(The names of trans persons have been bolded for clarity. Some of course are both bolded and a link.)
The building at 51 and 53 Christopher Street in New York's Greenwich Village was originally constructed 1843-6 as stables. The all-black horses that delivered goods for Saks Fifth Avenue were housed there until motorized vehicles came in at the turn of the century.
In 1930, during the alcohol prohibition, the two buildings were converted into one, and were opened as a tea room, Bonnie's Stone Wall, named after the autobiography The Stone Wall by Mary Casal, one of the first US books to be open about lesbian love. The tea room was later expanded into a restaurant. By 1940 it was renamed Bonnie's Stonewall Inn, and by the 1960s, The Stonewall Inn Restaurant. The park opposite the Stonewall Inn contains a statue of General Sheridan, and by a process of conflation, it is sometimes mistakenly assumed that both the statue and the Inn are a reference to General Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate commander who died after being hit by friendly fire.
Mobster Vito Genovese bought up gay bars in the 1930s, including the 82 Club. The FBI targeted him in the 1950s, and convicted him in 1959 of trafficking heroin, and he died in prison in February 1969. His right-hand man who ran the gay bar rackets was Anthony Strollo. He disappeared in April 1962, and according to police sources was crushed to death in the seat of his car as it was run through a scrap metal compressor.
The Stonewall Inn Restaurant was gutted by fire in the mid-1960s and, after a few years of being empty, was reopened as a gay bar in March 1967 by Tony Lauria, the son of an old-fashioned Mafioso who did not approve of 'fag bars', and three partners, assisted by Chuck Shaheen. There was also an extra partner who did not put up any money: Matthew Ianniello, known as Matty the Horse, because of the strength of his punch, was the co-ordinator for the gay bars for the Genovese, Gambino and Colombo crime families.
The Stonewall Inn became the largest gay business at the time in the US. It was the only bar in New York for gay men that permitted dancing, which was its main draw. The New York State Liquor Authority refused liquor licenses to any bar that catered to openly homosexual patrons. This created a monopoly for organized crime which was pleased to run bars without licenses and to pay off the police. The Stonewall Inn pretended to be a private bottle club, and used a charter that had been issued to the Red Swan Social Club in 1929. They also watered the drinks, and used liquor obtained from truck hijackings. The upstairs room was reached by a back entrance from West 10th Street, and from there boy prostitutes and heroin were distributed, but the gay crowd downstairs knew nothing of this. There was no running water behind the bar: glasses were washed in a bowl of water before being reused. There were no fire exits and the toilets often overran. The New York City Health Department had traced several cases of hepatitis back the the Stonewall, and was considering closing it. As with other gay bars, the Inn was frequently raided: on average once a month. The management usually knew about the raids in advance.
Only a favored few male-bodied customers were permitted in if dressed as female, although some customers wore makeup and did their hair in a feminine style – at that time they were referred to as flame queens. Joe Tish, female impersonator, who had a long-running show at the Crazy Horse was one of those refused entry when in costume, although he was so admitted at some uptown straight clubs. Tammy Novak, who had lived with Tony and Chuck, was admitted in female clothing. Désirée, a natural beauty who easily passed as female, spent time at the Stonewall, and took up there with Petey, a free-lance gangster. They moved to the suburbs to live as a heterosexual couple, until Petey, in a fit of jealousy, shot and killed her. Other trans women mentioned at the Stonewall were Tiffany and Spanola Jerry. Barbara Eden, who worked in the coat check, would turn up in full drag every now and then. Street queens who could not afford the entry fee in the Stonewall Inn were often found in the parkette across the street, which turned out to be an ideal place to join in the riot.
Both male-bodied persons in female dress and female-bodied persons in male dress were liable to arrest if caught in a police raid. The police used a rule that you must be wearing at least three items appropriate to your 'real sex'.
Enid Gerling was the bar's house attorney, and she often represented those who were arrested when it was raided.
The police raid on Friday June 27 1969, (actually in the early hours of Saturday) only a few hours after the Judy Garland funeral, was co-ordinated by Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, who used the excuse that the bar was unlicensed. The raid was carried out without the knowledge of the local precinct which was suspected of being on the take. Interpol had recovered negotiated bonds from Wall Street which were turning up in Europe. The bonds were being stolen by Wall St. employees who were victims of a blackmail operation run by Ed Murphy, sometimes called the Skull from his time as a wrestler. Murphy sometimes worked the door, where one task was to hand envelopes to a representative of the Sixth Precinct, rumored to be $1,200 a month.. Other times he behaved as if he were the manager of the Stonewall Inn. Murphy had served time for stealing gold from dental offices, and had been arrested previously on blackmail charges, but he also had incriminating photographs of J. Edgar Hoover, and the charges had not been pursued. The NYPD figured out that the theft of bonds was tied to blackmail at the Stonewall Inn, and the order went out to shut down the club.
|Carter's Stonewall. 3rd from left is Michelle|
Alan Ginsburg lived on Christopher Street and inevitably joined the crowd. Ed Murphy was handcuffed to another man, but they managed to escape into the crowd and took a taxi to an S&M friend who knew how to remove handcuffs. Perhaps the Sixth Precinct cops, already peeved in not knowing about the raid in advance, recognized the man who paid them off.
A few months after the riots, the Inn closed in late 1969. The space was occupied in turn by a bagel sandwich shop, a Chinese restaurant, and a shoe store.
In 1970 the New York State Government issued an order that all employees in the financial industry be fingerprinted. This resulted in a fair number of matches with the police records of old arrests for homosexual activities, and many old and trusted employees were fired because bonding companies would not insure known homosexuals.
After the riots, the mafia attempted to appease the gay community by setting up gay businessmen as fronts, and by hiring gay bartenders and managers. They even joined in the gay pride celebrations, and accused the police of homophobia if a bar was raided. In 1972 Ed Murphy founded the Christopher Street Festival committee, and by 1974 succeeded in reversing the direction of the march so that it ended in the Village so that the crowds would go on to drink in Mafia bars. Not that this was an easy union. Robert Wood was the gay owner of the nightclub Salvation in Sheridan Square who was murdered in February 1970 because he was not happy to hand over his profits to the mob. In 1986 Matthew Ianniello was convicted of racketeering and went to prison until 1995. Ed Murphy died of AIDS in 1989. On release Ianniello became the acting boss of the Genovese family until 2005 when he was convicted again.
In the early 1990s, The Stonewall Inn was reopened as a new gay bar called simply: Stonewall. The block of Christopher Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was given the honorary name of "Stonewall Place" by the Borough of Manhattan.
In 1993 Martin Duberman published the first history of Stonewall, and wrote Sylvia Rivera as a major participant. In 1995 the BBC film Stonewall, loosely based on Duberman's book was released. In 1997 Charles Kaiser's The Gay Metropolis recounts Stonewall without naming any trans women at all. In June 1999, the Stonewall Inn and the area outside was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, and in February it was declared a US National Historic Landmark. The building was renovated in the late 1990s and became a nightclub until it closed again in 2006, due to bad management and noise complaints. It was reopened in 2007.
In 2004 David Carter published his history of Stonewall. He has a lot more on the mafia angle, he tells of transies and drags who are not in Duberman's book, and he tells us further details of Marsha P. Johnson not in Duberman's book. But Sylvia Rivera has disappeared. There is not even a footnote explaining why he has removed her.
*Not Eddie Murphy the comedian and actor.
- "Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad". New York Daily News, July 6, 1969. Online at: www.yak.net/ian/stonewall.html.
- Martin B Duberman. Stonewall. New York : Dutton, 1993. New York: Plume, 1994.
- Jayne County with Rupert Smith. Man Enough to be a Woman. London: Serpent's Tail, 1995: 47-9.
- David Carter. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2004.
- Leslie Feinberg. Lavender & Red, parts 65-71. Workers World, 2006. www.workers.org/lavender-red.
- Lucian K. Truscott IV. "The Real Mob at Stonewall". The New York Times, June 25, 2009. www.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/opinion/26truscott.html.
- "Stonewall Riots: A Gay Protest Against Mafia Bars". Friends of Ours, June 07, 2010. http://bitterqueen.typepad.com/friends_of_ours/2010/06/the-stonewall-riots-a-gay-protest-against-mafia-bars.html.
- "Stonewall Inn". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_Inn.
- "Stonewall riots". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots.
As a raid to break a blackmailing ring the raid was a spectacular failure. Priority was diverted to arresting the trans men and women. That was really important: and Ed Murphy was able to slip away even though he had been handcuffed. I found no mention that the upstairs was even raided.
An enlightened government would of course have issued liquor licenses to gay bars to get the Mafia out. The Stonewall should of course have been closed down on health grounds until running water and proper sinks were installed. However the way to do this was with the Department of Health.
For both reasons, health and against the blackmail ring, a daytime raid made a lot more sense. It was completely perverse to raid at 2am when most customers were present. That implies that, despite what Deputy Inspector Pine said, the NYPD really was obsessed with what clothing people were wearing.
The requirement by New York State the next year that all finance industry employees be fingerprinted without working with the insurance industry to permit gay men was a very strong strong message to gay men being blackmailed that they should co-operate with the blackmailer, not the authorities. Deputy Inspector Pine’s attempt to break the blackmail rings was a waste of time while the insurance industry had this attitude.
Here Suzan Cooke published photos of Stonewall, presumably to make the point that there were no trans women at Stonewall. Note that she does not include the photograph above with Michelle. a) there were so many trans women that the cops had a separate paddy wagon just for them. b) The trans women were mainly active on the first night, Friday/Saturday, while most of the photographs were taken on the second night, Saturday/Sunday.