Nightlife Feed

Remembering Fun Times at Greenwich Village's Monster Bar & Disco




One of ZeitGAYst's most visited posts is one I wrote about gay bars that have closed since I moved to New York in 1979.  Each one that closed made me apprehensive about my neighborhood bar, the Monster, meeting the same fate, so I've written a loving tribute to the Monster before the fact.  Located on Grove St., around the corner from my apartment, it's a lively place that's been around for 40 years.  Part of its appeal for me is that even if I stay longer than I planned I'll be home in minutes.  


Besides its proximity, I also like the place because of it's spaciousness and, at least until the invasion of the shrieking women, attracts a good mix of patrons of different ages, races and ethnic backgrounds; there's also little "attitude" to speak of.  If you prefer to sit and chat an expansive bar is upstairs; if you like to dance a a disco downstairs beckons; and if belting out show tunes is your talent, there's a piano you can gather around.  (Two complaints I have concern the bar's drinks: 1) they're smaller than those of other bars - for example, Industry in Hell's Kitchen, serves drinks that are twice as large for the same price; and 2) Happy Hour doesn't include cocktails with "brand" liquor - a detail that isn't made explicit.)


Happy Hour


The Monster opened its doors in the early '80s, which was around the time I moved into Manhattan.  My earliest memory there is dancing to Michael Jackson's Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough in the downstairs disco with my boyfriend Rick and a friend from work during Gay Pride weekend in 1983.  In its early years it didn't have the section of the bar where the piano now sits - that was a bookstore (legitimate, not "adult").  Thirty years later I often go there on Friday evenings after work, joined by my friends Andy and Maury.   Here are some other fond memories/photos:


  • When I was in between full-time jobs I'd often go there late on Tuesday for its Classic Disco night.  It was wonderful hearing the great classics of the 1970s and '80s.  In a post I wrote about my favorite disco lyrics, the opening paragraph mentioned this weekly event.




  • I once got six people kicked out for being disorderly.  It happened one Saturday night as I was seated at the bar and a boisterous group of guys and gals persisted in heavily leaning and pushing up against me (especially the women).  Despite asking them nicely a number of times not to do so, they continued invading my space.  Finally, I had enough and, summoning my inner "top", stood up and forcibly shoved them away from me.  It turns out they were being annoying all night and this was the excuse the door man had been waiting for to bounce them.  Happily, I wasn't tossed out with them.




  • I had the good fortune of meeting hunky Channel 5 weatherman Mike Woods there on a Sunday evening last summer.  I introduced myself because I wanted to tell him of the post I had written about sexy news anchors that included him.  (Last fall People Magazine named him its "Sexiest Weatherman".)




  • Despite there being no electricity, the Monster was open after hurricane Sandy struck in late October 2012.  It had a generator and the bar stayed open as long as the ice supply held up.  I went there with friends the evening of Halloween.  On a night that's known for being crazy and crowded in the Village, that year was dark and quiet with no Halloween parade.  But inside it was cozy with candlelight and just neighborhood regulars.




  • This is the bar where I had my first Negroni, vodka gimlet and martini.  One evening, in the summer of 2012, I splashed some of my martini on my Blackberry, which was sitting on the bar, and within 10 seconds it stopped working.  I loved this device but I ended up getting a smartphone instead.




  • It's the only bar where I know bartenders by name, such as Mitch and Jeremy (pictured together), Greg, Vinny, Stephen, Patrick, Raymond, Pedro, Achilles, Evan and Facundo (pictured).  However, once I knew their names I was always felt a sense of loss if I discovered they had left (as was the case with the last four names). 






  • Because I live so close I can walk there quickly in the depths of winter without putting on a coat (saving me hundreds of dollars in coat check expenses over the years).
  • Some of the go-go dancers at Saturday night's Manster at Monster event were a joy to watch as they truly put on a high energy,  hot show.  But not all of them.  Once I called out one who was barely moving, just sort of posing (and the song playing was quite danceable) - and I reported him to the manager.  However, a few years this vibe disappeared as rent boys replaced the dancers, trying to charm patrons (ideally, drunk tourists) into buying a lap dance for $5/minute.  This change happened after bar manager, Mitch, who was the creative force behind Manster, left and his night was replaced by Squirt




Crowd favorite, Vinny Vega.







Sitting at the bar ...







Iron work at the monster
A nice piece of iron work hangs behind the booth at the entrance where patrons pay cover charge on weekends.


Miguel the monster
Miguel is one of the managers






Greek statue at monster
Are we at a bar or a museum? (Stands adjacent to the piano.)in


Monster tshirt


May 28 monster disco
As Alicia Bridges sang, "I love the nightlife, I love to boogie, on the disco round ..."


Rainbow chest at the monster bar
Pride weekend, 2017






Drink on bar
Absolut Mandarin with a splash of cranberry!



Monster glass wall
Cinder block glass wall on the stairwell leading downstairs to the dance floor


Singing by paino
A regular belts out a tune ("What I Did for Love" would be a good guess)


(Despite my fond memories, in recent years changes in the types of patrons it attracts, e.g., more straight women, many of them drunk and loud and with their boyfriends in tow, and most recently, repercussions of COVID-19, have reduced the Monster's appeal for me.)

Remembering Adventures at the Baths: A Gay Rite of Passage


Stackwhitetowels Vaseline Rush


Before the onset of AIDS, bathhouses were very popular with gay men.  After graduating from college in 1979, I moved to New York and, being a frisky 21-year-old, I felt like a kid in a candy store whenever I'd go to "the baths" - with a variety of different venues to visit.  I went on a regular basis for a little more than a year, from the spring of 1979 thru the summer of 1980.  Besides being exciting, it was also a learning experience.   Most of the time I went to the Club Baths, but I also experienced Man's Country, St. Mark's Baths, the Everard and the Big Apple.  Besides being a place for anonymous hook ups, the baths, like bars, also served as a place for making friends.  (I can think of the names of eight guys I met there who I saw outside of the baths on a number of occasions.)  What follows is a synopsis of the venues I went to. 



The Club Baths was part of a chain with locations across the US.  New York's "franchise" was on 1st Avenue near Houston St. next door to an Hispanic funeral parlor.  It had a lounge with a bar and TV, and there was a swimming pool and sauna downstairs.  The price of admission got you a locker; for an additional charge you could rent a cubicle-sized room (with a cot and a door) for four hours.  I never rented a room since I preferred walking about the complex - and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of rejecting those I wasn't interested in (and there were many, especially since I was fresh meat and everyone wanted a taste).  For those looking for groups to play with there was an orgy room, a movie room with bunks, and a maze.  Patrons walked around with a towel wrapped around their waist and opened it, or dropped it to the floor, as "opportunities" presented themselves.


Mark Beard, "Man in a White Towel"


My first trip on a New York subway was made during a visit to the baths.  I usually went on Saturday night, arriving around 9 PM and staying until daybreak, when I'd fine myself on the subway with people who looked like they were going to church.  Since I lived in New Jersey at the time, it wasn't an easy trip, but the fun that awaited easily motivated me.


Disco station WKTU played throughout the complex.  Whenever I hear songs such as Put Your Body In It (Stephanie Mills); Harmony (Suzy Lane); Street Life (The Crusaders); or Yellow Beach Umbrella (Bette Midler), warm memories come to mind.  The music would be regularly interrupted by the desk clerk announcing a room number whose four-hour rental was about to expire. 





The first bathhouse I ever went to was The Big Apple in the Times Square area - on Good Friday.  My first encounter was with a lawyer from Mexico City whose name was Javier.





Located on St. Mark's Place in the East Village, the St. Mark's Baths had the reputation for attracting the hottest men.  The one time I went there was on a balmy October evening and the roof deck was open.





Man's Country was on West 15th St. between 5th and 6th Avenues.  Like the other bathhouses, it was multi-level with long, narrow floors.  What made it unique, however, was that upon entering one of the floors you came face-to-face with the front of a red semi with a trailer attached that guys went into to have sex.  This floor also held jail cells for more role-playing scenarios.  A famous billboard for Man's Country was in Sheridan Square, with the word "Come" dominating.





It was infamous for a deadly fire in 1977 that killed nine patrons.  Located on 5th Avenue south of 34th St., I went there in the winter of 1980 (it relocated a few blocks after the fire), and met a fellow named Gordon who I dated until the end of the summer.  I'd take the train up to his place in Poughkeepsie on weekends.  He is just one of the men I saw outside of the baths ...



Perhaps the most interesting experience I had with someone I met was with Joey, owner of a car dealership in Westchester County, who took me out on his boat in the town of Harrison on Long Island Sound.  He picked me up on a Saturday morning in August 1979, and there were two children in the backseat of his car!  It turns out he was married, and while he and I went out on the boat to "relax", his wife and kids were back at the boathouse.

Dennis was a Catholic priest from Douglaston, Queens, who I met through a personal ad in the Village Voice.  Although I didn't meet him at the baths, I introduced him to the Club Baths on a Friday when it was "Buddy Night", and two gained admission for the price of one.  Another fellow, Tom, a librarian from Scranton, PA, invited me to visit him, but with the caveat that since he lived with his father we'd have to have sex in his car in the garage.  We spoke on the phone a few times but I didn't take him up on his invitation.




Bill was a guard at the US Embassy in Iran on Tehran's Teleghani Ave.  I met him in the summer of 1979, just a few months before embassy personnel were taken hostage.  Then there was Bruce (at first he told me his name was Rick), who was a chef at a restaurant on Cape Cod during the summer in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.  On one date he came to my apartment and made Coq au vin, and showed me how to prepare asparagus.  Phillip, who lived in Inwood in northern Manhattan, was the first black guy I was ever with.

Mel was a former copywriter at McCann Erickson and lived on Staten Island.  I've only been to that borough a few times in my life, and the first time was to visit him.  He took me to see the Broadway musical Whoopie and we also saw the Woody Allen film Manhattan.  His was the first uncut cock I ever "encountered."  One more thing - he was in his early 50s, my father's age.

Bill, originally from Milwaukee, was a temp at Touche Ross (before it became Deloitte Touche), and lived at an SRO on West 12th St. off 6th Ave. called the Ardsley House.  He took me to the Russian Tea Room for dinner.  He was smitten with me, but I wasn't ready for a serious relationship.  His was the first of many hearts I've broken.

Don lived in Bethpage on Long Island and I visited him there on Memorial Day weekend 1979.  Upon coming back on Sunday I went directly to the baths and ended up meeting Joe from Bensonhurst Brooklyn.  On one of our dates we saw Alien in Times Square and while we were in the theater his car was towed.  He had a share out in the Pines but he wouldn't take me because he didn't think I was ready.




My adventures at the baths ended once I started seriously dating someone in September 1980 (we didn't meet at the baths).  Many bathhouses closed by the mid-80s due to the backlash caused by the onset of AIDS.  Today there are a few in business (e.g. The West Side Club in Chelsea), but they aren't nearly as popular as they were back in the carefree '70s.


Poster for a 2013 documentary about the iconic bathhouse, which had its heyday before I moved to New York.







RIP to All the Gay Bars in New York City I've Known




The year 2013 saw the closing of two bars, both in Chelsea, that served and entertained a generation of gay customers from opposite ends of the "attitude" spectrum.  In March, leather-and-Levis Rawhide on 8th Ave. closed after 34 years, while Splash, with all of its muscle-tee hotties, closed its doors in August after 21 years.  Then three years later two other Chelsea mainstays, XES and g Lounge, were shuttered.  These closings had me reminiscing about all the bars I've frequented, and outlived, since moving to New York in 1979 (cue up "I'm Still Here" from Follies).  Of course, they represent just a fraction of those that have closed (e.g., I didn't hang out much in the East Village), but here are three dozen I remember (in alphabetical order):


BADLANDS (Christopher & West Side Highway)

It had one of the most memorable bar logos, a wolf howling at the moon.  It closed after two people were fatally shot there by a crazed man in the winter of 1981.




BARBARY COAST (7th Ave. near 14th St.)

Taking its name from old San Francisco's red-light district, this cozy bar had a vaulted ceiling from when it was a bank lobby.  Now closed for more than 20 years, I went there a few times in the first half of the 1980s when I lived on W. 15th St.  A lasting memory is when my boyfriend bought a one-month pass to the Chelsea Gym (also long gone) from an elderly patron who won it in a raffle there, and then gave it to me. 


BILLY'S (West Village or Chelsea)

This establishment is unique because I don't remember it, but apparently I was there because I wrote an entry about it in my journal from 1986.  (On April 26 I went there for its 2nd anniversary celebration and had champagne.)


BOGART'S (E. 59th St. between 2nd and 1st Avenues)

Its distinguishing characteristic was that it was within spitting distance of the Queensboro Bridge.  It had a piano in the front of the bar.


BOOTS & SADDLE (76 Christopher St.)

After "gracing" the corner near the famed Village Cigar in Sheridan Square for 41 years, Boots & Saddle  (lovingly referred to by some as Bras & Girdles) closed in the spring of 2015.  Although I went inside just once, taking a 15-second look-see, I feel like I've been to it often since I walked by it thousands of times.  However, this closing didn't mean the end for B&S, as it was reincarnated a block south on 7th Ave. South in a space that used to be Actors Playhouse, a cozy space for off-off-Broadway shows (and where Naked Boys Singing had a long run).  Alas, the new location didn't meet with success and it closed after only a few years.




BOY BAR (15 St. Mark's Place)

The East Village wasn't my stomping grounds, and this is the only bar I recall going to.  It had two levels.  And they had nice matchbooks.




THE BREAK (8th Ave./21st St.)

It occupied a somewhat cramped, narrow space that was a challenge to walk through.  Like so many other bars, it had a pool table in the back.  A few years after it closed a bar called The View opened in the same location, and also closed.


CHAMPS (W. 20th St. between 5th & 6th Avenues)

This was the earliest sports bar, located a few blocks north of Splash.  It had a bank of bleacher seats and a dance floor.  It opened in 1994 (two years after Splash) and lasted only a few years.




CHASE (W. 55th St.)

One of the first new gay bars in the vicinity of Hell's Kitchen, it opened around 2000.  It lasted just a few years, but it heralded the explosion of gay life in this neighborhood, albeit 5-10 blocks further south.




CHELSEA TRANSFER (8th Ave. in the Teens)

In business for just a brief time in the '90s, it had a beautiful curved mahogany bar (perhaps it was teak).  The few times I scoped out the place on a Saturday night there wasn't much of a crowd.




THE COCK RING (corner of Christopher St./West Side Highway)

This was the first place I danced with a man, in January 1980.  A few years later it closed when the building it was in was sold; after renovations, Uncle Charlie's opened a bar there in the mid-1980s, but it only lasted a few years.


COMPANY (Gramercy)

It was a bar and restaurant which I dined at perhaps half a dozen times in the 1980s.  I believe it was on Third Ave. around 30th St.


COWBOYS & COWGIRLS (E. 53rd St. between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)

Not to be confused with the Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant in the West Village, my lasting memory of this establishment was that I was there the night the US hockey team beat the Soviet Union during the 1980 Winter Olympics. 


CRAWFORDS (Upper East Side in the 80s)

Open very briefly.  I never went to it (to the Upper East Side?) but remember it for its ad in HX and Next, which showed Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.  Rather than her line, "Take out this bitch of a retaining wall and put a window where it ought to be", the ad has her saying, "Put a bar where a bar ought to be".




DANNY'S (corner of Christopher and Greenwich St.)

Although I've written in my journal about going to this bar in the early '80s,  for the life of me I don't remember anything about it.  It was later renovated and became the Village Styx.


'g' LOUNGE (W. 19th St. between 7th & 8th Avenues)

This bar was fine to go to with friends, but I didn't enjoy going there alone because it didn't have a lot of room to walk around in like Splash or The Monster.  Also, the music could be deafening.  I'd sometime go there on Friday evenings with friends, but the last time I set foot in the place was two or three years ago.  (g's space was taken over by another gay bar, Rebar, shortly thereafter.)


G bar   


HARRY'S BACK EAST (Third Ave./E. 80th St.)

This was the first NYC gay bar I set foot in, during the fall of 1979.  It was set up with a bar in the front and dance space in the back.  It closed in the early '80s.


KING (6th Ave. between W. 16th & W. 17th Streets)

It had three floors, with a dance floor on the second floor.


LAST CALL (Second Ave. just off 53rd St.) 

An elderly gentleman bought me a drink here after work on my 23rd birthday (at the time "elderly" to me probably meant late 40s).


NINTH CIRCLE (W. 10th St. between Greenwich Ave. & 7th Ave. South)

Once a steakhouse, it became popular in the 1970s and '80s with hustlers and their "admirers".  I walked in an out of it once.  Gone for 30 years, it now sits empty (after years as a restaurant).




NORTH DAKOTA (Third Ave./36th St.)

It closed around 1986, and Uncle Charlie's Midtown, which was originally a few blocks further north, took over its space.


PRIVATE EYES (Chelsea/between 5th & 6th Avenues in the W. 20s)

A bar with a dance floor.  I spent a rather disappointing New Year's Eve (1987) there with a boyfriend I broke up with a few weeks later.  (The blog Kenneth in the 212 has written a more in-depth post about this bar/club that you can find here.) 




RAWHIDE (8th Ave. & 21st St.)

One of those bars that suffered from the City's smoking ban as cigar and cigarette smoke was part of its "atmosphere".


REGENCY EAST (E. 58th St./near Third Ave.)

Before the Townhouse, there was Regency East, at the other end of E. 58th St.  Unlike the Townhouse, there were no steps to walk up so there was no need to worry about an embarrassing fall if you had too much to drink.  RE closed around 1990.




ROME (8th Ave. & 26th St.)

Open briefly, but it didn't attract much of a crowd, and then went after a straight clientele.


ROUNDS (E. 53 St./Second Ave.)

A high-end hustler's bar during the late '70s/early '80s with a nice restaurant.  My first ad agency job was in this neighborhood, and co-workers and I occasionally came here for birthday celebrations.





A comfortable, no-attitude place in the mold of Ty's in the West Village.  It was around for a long time before I paid a visit.  When I finally did go, I had a quick drink, looked around, wasn't inspired by what I saw and left.  I seem to recall it being on Second Avenue around 25th St.


SPLASH/SBNY (W. 17th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.)

I enjoyed going here because of its videos, spaciousness and roster of bare chested Chelsea boy bartenders.  I usually went during happy hour on Friday.  Splash has the distinction of being the only bar where I threw a drink in someone's face.




TRILOGY (next to the Christopher St. Path Station)

A nice little bar with a restaurant in the back (1980s), it later became the notorious Chi-Chi's, which attracted a loud, black/Hispanic crowd that many residents considered to be a blight on the neighborhood.  It closed around 2008, and is now a Thai fusion restaurant.



The "It" bar of the 1980s, this is the bar I frequented the most.  In 1990 and 1991, I lived across the street from it and could watch who was coming and going from my kitchen window (and I witnessed a number of hilarious cat fights out on the sidewalk.)





UNCLE CHARLIE'S SOUTH (Third Ave/38th St.)

This was the hopping bar in the late '70s/early '80s before a sister bar opened in the Village in 1981.  And if you were in the mood for dancing, the club Stix was close by on Second Ave. (in an earlier incarnation it was The Barefoot Boy).  And Uncle Charlie's restaurant was a block or two south on Third Ave.





UNCLE PAUL'S (upper Christopher St./near Sixth Ave.)

Another bar I may have been in only once or twice, it's now the bar Pieces.


THE VILLAGE STYX (corner of Christopher & Greenwich Streets)

This was a very attractive bar for Christopher St., with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the street.  It was open for only a few years and then became an XXX video store, with downstairs booths.  That survived much longer, more than 20 years.   


THE WORKS (Upper West Side/Columbus Ave. in the W. 80s)

Because of its location I didn't get to it very often, but I liked it.  It occupied a long, narrow space.




XES (24th St. between Sixth & Seventh Avenues)

Cramped in a cozy way, with a small outdoor garden, XES was in business for 12 years, opening in 2004.  I can recall going there just three times, once for an OP networking event, and the two other times were for a birthday gathering (same person).  Every time there it was raining so I never got to enjoy the garden.


Xes exterior1


XL (W. 16th St. near 9th Ave.)

With a smartly modern, two-level design, it was open just a short time, between 2000-2005.  The last time I was there was the weekend before 9-11.  Scenes from an episode of Sex in the City were filmed in its striking bathroom.




Finally, the t-shirt company Do You Remember sells a line of t-shirts that pay tribute to close to two dozen NYC bars/clubs from the past.  To visit the site double click here




When a Gay Bar Gouge Patrons - $10 Cover at the Monster!

Monster_barAs we all know, the 4th of July fell on Thursday this year (2013), so on Wednesday night I decided to have a vodka martini (dirty) at my neighborhood bar, the Monster, on Grove St. in the West Village.  When I got there I was floored to discover they had a $10 cover - no wonder the place was relatively empty.  They already charge an eight-dollar cover on Fridays and Saturdays (in 2017 it would rise to $10 as well), but this was simple price gouging as far as I was concerned.  I turned around and went home (happily, just a two-minute walk).


Ten_dollar_billGranted, it was a holiday, but one that many gay men spend at Fire Island, the Jersey shore, etc., so it's not like the City is teeming with thirsty queens.  Does the Monster think it's a "destination" spot for gay men who will blithely hand over an Alexander Hamilton?  Believe me, we're not talking about a bar that exactly draws the A-List.  To its credit, the Monster's been around 30+ years, no mean feat - but it shows.  And there's nothing sadder than a bar that's losing business and feels it has to steadily raise prices, thereby penalizing (and alienating) loyal patrons.   (However, I must add that for Saturday night's "Manster at Monster" event, the cover charge is waved if you know password, which is found on the bar's Facebook page).      


Perhaps a high cover charge keeps some of the riff-raff that's begun to plague the Village from coming to the bar, but it may also dissuade others that don't think the bar is "all that" anyway.


Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned.


Sorting Through Gay Memorabilia, Remembering Good Times




Bric-a-brac, ephemera, mementos - whatever you choose to call them, collecting "stuff" can be rewarding, especially when you look through it years later and experience moments of your life all over again.  (As the disco classic, Souvenirs, by Voyage says: "Souvenirs are signs that take you away".)  I've already written posts about my postcard collection.  Now I'll share items from my collection of pins, fridge magnets, match books and business cards, all with a gay pedigree, circa 1980-2000. 



Looking at the first group, the "Go Homos" button was made to look like the style of GQ Magazine's logo, in response to perceived homophobia by the magazine's publisher.  In the second group, the pin on the left was handed out by the Pink Panthers, who were fashioned after the Guardian Angels to patrol against anti-gay violence in the Village in the early 1990's.  MGM took them to court and won for copyright infringement over the group's appropriation of the Pink Panther paw.  





In the third group, the "Clit Power" pin is the sole lesbian-oriented pin I own.  The simple "Fire Island 1981" pin was picked up during my first visit to Cherry Grove.  After spending years adorning bulletin boards in my various offices, the pin's purplish-blue hue has faded considerably.  Finally, the fourth group shows pins of a more serious nature.  The "DC in '93" pin refers to the huge political rally (between 800,000 and 1 million participated) that took place in the nation's capital on April 25, 1993, a time when hopes were high because of breakthroughs in AIDS treatments and the recent election of Bill Clinton.






These are all fairly self-explanatory.  And, yes, they all can be found on my refrigerator ...






The first on the left came from St. Mark's Baths; the second from a short-lived bar on 8th Avenue named Chelsea Transfer, which had a beautiful, curved wooden bar; The Saint, of course, was the premiere gay dance club in the 1980s; 'A' stands for the gloriously raunchy Anvil bar on West Street; and the last matchbook is from Uncle Charlie's, NYC's most popular bar from the late 70's through early '90s, until it was supplanted by Splash.  In the second group are matchbooks from Boy Bar in the East Village (1990s); Tracks, which was in Chelsea in the late 1980s; the Club Baths on 1st Avenue near Houston St. (next door to a funeral parlor); and Ice Palace disco on West 57th St., which had its heyday in the late 70s thru early '80s. 






In the 1980s and 1990s, Claire was in the space now occupied by Elmo on 7th Ave. in Chelsea.  In the late 1980s, Stefano's was in the gay Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.  Partners was a gay bar in New Haven.  In the early '80s, before my boyfriend at the time moved to NYC, he lived in Connecticut, and occasionally after he picked me up at the train station in New Haven we'd stop in.  I remember it having a fog machine that sprayed a mist made of talcum powder.  Plain & Fancy was one of many restaurants on Commercial St. in Provincetown.  La Fabula (or, La "Faaaabula!") was a popular restaurant in West Hollywood (at least in the late 80s thru early '90s).  And La Te Da was an upscale restaurant in Key West's predominantly gay neighborhood.




These were handed out during happy hours that provided a free drink after the purchase of the first.  Nowadays, most bars just reduce drink prices during happy hour.  An exception is Splash, which still has a two-for-one offer, but bartenders now hand you a paper receipt rather than a decorative chip.





The first card is from Summer Solstice, the gift shop found in the harbor of Fire Island Pines, which sits atop the Pantry grocery store.  The middle card is from Sip'n Twirl, the bar that's situated in the complex behind the Pavilion.  The last card is a calling card to write your name/number if you met someone at low tea you might want to see later - this was before texting.





The card in the center is from Club Norreh, a multi-level bar/club in Pittsburgh, which was the first gay bar I ever set foot in - back in the summer of 1978.  Next is Che 2020, which was briefly what the mega-popular Food Bar restaurant was renamed in the early '90s . Manatus and Village Den are two West Village institutions - and still in business.  





This selection comes from the department store Fast Buck Freddie's on Duval St. in Key West; guest houses in Provincetown and Ogunquit, Maine; my membership card to the gay running group Front Runners; and the last is from Men in Suits, a monthly gathering of men who got into (and sometimes out of) suits and socks with garters.




And one more for good measure ...




A Postcard Trip to Fire Island Pines & Cherry Grove




Last year I published a post about Fire Island that featured some of my favorite photos taken in the Pines and Cherry Grove over the past 20 summers.  Then recently I was thumbing through my postcard collection and was pleasantly surprised to discover how many were related to the magic of Fire Island.  Touching on various aspects of life there, they brought back happy memories of the fun times. What follows is a sampling of these cards.  They evoke the island's natural beauty as well as offer a glimpse of some of its rarefied rituals and pleasures ...


Natural Beauty is part of the reason Fire Island is such a desired escape for residents of New York City.  And it starts with the 20-minute trip on the ferry across Great South Bay and arrival in the Pines harbor.




Fire Island Pines Ferry Dock


The postcard below shows the isolated beauty of the abandoned Coast Guard station at the western edge of the Pines at the entrance to the Meat Rack.  It was promoting a book of photography published by Pines resident Bill Caram.




A photography exhibit in early September 2006 at Sip'n Twirl by Tom Castele ws promoted with this postcard:




And then there's the natural beauty of the Meat Rack, displayed in this postcard from the early 1980s ...




Since there are approximately 700 homes in the Pines, on any given weekend you're bound to be invited to at least one house party.   On Saturday mornings postcard invitations are thumb-tacked to houses' entrances or slipped into mailboxes.  Most have themes.  For example, the house I had a share in on Driftwood Walk had a "Hat Party" held in early August.










Accomplished illustrator Robert de Michiell (who died in 2015) created a series of vibrantly colored postcards in the early 2000s depicting life in the Pines, with an emphasis on its physical specimens.






If you find yourself without a house party to go to, there are often community-wide events that serve as fundraisers.  The first postcard is for "Dance on the Bay", an outdoor event that takes place over July 4th weekend and raises money for the LGBT Center on 13th Street; the next postcard was for a production of Two Hot Men on a Cold Winter Night at the Community Center (since rebuilt and renamed Whyte Hall); the middle postcards promoted sit-down dinners sponsored by Lambda Legal; and the final postcard announces one of the "Fire Island Dance Festivals", which have taken place since the mid-1990s in the middle of July.  It raises funds for Dancers Responding to AIDS.












And, of course, let's not forget Cherry Grove ... 


Greetings from fire island




Want to read more about Fire Island?  Here are three additional posts I've written about the "island paradise":

A Photo Tribute to FIP & Cherry Grove

Coming & Going in the Meat Rack

"Invasion" of the Pines




Death Watch Begins for the Incredibly Shrinking "Next Magazine"




Back in 2012 I wrote a post discussing how Next Magazine's smaller pages and tiny typeface made it more difficult to read, especially in the dim lights of a bar/club setting.  (New Next, shown above, old Next, below.)  Now, in the past few months (early 2013), I've noticed that the number of pages is declining, reducing its usual thickness and giving the publication a somewhat bulimic look.  Since the entertainment guide is still publishing all of its regular editorial features, it must be running fewer advertising pages.  This is a bit surprising considering that Next no longer has HX to compete with (Next bought it in 2009). 




There may be a number of reasons for this decline in ad pages: 1) like readers, advertisers continue to gravitate to online sources (something the entire magazine publishing industry, even the vaunted publications of Time, Inc., are struggling mightily with); 2) a more compelling sales story is being pitched by Metro Source's ad sales staff; 3) less revenue is being generated by back-of-the-book ads offering the services of escorts and "body workers".  Whatever the reasons are, I believe the Next death watch has begun.  







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 zeitgeist of the time.  This post looks at some of my favorites 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 cat fight.




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.





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.




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 there in the summer of 1997 -  a vivid blue square cut with a vertical strip of metallic silver on one side.  Dragon turned 52 this summer (2013).






The very popular Food Bar opened in the early 1990s just as gay life in NYC was moving northward into Chelsea (Splash 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.





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.




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?"




Ah, our Patti!  At the time of this 1995 ad campaign LuPone was in her mid-40s.  Career wise, 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).




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.




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




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.




In the late '90s the sports bar Champs opened a few blocks north of Splash but it couldn't compete, and 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.)




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




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).




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 up from Gym Bar).




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.




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/Gen X magnet).  This postcard announced the Center's re-opening in the spring of 2001.







A Gay Nightlife Milestone: Flamingo Disco Opens Its Doors (December 14, 1974)




Before iconic clubs such 12 West (1975), Paradise Garage (1977), Studio 54 (1977) or the Saint (1980) opened their doors, there was Flamingo.  Although the Sanctuary (1969-72) laid claim as the first gay disco, it attracted a good number of heteros as well.  By contrast, Flamingo was promoted as the first discotheque for an exclusively gay clientele; it opened on Dec. 14, 1974.  It was located on the 2nd floor of a nondescript building at the corner of Houston St. and Broadway in New York's SoHo neighborhood.  It closed in the winter of 1980-81 shortly after The Saint opened its doors.


Disco, and its many iterations, was the lifeblood of gay clubs in the 1970s/80s, and for a while it even attracted a mainstream audience.  But after a brief flirtation, the general public rejected disco at the close of the '70s.  The gay community's strong allegiance, however, never wavered; after all, it was our music to begin with.  Gays embraced disco culture for the escape into fantasy it provided, while straights gravitated to rock and country (and later to rap) to immerse themselves in the grim reality of their world.   




The Rise & Fall of Popular New York Bar, "Splash" (1991-2013)





Splash, the spacious gay watering hole on West 17th St., opened its doors the evening of Sept. 25, 1991.  It came along just as Uncle Charlie's reign as the "It" bar of the 80s was coming to an end.  At the time Splash's location was a bit off the beaten path, but leave it to "the gays" to begin the gentrification of a neighborhood that soon became a mecca for gay men.


I enjoyed going to Splash because its expansive layout afforded patrons lots of room to walk around and circulate on its two floors.  Its videos were eclectic and entertaining, and if you didn't find them of interest there was always the stable of buff bartenders to stare at as they strutted around bare chested in their skimpy, and very flattering, briefs. 




Over the years Splash went through a number of renovations.  When it first opened it had a shower motif and was famous for its "Splash Dancers" (below) who appeared on a stage, designed as a shower with water spraying, as they slowly performed an erotic dance, solo or with a partner.  And "Musical Mondays", a tribute to Broadway show tunes, was a popular mainstay.




A number of years ago I used a trip to the bar as a business expense when the ad agency I worked at was pitching the Stoli vodka account.  A group of us, a mix of straight and gay men and women, paid a visit to Splash and conducted face-to-face research, chatting with a few bartenders about their work and the liquor preferences of customers.






Splash was in business long enough to have the distinction of serving, entertaining and titillating an entire generation of gay men - but it finally succumbed to the allure Hell's Kitchen held for its clientele and closed its doors in the summer of 2013, seven weeks shy of its 22nd anniversary. 




Only a few bars in the West Village have been in business longer than Splash, including The Monster (since 1982), Ty's (1972, near bottom), and the grand daddy of them all - Julius' (1966, far bottom).  Julius even has its own Wikipedia page.  However, the patrons of these establishments couldn't be more different than Splash's, with a Pines-Cherry Grove comparison an apt one.  The only other bar in Chelsea with longevity, g Lounge, has a crowd similar to Splash - but its square footage is a fraction of Splash's, giving it a claustrophobic feel.