We Know About the Riots. But What Was It Like to Drink at Stonewall?

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We all recognize the Stonewall Inn as the birthplace of the gay civil rights struggle, but what was it like … as a nightspot? Depending on which Stonewall patrons from the 1960s you ask, it was “the best bar at the time,” “the music was great,” “the bar was dirty, it was unpleasant,” and “the jukebox was great, the drag queens controlled that.” If you’ve stopped by 53 Christopher Street recently, this clip from OurScene.TV, with interviews from Stonewall’s original patrons, reveals that while everything changes, everything remains the same.

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  • Geoff M

    EXCELLENT! Love seeing this. Excellent piece!

  • Matty

    OurSceneTV is really running some amazing stories! I actually started to tear up…Happy Pride!

  • drresol

    The drag queens back then…they weren’t in full drag, right? It seems I remember reading somewhere once that they were required by law to wear x amount of gender-appropriate clothing, hence the drag queens you would’ve encountered at Stonewall were really more very effeminate fairy-boys.

  • walt zipprian

    You had to wear three articles of mens clothing to be legal.

  • galefan2004

    This is a great piece. Although we have a long way to go, we have come A LONG WAY in the last 40 years. Happy Anniversary Stonewall. This one is kind of special to me because this is the first Stonewall Anniversary that I went from being conflicted about being gay to loving myself because I am gay.

  • Mike Hipp

    Great to see, thanks for posting this.

  • M Shane

    I wasn’t around right during Stonewall, but I did really come out in the NYC of that time, and that is what it iis like to really be gay, something that no one now will have the foggiest about. Really sad, because they destroyed Gay NYC especially during the Guliani years.
    The Village, bars, dancefloors, bathhouses were a place to be openly gay like there never will be, since everyone crawled back in the closet. Drag queens out on the Streets all day long. Beautiful men: a real celebration that made the very thought of marriage horrifying-indeed who would want to give up having friendship or sex with who you wanted .
    I met more people daily than I do in a year anymore.

    People wanted to be themselves, not straight clones.

  • Roxi

    I wasn’t alive either when Stonewall took place but I’ve known since I was little how I felt. Even though I don’t practice the gay lifestyle as in marriage or even dating, I totally believe that no matter who you are you should be free to love who you choose. This weekend here in Redding, CA there is a Stonewall 40th Anniversary celebration at a near by park and I hope to attend. As I said earlier I knew how I felt as a kid because I have always been attacted to the same sex, but had never heard of Stonewall and I just went and read the story and watched the interview with some of the people of Stonewall and I think they were couragious in continuing the fight for equal rights for all GLBT.
    Oh and this weekend they are having the first Pride March here in Redding, well that I know of anyways, and I AM SO THERE!!!!!

  • Margaret

    That piece is part of a series. Check out the other episodes at!

  • M Shane

    One thing I will say is that [somewhat post ]stonewall NYC and the sense of joy and freedom that existed was what after a young lifetime of uncertainty made up my mind instantly that I was out of the closet and never going back in.

    We lost a lot after the paranoia of HIV made everyone forget that being gay was wonderful and worth living for.

  • rghodges

    My first and last experience at the Stonewall Inn was in the summer of 1995. David, my partner at the time and I had committed ourselves to an all nighter of driving from Rehoboth, DE to Boston after visiting my sister. It was about 11PM and we needed a distraction and something to eat. Viewed across the Hudson from the tedious turnpikes of NJ, the gleaming lure of NYC was to much to resist. The detour was painless. We popped out of the tunnel and to our amazement found a legit parking place just steps from the Stonewall Inn. What did the God of Parking Karma have in store for us next? We stepped into the Stonewall and were greeted with a snide sneering “Do you two know where you are? Let me see you ID’s.” The doorman’s vibes were as unsettling as his voice. I pulled out my wallet and handed him my license. David did the same. Looking us up and down, the Doorman turned his gaze to me and replied, “Hmm, Venice Beach. You fucking California people think you can just come in here and gawk all of us and then you think you own the place well it’s not about you asshole. I’m sick of the both of you already!” We were speechless. David, with his Mass. license was spared the focus barrage and managed to utter that we were in fact a couple and had no ill intent. Deaf ears and still spewing vileness, the doorman continued his tirade. I wrenched my ID from the doorman’s cold boney hands and turned around to leave. “Hey Bubba, don’t let him get to you. We haven’t done anything wrong.” David said in his calm Louisiana drawl. I had to exit. Maybe he was having bad day.. maybe? No excuse to me. Though David and I, both big strapping men, could have taken him down in a second, I sensed he was looking for a fight and decided it was best leave. So there we were back in the car exiting the tunnel Looking at NYC from Jersey, Still hungry, still thirsty, and now astonished that we’d become the focal point of a rather loud public verbal gay bashing from the doorman at The Stonewall Inn. WTF?

  • TANK


    you must be a bottom. seen, when an old sack of dust like that starts with the tude, then you throw the fear of jesus in him by acting all crazy like. It’s fun, and always works. He’ll pay you to leave him alone–employee or not. Because you know, even if the management comes, you can start hell with them, too. And if they or act like they’re gettin’ the least bit violent…oh, then’s the magic hour…the time to make them all hurt bad. Either way, you should have at least had a drink. Bang on the bar and scream at the bartender as loud as you can–yank at him…grab at his hair…make him aware of you.

  • TANK

    And if you’re worried about bouncers–come prepared. Bring a blade, or just start punching and kicking at the crotch. Sure it’s a pathetic scene, but hey…you’re never gonna go back. It’s worth it!

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