According to C. Alexander Hortis’ “The Mob and The City“, the LGBT community first found its roots in the illegal safe havens owned and operated by The Mob as far back as the 1930’s. At the time, Vito Genovese controlled much of the city’s West Village and began operating gay bars because he found the LGBT community to be a good source of profit.
In exchange for paying off the Sixth Precinct with $1,200 per week, Genovese founded famed LGBT bars from the Stonewall Inn to the lesbian Howdy Club, all illegal at the time. A writeup provided by The Post reveals that the notorious “police raids” on these clubs were setup in advance, and were executed “for the sake of appearance”:
“I was the safest on the streets of New York that I had ever been,” said one gay-club bartender. “If anybody ever threatened me or intimidated me, I had recourse. I had been stopped by the police and . . . all I had to do was give them the name of my employer and they let me go, because we were both working for the same people.
“The law made the gay bars illegal. The Family made it operable.”
Everything from the watered-down liquor to the cigarette vending machines were bootlegged. “Some of the funniest stories are about the awful liquor supplied by the Mafia,” Hortis told The Post. “Wiseguys stole shipments of liquor and watered it down heavily.”
Hortis also claims that the infamous Stonewall riots began not as an attack on the LGBT community, but as a crackdown on the Mafia:
Police raids persisted, mostly at the insistence of neighbors offended by the presence of the gay bars. But at the Stonewall, Genovese capo Matty “The Horse” Ianniello was always tipped off in advance. Liquor was stashed away. And whatever raids were made for the sake of appearances occurred early enough in the evening that business could resume in full a few hours later.
But of more significance was the infamous police raid on the Stonewall Inn in June 1969. The raid sparked a historic riot that’s credited with truly igniting the gay uprising — yet Hortis posits it was really a crackdown on the Mafia and that the gay patrons bloodied that night by billy clubs were mostly just in the wrong place.
The cop who turned his back on the mob’s payoffs and led the raid, Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, said later, “We weren’t concerned about the gays. We were concerned about the Mafia.”
For more information and to pre-order The Mob and the City: The Hidden History of How the Mafia Captured New York, visit Amazon.