Photo of the day: MOURNING THE GAY PRIDE DAY’S GRAY’S PAPAYA ~ What on earth will Gay Pride be without the wonderfully bright yellow Gray’s Papaya on the corner of 6th Avenue and 8th Street, the epicenter of the Gay Pride day parade?!?!
For anyone that has ever followed the maddening crowd of the parade on the sidewalk as a spectacular spectator, knows the tightest bottleneck of the parade is when you come to the main intersection of 8th/6th. It is where the large Fifth Avenue sized fabulous parade has been squeezed onto narrow 8th Street and now pours onto the big 6th Avenue intersection again leading it to the ceremonial entrance to gay history’s Christopher Street. The police have therefore cordoned off any chance of you crossing the street within blocks of this big intersection. It does give the parade marchers the space to twirl and show-off before shashaying onto Christopher Street – it’s a divine madhouse! But the one chance you had to make it around the corner as a spectator was to cut through Gray’s Papaya’s open walk-through corner, and by the thousands we did.
It was a quick mini party stop for you to grab that desperately needed cold juice and those wonderfully tasty hot dogs and $1.00 slices of pizza, it was party on the go! The (sadly now) iconic paper fold out fruit decorations hanging from the ceiling made it feel like you were stopping by a madhouse Carmen Miranda fruit stand! With the perfect flow through traffic pattern open corner set-up, it was the absolute ideal guaranteed chance at grabbing that badly needed drink and some nourishment as you tried to make it further along the parade route. That super staff never missed a Latin beat, those dogs and slices were dished out as fast as we ordered them, those Papayans were one of the true martyrs of the parade! I always admired how they kept there cool while others were like “ay caramba!”. Nicholas Gray, the proprietor could not afford to have his monthly rent increased outrageously from $30,000 to $50,000 a month, therefore he was forced to close.
Yes there is Nathan’s in Coney Island and it has wonderful history, but most New Yawkers are not willing to pack a suitcase to travel to the outer reaches of Brooklyn for a dawg. So, Gay Pride and the largest Halloween Parade in the world and especially late night party goers all are going to miss you terribly, a very strategically placed Gray’s Papaya. Adios mis amigos, adios 😦 . . .
Photo of the day: TRASH AND VAUDEVILLE STILL HAVEN’T GONE OUT OF STYLE ! – I have been going to Greenwich Village since the early 1960’s. I remember the evolution from beatniks, to modsters, to hippies, to gay culture invasion, to 70’s disco babes, to the Rocky Horror scene, to punk rockers – pins and needles everywhere and then….it all died off with the gentrification of the area after the AIDS crisis. The east and west village have become, for the most part soul-less. The funky shops, store fronts, building, and people are mostly gone. The west village centered around Christopher Street has lost it’s soul long ago, it’s just a tourist curiosity abounding with Polo, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and damned GAP stores every few blocks. The east village was home to the thriving punk rock scene has become a sterile college campus for the universities. CBGB’s punk rock club’s closing in 2005 was one of the major nails in the coffin. Since Mayor Bloomberg’s greedy empire has taken over with the zealous assistance of council’woman’ Christine Quinn, there is not much left. One of the remaining treasures is a little stretch of East 8th Street between Third and Second Avenues where some of the old time stores are still hanging on. The whole street, for the most part, still has that funky, grungy feel with wonderful stores like the comic book store and of course TRASH AND VAUDEVILLE. They have been there since 1975 and is still going strong!
Long time employee Jimmy (left) with fellow employee
The photo avbove of Ray Goodman shows the old ‘St. Marks Hotel’ mural behind him, that used to be the notorious gay baths (originally Turkish steam baths) ‘The St.Marks Baths’ which was closed down by the city in December of 1985. T+V was making ‘kinky boots’ long before the film or Broadway musical even existed. Here is their history from their own web site: “Born out of the 1970’s rock and punk scene on St. Marks Place in New York City, Trash and Vaudeville has always provided a wide variety of alternative fashion for Rockers, Mods, Punks, Goths, Rockabillies, and everyday working class heroes who just wanted to walk and dress on the wild side.
Trash and Vaudeville was founded by Ray Goodman in June of 1975. Ray discovered St. Marks Place at the age of 13, and never left. He was immediately attracted to the incredible energy that surged throughout the block. Whatever the scene was – Beatniks – Hippies – Glam – Punk – it was all going down on St. Marks Place.
Ray spent most of his free time on St. Marks Place. There was the Electric Circus, the Fillmore East, and CBGBs, all within a few blocks of the area. Some of the greatest Rock n’ Roll Meccas all right there. Ray’s love for Rock music inspired him to open a clothing store that would be entirely influenced by Rock n’ Roll.
Right away Trash and Vaudeville attracted musicians and bands looking to dress in a style that embraced their individuality and creativity. St. Marks Place has always been a gathering place for the ‘cool’, with an energy that still flows today.
The store has been in its original location since opening. The list of artists, musicians, actors, street dwellers, teenage rebels, and people from all over who have shopped at the store goes on and on.”
Mondays on Memory Lane: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN, REMEMBERING 1970’s SHOE STORES – Just as the young women of today are teetering on their nine inch platforms, the exact same shoes were the rage in the early to mid 1970’s. In the disco era it wasn’t only women teetering about, it was men also. I was about six inches taller in those disco days.
There were many “cool” in vogue streets to buy your shoes in those days. One was, believe it or not, today’s staid East 59th Street between Third and Second Avenues, right behind Bloomingdale’s. Right around the corner on 58th Street and Lexington Avenue was Arrowsmith Shoes (advertised in the above 1975 ad). The other of course was West Eighth Street – shoe mecca.
The coolest pair I ever bought, which I am missing and lamenting to this day that I didn’t keep, were bought at 227 East 59th Street in a store called “Jumping Jack Flash” they specialized in ‘Galm Wear’ glitter suits, outrageous platform shoes and accessories. I afforded myself one $75 (or about $100) pair there – they were navy blue with wooden platform and heel. On each toe was a silver leather star and on the outer side of each shoe was a silver shooting star. I wore those shoes to every “in” event till the shoes finally fell apart. I also had 3″ high buffalo sandals, rubber wedgies, black velvet Herman Munster-like ‘evening’ shoes I would wear to formal events to the consternation of my mother.
1974 Off to London wearing my Jumping Jacket Flash shoes (covered by the bell bottoms.)
West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village was shoe mecca. Literally one shoe store after another, 3 blocks of wedgies, heels and platforms, not to forget outrageous boots. It was a common thing to spend your night in “shoe alley.” You got dressed as funky as you could and would start at Sixth Avenue and walk up one side of the street, in and out of every single shoe store, upstairs and downstairs, admiring the hip disco funky clothes, jewelry and wide belts. Passing legendary Electric Lady Recording Studios, the head shops and the 8th Street Playhouse, then a revival movie house soon to become famous for showing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” You stayed the longest in the stores which had the best disco music blaring. The shoes were made of every material possible: wet look vinyl, leather, plastic, wood, cloth – you name it. Then when you reached Broadway you would cross the street and peruse every single store on your way back down the street, finishing with grabbing a hot dog at Gray’s Papaya at Sixth Avenue and then head onto Christopher Street to join the evenings ‘parade’. God I miss those days! It’s all gone now. The shoe styles have returned but the fun of the era is but a memory. Both streets have lost their flavor and soul. East 59th Street is now mainly cabinet shops and furniture stores. On West Eighth Street, one third of the stores are empty due to Mayor Bloomberg/Councilwoman Quinn and landlord greed.
Empty West 8th Street 2013, Greenwich Village
But – I have one outrageous pair left! (See top left main photo). They were even a bit too outrageous for the times then, so I didn’t wear them as much, and so they have survived. Aqua marine perforated leather, with orange leather lace-up, brown heel and toe and clunky wooden platform and heel. My treasured memento of dancing a little happier, knowing how to balance myself as I walked and being always at least three inches taller.
Photo of the day: SOME PEOPLE MARCH TO THE BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUMMER –
SOME PEOPLE MARCH TO GET MARRIED
SOME PARTY MONSTERS MARCH
SOME PEOPLE WITH FRECKLES MARCH
SOME BRAZILIAN KISS QUEENS MARCH
SOME FLAG WAVERS MARCH
AND SOME FASHIONABLY FIERCE PEOPLE MARCH!
…WHATEVER THE BEAT OF YOUR DRUM IS – MARCH !
Photo of the day: GAY HATE CRIMES IN GREENWICH VILLAGE UP 70% IN 2013: What used to be a ‘village’ of all people of all colors and all persuasions is being lost by the rapid gentrification due to real estate greed. Still, if you are gay, the Village is your traditional home, where you are supposed to walk hand in hand with your lover and feel proud and safe about it. The rainbow flags are everywhere in preparation for Gay Pride day.
But – it is also a place to go ‘fag hunting’. Recently 29 fatal or near fatal hate crimes have been reported in the area. That is a 70% spike from last year. Some attribute it to a fluke, others to the gaining rights and the mainstreaming of gays that makes a small scared ignorant minority seek out their homophobic rage.
Those two factions met Sunday might as Mark Carson (32) was walking with his friend and was approached by Elliot Morales (33) taunting him, asking if he was a “gay wrestler.” Mark at first avoided the confrontation and kept walking, but the killer raced ahead and hunted Mark down. Confronted a second time, Mark was shot in the face and died almost instantly. As Elliot Morales was being restrained on a sidewalk, he laughed and boasted: ‘I shot him in the face.’
A memorial march was held, and a memorial continues to grow on the spot of the incident. The location happens to be the main intersection of Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street, site of the former Barnes & Noble. This happens to be a main stop (to wait for traffic) as the miles long gay pride day parade waits to jubilantly enter the narrow winding and historic Christopher Street and pass by the Stonewall Inn, the site of the start of the gay rights movement. All of this is in frighteningly too close a proximity. Rather than hooting and hollering this year, I hope there will be silence on the part of the marchers as the parade passes by Mark Carson’s site.
As of Wednesday, May 22, today, five more gay hate crimes have been reported.
“THAT GIRL”: Diamonds, Daisies, Snowflakes,
Chestnuts, Rainbows, Springtime…
Is That Girl,
She’s tinsel on a tree…
She’s everything that every girl should be!
I am crossing Christopher street and I hear this loud singing coming down the street. Then she appears. A tall beauty, in her thrift shop green lace dress, listening to her iPod. The joy of the music sweeps her up. She starts waving her arms to and fro. Jumps up and down as she gleefully saunters down Christopher street.
The dress is splitting open in the back because it doesn’t quite fit since, ‘that girl’ . . . is a boy.