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Gay Old Times ... 1969

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Julius', still serving burgers to the gay community today.  

WEST SIDE

→Bars
Candy Store (44 W. 56th St.)
GSC: “Piano bar—very elegant … Someone recently published a comment that his nominees for bars with the most ‘up-tight’ people are Julius’ and the Candy Store.”

→ Baths
Everard Baths (28 W. 28th St.)
GSC: “A number of Gay Guide[s] have incorrectly spelled the name … it is Everard, not EVER HARD!”


Bette sang at the Continental as Barry Manilow played piano.  

Continental Baths (230 W. 74th St.)
In the basement of the Ansonia, this gay-sex venue also featured the young Bette Midler as a performer. (Several grainy videos on YouTube show her singing such songs as “Hot Stuff,” “Marahuana,” and “I Shall Be Released” and talking about getting her hair done in the 34th Street subway station.) Became Plato’s Retreat, a straight swingers’ club, in 1977; closed in 1985 amid the AIDS crisis.

*Y.M.C.A. (5 W. 63rd St.)

→Community Groups
Mattachine Society Offices (243 West End Ave., at 71st St.)
Founded in 1950 in Los Angeles, it was the best-known gay activist group (albeit a fairly timid one) prior to Stonewall, later supplanted in influence by the more militant Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Liberation Front.

→Cruising
Central Park West (59th St. to 88th St.)
Yes, according to the Gay Scene Guide, that entire stretch of CPW was one big “meat-rack.” The guide also provided some helpful hints for successful canine accessorizing. “If you live in this area, be sure to obtain a mixed-up, odd-looking (I hesitate to say ‘queer-looking’) mongrel. You’ll find it’s a great way to strike up conversations with the neighbors.” As for the park itself, despite the enduring popularity of the Ramble (remember that old Cole Porter lyric: “Picture Central Park without a sailor / Picture Mister Lord minus Mister Taylor”), caution was to be exercised.

EAST SIDE

→ Bars
Plaza Hotel Men’s Bar
Don’t go looking for it today.

* Serendipity General Store (225 E. 60th St.)
GSC: “MIXED ‘after-hours’ malt shop. The most ‘way-out’ soft drink concoctions you’ve ever seen!” Andy Warhol was once a regular.

→ Baths
St. Mark’s Russian and Turkish Baths (6 St. Marks Pl.)
Would close in 1985.

→ Cruising
Third Avenue in the Fifties

HARLEM

→Baths
Mt. Morris Baths (1944 Madson Ave.)
Opened in 1893, attracted a gay following around the thirties. “Colored, in Harlem, at your own risk,” tersely read another gay guidebook. Closed in 2003 by the Buildings Department because of “structural problems.”

→Clubs
Imperial Lodge of Elks (160 W. 129th St.)
Home to the drag balls that evolved into the competing drag “houses” portrayed in the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, which was mostly filmed here. Balls were held late at night because the rent was cheaper and drag queens were safer than on Harlem streets, where black-nationalist militancy had cramped the quasi tolerance of gay culture common in the neighborhood in prior decades.

BROOKLYN
Not such a gay-friendly borough back in the day, with the GSC singling it out for its narrow-minded attitudes (Park Slope wasn’t nearly as hospitable to yuppies or lesbians as it later became). That said, the Heights Promenade was a popular cruising ground for gay guys, and Judy Garland was reported to have visited a nearby piano bar on Montague Street.

QUEENS
The writers of the GSC surely wouldn’t recognize Jackson Heights today, noting that “while lots of young ‘queens’ live in Queens, there’s almost nothing … for the tourist.” In the weeks before the Stonewall uprising, writes Carter, men cruising in Kew Gardens stood their ground when locals flushed them out of parkland with flashlights. But then locals cut down the trees.

→Cruising
Jacob Riis Park
For those who couldn’t make it out to Fire Island, this was one lackluster beach alternative—“limited action,” said the GSC, which also warned of police attention, particularly around Labor Day weekend, when “they’ll object most vehemently to your scanty psychedelic bikini!”

STATEN ISLAND

→Bars
Buddy-Buddy Club (1400 Clove Rd.)
GSC: “Informal casual sweater crowd.”

The Subway
GSC: “If you find you must go to a subway restroom to relieve yourself, my advice is don’t! Virtually 80 percent of the arrests now being made … of gay kids are being made in subway restrooms (and not only in Manhattan!).”


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