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03/19/2005

The End of an Era in Times Square

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The Gaiety Theatre in Times Square, Manhattan's last male strip club, has closed its doors after nearly 30 years of notoriety. A message on the theatre's listed number says,

"The Gaiety Theatre is closed. Thank you for a wonderful 30 years. Also, watch the gay publications for a possible relocation address."

According to sources, the building housing it was sold and is being torn down to make way for a new development. This is certainly a passing moment in the city's gay history. With this last nail in the coffin the Disneyfication of Times Square can now be called complete.

The Gaiety opened its doors on a winter night in 1976 and consistently attracted an interesting mix of young hustlers, businessmen, tourists, and celebrities on the DL to its pleasantly dingy, boxy room with its small stage and sparkling curtain. Andy Warhol, John Waters, and Divine were all patrons back in the day but the theatre attracted legions more of the years, whether they were sitting in the back hiding behind dark glasses or not.

In 1992 Madonna published her Sex book and shined a spotlight on the theatre, employing some of its dancers, along with porn star Joey Stefano and German cult movie actor Udo Kier in her erotic adventure. (Photo above, more after the jump)

When Giuliani came in to clean up the image of Times Square back in 1995, the theatre scrambled and changed policies to adapt to the new code and stay in business. Since then, the porn shops and sex venues that used to litter the area have slowly vanished, one by one, but the Gaiety's demise is certainly a milestone in the history of sex in New York.

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Comments

  1. wow...well maybe it will open up somewhere else...it is a nyc icon.... i celebrated my 29th bday there... :)

    Posted by: matty | Mar 19, 2005 10:45:15 AM


  2. Disneyfication... what a great description. Thats how I would describe the Castro in San Fran the last time I was there. Does inclusion... mean being disnified?

    Posted by: Shidoobie, | Mar 19, 2005 10:53:35 AM


  3. Ah, those were the days. The Gaiety on a late Saturday night! New York Celebrity gaydom, hookers, hookers and more hookers. Bad boys.

    Posted by: Richard | Mar 19, 2005 11:49:34 AM


  4. Oh, and Rocky, whereever you are, thanks! Those were the best 12 minutes and 42 seconds of my life! Do you still have that old stop watch? I'll always be grateful for those extra 2.42 minutes.

    Posted by: Richard | Mar 19, 2005 11:52:13 AM


  5. I'm so bummed. Even though I never went there, there was something comforting and invigorating about knowing that I lived in a city in which a place like that existed .

    While I am all for change and progress, it feels like gay life in NYC is being pushed into ever narrower confines.

    Posted by: HoyaBoy | Mar 19, 2005 1:07:55 PM


  6. The Castro Disneyfied? Dude, what bad batch of downers were you on? Not that special anymore, yes, even dull, but to imply that it's somehow been sanitized isn't true because it was never particularly (to some people's disappointment) that "dirty." Except for the old Jaguar which was a sex club TWENTY YEARS AGO -- across the street from the current incarnation which just sells erotica and stuff you'll have to go somewhere else to find someone to use on you --and the occasional bar that looked the other way while a couple of patrons got it on, or private parties, The Castro was never "Mr. Hog's Wild Ride." And, while I like cock and balls as much as the next sodomite, describing the narrow slice of some people's existence that was The Gaiety as "gay life" is absurd. I've done the baths, tricked in graveyards, done three-ways, even a five-way, and once upon a time never threw a party without an "orgy room", but the demise of The Gaiety is a blip, and, with all due respect, a waste of space on your site and of your talent, Andy. Towleroad has too many detours to Billy Mastersland. Leave the beefcake to the thousands of other blogs, and put some bigger portions of food for thought on your menu. Thanks.

    Posted by: george | Mar 19, 2005 2:22:13 PM


  7. so sad. years ago, several of my b'way dancer friends made quite a chunk of change moonlighting at the gaiety. what's a b'way dancer to do now?

    Posted by: cafegogo | Mar 19, 2005 2:56:55 PM


  8. George, this site has plenty of space for everything from beefcake to gay marriage to gay-straight alliances to reality TV to Jeff Gannon to travel photos, all of which I'll continue to cover as my interest suits me. If there's something you're not interested in there's an easy solution - don't read it! Thanks for your input though - and for reading.

    Posted by: andy | Mar 19, 2005 4:09:46 PM


  9. I've never been able to figure out whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, but it certainly is a fact that the earliest days of my sex life were spent exploring the adult emporia of midtown New York -- the Big Top, the David, the 'new' David, the Apollo, the Nighthawk, etc. etc. All long gone thanks to Guiliani's fear of sex (chalk another one up to the Catholic Church).

    But at least the Gaiety was still around, albeit gentrified and regulated.

    I just think that it really says something bad about NY that the amount of sleaze has been so seriously reduced and confined. And, of course, it's not just Times Square; the Meatpacking district has become a neighborhood of straight restaurants. Regardless of what they might say in a survey, the reason a lot of people live in big cities is to have easy access to the full panoply of human experience.

    To me, part of being a major world city includes the idea that you can find places to do just about everything you can think of. I'm less and less sure that NYC fits that definition any more.

    Posted by: Buster | Mar 19, 2005 6:11:48 PM


  10. "across the street from the current incarnation which just sells erotica and stuff"
    Just for the sake of accuracy this closed 2 mos. ago...

    Posted by: greg | Mar 19, 2005 6:57:52 PM


  11. george: this site has a black background that alone keeps me coming back... not all blogs offer that ya know...(no really)

    Posted by: Shidoobie, | Mar 19, 2005 8:28:11 PM


  12. "Since then, the porn shops and sex venues that used to litter the area have slowly vanished, one by one, but the Gaiety's demise is certainly a milestone in the history of sex in New York."

    this is such a surprise! especially considering reports just last week that x-rated joints in times square are back on the rise again. even the nytimes reported on it:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/15/nyregion/15adult.html

    very sad about the gaiety, though. i never went, but i respected it being the institution it was. especially after being immortalized in 'sex'.

    Posted by: Bryan | Mar 19, 2005 10:06:53 PM


  13. You guys are getting old... is there anything less interesting than old haunts that are no more. I mean I could go on about the days of Club Fuck in Silverlake, etc... but like everything that is sedentary it's all a bunch of dust these days. I like the photo though Andy, looks sort of reptilian.

    Posted by: visibleh20 | Mar 19, 2005 10:22:42 PM


  14. Too bad about the Gaiety. Walked past it numerous times, but never ventured forth. Now that chance is gone (at least in TS)...but HOPEFULLY this reconstruction means that g-dawful HoJo will be closed as well.

    Posted by: TeKay | Mar 20, 2005 1:32:41 AM


  15. I never been there, 'cause I don't live in New York. But I'm gonna feel exactly the same way when the little block of gay "adult" clubs in DC is razed for the new baseball stadium. It's OK to feel sentimental, and those places were important to people at some point in their lives. When I got up the nerve to visit some of those place, I did have some fun, and I learned a few things that I couldn't have learned anywhere else. For a boy who grew up in a mid-western suburb in the 1970s, going into a gay strip club was pretty liberating. Maybe I'm just being sentimental about the naive kid I was back then...

    Posted by: Toby | Mar 20, 2005 8:11:05 AM


  16. Just be glad you don't live in Florida, especially during the winter, when tourists and snowbirds are dominant. There still is a small enclave on the southeast coast, but in time it'll likely be sanitized. Tourists rule.

    Posted by: Emery | Mar 20, 2005 8:29:04 AM


  17. The irony seems to be that if you want to be in a place where the hot little sex clubs don't get shut down and paved over, you really want to be in the smaller, secondary cities that aren't being gentrified and Disney-fied... so all those boys who leave the fly-over states for the coasts may ultimately be short-changing themselves.

    Posted by: buster | Mar 20, 2005 7:46:46 PM


  18. I made my first (and only) visit to The Gaiety Theatre back in 1995. Since it was only a few doors down from The Paramount where I was staying, it was convenient to say the least. I was still in the process of coming out and had seen advertisements in The Village Voice and going to The Gaiety was akin to making a pilgrimage of sorts for a young gay man such as myself. Upon paying the $20 admission fee I entered the showplace and sat down in one the older-than-old folding chairs. The stage was small and decorated with only some colored streamers. The talent was what is was and I stayed less than an hour but not without being propositioned by a couple of dancers.

    While I didn't go the route of go-go or exotic dancer, I believe my few minutes at The Gaiety did prime me for my foray into gay porn. All that and I'm none the worse for wear.

    Posted by: Corin | Mar 20, 2005 7:47:26 PM


  19. good luck on yr move north Corin.

    Posted by: Alex Gildzen | Mar 20, 2005 10:06:18 PM


  20. I will miss the gaiety big time and of course the many friends and dancers that I have meet there , I do however have a free yahoo group for gaiety fans its at http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/gaietynyc
    there are also free pics of dancers on the site.

    Posted by: Jay | Mar 20, 2005 10:40:00 PM


  21. Frankly, there are many reasons to visit NYC but one of them is not for sex. The big clean-up started in 1993 by the ex-mayor Giuliani has virtually ruled out any hope of having a good time. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. You read the NYC gay rags and see that almost all "naughty" activities are pre-arranged and held in "private - by invitation only" parties, hardly spontaneous and blatently discriminitory. It's driving sexual activity underground and it is the opposite of liberation. It is amazing that the Gaiety has lasted this long. NYC is becoming like any other up-tight american city. Too bad...it used to be a lot of fun. The Gaiety was a place where anyone could pay his/her (ask Madonna) 20 $...and see a tacky male strip show in front of a tinsel curtain. It will be missed....BUT it is not too far from NYC to Montreal....where most of the dancers came from anyway. Come on up, let your hair down and get ready for the eye-candy.

    Posted by: Canuck | Mar 20, 2005 11:35:33 PM


  22. I loved the Gaiety! What a shame. My last visit there the past summer really was my last. I feel it important to mourn the passing of the structures of our memories. I first went to The City with my mother as a fifteen year old. We essentially were New Yorkers by way of South Florida. My mother actually let me go off on my own to explore the city at a time that was not done, to meet up with her to take the train back to my Aunt's house in Queens. This was way before the disneyfication. After seeing A Chorus Line (in one of the last years), I explored the square and purchased my first gay porn magazine at the stand in front of that very HOJOs. The magazine was Leo and Lance, and Howard Johnson's still made great ice cream. I did not know about the Gaiety until Madonna's book came out (still have one in it's wrapper). Much later I also while staying at the Paramount, I made my first of many trips up those stairs. It was so much fun to a pervert like me. These amazingly hot guys would come out and dance completely naked, with an erection yet. I have been many times, alone or with groups of rowdy friends, and I always had such fun. I loved strippers so much I became one too, though never there. I never wanted to do the complete nudity thing even though I loved watching it! I truly will miss that place. I do hope they find a new location, though that seems doubtful. I guess I will have to run up to Montreal sometime.

    Corin - Nice to read about your experience. You and I met at the Pub in New Orleans. I was Go Go dancing there, I think Jonno introduced us...

    Andy - I appreciate your entire blog, some parts more than others. But all of it is informative and entertaining.

    Jay - Thanks for the link!

    Posted by: xopher | Mar 21, 2005 6:38:25 AM


  23. The closing of The Gaiety is SICKENING to me. I absolutely LOVED going there when I would travel to New York on business, pleasure, or both. I think this is simply a form of censorship that has run amuck as it has throughout the rest of the country. It's ok to show death and killing and images of people getting their heads cut off on regular television, but heaven forbid that we get to look at the nude male form for enjoyment's sake. New York's Times Square re-development is riddled with mouse-ears and neon screaming of Disney. The whole area has been turned into one big advertisement. I truly hope that somebody somewhere will step forward and assist in the re-establishment of the Gaiety, and help bring it back to New York. One of the few pleasures I truly enjoyed, indeed. I met some really nice guys dancing there. Mico Valentine was one, and Vincent J. Lombardi, who is a dead-ringer for a young Brad Pitt, was another. I also suggested to Mark Dalton that he inquire about dancing there, and to call Denise (the proprietress), and he did so, and caused a sensation!!! Ah, memories. The end of an era? I certainly hope not. All I can say, is that if I had the money, I would re-open the place myself.
    Peace,
    DONNIE

    Posted by: Donnie Bandit | Mar 23, 2005 9:58:19 PM


  24. I'm about to cry...

    Posted by: Lano | Mar 24, 2005 3:49:36 PM


  25. Did Denise still own the place all this time?
    I used to work there many (too many) years ago. I saw it change from a dingy little showplace to a stella attraction, from just hustlers to nude fire dancers (remember the song disco inferno?). I miss Denise and the legions of boys. For you old timers - I ran the shows and started with my signature: Good evening Gentlemen, welcome to the Gaiety Theater high atop Howard Johnson's in beautiful midtown Manhattan. etc etc.
    It was a blast. Sorry to see it go. Good luck Denise. Finally going back to Greece?

    Posted by: Tony Brando | Mar 26, 2005 11:57:51 AM


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