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27 June 2011

The Stonewall Inn

See also

Three Centuries of Police Raids
Other Trans Person in New York 1969-72
Recurring Untruths: Masha P Johnson's Birthday
Where was Sylvia the night of 27/28 June 1969?
New York in the 1960s
East New Jersey in the 1960s
1969 – a Year of Much Activity
The four years leading to Stonewall
The five years following Stonewall
The trans geography of New York 1966-74

The post-Stonewall activist organizations:

Queens Liberation Front (QLF)
StreetTransvestite Action Revolutionaries. (also Part III of Sylvia Rivera)
Gay Liberation Front (GLF) - New York
Gay Activists Alliance (GAA)
Gay Liberation Front (GLF) - London

(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

One of the first reported actions that started the riot on the 27th, was that a cop hit a butch female/trans man and that he hit back. It has been debated whether this was Stormé DeLarverie, who was previously the sole male impersonator in the Jewel Box Revue. Deputy Inspector Pine has testified that the first significant resistance that he encountered in the bar was from the transvestites. Allyson Allante, then 14, was arrested, as was Maria Ritter who was there with her friend Kiki to celebrate Maria being 18 and legally able to drink for the first time. Street queen, Birdy Rivera was also there. Diane Kearney was in the area and for a time joined the crowd that was observing events. (Duberman says that Tammy Novak had persuaded Sylvia Rae Rivera, then only 17, to come down to the Stonewall Inn for the first time  - however other historians have failed to any confirmation of this). Tammy Novak was arrested and put in the paddy wagon for drag queens, but escaped in the confusion and ran to Joe Tish's apartment where she holed up for the weekend. A police officer putting Maria Ritter into the paddy wagon had commented that he couldn't believe that she was a boy. She said that she wasn't. As some more trans women were directed in, Maria stepped around them and walked away. The same policeman went to intercept her, but as she broke into tears, waved her to go away. Marsha P. Johnson and Zazu Nova were also active in the riots, and Michelle, Dario Modon and Christine Hayworth were present. Marsha was observed dropping a heavy weight onto a police car. Wayne County (who would later become Jayne) met Miss Peaches and Marsha P Johnson on arrival and realized what was going on.  He joined an impromptu march up and down Christopher Street shouting "Gay Power!".  Ruth Brown was in there somewhere.

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:
  • Martin B Duberman. Stonewall. Dutton, 1993.  Plume, 1994.
  • Jayne County with Rupert Smith. Man Enough to be a Woman. Serpent's Tail, 1995: 47-9. 
  • David Carter. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution. St. Martin’s Press. 2004.
  • Leslie Feinberg. Lavender & Red, parts 65-71. Workers World, 2006.
  • Lucian K. Truscott IV. "The Real Mob at Stonewall". The New York Times, June 25, 2009.
  • "Stonewall Riots: A Gay Protest Against Mafia Bars". Friends of Ours, June 07, 2010. Archive
  • "Stonewall Inn". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  • "Stonewall riots". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  • David Carter. "Exploding the Myths of Stonewall: We know a lot about what happened in June 1969 and should honor that".  Gay City News, June 27, 2019. Online
The Wikipedia article on the Stonewall Inn does not mention the mafia, and the Wikipedia articles on each Mafioso do not mention gay bays.  BitterQueen was the best website on the interaction between the two, but is now taken down and replaced by Philip Crawford's book The Mafia and the Gays.

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.


  1. You just could not make this up!

    Mafia bar to National monument.

    If history tells us anything it is that you can't believe just one version since few historians don't have an agenda of their own!

  2. Hey Zagria, just wanted to say this is the most complete and succinct short form history of Stonewall I've ever seen! Please repost on Wikipedia and Transpedia.

  3. Anonymous3/7/11 07:03

    Just because somebody dresses in drag that doesn't make them 'trans.'
    Why would you call someone a 'butch female/trans man?'

  4. a) / means or in modern English usage. There is insufficient information in Carter's book to know how the persons involved regarded themselves.

    b) person who do drag are certainly trans. I suggest a rereading of Feinberg and Ekins. There is a recent tendency to include heterosexual transvestites in but to exclude gay transvestites from trans. This is historical nonesense. See my review of Susan Stryker's book.

  5. Yes the Stonewall opened up as a gay bar in March 1967. But, I must point out that The Stonewall wasn't the first gay bar to allow same sex dancing as you stated...

    In 1957 on the west side in the 70's. there were 3 gay bars that had same sex dancing.

    The Club Mais Oui in the Stratford Arms Hotel on 73rd Street.was a boys club with same sex dancing

    On 76 Street the Club C'est Soir was a lesbian dance bar.

    On 78th Street was the club Bali, another same sex dance bar.

    They all had a man at the door that would turn the lights on the dance floor and turn on a T.V. This was the signal that either the cops or the State Liquor Authority or just someone unknown was entering the club.

    I frequented both the Mais Oui and The Bali Club. In those gays we rarely mixed in the dyke bars.

    I was 17 years old carrying someone else's draft card.. It was exciting going to a place that basically was illegal. Almost like a gay speakeasy.

    This can be verified with Pat Morgan. Pat was the name she used at the time. She frequented the Club Bali many weekends.

    Oh and for the record ? Lesbians was never customers at the Stonewall prior to the riots. It really bugs me when all the dykes come out of the of walls to lay claim to being Stonewall customers. There was the rare occasional fag hag though.

  6. David Carter was interviewed by Gay.Today and asked about his non mentioning of Sylvia Rivera. He answered: "Yes, I am afraid that I could only conclude that Sylvia's account of her being there on the first night was a fabrication. Randy Wicker told me that Marsha P. Johnson, his roommate, told him that Sylvia was not at the Stonewall Inn at the outbreak of the riots as she had fallen asleep in Bryant Park after taking heroin. (Marsha had gone up to Bryant Park, found her asleep, and woke her up to tell her about the riots.) Playwright and early gay activist Doric Wilson also independently told me that Marsha Johnson had told him that Sylvia was not at the Stonewall Riots.

    Sylvia also showed a real inconsistency in her accounts of the Stonewall Riots. In one account she claimed that the night the riots broke out was the first time that she had ever been at the Stonewall Inn; in another account she said that she had been there many times. In one account she said that she was there in drag; in another account she says that she was not in drag. She told Martin Duberman that she went to the Stonewall Inn the night the riots began to celebrate Marsha Johnson's birthday, but Marsha was born in August, not June. I also did not find one credible witness who saw her there on the first night."

    This should have been in the book as a footnote.

  7. I find no mention of Miss Major.

    1. A lot of people, gay and trans, claim that they were at Stonewall. One has to be cautious. Miss Major Griffen-Gracy is not mentioned in Duberman's book, is not mentioned in Carter's book, is not endorsed by the Stonewall Veterans' Association. Major never seems to say where she was or what she did within the riot. If you want to claim that she was in fact there, I need a coherent account.

  8. Jayne County Man Enough to be a Woman p40-1: "I ended up spending most of the Summer of Love in the Stonewall. ... The Stonewall Inn was full of drag queens, hippy queens with long hair down to their shoulders, butch lesbians in men's shirts, a few straight people. All types. It was just a little room with a bar on the right and a brick wall at the back, with a jukebox playing everything from the Supremes' 'I'm Livin' in Shame' to the Doors' "Hello I Love You", and everyone danced the boogaloo and the shingaling, which were the dances that year. I was there every night, and I'd meet people and spend the night with them, or I'd go to one of the crash pads that people had and sleep on the floor. I never had to sleep on the street. Very often we stayed up all night anyway."

    p48: "The queens took the lead in the Stonewall Riots. They walked around in semi-drag with teased hair and false eyelashes on and they didn't give a shit what anybody thought about them. What did they have to lose? Absolutely fucking nothing. A lot of people were standing around as the Riots began wondering, 'I wonder if I should do this? It's going to be a big step for me, a big statement'. But for the queens it really wasn't. It was just an extension of the lives that they were already living on the streets. Nowadays the Stonewall Riots are regarded as the birth of gay liberation, but for me and the other street queens, it wasn't such an amazingly important thing; we were already out there."

  9. Roy McCarthy was a cis gay man present at the Stonewall riots. You can read an interview with him here.

    "So I go running down, following him…. By the time we got down there, the paddy wagon had just pulled up. The queens were just starting to come out and someone had just thrown a high heel. There may have been coins or whatever, but I was there within a couple minutes after the festivities started. I did see high heels flying! The queens — the transgenders or the crossdressers — were yelling something from across the street by the paddy wagon; they were yelling at the cops. We were cheering on the transgenders — the crossdressers — it just sort of snowballed from there.

    . I am old school: and when I talk about gay community, the transgenders were a part of it. We never ever considered them not! Bisexuals, crossdressers, were never ever not considered a art of it! We were all gay! I’m kind of sad that all this division and fracturization is come about.

    The Stonewall Inn was made up of the dregs of the community. Transgenders and transsexuals were not allowed in many of the gay clubs. And the Stonewall Inn was mostly prostitutes and drug addicts, and drag queens and transgenders. It was not your respectable gay club.

    It was four transgendered people who saved my butt! At the time they were called crossdressers as opposed to drag queens. Drag Queen was a regular guy – gay or straight – who dressed up as a woman to perform a show. Crossdressers – or transgenders as now – were 24 hrs. Transvestite would dress up to go out to a club, be they were not necessarily performers…they would just dress up to go out to a club."

  10. Holly Woodlawn, A Low Life in High Heels, p123:

    "The Stonewall was frequented by a lot of unique people going through major gender changes. We flocked there because it was a place where were fanned over. We were treated like women, and as far as we knew, we were women. The black 'girls' tried to look like the Supreme and the white 'girls' tried to look like the Shangri-Las. Our breaststroke were fabulous and we had the best makeup, but the guy boys gave us the derogatory label 'hormone queens,' which I found to be deplorable."


    "June 26, 1969, was a hot, muggy Thursday night. The humidity in the air was unbearable because every queen in the city was in tears. Judy Garland was dead. ... When I returned to the Stonewall the next night, there was so much commotion --sirens blaring, people screaming --I though that a bomb had gone off. The cops were everywhere, and a chill shot up my spine as I drew closer, fearing the worst. I wedged myself into the mob for a closer look and heard a raspy scream, 'Asshole!' A street queen named Crazy Sylvia had just broken a gin bottle over a cop's head!"


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