Tag Archives: gay New York

Insomniac City: A strange tale of love and a tribute to off-beat New York

Writer and photographer Bill Hayes moved to New York in 2009 and experienced what many of us have already learned:  the nights are magic and the subway is a wilderness.

He began jotting down his observations of peculiar experiences, the strange behaviors of others existing in their own little New Yorks. “Every car on every train on every line holds a surprise,” writes Hayes, “a random sampling of humanity brought together in a confined space for a minute or two — a living Rubik’s Cube.”

Above and below: A couple of the many strange and captivating photographs by Bill Hayes featured in the book.

During the day he would aim a friendly camera towards New Yorkers of all shapes and affinities. Hayes left San Francisco after the tragic death of his partner and fortunately seems to have fallen into New York like one of its many prodigal souls. His experiences aren’t unique; they mirror yours and mine.

Except for the fact that, oh yes, he falls in love with a noted British neurologist and author — the late and dearly missed Oliver Sacks.

Oliver Sacks, photographed by Bill Hayes

In Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me, Hayes’ new memoir and urban rumination, we’re presented with a bird’s eye view of New York’s universal appeal to outsiders, paired with a microscopic look at two of those outsiders.

Sacks, a celebrated author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and Awakenings (the basis of the Robert De Niro/Robin Williams film), was a guarded individual, coming out to himself late in life and socially removed from non-professional affairs.

Hayes introduces us to Sacks’ extraordinary worldview, an intellectual who brought critical thinking into the slightest of gestures and loved going to the roof to drink wine out of the bottle. The love and reverence Hayes has for Sacks is clear, referring to him throughout the text as just ‘O’, giving us their intimate moments only when they illuminate something of his genius.

Insomniac City is a fragmentary, often poetic look at love of a city and of an individual, told in notes and journal entries. It’s a book one could easily devour in a single sitting but I suggest prolonging the experience, reading a little at a time, allowing the individual anecdotes to inform your own adventures out in the big city.

It take on a set of colossal tasks; it can be poem, a documentary and a tribute on just a single page. Hayes is giving us permission to stare into his life — and into the lives of others — in the same durations of time that we experience each other in our daily lives.  In those flash moments of bonding on mass transit or on the street, where we may imagine what another person is thinking and feeling before they vanish.

And knowing, in his vignettes, that he’s exposed an intimacy with strangers, he then bares his own to us, his unabashed mix of love, friendship and bewilderment to a wonderful, complicated man, who also came and went.

INSOMNIAC CITY
New York, Oliver and Me
Bloomsbury Publishing

 

Photographs courtesy Bill Hayes and Bloomsbury

Stonewall Inn: The story of New York’s newest National Monument (NPS 100)

This month America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the organization which protects the great natural and historical treasures of the United States. There are a number of NPS locations in the five borough areas. Throughout the next few weeks, we will focus on a few of our favorites.   For more information, you can visit National Parks Centennial for a complete list of parks and monuments throughout the country.  For more blog posts in this series, click here.
The following also features an excerpt from the Bowery Boys Adventures In Old New York, now available for sale wherever books are sold and online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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STONEWALL NATIONAL MONUMENT
CHRISTOPHER STREET, WEST VILLAGE, MANHATTAN

On June 24, 2016, President Obama — who had conjured the name of Stonewall Inn in his 2013 inaugural speech — designated the location of the 1969 Stonewall Riots as a National Monument, to be overseen by the National Park Service.

Twelve days earlier, a gunman walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and killed 49 people. It was the deadliest terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, and certainly the greatest single attack upon the American LGBT community in history.

For days after, a makeshift memorial to the Orlando victims sat in front of Stonewall Inn. Even today, as you enter the building, a list of their names greets you upon the wall, next to an older sign that states ‘THIS IS A RAIDED PREMISES’, a vestige of a time when gay bars were diminished, not decorated.

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Thus is the power of Stonewall’s symbolism, the dignity and community represented in the air around this stumpy, architecturally unspectacular structure.

Recognizing the enigmatic atmosphere of this place, Stonewall National Monument is actually the building proper and the portion of Christopher Street which sits in front of it, as well as the entirety of triangular Christopher Park.  This includes one very relevant piece of art — the four human statues known as the Gay Liberation Monument (placed here in 1992) — and one somewhat random inclusion — a statue to Union general Philip Sheridan.

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But perhaps the most unusual aspect to the National Park Service’s newest acquisition is that Stonewall Inn is still very much an active bar, even more so now for its fame. Its Big Gay Happy Hours are but one of many things which sets this NPS site apart from, say, Grant’s Tomb.

There’s a constant police presence in front of Stonewall Inn. On a given night you may even see armed guards out in front, a curious dichotomy with the drag queens who perform on the second floor. I cannot wait to see how they incorporate a temporary ranger station and a visitor center.

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It’s unfortunate that Stonewall — a historic symbol of safe space — should feel like slightly less of one because of current events. But this situation does provide another, more hopeful optic: the image of an alert and engaged law enforcement, entrusted in keeping a gay bar safe and secure.

If you could somehow go back in time to tell the men and women who were arrested in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, about this, they would have laughed (and maybe spit) in your face.

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In the 1960s the mob had a veritable monopoly on the Greenwich Village gay scene, tucked invisibly down the neighborhood’s side streets. No bar catering to gays and lesbians could stay open without paying bribes (to both the mob and the police), and complaining bar owners had a funny way of finding themselves arrested—or worse. Indeed, police detectives sometimes posed as gay men to corner alleged “homophiles.”

One of these dank and unappealing bars on Christopher Street was the Stonewall Inn. Its history was long and colorful: A former stable, it became a notorious “teahouse” in 1930, then a somewhat respectable restaurant, then was gutted in a fire before becoming a darkened-window dive bar catering to homosexuals in 1967.

Stonewall_Inn_1969

There was nothing especially notable about the Stonewall, with its watered- down drinks and its hat-and-coat check. There was dancing and a jukebox and a good mix of white, African American, and Hispanic patrons just looking to have fun. Wouldn’t you be upset if they kept shutting you down for no good reason?

This is precisely what the police attempted just after 1 a.m. on June 28, 1969, when uniformed and undercover cops raided the packed bar and prepared to arrest the patrons.

Protesters gathered in the streets outside the Stonewall Inn in the days following the riots on June 28.

Courtesy CNN
Courtesy CNN

But people were not having it. A crowd outside the bar began heckling the officers as they started their arrests, pulling patrons from the bar and loading them into wagons. One woman in handcuffs fought fiercely, inspiring an extraordinary coalition of street youths and drag queens to push back against restraint. The crowds swelled as patrons from other bars joined the fracas, filling Christopher Street and pushing back against police harassment until well after four in the morning.

insider-stonewall1-tmagArticle

What began as proper “rioting”—or aimless anger in the streets—grew more focused over the next several days, as hundreds of marginalized New Yorkers returned to the street in front of the Stonewall with a newfound sense of solidarity. Their example inspired people throughout the city—and around the country.

One year after the raid, activists would gather in front of the Stonewall and march up to Central Park, an event that would become the city’s annual LGBT Pride March.

Today gay pride celebrations and parades in many European countries are referred to as “Christopher Street Day” celebrations. Although Stonewall Inn has gained national importance today, it is Christopher Street itself that retains the symbolism for many.

And that is why a very small portion of that street — forever associated with struggle —  is America’s newest National Monument.

WANT MORE INFORMATION? Visit the NPS Stonewall National Monument site for more information.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST! We have an entire show on the Stonewall Riots. It’s Episode #49. You can find it on iTunes at the Bowery Boys Archive, featuring our older shows.  Or download it from here.

You can also hear it here via SoundCloud:

Odds and Ends: Washington Irving, Modern Ruin, Tourist Advice, The Slide

Irving Place is the remarkably pretty street that travels from the south side of Gramercy Park to the less charming ruckus of 14th Street.  It was named for the great writer Washington Irving during his lifetime by developer Samuel Ruggles.  The house at East 17th Street and Irving Place purports to be the former home of the great writer, but this is generally considered to be a fabrication today. However there is a terrific plaque along the side of the building today that claims otherwise. (The picture above is from June 1911, courtesy the Library of Congress.)

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The Bowery Boys are popping up all over the place! Here’s a couple things you might like to check out:

— The new podcast Look Like A Local is a new travel resources by Joel Hiscutt that offers some travel tips for American travelers. I’m interviewed on the show that focuses on New York City.  Are you a fairly new visitor to New York but want some off-the-beaten-path tips to the city?  I give you some suggestions of affordable and interesting places to visit here that will get you out of the tourist sectors.  You can listen to the show here or download it directly from iTunes.

— The official 2015 NYC Pride Guide has just been released in time for New York Pride festivities next month. And hey the Bowery Boys are in it! I look at the history of one of the most notorious bars of the late 19th century — The Slide, a haven of “inhuman and unnatural” behavior.  You can read the article here (page 54) or just pick up a free issue starting this week, pretty much in any place in lower Manhattan!

 

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Matthew Silva was my guest host a few months ago on the Bowery Boys podcast on the New York State Pavilion, a surviving relic of the 1964-65 Worlds Fair. His film about the pavilion’s remarkable life — Modern Ruin — will finally have its world premiere this Friday at the Queens Theater (which is, by the way, where we recorded the show!)  That evening is almost sold out but there will be an additional screen on Saturday, May 23.

Visit the Queens Theater site to pick up your tickets.  For those who don’t live nearby or can’t attend, there will certainly be future screenings so stay tuned!

 

 

 

Diamond Girl: How Mae West Brought ‘Sex’ and Scandal to Broadway

PODCAST Mae West (star of I’m No Angel and She Done Him Wrong) would come to revolutionize the idea of American sexuality, challenging and lampooning ideas of femininity while wielding a suggestive and vicious wit. But before she was America’s diamond girl, she was the pride of Brooklyn!  In this podcast, we bring you the origin story of this icon and the wacky events of 1927 that brought her brand of swagger to the attention of the world.

1The Brooklyn girl started on the vaudeville stage early, inspired by the influences of performers like Eva Tanguay. She soon proved too smart for the small stuff and set her aim towards Broadway — but on her terms.

West’s play Sex introduced her devastating allure in the service of a shocking tale of prostitution.  It immediately found an audience in 1926 even if the critics were less than enamored. But it’s when she devised an even more shocking play — The Drag — that city leaders became morally outraged and vowed to shut her down forever.

From Bushwick to Midtown, from the boards of Broadway to the workhouse of Welfare Island — this is the story of New York’s ultimate Sex scandal.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #182: Mae West: ‘Sex’ on Broadway

Picture at top:  Mae West in a publicity still for her Broadway hit Diamond Lil. (Courtesy Museum of City of New York)

Inset: The poster for Sex by Jane Mast (aka Mae West)

Special thanks to Esther Belle from The West (a Mae West-inspired coffeehouse and bar in Williamsburg). We recorded an interview with her about the legacy of Mae West but weren’t able to use it. But it will be available for Patreon supporters!

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

Starting this month, we are doubling our number of episodes per month. Now you’ll hear a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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A young Mae West, already a seasoned performer by her teenage years.

Courtesy Notes On The Road
Courtesy Notes On The Road

 

From Mae West’s vaudeville days, a piece of Tin Pan Alley sheet-music she performed n the stage:

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

A saucy promotional still from Sex

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From the original program for Sex:

Courtesy Playbill Vault
Courtesy Playbill Vault

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Mae West at the Jefferson Market courthouse:

Original caption: Cast of  Tried By Jury.  New York, New York:  Photo shows scene in courtroom of general sessions part II at start of members of  company.  Mae West and Barry O'Niel, in productions leading roles, can be seen at extreme left. March 28, 1927 New York, New York, USA
Original caption: Cast of Tried By Jury. New York, New York: Photo shows scene in courtroom of general sessions part II at start of members of company. Mae West and Barry O’Niel, in productions leading roles, can be seen at extreme left. March 28, 1927 New York, New York, USA

 

Mae West in the original photography for the 1928 production of Diamond Lil.  She attempted during this period to open the controversial show The Pleasure Man but it was shut down after two days. (Courtesy New York Public Library)

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Another odd shot from Diamond Lil, of Mae reclining in a golden swan bed. (source)

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

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Mae West in the 1949 Broadway revival of Diamond Lil.  Once a provocateur of the stage, she settled into her larger-than-life personae in later years, formed mostly from her successes in this role (and its film version She Done Him Wrong). (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)

Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

Members of the cast of The Pleasure Man being arrested by police, 1928.

Courtesy Queer Music Heritage -- http://queermusicheritage.com/fem-arts6.html
Courtesy Queer Music Heritage — http://queermusicheritage.com/fem-arts6.html
Courtesy New York Daily News
Courtesy New York Daily News

Mae West (and a young Cary Grant) in She Done Him Wrong

In the hilarious I’m No Angel:

Ladies and gentlemen, Mae West and Mr. Ed:

And her last film — the camp classic Sextette

Odds and Ends: New Penn Station, ‘AIDS in New York’

The interior of Penn Station, 1935, by Berenice Abbott (NYPL)

Enthusiasm is rising for the New Penn Station project, which would move Madison Square Garden from its present location and bring out the train station from the basement, a payback of sorts by the Municipal Art Society after the original Penn Station was torn down 50 years ago.

A major construction project for New York, and some of the proposals look gorgeous.  But if they tear down MSG, to modern eyes a true unpleasant structure, could there be a movement in 50 years to rebuilt that too?  [Municipal Art Society]

AIDS In New York: The First Five Years, the sobering new show at the New York Historical Society, looks at the most bewildering and frightening days of the AIDS epidemic. It’s a great overview, both measured and heartfelt, of a terrifying period in New York City history.  Three galleries take you from patients and doctors to politicians and a confused and enraged populace. Brief but very effective, especially the photography.  Some might flinch at the exhibit’s abrupt ending; the show leaves you dazed in the year 1985, just as scientists zero in on the cause, but nowhere near a solution.   [New York Historical Society]

Other stories on the blogs:

The best thing on the Internet this week: pictures from Staten Island in the 1980s by Christine Osinski. [Slate]

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is recognizing Gay Pride Month except, of course, for the fact that they’ve never landmarked a single LGBT site. [Off the Grid]

Earthquake insurance? There are at least three fault lines within New York’s city limits, including one under 125th Street: [Ephemeral New York]

RIP to the wonderful James Gandolfini.  I’m not sure what the status of this project is currently, but in 2011, Gandolfini was announced as an executive producer to Oliver Stone’s adaptation of Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, the barn-burning biographer about Robert Moses. Was he considering the role for himself? One can only imagine how great that would have been. [New York Observer]

In good company: The local significance of Obama’s inaugural quote: “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall”

As many others today are ruminating on the symbolic and historic implications of yesterday’s presidential inaugural ceremony, allow me to dwell a little on a curious milestone of far lesser importance.

Until yesterday, no place in New York City has ever been mentioned in a presidential inaugural speech.  Not Ellis Island, not the Statue of Liberty, not Wall Street, not the World Trade Center, none of our fortresses or other towering landmarks.

In fact, New York as a city has actually been name-checked only once. (See below.)  But no individual place has ever been mentioned in what are considered to be the most memorable set of presidential speeches.

That is, until yesterday, when President Barack Obama referenced the name of a West Village gay bar — Stonewall Inn.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

“Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall” represent flashpoints of various American social movements.  With his mention of Stonewall — representing the Stonewall riots and subsequent street gatherings of June-July 1969, considered the birthplace of the gay-rights movement — the president has elevated the struggles of gay Americans to those of the women’s movement (the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848) and the African-American civil rights movement of the 1960s (the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965).

The rhetorical flourish of alliteration unites these movements by the places in which they occurred.  Stonewall thus becomes shorthand for the gay rights movement.  But as it is the actual name of a bar — still very much in operation, right off Christopher Park — Stonewall Inn now holds another very special place in history.

The United Nations, of course, has been mentioned a few times, mostly in the 1940s and 50s. (Without surprise, mentions of the international body literally drop off to nothing after that.)  But all references relate only to the legislative body, not the actual place.  In fact, when it was first mentioned in 1949, by President Harry S. Truman — “We have constantly and vigorously supported the United Nations and related agencies as a means of applying democratic principles to international relations” — its headquarters in Manhattan had not even been completed.

Below: Federal Hall on Wall Street, site of the first American government and the inauguration of George Washington in 1789

When New York has been mentioned in inaugural addresses, it’s because it was the location of the first inaugural address in April 1789, when the seat of American government was in New York.

“This occasion derives peculiar interest from the fact that the Presidential term which begins this day is the twenty-sixth under our Constitution,” Benjamin Harrison remarked in his 1889 speech.  “The first inauguration of President Washington took place in New York, where Congress was then sitting, on the 30th day of April, 1789, having been deferred by reason of delays attending the organization of the Congress and the canvass of the electoral vote.”

George H.W. Bush makes specific mention of Washington’s inauguration in 1989, which happened to be the 200th anniversary of that event. “I have just repeated word for word the oath taken by George Washington 200 years ago, and the Bible on which I placed my hand is the Bible on which he placed his.  It is right that the memory of Washington be with us today, not only because this is our Bicentennial Inauguration, but because Washington remains the Father of our Country.”

While this means very little in terms of the city’s historical stature, it means a great deal to the gay rights movement, and certainly to the bar itself. Or as Stonewall Inn owner Stacey Lentz recently said: “We’re not just a bar. We’re the Stonewall. It’s like owning Rosa Parks’s bus. We don’t own the movement, but we own the bus.”

For more information on Stonewall Inn, check out our podcast #48 The Stonewall Riots (download here or on iTunes.)  

Pics courtesy NYPL

In good company: The local significance of Obama’s inaugural quote: “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall”

As many others today are ruminating on the symbolic and historic implications of yesterday’s presidential inaugural ceremony, allow me to dwell a little on a curious milestone of far lesser importance.

Until yesterday, no place in New York City has ever been mentioned in a presidential inaugural speech.  Not Ellis Island, not the Statue of Liberty, not Wall Street, not the World Trade Center, none of our fortresses or other towering landmarks.

In fact, New York as a city has actually been name-checked only once. (See below.)  But no individual place has ever been mentioned in what are considered to be the most memorable set of presidential speeches.

That is, until yesterday, when President Barack Obama referenced the name of a West Village gay bar — Stonewall Inn.

index

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

“Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall” represent flashpoints of various American social movements.  With his mention of Stonewall — representing the Stonewall riots and subsequent street gatherings of June-July 1969, considered the birthplace of the gay-rights movement — the president has elevated the struggles of gay Americans to those of the women’s movement (the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848) and the African-American civil rights movement of the 1960s (the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965).

The rhetorical flourish of alliteration unites these movements by the places in which they occurred.  Stonewall thus becomes shorthand for the gay rights movement.  But as it is the actual name of a bar — still very much in operation, right off Christopher Park — Stonewall Inn now holds another very special place in history.

The United Nations, of course, has been mentioned a few times, mostly in the 1940s and 50s. (Without surprise, mentions of the international body literally drop off to nothing after that.)  But all references relate only to the legislative body, not the actual place.  In fact, when it was first mentioned in 1949, by President Harry S. Truman — “We have constantly and vigorously supported the United Nations and related agencies as a means of applying democratic principles to international relations” — its headquarters in Manhattan had not even been completed.

Below: Federal Hall on Wall Street, site of the first American government and the inauguration of George Washington in 1789

When New York has been mentioned in inaugural addresses, it’s because it was the location of the first inaugural address in April 1789, when the seat of American government was in New York.

“This occasion derives peculiar interest from the fact that the Presidential term which begins this day is the twenty-sixth under our Constitution,” Benjamin Harrison remarked in his 1889 speech.  “The first inauguration of President Washington took place in New York, where Congress was then sitting, on the 30th day of April, 1789, having been deferred by reason of delays attending the organization of the Congress and the canvass of the electoral vote.”

George H.W. Bush makes specific mention of Washington’s inauguration in 1989, which happened to be the 200th anniversary of that event. “I have just repeated word for word the oath taken by George Washington 200 years ago, and the Bible on which I placed my hand is the Bible on which he placed his.  It is right that the memory of Washington be with us today, not only because this is our Bicentennial Inauguration, but because Washington remains the Father of our Country.”

While this means very little in terms of the city’s historical stature, it means a great deal to the gay rights movement, and certainly to the bar itself. Or as Stonewall Inn owner Stacey Lentz recently said: “We’re not just a bar. We’re the Stonewall. It’s like owning Rosa Parks’s bus. We don’t own the movement, but we own the bus.”

For more information on Stonewall Inn, check out our podcast #48 The Stonewall Riots (download here or on iTunes.)  

Pics courtesy NYPL

Don’t douse the glim! Four infamous dancehalls and dives which made the notorious reputation of Bleecker Street


“There are no lower outcasts in New York than the women who nightly creep out of the darkness and swarm the pavement of Bleecker Street…” L. Hereward, Eclectic Magazine, 1893

Sure, the Bowery was a rough and rowdy avenue, but one looking for more alternative adventures in the late 19th century might have found themselves somewhere along Bleecker Street. The college bars and cafes which inhabit the street now seem practically chaste compared to some of the dives once housed there.

At 59 Bleecker Street, for instance, one could find The Allen’s American Mabille, a ‘Parisienne’ style dance hall and den of prostitution that survived several dozen police raids — police headquarters was literally a block away — and made Allen one of the infamous proprietors in Manhattan, responsible for “the ruin of more young girls then all the dive keepers in New York.” [source]

It joined a collection of prostitution houses along Bleecker and east of Washington Square Park, so many that the neighborhood was sometimes known as Frenchtown, and not because of the fine cooking.

But American Mabille and the other ‘Paris’ houses, from all appearances, specialized in heterosexual couplings. A few places on Bleecker catered to male encounters and often of the most flamboyant kind, if accounts are to be believed. (Keep in mind the hysteria of the late 19th century press!)

The most famous of these was The Slide at 157 Bleecker Street, a basement dive filled with men in drag, horrifying proper New Yorkers with clientele “effeminate, degraded, and addicted to vices which are inhuman and unnatural” according to contemporary scandal sheet descriptions.

The Slide is somewhat well-known today as it shares the same address as rock venue Kenny’s Castaways.

Down the street from The Slide was the Black Rabbit at 183 Bleecker Street, another dive with a mixed clientele, known for scandalous sex shows, from the likes of the ‘Jarbean fairy’ and a female ‘sodomite for pay’. Like many of the others, it survived with sizable bribes to the police. The bar even scandalized thieves. In 1901, a reporter from McClure’s Magazine entered the Black Rabbit with a pickpocket who replied, “[T]his is dead tough. I wouldn’t allow this, ‘f I was the chief….I like an open town where everything goes all right enough, but I’d douse the glim here.” (douse the glim = turn out the lights)

Today, the historically themed 1849 Restaurant occupies the Black Rabbit’s address.

Nearby The Slide was Frank Stephenson’s Black And Tan at 153 Bleecker, “a place of bad repute“, specializing in mixed race heterosexual encounters, something most likely frowned upon even in many low-class Bowery dives. The phrase black-and-tan was used to describe other halls where people of different races drank and caroused together.

 Top image courtesy here.

‘Mad Men’ notes: Executive (and bohemian) dining



A square meal: The Tower Suite’s packed dining room   


WARNING The article contains a couple spoilers about last night’s ‘Mad Men’ on AMC. If you’re a fan of the show, come back once you’re watched the episode. But these posts are about a specific element of New York history from the 1960s and can be read even by those who don’t watch the show at all. You can find other articles in this series here.

In trying to contrast the life-altering decisions made by two of ‘Mad Men’s central characters, the writers certainly did an excellent job last night in choosing two appropriate and familiar locales.

Don Draper (with Megan in tow) made a last-ditch effort to win over a difficult client by dining at the Tower Suite in the Time & Life Building. (The offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce were actually several floors below.) The restaurant on the 48th floor served as an executive dining room during the day called the Hemisphere Club, one of a number of elevated lunch spots in midtown Manhattan. The destination for businessmen looking to impress — waiters were dressed as butlers  — was opened by George Lang of Cafe des Artistes fame in 1961.

By many accounts however, the Tower Suite was considered a starched and even dreary dining experience. And quickly passe. In 1970, New York Magazine intoned “[T]he Tower Suite is still ideal for enchanting sheltered in-laws, teenagers, the hopelessly in love and out of town clients from Saginaw.”

Peggy Olsen, meanwhile, had a more personal dilemma to attend to downtown in the heart of Greenwich Village where she’s seen much of her personal growth. She’s presented with a decision to make over dinner at Minetta Tavern, a corner Italian restaurant on MacDougal Street at the foot of small Minetta Lane.

This was the former location of The Black Rabbit, one of Greenwich Village’s best known speakeasies, operated by Eve Addams. Her infamous tearoom Eve’s Hangout right up the street was one of New York’s first lesbian hangouts. The Black Rabbit switched to proper Italian cuisine in 1937.

The tavern had been immortalized the previous year in Joseph Mitchell‘s ode to eccentric bohemian Joe Gould, who frequented Minetta’s in his later years. ‘Joe Gould’s Secret’ would become one of Mitchell’s best  known New York tales. (It was also be his last book.)

With the Tower Suite long gone, you can no longer enjoy its faux-butler service, but Minetta Tavern was renovated and reopened in 2009 by restaurateur Keith McNally.

The Bowery Boys High Line audio walking tour, featuring tales of the Titanic, the Manhattan Project and 1,000 Stevies



Cookie heaven: Trains pull into a factory owned by the National Biscuit Company, between W. 15th and 16th streets, July 30, 1950. Could those cars be filled with crates of freshly made Oreo cookies? (See comments section below for the anser.) By 1958, the snack company had pulled all production from New York’s west side. Photo courtesy Ed Doyle/Flickr


PODCAST Welcome to our unofficial High Line audio walking tour! In our last podcast (episode #135), we gave you a history of the High Line, the one-mile linear park situated atop a stretch of abandoned elevated railroad tracks along the West Side. This time, I’ll take you on a tour along the High Line itself.

This will incorporate some history of the elevated line itself, but it’s geared towards describing the history of the surrounding neighborhoods. This is intended to be listened to as you walk along the High Line, beginning at the park’s southern entrance at Washington Street and Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. We’ll end at 30th Street. This tour will last a little over an hour or so — depending on what speed you choose to enjoy the High Line. But take your time!

Along the way, I’ll share tales from almost 200 years of history, from the early days of Fort Gansevoort during the War of 1812 to the underground club life of the 1990s. Featuring New York stories of the Titanic, the Lusitania and the Manhattan Project. And starring a wild array of people who have influenced these neighborhoods, including Abraham Lincoln, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Drew Barrymore, REVS, Cass Gilbert, a feisty lady named Tillie Hart, and a whole lotta people dressed like Stevie Nicks.

ALSO: You might want a handful of Oreos after you’re done.

To get the walking tour, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.


Or listen to it here:
The Bowery Boys High Line Walking Tour

This tour covers two hundred years of history, starting with the construction of Fort Gansevoort, built to protect the city from potential attack during the events leading up to the War of 1812. (Courtesy NYPL)

A map of the High Line, courtesy the Friends of the High Line. This walking tour follows this path directly from the southernmost entrance at Gansevoort Street, all the way up to W. 30th Street.

If you’re not able to walk the High Line anytime soon, never fear! Google Maps actually allows you to ‘walk’ the High Line.

 
View Larger Map

Although you won’t experience any vehicular traffic on this tour, please be aware of other visitors to the High Line as you listen. Stand over to the either side as you listen. There are some narrow paths, uneven walkways, benches and other nooks built into the surface of the High Line, so watch your step.

At the end of the tour I mentioned a Chelsea gallery tour that also provides a great perspective on the neighborhood while leading you through the scene’s best art shows. You can find more information about tours at New York Gallery Tours. In addition to the Chelsea scene, they also provide guided tours of the Lower East Side and Upper East Side art scenes.

CORRECTION: There is a very hilarious mis-statement near the end of the show. The Morgan Processing and Distribution Center is 2.2 million square feet, NOT 2.2 square feet. That would be the size of a flower box, I think. I’ve added the correction to the podcast show notes.