finally mentioned AIDS, briefly a press conference in 1985, he was asked about the budget allocation for research:

Q: Mr. President, the Nation’s best-known AIDS scientist says the time has come now to boost existing research into what he called a minor moonshot program to attack this AIDS epidemic that has struck fear into the Nation’s health workers and even its schoolchildren. Would you support a massive government research program against AIDS like the one that President Nixon launched against cancer?

President Reagan: I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It’s been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it’ll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.

During the diseases early years between June 1981 and May 1982 the CDC spent less than $1 million dollars on AIDS and over $9 million dollars on Legionnaire’s Disease. At that point in time more than 1,000 of the 2,000 reported AIDS cases resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaire’s Disease during the entire course of it’s disease.

This drastic lack of funding would continue.

In 1986 Reagan requested $85 million for AIDS research, but Congress horrified at the low number bumped that figure up to $244 million only to have Reagan then unsuccessfully try to rescind $50 million of that figure. According to the Boston Globe, but he ultimately agreed to Congress’ figure.

In 1987, Reagan proposed cutting the research budget for AIDS down to $214 million. Congress again responded dramatically against Reagan by raising it to about $400 million.

During the year of 1986 – 1987 that AIDS patients were dying at a rate of about 80 per week.

By the end of Reagan’s presidential term on January 20, 1989 115,786 men mostly gay and some women had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States—more then 70,000 of them died.

Never, never forget.

"Buddies" The First Feature Movie About The AIDS Epidemic Restored After 33 Years

“Buddies” The First Feature Movie About The AIDS Epidemic Restored After 33 Years – TRAILER

“Buddies,” was the first feature film about AIDS released in 1985, preceding An Early Frost  by two months.  It was a snapshot of the incredible struggle and fight between life and death for gay men in New York City during the darkest hours of the epidemic.

The movie made its debut at the Castro Theater in San Francisco on Sept. 12, 1985, and then went on to independent art-house runs in New York, Boston, Chicago and other cities before being lost and forgotten for over 30 years.

“Buddies” is about  Robert (Geoff Edholm), a 32-year-old gay man dying of AIDS, who is visited at the hospital by David (David Schachter), a 25-year-old volunteer “buddy.” Man gay men (and lesbians) volunteered as “buddies” in New York City to take care for the many gay men who were alone and came down with the deadly disease . Robert and David develop a friendship that eventually becomes intimate. The film ends with Robert’s death; David, emboldened by Robert’s activist spirit, pickets the White House.(Ronald Reagan who was President at that time turned his back on thousands of gay men who were dying from the dreaded disease.)

Vinegar Syndrome, in collaboration with the Bressan Project, has released a new digital restoration of “Buddies.” on Blu-ray/DVD via Vinegar Syndrome and  Amazon and o plans are underway to make it available for streaming next year through Frameline Distribution.

The film is also available for exhibition at film festivals, colleges and other venues via Frameline Distribution — just click here for more info.

*HT to NYC gay activist Christopher Leonard


Gotham Actor Cory Michael Smith, (Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler) Comes Out As Gay

Gotham Actor Cory Michael Smith, (Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler) Comes Out As Gay

Gotham’s Cory Michael Smith who plays Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler on Gotham and is starring in the new movie ‘1985,’ which just premiered at SXSW, a young man with AIDS heads home to Texas for the holidays to spend one last Christmas with his family has come out as “queer” aka “gay” in an article in The Daily Beast.

Smith who plays the title role of Adrian in the film said that “There’s something special about telling a story that feels closer to home.”

Via The Daily Beast:

“I’m from Middle America,” he says. “I’m from Ohio. I’ve been living here [in New York] for a while, and there are stretches when I don’t see my family often. Going home and that whole charade is very familiar. The first family dinner after a while. Coming out to a family, the fear of that.

He says his family handled his coming out with “a lot of love,” though it took “a lot of time.” It wasn’t hard for him to imagine the pain Adrian feels as he goes through his last holidays with his parents (played by Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis). 

Writer-director Yen Tan was inspired to make and write 1985 by conversations he had with older gay men when he was in his early twenties, fresh out of college and working at a viatical settlement firm. It was 1998, and many of his clients were men living with HIV or AIDS and negotiating the sale of their life insurance policies to third parties.

Video – Bette Midler Forgotten Classic: “Angst On A Shoestring” aka Why Bother? (1985)

Bette Midler produced this short film for David Letterman’s Holiday Film Festival in 1985. 

Letterman gave celebrities $10,000 each to produce their own short holiday film. This was Divine Bette’s contribution.