To mark LGBT History Month in October author Phillip Crawford Jr. has released a second edition of his groundbreaking book “The Mafia and the Gays” which meticulously documents how organized crime once had a near-monopoly on gay bars in New York.
The Stonewall Inn from the 1960s may be the most famous gay bar once owned by the Mafia but the dingy joint for the downtown kids with its watered-down drinks should not serve as a monolithic example of the LGBT spaces which the wise guys at that time provided. In the Midtown East section of New York City the Mafia was behind many places which catered to an upscale crowd, and among them was the Mystique Private Club which operated from 1966 to 1969 out of an entire four-story townhouse whose “homosexual clientele are reported to be wealthy and influential homosexuals” according to informant allegations in an FBI report obtained by the author pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request.
A principal goal of the Stonewall riots in 1969 was to get the mob out of the bars, and yet the wise guys continued their grip over many establishments well into the 1980s often with the use of gays and lesbians who served as front owners or venue managers. “The Mafia and the Gays” takes a look at some of the most celebrated LGBT establishments in New York including Bonnie and Clyde, a lesbian bar managed by Elaine Romagnoli which operated from 1972 to 1981 in Greenwich Village, and the Mineshaft, a gay club managed by Wally Wallace which operated from 1976 to 1985 in the Meatpacking District.
Phillip Crawford Jr. also is the author of “Queer Joints, Wiseguys and G-Men,” “Jersey Queens: Darling & Delightful at the Gay Bars in the 50s & 60s,” and “Railroaded: The Homophobic Prosecution of Brandon Woodruff for His Parents' Murders.”
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