Why the Mafia Controlled Stonewall and the Other Gay Bars in 1960s New York

It’s easy to forget that  just 50 years ago, gay people weren’t even allowed to dance in public.

From the AskHistorians sub-reddit:

“It wasn’t just Stonewall. In the 1960s, the Mafia (and specifically the Genovese mob family) was behind pretty much every bar in Manhattan that courted a gay clientele. And it wasn’t just $3500 startup–it was $1200 a month after that, to ensure that the police and State Liquor Authority would allow Stonewall to reopen after each very frequent raid.

“The repeal of Prohibition may have restored Americans’ right to drink alcohol, but municipalities and states found various ways to curtail gay people’s ability to drink together in public. In San Francisco, Sal Stoueman’s Black Cat Cafe (made particularly famous by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) handed out “I’m A Boy” nametags to patrons, so undercover cops could not arrest its drag performers, “gay screaming queens” (TM Ginsberg), or even “gray flannel suit types” for female impersonation with intent to defraud or deceive someone into sex. Los Angeles undercover cops would count the seconds they saw people kiss (in greeting, on New Years’ Eve, whatever) and arrest or brutalize whatever they considered to transcend the line from celebration to queer. The favored tactic of the New York SLA, of course, was to raid and shutter bars declared “disorderly,” such an excellent weasel word.

“Things might have reached a breaking point around 1960. Out in California, a group of San Francisco gay bar owners had banded together to go public about the massive bribes they were paying police in order to remain open, the effect being, they exposed significant police corruption. This resulted in the effective closure of SF’s 50 or so gay bars–but had ramifications across the country, too. In New York, only one bar managed to survive an initial 1960s shakedown and mass closure.

“The good half of the story, from there, is that the 1960-61 bar closures marked some of the most important pre-Stonewall gay rights protests and publicly broadcast activism. The Black Cat’s famous drag-performing singer, Jose Sarria, was the first openly gay candidate for public office in the US (SF city supervisor). Several bar owners’ groups (the Tavern Guild in particular) formed to lobby specifically for the rights of owners to court a gay clientele; even The Advocate started publication in response. In New York, a massive group of gay men staged a public protest of, essentially, “being gay in public” in midtown until cops and politicians basically allowed bars to operate for a period of time so they would go be queer out of sight.

“But the earlier entrenched corruption of statutory violation, raid, bribe, reopen cycle became even more vicious in most places. In the 1960s in particular, therefore, the Mafia pretty much made New York’s gay bar scene a treasured racket. They charged ridiculous cover fees and generally served cheap, lousy alcohol in exchange for the masquerade of protection from police raids. In fact, gay bars were raided as often as ever; just, protection fees like the $1200 Stonewall paid monthly meant the bars would be allowed to reopen afterwards. Stonewall’s bribe was particularly high, generally rumored the highest, because of all the other shady business that went on or allegedly went on (blackmail of customers, a prostitution ring, possibly a pedophile ring that accompanied a reputation in the heterosexual NY community of Stonewall as a place to go “tourist slumming.”)

“Word of mouth that Stonewall (Cherry Lane Theater, Fifth Avenue Bar, etc) were ‘periodically safe’ places for gay people to drink and be gay in public was crucial for the Mafia to keep their gay bars profitable, particularly a complete dive like Stonewall for which the space was really the only attraction.

“But it wasn’t just a one-way street, obviously. The gay community had its own formal means of communication, like the Mattachine Society’s Gay Scene Guide that informed readers the Stonewall Inn was one of a very few (maybe the only?) gay bar that allowed dancing and welcomed people obviously dressed in drag or otherwise flouting gender, not just sexuality, norms. The publication itself warned potential patrons that Stonewall was not safe (don’t give out your real name or address; the bar owners and workers are not on your side, either; the cops will raid periodically)–conditions fostered in large part by the mob ownership and oversight.

“In the middle of the 20th century, gay bars were a hot moneymaking opportunity for any shady criminal businessman or corrupt cop. In New York, the Mafia took particular control of the situation in the 1960s, including the fateful cultivation of Stonewall into the trashiest yet in some ways most emotionally significant in terms of “freedoms” permitted queer-clientele bar in the city.”

Full discussion in context with suggested readings.

Image from Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Trump Was Not An Anomaly

From a thread about Trump ruining the GOP brand:

“Trump isn’t an anomaly who squeaked through the GOP’s primary process, Trump was exactly what conservative leaders engineered their base to accept.

“Trump himself isn’t the story. Thump is an unthinking virus, a rabid dog, a scorpion who only knows how to sting. He is a child in a man’s body who had obscene privilege and wealth and no one who cared enough to equip him to be an adult with integrity and dignity. Trump really isn’t important in the story, just as a hurricane itself isn’t blamed as much as forecasting and first response and recovery.

“No, the story is about the conservative base, and the twisted, cynical and desperate ghouls who have manipulated these people over the last decades. The focus should be on how Republicans have whispered racism and hatred and fantasies of loss of unearned power and status in the ears of fearful and ignorant white people. Conservative leaders “primed the pump”TM for the base to accept a spoiler, an unthinking thug who babbles comforting populist nationalism and division from enemies and impossible promises of MAGA nonsense. Trump is exactly what conservatives have been building towards, even if they didn’t recognize how exactly it would manifest.

“Trump is a disaster. He is as dangerous as a snake in a crib or a grenade in a munitions dump or a sociopath in the White House. But it’s not his fault. Sadly, Trump is incapable of understanding his position. If he’s indicted, he literally may not be convicted because of mental incompetence.

“Let that sink in.

“No, we must focus on the actual culprits, the conservative leaders in Washington and state governor’s offices and legislatures and conservative local governments who have colluded to create these conditions. They vilify education and facts, they downplay science and critical thinking, they scare their aging base into thinking that government is evil and full of minorities that are out to get them. And, to their eternal shame, they bought it.

“So let’s shift attention from Trump to the real culprits. Let me state this clearly so that there is no misunderstanding:

  • If you voted for Trump, despite the warnings of over half of the country, you are a dumb, miserable sucker.
  • If you continue to support Trump, despite daily evidence of corruption, incompetence and self-sown confusion, you are an awful, hate-filled person. And you are the reason this is happening and continues to happen. Until you join the rest of us in condemning Trump, your conservative leaders will dither and remain silent on Trump’s ruin. And if you are OK with the country burning because you feel it will somehow hurt your liberal neighbors more, you are an irredeemable piece of filth, along with Trump and the leaders of the Right.”

Full discussion in context.

Image of Reince Prieus from this Politico article.

60+ Russia/Trump Connections

“It’s hard for me to see any U.S. ties to Russia…except for the Flynn thing and theManafort thing and the Tillerson thing and the Sessions thing and the Kushner thing and the Carter Page thing and the Roger Stone thing and the Wilbur Ross thing and the Felix Sater thing and the Boris Ephsteyn thing and the Rosneft thing and the Gazprom thing and the Sergey Gorkov thing and the Azerbaijan thing and the “I love Putin” thing and the Donald Trump Jr. thing and the Eric Trump thing and the Sergey Kislyak thing and the Russian Affiliated Interests thing and the Russian Business Interests thing and the other private Russian interests and the Emoluments Clause thing and the Alex Shnaider thing and the hack of the DNC thing and the Guccifer 2.0 thing and the Mike Pence thing and the numerous suspicious dead Russian’s thing and the public request to Russia to hack Hillary’s email thing and the Trump selling a house for $100 million at the bottom of the housing bust to the Russian fertilizer king thing and the Russian fertilizer king’s plane showing up in Concord, NC and Las Vegas during Trump campaign thing and the Russian fertilizer king’s yacht anchored next to Robert Mercer’s thing and the McConnell, Ryan, Nunes, Burr covering up Trump’s Russian collusion in September 2016 thing and the Nunes personal investments in the Russian winery thing and the Cyprus bank thing and the Trump not releasing his tax returns thing and the GOP rejection of a bill to require Trump to show his taxes thing and the election hacking thing and the GOP platform change to the Ukraine thing and the Steele Dossier thing and the “Leninist” Bannon thing and the Sally Yates can’t testify thing and the IC investigative reports thing and the Trump calling the Russian connection “fake news” thing and the Spicer’s Russian Dressing “nothing’s wrong” thing and the Chaffetz not willing to start an investigation thing and the Chaffetz suddenly deciding to go back to private life in the middle of an investigation thing and the Lead DOJ Investigator Mary McCord SUDDENLY deciding to resign thing and the White House going into full-on cover-up mode, refusing to turn over the documents related to the hiring and subsequent firing of Flynn thing and the Chaffetz and White House blaming the poor vetting of Flynn on Obama thing and the Poland and British intelligence gave information regarding the hacking back in 2015 to Paul Ryan and he didn’t do anything thing and the M16 agent following the money thing and the Obama personally warning Trump about Flynn’s involvement but hiring him anyway thing and the Corey Lewendowski thing and the Preet Bharara firing thing and the Betsy Devos’ Brother thing and the Sebastian Gorka thing and the Greg Gianforte from Montana thingand the Pence actually was warned about Flynn before he was hired thing and the Pence and Manafort connection thing and the 10 Allies coming forward with audio where Trump was picked up in incidental wire tapping thing and the Carter Page defying the Senate’s order to hand over his Russian contact list and the trump wants to VETO Sally Yates’ testimony thing…”

Academic Politics vs Corporate Politics

From /r/askacadmia:

“Compared to the corporate world, there are three unpleasant things about academic politics. One is that there is no clear common goal. In the corporate world at any moment of time usually there’s a well defined goal (profit, saving, market expansion, sales, loss reduction etc.), and if something doesn’t work, it least in theory, you can always stand up and ask the team to relate back to the goal. Look, we are not doing ourselves any good by getting involved in THIS, because it does not move us towards our main goal for this year. And then supposedly everybody readjust.

“In academia, large-scale goals are almost never articulated, so every person comes up with goals of their own, and there is no clear way to figure out what do we want as a team. Basically, except in situations of emergency, we never want anything collectively, as a team. Sometimes the majority of people happen to have their goals aligned, but it always happens spontaneously, not because we are explicitly required, or want to work together. I guess the whole mythology about tenure and academic freedom does not help here as well. People are so proud of the concept of academic freedom that they basically flip out every time somebody tells them what to do. It’s very much a “don’t tread on me” mentality. How dare you tell me how to teach! What speakers to invite! How to do research! People are very protective of their freedom, which is great, but it makes things harder in so many cases, as they may become protective of their freedom “just in case”, preemptively, before any actual conflict arises.

“Another, related complication, is that there is no culture of escalation and arbitrage. In the corporate world if you say “do it”, and another person or function says “don’t do it”, you can always escalate to the management, have a meeting, and agree on the priorities. There is typically a procedure for resolving conflicts, and there is a clear power, so when sales and IT have a conflict, they just calculate the costs, have a meeting, put these costs together, and delegate the decision up. In academia the structure is much flatter, the responsibilities are less clear, and there is no culture of escalation. If you would write to the dean about a conflict with another faculty, it would be perceived as an insult and open war, not as a working moment that happens literally every other week. Which means that pretty much conflicts of interest can sit there for years without ever being resolved.

“Finally, the last issue is that academics really like to think, analyze, and look into details, and really don’t like making decisions. Which is the exact opposite of the corporate world: there people usually work against a pressure of time, so they know (or are taught the hard way) that in many cases it’s more important to make a decision, any decision, than over-analyze and procrastinate. So, at least in my experience, in the corporate world when you call a meeting, present your analysis, and no obvious red flags are identified, typically people vote for a “go” decision, and immediately send a proposal to the management. In academia typically nobody would believe your analysis, because they will feel that they need to do it themselves (not that they have the time of course), and then several hypothetical reservations will be voiced, and “what if” scenarios will be described, and a few people in the room will have some strong reservations they’ll never voice (because, again, there is no culture of conflict resolution), and then everybody would agree to give it another thought, and maybe reconvene in half a year, or maybe form a committee, and give it another look, so forth and so on. There is no decision culture, and things can drag forever, even when people are generally sympathetic to the cause, just because they don’t have a habit of working small things out in order to push something big forward.”

Full discussion.

Suggested Messaging for Democrats

One more political bit for the day:

“They want to believe that they’ll be super awesome once the bad people stop fucking them over, we can offer the actual bad people (CEO’s, banksters, Wall Street scumbags, etc) as scapegoats.

“Democrats: You’re a hero and a winner and a potential millionaire if only those fuckers in management and up on Wall Street would stop keeping you down, we’ll kick their asses for you and you can become awesome all by yourself. oh and also there’s some social programs we totally know you don’t need you bold bootstrapper you, but if you should happen to know someone who needs help they can get it here

Discussion in context.

Archive photos of FDR campaign.

Adam Curtis on the 2016 US Election

Documentarian Adam Curtis on the 2016 election:

“America is not sliding into fascism. That’s just hysteria by the liberals who can’t face up to the fact that they lost the election, so they either have to blame the Russians or giant historical forces. Basically, a right-wing president has been elected, and he’s created a brilliant machine that captures liberals and keeps them completely preoccupied. What he does is he wakes up in the morning, tweets something that he knows isn’t true, they get very upset and spend the whole day writing in big capital letters on social media, “This is outrageous. This is bad. This is fascism.” What they’re not facing up to is the real question, which is why did Donald Trump win the election? What other forces in the country had they, the liberals, not seen?

“They weren’t defeated by something as grand as fascism. They were defeated by a man who’s connected with a disaffected group in America, like the people who voted for Brexit in my country. I think there’s a great deal of narcissism which Mr. Trump has worked at how to play on beautifully.

“What I was trying to argue, or imply in this film gently, was that we may be in a very similar situation where we know that the system has become somewhat corrupted. But more than that, we know that those in charge don’t really believe in the system any longer, have no vision of the future. And what’s more, they know that we know that.

“What Trump is doing is playing with the fakery. It may be instinctive. He’s saying things that he knows that we know aren’t true, at which point everyone gets locked into a game of what’s true and what’s not true. This misses the real point of politics, which is to tell a powerful story that offers a vision of the future. I don’t think Trump has a vision of the future. I think he’s the last of the old politicians.

“I think you should pay more attention to the traditional, hard-right-wing people who have risen to power with Trump. Donald comes from the world of finance and he is doing what finance wants to do. I would argue that actually it shows that really nothing has changed, which is a very hypernormal situation.”

Full interview on Alternet, quoted in a Metafilter discussion.

The Trump segment from Curtis’s documentary, Hypernormalisation:

The Fantasy That Makes Them Feel Better

Discussion on Metafilter:

“You say ‘Hi working class and/or poor white person, I’m here to offer you a higher minimum wage, better healthcare, and free/cheap education so you and your children can have more life opportunities!’ And they say ‘Fuck off and die Commie scum!’

“The Republicans say ‘Hi working class and/or poor white person, I’m here to slash minimum wage, steal your healthcare, and gut your educational opportunities, so the job creators will shower you with super awesome high paying jobs! Also I’ll really stick it to those illegal immigrants, LGBT people, black people and women!‘ And they say ‘Thank you oh great savior, let us shower you with votes and power!’

“The problem is that the Democrats literally can’t offer what the average working class white Republican voter wants, because what they want isn’t a real program that helps them, but a fantasy that makes them feel better (and a chance to put the boot in on groups they hate). The average white Republican voter has been so conditioned to believe that any sort of effective social program is ‘Communism’ that they oppose anything that works.”

Full discussion in context.