On August 2, 1969, just a little over one month after the Stonewall Riots the newly formed Gay Liberation Front took to the streets of Midtown Manhattan and participated in a rally and march to demand the release of political prisoners and members of the Armed Forces who were being held in military stockades. The focus was on Fort Dix 38 who were 38 prisoners made up of AWOLs, Vietnam war resisters, and conscientious objectors who rose against deplorable and inhumane conditions at the Army Base stockade in New Jersey.
There were three short films that NYPD detectives shot. We have seen these loops and they are silent and last just over nine minutes altogether. The films were digitized by the city’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives. They were posted on YouTube for some time but have been removed.
While the detectives did not name GLF in their report the font on the banners, including the interlocked female/ female and male/ male graphics that were GLF’s symbol, are readily recognizable.
Allen Young, who was working for the Liberation News Service in August 1969, recognized Dan Smith and Ralph Hall, two GLF members, in the film.
NYC’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives shared the films with Gay City News, archivists said they knew only that the film was shot on August 2, 1969.
While we still have the still shot posted above that shows the GLF symbol on the protest sign we are attempting to locate the videos once again and when they are found they will be reposted for their historical significance.
Witnesses told investigators that the group of young Muslims had told Sibley and his group that their voguing dance was offensive to their religion.
A 28-year-old professional dancer was stabbed to death at a Brooklyn gas station Saturday night in an incident that police are investigating as a homophobic hate crime.
O’Shae Sibley, 28, a professional dancer who has performed at Lincoln Center as part of an all-queer dance group, was blasting music and dancing with his pals at the Midwood Mobil station on Coney Island Ave and Avenue P just after 11 p.m. when their antics drew homophobic protests from a group of men nearby, authorities and witnesses said.
Witnesses told investigators that the group of young Muslims had told Sibley and his group that their voguing dance was offensive to their religion.
Surveillance video footage the ensuing physical altercation is shown with the rapid departure of the suspect and his group. The NYPD said that NYFD medics rushed the dancer to Maimonides Medical Center with a stab wound to the chest, but he succumbed to his injuries enroute and was deceased upon arrival.
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 1970s 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 as to peg it as the largest and most lavish gay porn theater 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 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 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 Adoniswas 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 theater’s size, age, and the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic took its toll. There were also some serious structural problems because of its age and lack of upkeep. In the mid-’80 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 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 homophobic 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 to 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-AID world.
Do you have stories about The Adonis or other forgotten NYC gay places? If so leave them in the comments.
Even though the Stonewall Riots happened a year earlier change did not happen overnight for the lesbian and gay community in NYC especially when it came to the NYPD. Yes, the gay community was a bit more organized but the police continued to raid gay bars and clubs, nearly all of which continued to be mob-owned.
At this time in history, the community found itself fighting on two fronts:
Against direct harassment by the police.
From getting caught in the crossfire between organized crime and corrupt police officials.
Gay activist Randy Wicker described what happened at The Barn, an after-hours club in the early morning hours of July 18, 1970. in his column in GAY, the nation’s first weekly gay newspaper:
Barn Baloney Bared: New York Police raided the Barn Sunday, July 18th, issued summonses to nine employees, and sent dozens of patrons scrambling out of the back rooms and into the streets. Management mafiosi reportedly took to the streets also shouting “gay power” and urging the patrons to return hoping to provoke a confrontation a-la-Stonewall. The Police left shortly thereafter and most of the patrons re-entered the club. “These raids shouldn’t be conducted at all,” Marty Robinson, GAA (Gay Activists Alliance) Political Affairs Committee chairman, declared. “We don’t like these management people running around the street shouting ‘gay power’ to further their ends. Gaypeople should not simply be pawns in a power struggle between the police and underworld elements. A conference with Police Commissioner Leary has been arranged to discuss this matter more fully.
And they did meet. Exactly one month later.
Robinson led a delegation to meet to discuss the problem of the mafia-owned bars as well as how the police treated gay people.
As GAY reported on August 17, 1970: Jim Owles, president of GAA, told Commissioner Leary that the homosexual community is achieving a new awareness of itself and its problems, partly as a result of its witnessing other minority group struggles and partly as a result of the problem. with the police that the gay community continually faces. He charged that raids on after-hours gay bars were made at hours on weekend nights, with police by their mere presence intimidating scores of patrons. “They hang around, they check I.D .’s at random. they indulge in verbal abuse, they station one man at the door and a patrol car out front for several minutes.
Just 3 months earlier on March 8th. 1970 at about 5:00 am in the morning the NYPD once again led by Officer Seymore Pine raided the Snake Pit, an after-hours bar at 211 West 10th. Street in Greenwich Village. Pine showed up with a fleet of police wagons, and arrested all 167 customers mostly all gay men, staff, and owners and took them to the station house, which violated police policy.
One patron, Diego Vinales, panicked. An immigrant from Argentina who was in the country illegally, he feared what would happen to him in the police station and tried to escape by jumping out a second-story window. He landed on a fence below, its 14-inch spikes piercing his leg and pelvis. He was not only critically wounded but was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As paramedics attended to Vinales, a cop told a fireman, “You don’t have to hurry, he’s dead, and if he’s not, he’s not going to live long,”
Viñales was eventually taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital. He survived after spending weeks in the hospital and when released moved back to Argentina.
Early in 1962, WBAI New York’s listener-supported “progressive radio station” which still exists today aired an hour-long special, “The Homosexual In America.” It featured a panel of psychiatrists who described gay people as sick and in need of a cure — a cure that they could provide with just a few hours of therapy. Gay Activist and founder of the “Homosexual League of New York” Randy Wicker was livid, not only at the ignorance of these so-called “experts,” but also because, once again, there was a panel of straight people talking about gay people they didn’t even know.
Wicker went to the WBAI studios and confronted Dick Elman, the station’s public affairs director. “Why do you have these people on that don’t know a damn thing about homosexuality? They don’t live it and breathe it the way I do. … I spend my whole life in gay society.” Wicker demanded equal time and Elman agreed, provided Wicker found other gay people willing to go on the air as part of a panel. When plans for the program were announced, the New York Journal-American went ballistic. Jack O’Brian, the paper’s radio-TV columnist, wrote that the station should change its callsign to WSICK for agreeing to air an “arrogant card-carrying swish.”
The broadcast titled “Live and Let Live,” featured Wicker and seven other gay men talking for ninety minutes about what it was like to be gay. They talked about their difficulties in maintaining careers, the problems of police harassment, and the social responsibility of gays and straights alike. The program’s host guided the programs with questions to the panel. “Is there harassment?” he asked. One panelist described some of the police harassment he had expeirenced, when one officer “roared up, jumped out of the car, grabbed me, and started giving me this big thing about ‘What are you doing here, you know there are a lot of queers around this neighborhood.’ He said, ‘You know, there’s only one thing worse than a queer, and that’s a nigger’.” (Remember this was 1962.)
The New York Times’s called the program “the most extensive consideration of the subject to be heard on American radio” — Newsweek called the program “96 minutes of intriguing, if intellectually inconclusive listening.”
At least one group of listeners launched a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission to challenge the station’s broadcast license. After a lengthy investigation, the FCC unanimously agreed to renew the stations’ licenses. In doing so, the FCC issued a statement which said, in part:
We recognize that as shown by the complaints here, such provocative programming may offend some listeners. But this does not mean that those offended have the right, through the Commission’s licensing power, to rule such programs off the airways. Where this the case, only the wholly inoffensive, the bland, could gain access to the radio microphone or TV camera.
Commissioner Robert E. Lee addressed the specific complaints made about the WBAI broadcast. While he felt that a panel discussion featuring physicians and sociologists might be informative, “a panel discussion of eight homosexuals discussing their experiences and past history does not approach the treatment of a delicate subject one could expect from a responsible broadcaster.” While the FCC stressed that the ruling did not mean that the commission endorsed the broadcasts, it nevertheless was regarded as a landmark decision upholding the broadcaster’s right to determine the kinds of programs that it wishes to air.
The Times article written by LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D. is considered by most to have been the first mainstream journalistic mention of what later became to be known as AIDS and would later wipe out nearly an entire generation of gay men.
Living in New York City at the time I remember the day that this article was published. I was working at The Ninth Circle and was at the downstairs bar with Fred Tree the bartender and a friend named Neil Murphy. We were reading the article and I remember clear as day none of us were really worrying about it. Because after all you couldn’t catch cancer. Right?
Neil would become one of the many victims of the plague in the years that followed.
That was over 40 years ago now and over 90 percent of my friends from that time in my life are gone. But they are and never will be forgotten as they will always with me until the day we meet again.
Over 40+ million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
There is still no cure.
RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS
Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer. Eight of the victims died less than 24 months after the diagnosis was made.
The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.
The sudden appearance of the cancer, called Kaposi’s Sarcoma, has prompted a medical investigation that experts say could have as much scientific as public health importance because of what it may teach about determining the causes of more common types of cancer. First Appears in Spots
Doctors have been taught in the past that the cancer usually appeared first in spots on the legs and that the disease took a slow course of up to 10 years. But these recent cases have shown that it appears in one or more violet-colored spots anywhere on the body. The spots generally do not itch or cause other symptoms, often can be mistaken for bruises, sometimes appear as lumps and can turn brown after a period of time. The cancer often causes swollen lymph glands, and then kills by spreading throughout the body.
Doctors investigating the outbreak believe that many cases have gone undetected because of the rarity of the condition and the difficulty even dermatologists may have in diagnosing it.
In a letter alerting other physicians to the problem, Dr. Alvin E. Friedman-Kien of New York University Medical Center, one of the investigators, described the appearance of the outbreak as ”rather devastating.”
At one time New York City’s Mineshaft was the most notorious “members only” gay S&M/B&D gay sex club in history. Today it’s memory is treated more as a dirty little secret and is almost all but a forgotten.
The building that housed the Mineshaft at 835 Washington Street was constructed in 1927 as an ordinary business office, and would later become one the most incredible sex-palace in the ’70’s.
Opened in October 1976 the Mineshaft was a sexual playground that would have made Caligula blush.
Membership was granted on the spot if one fit in – no designer clothes, no sneakers, no cologne. Located on Washington Street at Little West 12th Street in the heart of the meatpacking district, it was open around the clock from Wednesday night through Monday morning, featuring a clothes check, dungeons, and shall we say other amenities.
Strolling about naked or in a jockstrap was encouraged.
The Miineshaft’s nondescript street-level door opened to a stairway which led up to the doorkeeper, sitting on a barstool. If you could pass muster you were let in.
The Mineshaft had rules of entrance, denim and leather only, no shirts with little alligators, no sneakers, and absolutely no cologne. But once inside everything was fair game. The Mineshaft existed for one reason and one reasons alone.
Pure hedonistic no-limits sex.
Just inside the door was the big bar area with low lights and pool tables. Behind a partition was the “action” part of the club on two floors. There was an entire wall of glory holes with people kneeling in front of crotch-high holes and servicing disembodied erections.
A whole rabbit warren of small rooms was downstairs, a re-creation of a jailcell, the back of a truck, dungeons and the most infamous room talked about in NYC at the time. A room where there was a bathtub in which men so inclined would would take turns being pissed on.
In this day and age to many it’s shocking. In the gay life in NYC in the late 70s and early 80s it was non-news.
In the early 80s with the outbreak of AIDS the Mineshaft scene turned sour. NYC swept through the gay sex haunts of the community shuttering establishments left and right under ‘health violations” which in reality they were. But it was also the chance that NYC needed to rid the city of sex establishments.
The Mineshaft was closed by the New York City Department of Health on November 7, 1985
Were establishments like The Mineshaft, The St. Marks Baths, The Adonis,The David and other X-rated theatres and venues responsible for AIDS? No, not really. They certainly didn’t help. But they were not the cause. The city closed these establishments and still men gay men persisted having unprotected sex. Once one club was closed they moved to one that was still open, after the clubs were gone they went to the porn theatres, and after the porn theatres they went to Central Park, back to the bars and by then the internet came into play. If half the time, money and effort that NYC spent on going undercover and closing these spots went to Health Education and planning with the gay community the stigma of gay sex would have been much different. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that places like the Mineshaft and others were innocent when it came to the spread of AIDS. But in reality they played a very small part of the overall problem which was the lack of information, education, and research.
So here we are over 20+ years after the height of the AIDS epidemic and there is still no cure. The memories of places like the Mineshaft have been hidden away and swept under the rug like a dirty family secret, and are slowly being forgotten. Should we be ashamed of it? No. It is part of our history and existed in another time far away from the morally uptight society of today.
I am a survivor of that time.
I remember, I mourn, and I go on.
And before they, and myself disappear I post them here so they can live on.
“We’re here. We’re Queer. We’re coming for your children? SAY WHAT?
Last night hundreds of fabulously dressed people took to the streets of the East Village in NYC.
The NYC Drag March starting Tompkins Square Park in the East Village and ending in front of the Stonewall Inn was going swimmingly until a group started to chant: “We’re here. We’re Queer. “We’re Coming For Your Children.”
What the actual fuck? I mean really. Do these people not watch the news or are they just so privileged in their own little safe NYC LGBTQ+ bubble that they don’t care?
Other than those few moments of stupidity the march was enjoyed by all. But they just gave our enemies more ammunition to use against us.
We understand sarcasm and snark. The other side does not.
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 the introduction of the overhead West Side Highway turned the hotel into nothing more than a flophouse in what was then a very seedy neighborhood.
In the 1970s 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 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 at the center of the gay universe in the mid-’70s 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 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 riverfront 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.
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 its owner, Lou Katz fled to Brazil after stabbing to death his lover’s boyfriend. (More about that in another post)
While the eyesore of the elevated highway was torn down the newly proposed West Side Highway didn’t get the government funding, backing that was expected to change the waterfront the block remained pretty dismal. Despite the views of the river, tourists, even gay tourists didn’t want to venture there and then the beginning of the AIDS epidemic started to take its 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 their memory and history alive.
Step back in time and experience our gay and lesbian forefathers fighting for the rights that we have today. But may not have for very much longer unless we start fighting again.
On June 4, 1971, less than two years after the Stonewall uprising, a group of men and women from the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) walked into the New York City Marriage License Bureau carrying coffee urns and boxes of cake to hold an engagement party for two male couples and to protest the “slander” of City Clerk Herman Katz, who had threatened legal action against same-sex “holy unions” being performed — yes, already then, in 1971 — by the Church of the Beloved Disciple, which had a large gay congregation.
The GAA was the second major gay-rights group to form after Stonewall, the more organized cousin of the Gay Liberation Front, which fought valiantly in the early 1970s with the goal of, as one member later recalled, of “writing the revolution into law.”
Not known to many there is actual video footage of the planning for the Marriage Bureau takeover and protest or “ZAP” as they were called, and of the action itself, on YouTube.
There are three videos, each about 10 minutes in length. The first opens with an interview Wicker conducted with the church’s pastor about the controversy over whether or not the church was performing illegal marriages — as opposed to protected religious ceremonies — and thus violating the law. The rest of it consists mainly of a Gay Activists Alliance planning meeting for the action, with a lengthy speech by Mark Rubin, who lays out the protest’s agenda and describes himself as anxious to do what he’s about to do.
The second video shows the GAA members invading the Marriage Bureau office, setting up their coffee urns, and offering the staff cake.
“We’re having a wedding reception for gay people in room 265 …. You’re all invited to come,” activist Arthur Evans, who is the main speaker in the video, says to people down the hall.
“Our rights as gay people have been slandered by a public official,” Evans says to those who tell him he has no right to be there.
Eventually, the group enters Katz’s office and shouts, “Bigot! Bigot! Bigot!”
The third video shows the party part of the engagement party, as activist Peter Fisher sings songs with lyrics modified to make them gay-rights protest songs. “We waited too damn long for our rights,” he sings to the tune of the gospel song “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
So watch the video below and take a step back in time to when activism was real and experience our gay and lesbian forefathers fighting for the rights that we have today. But may not have for very much longer unless we start fighting again.
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