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CHELSEA: A GAY HISTORY
ELEVENTH AVENUE EIGHTH AVENUE ASSORTED OTHERS MORE ASSORTED AND MORE ASSORTED
THE GLORY HOLE SEVENTEENTH STREET SALOON TRACKS/KAMIKAZI MANS COUNTRY BATHS THE EVERARD BATHS
THE EAGLE THE RAWHIDE CRISCO DISCO CHELSEA TRANSFER BARBARY COAST
THE SPIKE MOONSHADOWS ZONE DK 22ND STREET THE LIMELIGHT
THE ROXY/1018 THE ATTIC THE "TRUCKS" PRIVATE EYES PAUL&JOES RESTAURANT





CHELSEA: THE MAP (The "red X" is The Rawhide)
CHELSEA MAP


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THE GLORY HOLE, ELEVENTH AVENUE, (BETWEEN 21/22 STREETS), Just as the name implies, that was all you could find in this dark, crowded space. In the late '70's and early '80's this place would pack them in. Located between The Eagle and The Spike on the West Side Highway (or Eleventh Avenue as it is known today) it was in the perfect location. The crowds that overflowed from both bars would overflow onto the street and into The Glory Hole, while the bars were open (till 4am) and later. It is now home to an ultra trendy restaurant/bar named Lot 61. Located in the large warehouse space, it's decor is now the Brady Bunch meets Frank Lloyd Wright, and is certainly spectacular. With a vast open fireplace in the front bar area, skylights, a giant red-spotted canvas or two (look out for works by hipsters Damien Hirst and Sean Landers.) Gentrification at it's most blatant.

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THE SEVENTEENTH STREET SALOON, 150 EIGHTH AVENUE, (AT 17TH STREET), In what now is the Blue Moon Restaurant was the famous "SSS." This leather/western bar was a neighborhood favorite. With two floors (ground and basement) this place would pack them in on a Saturday night. Pool nights were a big draw.

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Tracks Pride Button Kamikazi Invite TRACKS/KAMIKAZI, 594 WEST 19TH STREET, (BETWEEN 10/11TH AVENUES), Originally a warehouse this large space was turned into a disco called Kamikazi in the early/mid eighties. Kamikazi, was a straight disco...Hollywood hunk Bruce Willis worked here as a bartender. Though John Blair (from Studio 54 fame) held parties here on Saturday nights, calling the club, A Saturday Night Dance Club. It featured a long, crowded bar in the front room. The entrance to the dance floor was wooden structure not unlike a Ghinko Shrine.
Then after Kamikazi closed it was purchased by the Tracks chain (with large Gay discos in Washington D.C. and Denver). A second floor was added and every night became a Gay night at Tracks. Monthly "Anvil Reunion" parties were held here.

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MAN'S COUNTRY BATHS, 58 WEST 15TH STREET (BETWEEN SIXTH/SEVENTH AVENUES), Not as popular as The St. Marks Baths (downtown) or the Everard (further uptown). The Man's Country Baths were located on a quiet residential street in an old office building. It was a multileveled bathhouse that's orgy room featured a full sized re-assembled tractor trailer cab, to have sex on/under/inside, you name it. It was famous for it's $1.00 Tuesday night rates, that attracted mammoth numbers of people.

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Daily News THE EVERARD BATHS, 28 WEST 28TH STREET (BETWEEN BROADWAY AND SIXTH AVENUE), Amazingly this structure was originally built in the 1860's as a church. But was soon converted into a straight bathhouse. By the sixties it was no longer a viable source of revenue and was converted into a gay bathhouse. (At that time an almost certain moneymaker.) Established in 1973 The Everard (Ever-hard, get it?) attracted a group that "enjoyed rather esoteric sexual practices." Meaning that pretty much anything went-on here. The word "BATH" was cemented into the sidewalk out front, but was otherwise just another unmarked building in this light manufacturing district. Inside, dim orange lights maintained a timelessness. Most all the windows were painted over, you could not tell if it was day or night...the sun nor moon had power here. Sex was the ruler of this establishment. 24 hours a day. It was reportedly the oldest GAY bath house located in New York City. In the 70's (as was customary at the time) guys would hole up there after or during bouts of all night drugs and/or sex, and pass out to sleep there afterwards.

Everard Fire "The fire occurred on May 25, 1977 there were 9 (nine) men killed and 12 injured. Accounts were published in the New York Times and the Daily News (a front page photo of a fireman saving a towel-clad patron was very moving). A sprinkler system had just been installed but was not yet operational. It was scheduled to be fully working on June 2. The windows were not all painted over. In fact, there was a small window on the second and third floors in the front overlooking the street. I remember crowding around the window one night watching torrential rains flood the streets. You could see the Empire State Building from that window. I have many fond memories of the Everard. I met my lover there in 1981 after it had been renovated. It finally closed for good in approximately 1985."

This tragedy led NYC to enact a law that would not allow anyone to spend more then 12 hours at a time in a bathhouse (my how far we've come). Whether it's enforced these days I'm not sure, but you would get around that by checking out (usually physically) and checking back in again minutes later. This I'm sure was a bonanza for those places because depending on the day (or time of day) you would probably pay a rate increase. The building now houses a group of wholesale merchants.

(A big THANKS to Brian L. for quoted information and for scanned newspaper images.)

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Eagle Card Eagle Sign THE EAGLE BAR, 142 ELEVENTH AVENUE(AT 21ST STREET), In what had been The Eagle Open Kitchen a longshoreman's pub for 39 years. Owner Jack Modica opened in 1973 this leather/western bar had many ups and downs. Originally much more popular than The Spike (its neighbor one block south) the late '80's and AIDS were a rough period for the establishment. The crowds that once had thronged back and forth between The Spike and Eagle were gone, and it looked as if the Eagle would die a quiet death. During this time most men were going to The Spike and staying there, not barhopping over to The Eagle. Also there was a new very popular leather bar siphoning off business. It was the Altar, located downtown (see Altar at GREENWICH VILLAGE: a gay history site). The late '90's renewed the life of the leather bars, and The Eagle. Weekend nights were again packed, with leathermen meeting and socializing. DJ's would spin on weekends. Many a hot man would line the walls of this sexy dark room, and it's t-rooms were in heavy service.

The Eagle's closing party (March 3-5 2000) closed out this important chapter of NYC Gay life. After much talk of The Eagle re-opening at a new location; finally in late 2001 a new Eagle opened on West 28th Street. In this new location it had regained a new popularity...especially with the closing of the Spike (2000) and the the closing of the Lure (2003). The Eagle is now the only leather bar in New York City. The Eagle-NYC Website

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TIMES SQUARE: a gay history

Rawhide Poster Rawhide Exterior THE RAWHIDE BAR, 212 EIGHTH AVENUE (AT 21ST STREET), On Eighth Avenue (the main gay strip in Chelsea) the Rawhide, a leather/western bar has added one-way windows to enable it's patrons to view the everpresent gay parade that passes. Now in its 18th year (??) When the Rawhide first opened it featured a Sunday brunch with dinning tables set up in its corral main area. The food was very good, and the staff very friendly and entertaining. Today, though the food is gone the staff still friendly and entertaining, host the famous (infamous) morning parties that occur daily. The bar opens at 8am and attracts men that are still up from last nights venues, i.e. J's Hangout. Saturday mornings are the most crowded. But every morning (except Sundays, they open at noon) are usually crowded. Check out their cool new website which features specials, parties and more. Rawhide Link

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THE CRISCO DISCO,___WEST 15TH STREET (AT TENTH AVENUE), In the late 70's and early 80's The Crisco Disco featured great dance music. The dj booth was a giant can of Crisco, and attracted a serious afterhour party crowd. And as my friend DeeDee (dj at J's Hangout) has reminded me, that I "left out the fact that the Crisco Disco later became the Funhouse. The Crisco can replaced by a giant clown and shootings aplenty." (Thanks DeeDee).

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Chelsea Transfer today THE CHELSEA TRANSFER,131 EIGHTH AVENUE (AT 16TH STREET) In what now is a Pizza Palour, was in the early '80's The Chelsea Transfer, a gay bar opened by the folks of Ty's in Greenwich Village. The owner of Ty's (Eddie Ford), had the foresight to realize that Chelsea was overtaking the Village as the main gay neighborhood in New York. Thinking that his loyal Ty'S customers would all be migrating to Chelsea, and also fearing that the lease on his Greenwich Village property wasn't going to be renewed, he opened The Transfer. (Ty's lease was renewed after-all). But unfortunately he was abit ahead of the times. So Chelsea Transfer jumped the gun, and never really caught on, despite having an elaborately carved wooden bar, large smoked windows overlooking the pedestrian traffic of Eighth Avenue, and friendly staff. After a too short run the bar closed.

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BARBARY COAST,62 SEVENTH AVENUE (BETWEEN 14TH/15TH STREETS) In what was originally a very chic Hotel lobby when 14th Street was the center of the New York social world (around 1910). Was in the 1970/80's The Barbary Coast bar, their motto was "a bit of gay Frisco." (- Thanks Bob) If you walk inside Primetime Pizza you'll be able to see some of the original ornate ceiling. It opened at 8 am to accomidate the large crowd of hard-core drinkers, that needed their morning cocktail fix. It was definately a "drinkers bar."

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Spike Exterior Spike Poster THE SPIKE BAR,120 ELEVENTH AVENUE (AT 20TH STREET), In what was once the Maritime Union Meeting Hall, the leather bar, The Spike has been an anchor of the leather lifestyle in New York since 1974. It used to feature it's famous Devil's Island Brunch on Sunday afternoons (from noon until 5pm) for $10.95, and included one drink. I personally loved the Eggs Benedict ala Spike, and the dining hall "The Palm Room." With actual Palm trees. Sadly The Spike stopped serving brunch a few years ago.

Being a leather and biker bar it offered: dark rooms, Budweiser, pool tables, and hairy/daddy contests. The Spike draws the motorcycle cruise-on-the-wild-side crowd and wannabes from near and far. It was always busiest on a Friday and Saturday night. Owned by Chuck Thompson (CT) for the past 14 years, it featured DJ Jamie Leddo. It had it's closing party in September 2000.

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MOONSHADOWS DISCO, 366 EIGHTH AVENUE (AT 28TH STREET), Sometime called "Church" by some of the regulars, since it was only open Sundays for T-dances. Within the confines of this storefront disco, hundreds of shirtless men would dance and socialize. Ever pulsating recessed multicolored lights ran the perimeter of the club. It opened at 8am on Sunday morning to attract the crowds leaving The Saint, from the night before. An intimate space, not unlike "dancing in someones livingroom" was how it was described to me the first time.
The building had many problems with old pipes bursting and flooding, the club. Eventually Moonshadows, gave up on continually making repairs. It was then converted into an unsuccessful titty bar for a number of years. Today it is vacant.

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ZONE DK/PADDLES, ____WEST 21ST STREET, (BETWEEN 11/12TH AVENUES), This old car garage was converted in the late '80's into a notorious afterhours sex-club. Zone Dk was always cold and dark, with hundreds of men lining the walls of numerous dark hallways having sex. Or watching porno flicks on huge movie screens over the bars. With Catherine Wheels, and stocks for beatings the scene at Zone could be very intense. There was a dance-floor right next to the Catherine Wheel so people could dance while watching floggings. The regular DJ was Aaron Kirby.

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WEST 22ND STREET, WEST 22ND STREET (BETWEEN 10/11TH AVENUES), Not a building but a section of street. 22nd Street between 10/11th Avenues is a major cruising spot. Being close to both The Spike and The Eagle, men overflow from both bars looking for quick meetings. Drivers from the boroughs and New Jersey drive and park on 22nd Street. Men lurk in shadows having sex then return to the bars on the highway. Especially busy in summer months, but there is always someone there even in winter.

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The Limelight THE LIMELIGHT, SIXTH AVENUE (CORNER OF 20TH STREET), In this 1846 landmarked building (originally constructed as the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion) Peter Gatien opened his New York flagship nightclub The Limelight, in 1984. Finally reopened in fall of 1998 with a futuristic motif.

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Roxy Exterior Roxy Interior THE ROXY DISCO/1018, 515 WEST 18TH STREET (BETWEEN 10TH/11TH AVENUES), The Roxy Disco/Roller Rink opened in 1979. In an old truck/car garage. In the mid '80's (1984) it morphed into a club named 10-18, that attracted a YOUNG (sometimes underaged)clientele from the nearby projects, and featured Break dancing. After a few run ins with the police...i.e. a shooting. The owners realized that it had less hassles to attract a gay/older crowd and changed it back to Roxy. For a time it was looking bleak for Roxy, but these days it again has landed on it's feet...and thanks to promoters like John Blair (who was a promoter at Studio 54 in 1978) Roxy's packing them in on Saturday nights. It's one of New York's last remaining industrial-sized superclubs, but with the ability to converted into smaller more intimate spaces when warranted. It's a part-time roller-disco, as well as dance club. The Diva herself, Madonna had an un-announced mini-concert on the night of Saturday February 14, 1998. Roxy Link

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THE ATTIC, 157 EIGHTH AVENUE (AT 18TH STREET), In this seemingly innocent brownstone in the early '90's was the attic. It was a sex club, that had no limits...tending to be hot, crowded, wet and very greasy. Anything went. Owned by Wally, the same person that ran the infamous Mineshaft back in the 70's and 80's. Two apartments were joined together, to create this pleasure palace. The bathtubs were used as giant urinals for patrons to lounge in.

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THE "TRUCKS," Parked near the docks on the West Side Highway. During the day they were loaded with merchandise and freight unloaded from arriving ships. At night parked and empty, the rear of the truck would be left open. The orgies began at around 10pm - 5am, getting busy at around 2am. The area around the parked trucks was empty, dark, and gloomily silent. The location of the trucks has moved many times. I remember them in the 70's at the foot of Christopher Street, under the then elevated Highway. Also infront of the piers, but then the location was converted into a riverside park. The trucks moved to locations south of 14th Street in the meat packing district. Then in the late 80's relocating again to 19th/20th Streets just in from the highway. They facilitated an enormous amount of public sex, and had a large congregation of devoted followers.
As one regular has said, "It is common practice of The Eagle and Spike crowds to empty and close and head for the trucks for sex. Ending many hours of drinking and posturing the rigid identities - a visual contest of claiming authentic leather identies - individuals head for the trucks, where darkness smothers all identities except for anatomical ones."

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Private Eyes/Cheetah PRIVATE EYES, 12 WEST 21ST STREET, (BETWEEN 5/6TH AVENUES) Opened in 1983 by Robert Shalom, (who still owns the space) as Private Eyes it was one of the first gay video bars in New York. 25 Video screens/monitors surrounded patrons in the one level bar. It had a postage stamp sized dance floor, that was rarely used. The crowd tended to cluster on stools and couches and watch the new medium of the day, music videos. It was popular with a young trendy crowd, that also frequented the newly opened disco Limelight across the street. In the early 90's this space was known as Sound Factory Bar. A popular two level dance club, that was a hit with hip gay latinos. On Sundays a body-positive tea-dance featured such dj's as Franky Knuckles, Mark Cicero, and others. But with the opening of the immense Sound Factory Disco on West 46th Street in 1997 this space again morphed into predominately straight Cheetah. Featuring banquets of various animal patterns, and attracting an upscale "model/glamour crowd." But recently, they have begun to court the gay community again. In December 1999 they began holding Tuesday afterwork parties called Twelve West that was packing them in for a number of months. Twelve West closed it's doors over the summer of 2000.

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PAUL AND JOE'S RESTAURANT,___SIXTH AVENUE,(AT 19TH STREET), Originally opened in 1912 in the Village, it moved to this location in 1924. During WWI it had been known as a rough place, and was always crowded with soldiers on leave. It was the kind of place that catered to prostitutes that would get their Johns drunk then rob them. This part of town was known as The Tenderloin and all sorts of vices took place here. Paul and Joe's didn't have a particularly gay following until after the war, when it began hosting impromtu drag performers. By the early 20's however, the restaurant had established itself as a major gay night spot. It has been quoted, by a patron that "On Sundays I go to Paul and Joe's which is the main rendezvous for homosexuals in New York." And that "Paul and Joe's was the Headquarters for every well-known lesbian and queer in town." Besides the liquor sales downstairs, they rented out rooms upstairs for "private evening parties." P & J's became very popular also with stage and screen celebrities, opera stars, and underworld honchos. It was fairly widely known, as the magazine "The Greenwich Village Quill" had reported, "(It is the)hangout of dainty elves and stern women." It closed in 1927.

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