First Lady Jackie Kennedy Gives Televised Tour of the White House (February 14, 1962)
AIDS Strikes Down Famed Graffiti Artist Keith Haring (February 16, 1990)

New York Gay Life as Depicted in Postcards

I've previously published posts that were based on my collection of magazine covers and print ads (e.g., "Print Ads w/Gay Vibe").  I also have an extensive collection of postcards.  Some of the best are freebies found in postcard racks at restaurants and bars that describe the zeitgayst of the time.  This post looks at some of my favorites that I gathered between 1995-2001.  So, let's begin our trip in my time capsule ...

 

In the 1980s Uncle Charlie's was undoubtedly the most popular gay bar in New York City, but its popularity waned after Splash opened in the early '90s.  The bar had locations on 3rd Avenue in Murray Hill as well as on Greenwich Ave.  Between 1990-1992 I lived in an apartment that was across the street from the Greenwich Ave. location.  From my kitchen window I could watch who went in and out as well as observe an occasional catfight.

 

Uncle_charlies

 

This off-Broadway play 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night was the first production of Rattlestick Theater, located on Waverly Place.  It opened in the spring of 1995.

 

Rattlestick

 

I think this is one of the most beautiful postcards in my collection.  It was for a benefit for Bailey House, which provides housing for homeless individuals with AIDS.  It's located at the west end of Christopher St. near the West Side Highway.

 

Aids_benefit

 

Raymond Dragon (pictured below), a porn actor and director, had a stint as a designer of swimsuits and workout gear in the second half of the 1990s.  He owned a popular clothing store on 7th Avenue in Chelsea.  I bought one of my favorite swimsuits of all time, a vivid blue squarecut with a vertical strip of metallic silver on one side, there in the summer of 1997.  Dragon turns 52 this summer.

 

Raymond_dragon

 

Raymond_dragon    

 

The very popular Food Bar opened in the early 1990s just as gay life in NYC was moving northward into Chelsea (Splash bar opened at about the same time).  Located on 8th Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets, it closed in 2009.  (A Chipotle is now there.)  Candy Bar was another nearby restaurant, but it didn't meet with the same wild success as Food Bar.

 

Foodbar

Candy_bar

 

Antonio Sabato, Jr. was ubiquitous in the first half of the 1990s as a Calvin Klein underwear model (along with Marky Mark).  You could find him in magazine and TV ads, on one of Times Square's giant billboards and on free postcards like this one.  Sabato turned 42 at the end of February 2014.

 

Sabato_calvin_klein

 

This was a great series of ads for Chanel for Men.  Each had a scent packet on the back of the postcard.  The only line of copy was in small type on the bottom of the card and said either, "If he wears nothing else" or "What should he wear?"

 

Chanel_for_men

 

Ah, our Patti!  At the time of this 1995 ad campaign LuPone was in her mid-40s.  Careerwise, her stint on the ABC drama Life Goes On had ended a few years earlier and in 1994 she was unceremoniously fired by Andrew Lloyd Weber from the London production of Sunset Boulevard (before it came to Broadway).

 

Patti_lupone

 

Varla Jean Merman was a popular drag performer, who claimed to be the daughter of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine.  Besides having a great singing voice, Varla Jean was also known for being able to sing while spraying an entire can of string cheese into her mouth.  She had a daytime job (as Jeffrey Roberson) in the creative department of ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, where I also worked between 1995-2001.  I remember seeing her perform at a number of company holiday parties.  This postcard is promoting her 2001 Christmas concert at Town Hall, a benefit for God's Love We Deliver.

 

Varla_jean_merman     

 

This sexy postcard was an ad for a hair salon on West 16th St.

 

Just_men 

 

Body Positive promoted its 1998 Academy Awards benefit/party with this postcard.  It was held at the club Twirl, located on West 23rd St.  Back then the Oscar telecast aired on Monday night in late March.

 

Body_positive

 

In the late '90s the sports bar Champs opened a few blocks north of Splash but it couldn't compete and it closed after a few years.  This postcard was for one of its theme nights.  10 years later a more successful sports bar, Gym Sports Bar, opened on 8th Ave near 19th Street. (Its website incorrectly touts itself as being NYC's Original Gay Sports Bar.)

 

Champs_bar

 

This postcard was for the first Tulips & Pansies AIDS benefit, held in 2001.  It's like the Tournament of Roses Parade, but with the floral arrangements worn as headdresses.

 

Tulips_pansies

 

This next postcard promoted a CD in which songs composed with men and women singing to the opposite sex were performed in same-sex fashion.  There was a separate CD for men singing to men and women singing to women (and another postcard in which two women are in the foreground).

 

Music_cd

 

The "Trocs" are a troupe of accomplished male dancers dressed as ballerinas.  Each dancer has a wonderfully daffy Russian name.  I saw them perform a number of times at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea (two doors down from Gym Bar).

 

The_trocs   

 

Here's something for the ladies, a lesbian dance party.  It was held at the club Industria on Washington St. in the West Village and was a benefit for a show titled Vegas Girl.  The party promoter also organized a regular women's event called Planetgirl.

 

Vegas_girl

 

The Gay & Lesbian Community Center opened on West 13th St. in the mid-80s.  The building, a former high school, was in disrepair, so in the late '90s a renovation began.  During that time the Center temporarily relocated to the Meat Packing District (before it became a yuppie magnet).  This postcard announced the Center's re-opening in the spring of 2001.

 

The_center_reopening

 

 

 

 

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