Gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) was the name first proposed in 1982 to describe an “unexpected cluster of cases” after public health scientists noticed clusters of Kaposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia among gay males in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. During this time, the phrase “gay cancer” was also used.
In 1982, there was 355 cases of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and/or serious opportunistic infections in previously healthy young people had been reported to the Center for Disease Control. By mid 1982 a total of 20 states had reported cases and the disease was no longer solely affecting gay men; there were a small number of cases among heterosexual men and women. Over half of those identified as heterosexual had used intravenous drugs at some point.
“By mid-1982 it was clearly different. People were starting to shake in their pants. It was clear that it was more than isolated incidents” said G’dali Braverman, an AIDS activist living in San Francisco
It was not until July at a meeting in Washington, D.C., that the acronym AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was suggested
On September 24th. the CDC used the term “AIDS” for the first time replacing the previous name of GRID, and released the first case definition of AIDS: “A disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known case for diminished resistance to that disease.”
At that point in the plague two to three cases of AIDS were being diagnosed in the USA every day.
AIDS.gov reports that 50,000 new Americans becoming infected with HIV each year and over 35 million people worldwide have dies of HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began.
PLEASE remember while science has made great strides in research that the AIDS epidemic IS NOT over.
STAY HEALTHY, HAVE YOURSELF TESTED, AND USE THE PREVENTIVE MEASURES THAT YOU DEEM FIT.
On June 5, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published it’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), and mentioned cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles. All the men have other unusual infections as well, indicating that their immune systems are not working; two have already died by the time the report is published.
After the Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times covered the story. doctors from across the U.S. flooded the CDC with reports of similar cases. Because of these reports on July 8th. the CDC established a Task Force on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (KSOI) to identify risk factors and to develop a case definition for national surveillance.
In a “follow-up” report on August 28, 1981 the CDC formally announced that an extremely rare form of cancer, Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), and of pneumonia, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP), which were showing up at an epidemic rate among gay males. Of the cases reported since January of 1976, 94% of the men whose sexual preference was known were gay and 40% of those cases proved to be fatal. Moreover, the number of cases seems to be increasing. 91% of the cases have occurred since January 1980, and the majority were from New York and California. Even more astonishing is the fact that 10% of patients were reported with both KS and PCP.
By year-end, there was a cumulative total of 270 reported cases of the “Gay cancer,” later called GRIDS (Gay Related Immuno Deficiency) which claimed 121 deaths in the United States.
Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, well over 60 million people have contracted HIV and 25 million have died of AIDS-related causes. And its still not over.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, 84.2 million [64.0–113.0 million] people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 40.1 million [33.6–48.6 million] people have died of HIV. Globally, 38.4 million [33.9–43.8 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2021.17, 17,803 people were diagnosed with AIDS. In 2016, there were 15,807 deaths among people with diagnosed HIV in the United States.
**NOTE: The term AIDS was coined in 1982. HIV hadn’t been discovered yet, so there was no way to know whether people were sick until they were truly sick. Someone was said to have AIDS if he (and it was mostly men back then) developed one of a long list of opportunistic infections and cancers that don’t occur in people with healthy immune systems. After HIV was discovered and a test became available, being HIV-positive was added to the definition of AIDS.
August 26, 1986: Jerry Smith, former Washington Redskins tight end, is the first celebrity to voluntarily acknowledge that he has AIDS.
Jerry Smith was the Redskins’ tight end from 1965-77. Sports Illustrated called him “an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain.” During his career Smith played in 168 games and had 421 receptions for a total of 5,496 yards. Scoring an amazing 60 touchdowns, he held the record for tight ends that stood for almost 25 years and was twice named All-Pro
Smith was 6-foot-3 but weighed only 210 pounds. Nobody ever questioned his skills and tight-end toughness.
But on August 26, 1986 as he lay in a bed at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Springs, MD where he was fighting for his life against the deadly disease AIDS he weighed only 150 pounds.
Smith decided to go public with his diagnosis in the Washington Post because in his words: “I want people to know what I’ve been through and how terrible this disease is. Maybe it will help people understand. Maybe it will help with development in research. Maybe something positive will come out of this.”
One of the most recognizable and popular Redskins of his era, Smith also was one of the most respected and private. and never talked about his sexuality.
After retiring Smith became co-owner of The Boathouse, a gay bar in Austin Texas. It was later confirmed that he had been romantically involved with former Redskins teammate Dave Kopay who had come out of the closet years earlier.
Twenty-two years ago this day August 13th, 1998 for the first time in over a decade The Bay Area Reporter printed no obituaries.
Every week for 10 years BAR reported dozens of deaths for gay men who succumbed to AIDS. But on August 13th, 1998 three years after the release of the first effective HIV drugs for the first time The Bay Area Reporter had no AIDS related deaths to report.
AIDS deaths in New York City also plummeted by 48 percent accelerating earlier gains attributed to improved drug therapies.
In our history we have heroes and villains And there could be no one more villainous and despicable in gay history than the monster named Roy Cohn.
Cohn born to an observant Jewish family in The Bronx, New York City on February 20th, 1927 howed signs of legal brilliance early, having been admitted to the bar at twenty-one, becoming an Assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan and playing a prominent role in the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1951. Cohn always took great pride in the Rosenberg verdict and claimed to have played an even greater part than his public role. He said in his autobiography that his own influence had led to both Chief Prosecutor Saypol and Judge Irving Kaufman being appointed to the case. He further said that Kaufman imposed the death penalty, based on his personal recommendation
In 1952, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) appointed him as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on the recommendation of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, where Cohn became known for his aggressive questioning of “suspected” Communists. Cohn preferred not to hold hearings in open forums, which went well with McCarthy’s preference for holding “executive sessions” and “off-the-record” sessions away from the Capitol in order to minimize public scrutiny and to question witnesses with relative impunity. Cohn was given free rein in pursuit of many investigations, with McCarthy joining in only for the more publicized sessions.
Cohn invited his “friend” G. David Schine, an anti-Communist propagandist, to join McCarthy’s staff as a consultant. When Schine was drafted into the US Army in 1953, Cohn made repeated and extensive efforts to procure special treatment for Schine. He contacted military officials from the Secretary of the Army down to Schine’s company commander and demanded for Schine to be given light duties, extra leave, and exemption from overseas assignment. light duties, extra leave, an exemption from overseas assignment — and threatened to “wreck the Army” if they didn’t accede to his demands. The bitter irony of all this is that while Cohn was pursuing special treatment for his “special friend”, McCarthy’s witch hunt extended beyond communists to also include gay people. (See The Lavender Scare) That conflict, along with McCarthy’s accusations of Communists in the defense department, led to the Army–McCarthy hearings of 1954, in which among other developments the Army charged Cohn and McCarthy with using improper pressure on Schine’s behalf, and McCarthy and Cohn countercharged that the Army was holding Schine “hostage” in an attempt to squelch McCarthy’s investigations into Communists in the Army. During the hearings, a photograph of Schine was introduced, and Joseph N. Welch, the Army’s attorney in the hearings, accused Cohn of doctoring the image to show Schine alone with Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens. Welch asked the staffer sarcastically, “Did you think it came from a pixie?” McCarthy interjected, “Will counsel (Welch) for my benefit define– I think he might be an expert on that– what a pixie is?” Welch responded, “Yes. I should say, Mr. Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy.” in a jab at Cohn. Others in the chamber who were in on the rumors, broke into laughter. Cohn later called the remark, “malicious,” “wicked,” and “indecent.”
Although the findings of the hearings blamed Cohn rather than McCarthy, they are widely considered an important element of McCarthy’s disgrace. After the Army–McCarthy hearings, Cohn resigned from McCarthy’s staff and went into private practice.
After leaving McCarthy, Cohn had a 30-year career as an attorney in New York City. His clients included Donald Trump, Mafia figures Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti, Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Texas financier and philanthropist Shearn Moody, Jr., and the New York Yankees baseball club. He was known for his active social life, charitable giving, and combative personality. In the early 1960s he became a member of the John Birch Society and a principal figure in the Western Goals Foundation. He maintained close ties in conservative political circles. Cohn’s frequent phone pals included Nancy Reagan and the former C.I.A. director William Casey, who “called Roy almost daily during [Reagan’s] 1st election.” Cohn was also as an informal advisor to Richard Nixon.
Cohn was also friends with the now “President” Donald Trump, and sought advice after they first met asking: How should he and his father respond to Justice Department allegations that their company had systematically discriminated against black people seeking housing?
“My view is tell them to go to hell,” Cohn said, “and fight the thing in court.”
Cohn also showed Trump how to exploit power and instill fear through a simple formula: attack, counterattack and never apologize.
Donald Trump prized Roy Cohn’s friendship and his reputation for aggression. According to a New York Times profile a quarter-century ago, when frustrated by an adversary, Trump would pull out a photograph of Cohn and ask, “Would you rather deal with him?”
In a 2008 article published in The New Yorker magazine Jeffrey Toobin quotes Roger Stone on Cohn’s homosexuality: “Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access. Stone worked with Cohn beginning with the Reagan campaign during the Republican Party presidential primaries, 1976.
While publicly closeted and working actively against gay rights, Cohn partied at the best gay bars and threw lavish parties in New York and Provincetown. In 1984, he was diagnosed with AIDS.
Labor Day, 1984. Provincetown was readying itself for another night of dancing and partying, for this was the last holiday of the season. Lying on a chaise on the deck of Roy’s cottage, Russell Eldridge was sick. He was 20 years younger than Roy, but misfortune had come to Russell first. At one time or another Russell had done everything for Roy but get into bed with him. He had mixed the drinks, cut Roy’s hair, brought in the cash from Roy’s various businesses. He ran strange errands, such as rounding up the night’s boys at the Boat Slip bar in Provincetown. Gay people, straight people cottoned to Russell. He had a way of being a part of Roy’s madnesses and yet standing apart from them, looking on with sardonic good humor. Years ago he was supposed to have been wicked, the mean kind of man hustler. He had outgrown his bad self, but now Russell was 50 pounds lighter, a shaking scarecrow, wrapped in towels and lying on Roy’s deck.
There had been great times in Provincetown, but this time Russell hadn’t wanted to come. He couldn’t even walk by himself. “He knew he’d have to pretend he was feeling better than he was for Roy,” Russell’s friend Sue Greenig remembers. “That’s what he did until he couldn’t pretend anymore.” Roy acted as if there were nothing wrong with Russell, though he knew the virus was in both their bodies. Roy wasn’t admitting it, and Russell shouldn’t either.
Cohn used his connections to jump to the head of the line for treatment with the then-scarce and experimental AZT. By the time he died on this date in 1986, he maintained his public denial both of his homosexuality and his disease — he said it was “cancer.”
Cohn died on August 2, 1986, in Bethesda, Maryland, of complications from AIDS, at the age of 59.[ At death, the IRS seized almost everything he had.
Roy Cohn is buried in Union Field Cemetery in Queens, New York. While his tombstone describes him as a lawyer and a patriot,
Roy Cohn’s name is also on a panel of the AIDS memorial quilt. It reads, “Roy Cohn: Bully, Coward, Victim.”
A fitting eulogy if there ever was one.
Talk about perfect casting. Watch James Woods as Roy Cohn below in “Citizen Cohn (1992)
An article by Dr Dana Rosenfeld, Director of the Keele Centre for Ageing Research reported more than 5 years ago on the affects that gay men who lived through the AIDS crisis and the trauma they endured and how it still stays with them today.
The article points out that older gay people were aged 50-70 in 1980, when HIV / AIDS emerged in the west, gay male ‘baby boomers’ (born 1946-1964) were aged 34-16 and how for them, the high number of AIDS deaths at the epidemic’s peak (1987-1996) shaped their lives, during the epidemic, throughout their life course, and into later years.
Statistics: AIDS killed 324,029 men and women in the USA between 1987 and 1998.
AIDS deaths were highest in major cities with thriving gay communities with a far higher proportion of gay male residents than the national average. In 1990, AIDS caused 61% of all deaths of men aged 25-44 (born 1946-1965) in San Francisco, 35% in New York, 51% in Ft. Lauderdale, 32% in Boston, 33% in Washington, DC, 39% in Seattle, 34% in Dallas, 38% in Atlanta, 43% in Miami, and 25% in Portland, Oregon. Older gay men, myself included who had lost friends and / or partners during the AIDS epidemic described cities becoming virtual ghost-towns.
The AIDS epidemic’s impacts on this generation of gay men, now aged 54-72, are still being explored. High mortality within tight gay networks have inspired the term ‘multiple loss syndrome’ to capture these deaths’ psychological toll.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, 79.3 million [55.9–110 million] people have been infected with the HIV virus and 36.3 million [27.2–47.8 million] people have died of HIV. Globally, 37.7 million [30.2–45.1 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2020.
1924:Jacob Israel de Haan, Dutch writer and journalist, is assassinated at age 42 for his contacts with Arab leaders. His killer claims never to have known about Haan’s homosexuality, and said further, “I neither heard nor knew about this,” adding “why is it someone’s business what he does at his home?” According to Gert Hekma, Zionists spread a rumor he had been killed by Arabs because of his sexual relations with Arab boys
1973: The first lesbian conference in Canada is held at Toronto’s YWCA.
1974: 43,000 attended the 5th Annual Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, more than double the number from the previous year. The years parade included floats and themes for the first time./
1975: Canada’s National Gay Rights Conference sees formation of National Gay Rights Coalition which is renamed the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition / Coalition Canadienne pour les droits des lesbiennes et des gais (CLGRC / CCDLG) in 1978. It folds two years later.
1979: In London, England, 8,000 join the Gay Pride march from the Embankment to Hyde Park to hear Tom Robinson sing.
1979: A group of 40 people in Cincinnati Ohio who had reserved a city park pool in the division of Clifton for a Gay Pride party are attacked by local residents who throw rocks and bottles at them. Police arrived, watched for a while and then drove away doing nothing. One man had to be rescued by a television news crew. Police refused to return, even after several calls reporting a riot.
1981: Moncton, New Brunswick, city council passes a last-minute law to prevent a gay picnic from taking place in Centennial Park to celebrate Canada Day. Groups of gay people hold picnic anyway.
1981: Governor Bob Graham of Florida signed the Trask Amendment into law which denied state funding to any university or college which allowed gay/lesbian/bisexual student organizations. It would later be struck down by the Florida Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
1984: The Unitarian Church in the U.S. voted to approve ceremonies uniting same-sex couples.
1986: The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Georgia sodomy law.
Michael Hardwick was 29 and tending bar at a gay pub in Atlanta, Georgia, he threw a beer bottle into an outdoor trash can and got cited by the police for public drinking. The cop wrote down the wrong day on his summons. When Hardwick didn’t show up in court as a result, an arrest warrant was issued. An officer later showed up at his apartment to serve the warrant, and a guest who’d been sleeping on the living room couch said he wasn’t sure if Hardwick was home. The cop decided to take a look and found Hardwick in his bedroom, having oral sex with a man and they were both arrested for sodomy.
Hardwick’s case was dismissed without a trial by the district court, and then he actually won on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, where a panel of judges found that his fundamental right to privacy had been violated. . But when Hardwick’s case came to the Supreme Court, Justice Byron White didn’t frame it in terms of privacy or any other civil right. “The issue presented,” he wrote, “is whether the Federal Constitution confers a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy.” The answer was no. White got there by saying that proscriptions against homosexual conduct had “ancient roots,” stressing that at the time 24 states and the District of Columbia continued to outlaw sodomy
White famously got the fifth vote that made his opinion speak for the majority from Justice Lewis Powell, a moderate, who said at the time that he didn’t know any gay people. (He meant openly gay people, since it turned out he had a gay clerk.). Four years later, Powell famously told a group of law students that he regretted his decision. “I think I probably made a mistake in that one,” he said.
1986: Dr. William Haseltine responds to a U.S. justice department memo which claimed that he said that HIV could be casually transmitted. He said his statements had been distorted and that casual contact posed no significant threat. Assistant Attorney General Charles Cooper later apologized to him.
1987: After spending three years in jail for treason, South African AIDS activist Simon Nkoli was released on bail.
1989: Activists protest outside the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC because of the cancellation of an exhibit of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.
1990: Gays in London, England, lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in memory of gays killed in Germany during the Holocaust.
1995: British publication Capital Gay puts out its last issue.
1998: Lawmakers in Catalonia Spain passed a bill which gives same sex couples the same inheritance and alimony rights as married couples, but stopped short of allowing the adoption of children. Catholic groups condemned the bill, saying it institutionalized immoral behavior.
2000: David Copeland, 24, is convicted murder for planting a bomb in a London gay bar a year earlier. Copeland a Neo-Nazi militant became known as the “London Nail Bomber” after a 13-day bombing campaign in April 1999 aimed at London’s black, Bangladeshi and gay communities.
2001: Dozens are injured in Belgrade as roving bands of young thugs attack participants the first gay-rights march in Yugoslavia’s capital.
2005: Spain becomes the fourth country in the world (after Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada) to legalize gay marriage as the Spanish parliament gives final approval to a bill authorizing same-sex weddings. To no one’s surprise the Catholic Church howled in protest, but the law passed anyway.
2009: After a strenuous court battle, the Minnesota Supreme Court race was finally decided by a state Supreme Court ruling in favor of Al Franken. Franken is considered a great ally to have in the Senate, as he has spoken numerous times on his intent to vote in favor of expanding rights for gays, and because his vote makes a “filibuster proof” majority.
1883 – Birth date of Mauritz Stiller, the Finnish film director. Stiller was Greta Garbo’s discoverer, mentor, and friend. Tall, lean, gay, with a shock of hair and long expressive hands, Stiller, was not only gay but a flamboyant man about town…One of Stiller’s most important relationships was with Nils Asther, the Danish actor. Stiller was in demand in the film industry and his price to come to Hollywood was a contract for the then pudgy Greta Gustafsson.
1943 – Birth date of Barry Manilow, American singer-songwriter, musician, arranger, producer, conductor, entertainer, and performer. Manilow stayed in the closet for many years, but his sexual orientation was an open secret in the music industry and among the Friends of Dorothy. When Barry Manilow finally did come out in 2017 at the age of 73, it really didn’t really matter and was a shock to no one.
1948 – Anthropologist Ruth Benedict who advocated cross-cultural and racial equality died on this date. She is best remembered for her works on the national character of various cultures including several Native American tribes, and her most famous work on Japan, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Benedict was a sometimes lover and lifelong friend of fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead.
After Benedict passed away Margaret Mead kept the legacy of her lovers work going by supervising projects that Benedict would have looked after, and editing and publishing notes from studies that Benedict had collected throughout her life
1959 – On this date a London court awarded pianist Liberace $22,400 in damages against the “London Daily Mirror” for implying that the flamboyant entertainer was a homosexual by referring to him as a “mincing ice-covered heap of mother love.” The case went to trial, and when Liberace was asked by his own counsel whether he was gay. Liberace said no, saying: “My feelings are the same as anybody else’s. I am against the practice because it offends convention and offends society.” –
Our only guess to how Liberace won the lawsuit is that the jury was both blind and deaf.
1976 – In Toronto, the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario presents a brief “The Homosexual Minority in Ontario” to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
1977 – Vice President Walter Mondale angrily left a San Francisco Democratic fund raising event when his speech on human rights in South America was interrupted by a man who demanded to know when he would speak in favor of gay rights. Members of the newly formed San Francisco Gay Democratic Club held up signs demanding a statement on human rights in the United States. The club was created by Harvey Milk.
1981 – Sen. Roger Jepson (R-IA) introduced the Family Protection Act in Congress. It specified that anyone who was homosexual or openly supportive of homosexuals could not receive student aid, social security, or veterans’ benefits; and regulated what public school textbooks could say about human sexuality. It never passed, and Jepson lost his bid for re-election when it was revealed he had a membership at a brothel.
1983 – New York State Funeral Directors Association announced its members would not embalm the bodies of those who had died of AIDS.
From The New York Times: “The state’s largest such group, urged its members yesterday not to embalm victims of AIDS until the government issues guidelines for safe handling of such cases. Governor Cuomo characterized the action as “unfortunate.” He said he had asked state officials to investigate all legal remedies “to insure that the civil rights and human dignities of AIDS victims’ families are not compromised.”
It was HELL.
1985 – Johnny Greene was fired from his job with McDermott International Inc. after writing an article for PEOPLE magazine about his own suspected case of AIDS. “They just walked in and said, ‘Get the hell out,’ Green said. “I hope they were acting out of panic or confusion, not belligerence or homophobia.”
Immediately after being fired, PEOPLE magazine hired Greene and put him under contract to report on the AIDS epidemic.
1989 – Jessie Portis Helm, a columnist for Gentleman’s Quarterly, died
1990 – Twelve US marines attacked three gay men outside The Remington bar(pg.4) on Capitol Hill, leaving two of them unconscious. Two of the marines were fined $400 and confined to their barracks for 30 days. Despite witness accounts that several of the marines chanted, “Kill the fags,” Marine officials ruled that it was not a gay bashing but a bar brawl.
1990 – Mayor P.J. Morgan of Omaha, Nebraska declared the week of June 17 as “Understanding Our Differences, Respect All People Week.” Though in coincided with gay pride week, he received criticism for not mentioning gays and lesbians in the proclamation.
2005 – On this date the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops agreed to a five-year extension on their unprecedented policy of permanently barring sexually abusive clergy from church work. They did not take the opportunity to stop scapegoating gay clergy for the institutional church’s misdeeds. – Obviously the barring of sexually abusive clergy did not work.
2006 – An estimated 2.4 million people took to the streets of Sao Paulo to celebrate the Brazilian city’s 10th annual Gay Pride parade.The record attendance — the largest in the world, according to organizers — topped 2005’s official crowd count of 1.8 million, and was a far cry from the 2,000 people who took part when Sao Paulo’s first Pride was held a decade ago. Some revelers dressed up as Batman, Elvis Presley, Cinderella or Marie Antoinette; others as gay cowboy lovers Jake and Heath from “Brokeback Mountain”.
Via Press Release form the United States Postal Service:
Today at the White House, the U.S. Postal Service revealed the artwork of a commemorative Forever stamp to celebrate the centennial of former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s birth. The stamp design was unveiled by First Lady Jill Biden; Postmaster General Louis DeJoy; Anne Peterson, niece of Nancy Reagan; and Fred Ryan, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. The dedication ceremony for the Nancy Reagan Forever stamp will be held July 6 — the 101st anniversary of her birth and the culmination of her centennial year. The event will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA. Throughout her life, Reagan held a deep passion for her country, championing many causes along the way. Chief among these were the Foster Grandparents Program; Vietnam veterans and the plight of POWs and MIAs; drug and alcohol abuse prevention among youth; breast cancer awareness; and Alzheimer’s research.
Honoring one of the very people responsible for escalation of the AIDS epidemic is pathetic enough. To do so at the beginning of Pride Month? You have to be really tone-deaf, stupid, or both to pull this shit.
And for those who quibble the stamp has been in development from before the election. It could’ve either been cancelled or at least rescheduled so it didn’t come out during fucking PRIDE month.
It wasn’t just Ronald Reagan, either. Here’s what Nancy Reagan herself was up to in 1985, when her friend Rock Hudson flew to Paris hoping for experimental treatment in a last-ditch attempt to save his life. https://t.co/1Xaaivn3lupic.twitter.com/aRLivPfg1K
The 1,433-seat Adonis Theater, was originally built as the Tivoli Theater in 1921 by Billy Rose for Fanny Brice of all people and it was one of a kind. But as time went by the grandly opulent vaudeville house turned movie theater on Eighth Avenue and 51st Street in its declining years became famous for anonymous stud romping, porn and SEX SEX SEX.
It was a cinema palace that survived by giving Doris Day and Rock Hudson (oh the irony of it all) the pink slip and bringing in and out and in again Jack Wrangler, Kip Knoll, Richard Locke and the infamous Falcon Video-Pac guys to survive and became one of New York’s most popular ALL-GAY adult theater in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Not much history remains of the Adonis in books or on the internet just a few fading memories of those who who wandered its dark interior in days and nights of an era long gone by.
The Adonis came complete with a grand lobby and a balcony flanked by solid two-story Ionic columns. Even as men prowled the aisles looking for sex the vast if not somewhat faded grandness of the theater could not be overlooked. Even Variety went so far to peg it as the largest and most lavish gay porn theaters in New York City.
In the late 70’s the Adonis was a sexual amusement part. While the images of Jack Wrangler and Movies by Joe Gage flickered on the screen men in the aisles, the seats, the balcony, the bathrooms and anywhere they could find would act out their own sexual fantasies. Sundays were so crowded that it was hard to find a seat in Adonis but that was all that was hard to find. Patrons would literally avoid the seats under the balcony’s edge at busy times for fear of being showered with semen from high above.
The Adonis was crowded at most times of the day, and night. Sleazy, and dark, it attracted a fun, fast crowd. Instead of popcorn you could buy small tubs of lube, cock rings and poppers at the concession stand. And for “boys on a budget” If one didn’t have the $7 admission you could easily meet someone in front of the theater to pay your entrance fee.
The Adonis’ house manager had a stake in the career of iconic porn star Jack Wrangler. So in 1977 a film called A Night at the Adonis was shot in the theater. Theater employees such as Bertha the cashier acted in bit roles, and as soon as a print was readied it was on the screen at The Adonis.
A net posting by Oliver Penn recalls the movie. . . “it was rather odd to be in the exact theater that was being depicted on the screen, sort of a movie coming to life all around you. What was happening on the screen was also happening in real life as you were watching the film.”
But the theaters size, age, and the outbreak of AIDS epidemic took its toll. There were also some serious structural problems because of its age and lack of upkeep. In the mid-’80’s the balcony collapsed. Luckily no one was hurt
Real estate developers that had a stake in the neighborhood and deeply closeted Mayor Ed Koch who was using the AIDS epidemic to clean up Times Square was trying to get the theater closed down to tidy it up for the building of the monolith Worldwide Plaza, soon to be built on the next block. One prospective tenant, a a homophobic law firm law firm Cravath, Swain & Moore, stipulated that the theater had to close before Worldwide Plaza was built. The plaza’s developer, William Zeckendorf, subsequently bought up the site, and that was the beginning of the end of the Adonis.
Later a little known bizarre postscript to this story surfaced when a partner in said law firm David Schwartz—instrumental in shuttering the Adonis—was murdered by an 18-year-old male prostitute whom he’d spent the day with at his Connecticut summer home and then took to a sleazy Bronx motel. Schwartz had been stabbed 27 times. It turned out that this moral pillar of the community who had a wife and three children liked rough street trade and had been living a double life for years.
But The Adonis did live on for a bit longer and transferred its name to another theater owned by further south on Eighth Avenue, at 44th Street which was quickly outfitted with campy Greek statues and roman columns but it wasn’t the same. Not long after the city of New York was doing its best close down every gay sex establishment in NYC and “new” Adonis was eventually closed in 1994 by the City’s Health Department after a raid revealed high-risk sexual activities taking place among patrons.
The grand old Adonis Theatre would stand like a grey ghost until the spring of 1995 on its corner of 8th Avenue and 51st Street until it was demolished. Now its memory is a ghostly reminder of the heyday of gay sexual freedom in a now scared and scary post-AIDs world.
Do you have stories about The Adonis or other forgotten NYC gay places? If so leave them in the comments.
WATCH: A Night At The Adonis – Directed by Jack Deveau. With Jack Wrangler and Jayson MacBride – NWSF – Adults Only – RATED X
*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.