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Month: July 2020


When Stonewall happened that fateful night on June 27, 1969 nobody expected it.  Just a typical payoff to the cops kind of night, with a slight irregularity to it;  like the day George Floyd was killed, a typical kill a black guy kind of day with a little irregularity to it.

The killing of George Floyd was not that unusual by itself. Racist cop called in on a minor infraction treating a black suspect like he’s some kind of animal. Four Boys in Blue cuffing a black man for ”possibly” passing a counterfeit $20 in a local bodega, roughly pushing him across the street to the back side of their cruiser, then throwing him to the ground where he starts bleeding. The Alpha cop steps on his neck while the other two drop to their knees, not on the ground, no, on top of his back with legs off the ground to achieve full pressure. The “Good Cop” stands there watching with impunity while passersby pass on by and a casual young girl iPhones the “dry lynching. For over eight minutes they taunt him to get up and get in the car, while he pleads for breath, for his life, and ultimately cries out for his “Mama”. The slight irregularity is the casual young girl with the iPhone. Their impunity is so ingrained that they don’t even see that she’s filming their homicide. They don’t see it. It’s just another Kill a Black Guy kind of day. But this time the irregularity made it to the Front Page, and we had all reached the Tipping Point. Six weeks of Sheltering in Place, with an in-charge mad man attempting to not see what was right before everybody’s eyes, like the Emperor with no clothes, had us all on the edge a bit. It gave us time to see more clearly that not only was the Emperor naked, but the entire Justice System was as nakedly exposed as the Emperor.

The riot in the Stonewall bar was the result of another irregularity. A crooked cop just doing what crooked cops had been doing for the last few decades, and a black girl in the right place at the right time. Most of the gay bars in Manhattan with few exceptions were frequented by gay guys. This was one of those exceptions. Stonewall was in the West Village on Christopher Street which was strictly guys, while the rest of the West Village was mostly gals. There was a mixed crowd this particular Friday night
The correct cop procedure was to come into a gay bar for their regularly scheduled payoffs during the week when it wasn’t too crowded. That way you didn’t disturb business too much. To be clear, the cop’s payoff wasn’t supposed to interfere with the mob’s business. The monthly payoff was par for all the gay bars, as every gay bar in Manhattan payed off the cops and the mob. When my Father’s bar was a “straight” bar the payoffs were quarterly, when it became a gay bar the payoffs were monthly. The cops made their presence in the neighborhood known and were able to instill just the right amount of fear and intimidation to keep everybody on board.. Also, the cops who came into the bar, were part of a larger syndicate of cops and not necessarily connected to the same precinct that any particular bar was in.

Friday night June 27, 1969, the cops from the Greenwich Village Precinct that the Stonewall Bar was in, were “sick and tired” of the uptown cops coming into their precinct and shaking down their bars. They were going to do it themselves, and they were going to go in on a busy Friday night.
So, in come the local Boys in Blue, making their way through the partying crowd to the back room. A black bull dyke in the back room saw them coming. She saw them coming and she was up to here with it. That was it, no more of this bullshit. No more paying off the cops just so she could have a drink and hang out with her friends. She didn’t quite realize the other half of the equation; that the Mob actually owned the joint and the barkeeps were window dressing that managed the transfer of money. She jumped up and said, I’m paraphrasing, “we’re not going to take it anymore”. That started it and the whole place erupted.

The local precinct cops couldn’t get out of the bar but were able to make it to the bathroom where they barricaded themselves in, while the patrons barricaded the front windows and doors. It was a riot inside Stonewall and a riot outside on the streets. As news of the riot spread throughout Greenwich Village more and more of the mostly gay guys, came out, physically came out into the streets and surrounded the bar. By the time the paddy wagon arrived it was too late, and what should have been a local event turned into the event of the century. The paddy wagon cops dallied in their response in order to “punish” the precinct cops who were where they shouldn’t be on a night when they shouldn’t be. Talk about turf wars.

Meanwhile, a little old man with a cheap fedora who usually plays bocce at the bocce ball court in Greenwich Village is sitting somewhere in a corner of Stonewall wishing he was home. Every gay bar in Manhattan had a little old Italian man, in a cheap fedora sitting somewhere in a corner watching out for the interest of the mob; because the cops and the mob were in this together and the mob wasn’t as visible as the cops, so they needed a little back up. The mob owned the bar which paid the cops so that the cops didn’t close them down, because it was an ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) regulation that you could close down a bar if there was a gay person in it. Didn’t matter if he was in a three-piece suit with Gucci shoes and a Dior necktie or swishy wrist and a silk scarf. Gay: close it down. So, we have the ABC, the NYPD and the Sicilian Mob, all collaborating to get a piece of the action, all at the expense of a persecuted and reviled minority. Sound familiar? By noon that very day, the NYC Homophile Youth Movement – HYMN, with the help of the Village Voice newspaper, which just happened to be at the other end of the block, published the now classic flyer, “GET THE MAFIA AND THE COPS OUT OF THE NEW YORK CITY BARS”.

Stonewall opened that very night. The clean-up fixers crew came in and rebuilt the bar, restocked with their untaxed watered-down booze and filled the cigarette machine with their untaxed cigarettes bootlegged from Virginia, which you could buy uptown once a week on 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue at the back of Grand Central Station. I did, every Friday. Everybody who was anybody was in on the fix and got a little piece of the action. That’s Trickle-Down Economics in the Carnegie Hall Culture of Corruption.

Well, Stonewall reopened but the anger wasn’t quelled. A conglomeration of “anti-Vietnam War, pro-Black, pro-Women, pro-Hippy, anti-Capitalist left-wing politics,” or the entire counter-culture of the late 1960’s, met one month later on July 24th and formed the Gay Liberation Front. They started meeting and talking and organizing and by the end of the year the little known homophile movement turned into the first Gay Liberation Day Parade on the streets of Greenwich Village. We now have GAY PRIDE day every year on the whole planet.

Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013, has an organization in place and is not going to stop until real reform happens. The roots of Democratic Capitalism are based on the commodification of all people, with white people in charge and black people at their beck and call. The economic success of Capitalism is based on the enslavement of an entire race, and the roots of Democracy ensured the dehumanization of that race, which elevated the enforcers to a position of superiority. That superiority has traveled through the centuries to where we are today. Racial injustice is built into the system. It’s “systematic” and requires systematic change.
It started for me in my father’s bar, which led me to understand what happened at the Stonewall bar, and to see clearly today why the death of George Floyd is leading Black Lives Matter to take on the issues that the whole system of Democratic Capitalism is based on. Slavery, greed, corruption and immunity for those enforcing this rule of disorder. The entire system is built on a base of sand that’s collapsing right before our very eyes. Climate change, Covid-19, swine flu on it’s way, apocalyptic events becoming a daily occurrence, global right wing fascism, state surveillance, are all a wake-up calls from the living breathing earth that we all live on. If we don’t fix it, it will fix us. Evolve or die.


My Father was a bartender in New York City in the 1950’s. He worked in a bar off Central Park South on Seventh Avenue for over a decade and dreamed of one day buying the business, being his own boss and not being the boss’s “slave”. One night, an Irish bookkeeper from a bowling alley in Hoboken, New Jersey showed up with just the right amount of money to go into a 50/50 partnership. Dad would be the worker and Joe the paper pusher. They bought the business and renamed Crimmins Bar, The SOUTHMOOR Cafe. Central Park had been a swamp or a moor, and Central Park South is south of the moor, hence SOUTHMOOR Café. Turns out the Irish Bookkeeper from Hoboken, who happened to know just how much Dad was short for the purchase, was “connected”, and our family found itself in bed with the Mob for the next five years.

The local gangsters started hanging out during the day, in a booth towards the back of the bar, across from the public telephone where they took “book” – bets mostly on horses but any sporting event with odds would do. This was before the lottery, when off-site betting was illegal, and people went to bookmakers to place a bet.

Every Sunday, I would drive into The City with my father; over the Queensboro Bridge, down 59th Street past Bloomingdales and the Copacabana, left onto Fifth Avenue and down to the Plaza Hotel, right onto Central Park South passing the fancy horse drawn carriages and tired looking horses with feedbags brimming over with hay strapped over their mouths, and a final left turn onto Seventh Avenue, where he parked his black Studebaker until four the next morning. I’d spend the morning sweeping, eating maraschino cherries and helping him open up. He’d drop $5’s and $10’s on the floor for me to find. This was my weekly “time with Dad”. Afterwards, I’d go into the alleyway which separated the bar from the Century Theatre, and I’d find exotic and interesting props and stage detritus that was being tossed from the night before. I’d finally go into the back door of the theatre and watch theatrical rehearsals during those first two years, and television production setups in the last three, as the theatre transitioned from Broadway plays to Television productions; from Mary Martin in SOUTH PACIFIC and PETER PAN to Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle.

We were friendly with the theatre’s stage manager, Eddie Bracken, and I remember hanging out with him in the back of the theatre one Sunday matinee while Mary Martin pleaded with the audience to believe in Tinker Bell. Captain Hook had poisoned Tinker Bell and she slowly dies before out eyes. Peter Pan returns to find her dead and knows that if we just believe in magic, believe in forever young, believe in Tinker Bell she’ll come back to life. Martin sat at the apron of the stage in her boyish green tights with so much love and empathy and truth that she had the audience in the palms of her hands. Grown people were weeping for Tinker Bell to come back to life. Handkerchiefs flew from top jacket pockets and hankies from pocketbooks. They believed, they really believed. I remember turning to Eddie and asking, “Why are they all crying, don’t they know it’s not real?” “That’s what the theatre is all about,” he said. To this very day, it’s at least one play every month on date night. If I don’t see live theatre, I feel like I’m missing something, incomplete. It somehow fulfills some inner need in me, to see real people reciting profound thoughts and sharing it simultaneously with hundreds of other people.

I’d leave the bar about noontime when the “goomba’s” came in and occupied their real estate at the back booth. “Goomba”, in my world, was nasty slang for an Italian gangster. I vividly remember Joe Sherman, a fat giant of a man packing a holstered gun over his heart. He could barely get into the booth and had to grab onto the tabletop while he squeezed into the bench. I was between 10 and 14 years old during this period and I would wander downtown from 59th to 42nd Street on my own. The first big stop on my way through Times Square was on 48th Street. It would be about 1PM and I’d watch from outside as Gene Krupa set up on a platform on the top of the bar right in the front window of the Metropole Cafe. He was a drummer’s drummer. A flamboyant mad man with the sticks. He’d sometimes toss those sticks at a distant wall, like a magician throwing knives at the girl on a spinning target. The Metropole is still there, but it’s now a “classy strip -joint”, with curtains so thick you can’t see or even hear anything. After listening to his opening beats, I’d continue cruising down Broadway to 42nd Street, gawking at the XXX-rated movie theater marquees and the knife stores with their big bowie knives and the super-sexy switch blades. When I finished taking in the magic of the lights and the crowds and the sounds, the huge billboards, Mister Peanut Man swinging his arms, the Camel guy blowing cool refreshing smoke, the ribbon of news headlines floating around the oddly fronted Times building; I’d leave the Church of Excess, go underground and take the subway back home to the quiet of Queens. Whenever it came up in school to talk about family life, it never made sense for me to talk about any of it. It just didn’t fit in with any of the other stories that the other kids had. Maybe they all made up their stories, I don’t know. I know I definitely did.

It wasn’t all weird and irregular and I did have an extraordinarily positive experience one Sunday afternoon. It was early on, maybe 1954, I was about to leave when a boozy brunette in a short mink stole ran her fingers through my hair and asked me if I “want to go to a ‘talk of some sort’ around the corner”. She had been given a ticket and didn’t really want to go; it wasn’t her kind of thing. “Sure, I’ll go,” and she gave me the ticket. It was an afternoon television event at the ABC Studio around the block on 58th and Ninth. There were about a dozen people and little ol’ me. It felt in size and shape, like a mini jury. The cameras were ready to roll and out comes this very friendly chubby faced Doctor with boring glasses in a dark conservative suit. It’s Norman Vincent Peale and he’s lecturing on his recently published popular new book, “THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING”. I would never be crazy about his overzealous religiosity but the overall theme, I’m sure to this day, had a positive impact on my life. In fact, “Couldn’t be better”, is a refrain, that I wholeheartedly embraced two decades ago and still lead with when asked, “How are you doing?” It’s like Eli Weizer, the Jewish survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, having a better mental attitude towards his captors than they did towards themselves. It’s accepting the reality of the present moment and being content with it. You can react to the present moment, or you can act with a clear mind and not react. If you can accept the present moment and not get reactive, you can proceed with a calm and peaceful mind and be positive in your thinking and attitude. There is nothing you can do to change the present moment. Accept it and keep your head above the fray or resist and fight your way through life.

My Uncle Arthur was Albert Anastasia’s barber. “Albert”, as my Uncle often referred to him as, was the Gambino family head of the Mob for all of New York City. He’s the guy that they shot in the barber chair two blocks down at the Park Sheraton Hotel, across the street from Carnegie Hall. The day before the “shoot”, a couple of Albert’s boys, came to Arthur and told him to “go to the track and get a ticket for the third race at Belmont”. He came back to the bar and said to my father, “Ernie, I don’t know what’s up, but THEY told me to go to Belmont tomorrow. I’m going.” He did. No questions asked. Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro’s movie, “ANALYZE THIS”, opens with the bloody pictures of the aftermath of what happened during the third race at Belmont. Scorsese ‘s recently released movie, “THE IRISHMAN” portrays the gangsters coming up the stairs of the Park Sheraton from the lower level with little pistols in their hands, passing a floral display and entering a window-lite hotel barbershop. In real life, the two hitmen actually came in the front door of the Park Sheraton with musical instrument bagged tommy guns and marched straight back to the barber shop. The substitute barber for the day stepped back, and they sprayed the place so badly with bullets, destroying all the imported Italian marble along with Albert, that it took them over a year to replace the marble and get the barber shop back in business. The two hit men, with smoking guns, walked back through the lobby to a waiting car and “arrivederci’ed“ into history. They probably tipped the doorman, who held the getaway car at the Hotel entrance, when they came it. The one hit man from the Gallo family recently died in prison, the other one is speculated to have been from the Genovese family and may have passed a few years back.

The side door of the New York Athletic Club was on Seventh Avenue right across the street from the bar. Every major team, or professional boxer, tennis jock, or any money producing athlete was automatically a member of the club. Yankees, Dodgers, Giants,  Knicks, Rangers, and famous players from Micky Mantle to Roger Marris; they all came into the bar at one time or another, and the gangster were waiting. Anything that had odds on it, the mob had their finger in. They’d threaten to break legs if you didn’t cooperate, and that meant to shave points. Not lose the game, just shave points so they could affect the point spread. It’s was all about that little edge, which separates the losers from the winners or the saps from their money.

We made payoffs to the cops and the mob four times a year, every three months. The payoffs were somewhere between $300 and $350 and usually the amount was within $25 of each other. It was price fixing. Both bills, from the cops and the mob, came the very same week each quarter. If you didn’t pay the mob, they broke your legs, if you didn’t pay the cops, they sent in an inspector who’d find the ice machine leaking and shut you down. The mob just gave you the bottom-line amount on a small piece of paper. The cops had so much “chutzpah” that they listed the name, rank and amount for each individual on very formal accounting paper. Decades late, when Frank Serpico went undercover and exposed police corruption, his little book, where he kept track of all the transaction, still had the name, rank and amount for each payment. The corruption was decades in its execution.

While the gangsters took book in the back of the bar and the cops kept the neighborhood safe from uptown ruffians, the wealthy sipped cocktails and flirted with the help. They all attended the concerts and theatrical events at Carnegie Hall, and when somebody with “white gloves” needed something fixed, they knew where to go. After all, they’d be sitting next to each other in the orchestra seats.

I was in the middle of it all – the corruption with the mob, the cops, and the “Richie-Rich” Carnegie Hall crowd. Famous Broadway actors and television personalities, sports heroes, authors, old money, new money, any money, the crème de crème of the ‘good life”. The pinnacle of the excess of the Golden Age of Capitalism, and all the dirt and filth and corruption that accompanied it. It was all just part of growing up; and as with all things that happen in your childhood, it becomes a part of you, an appendage for the rest of your life.

After five years Joe Barrett, the bookkeeper partner disappeared, nobody knew to where. The federal taxes hadn’t been paid for those five tense-filled years and Dad owed more than the place was worth. The mob said they would take care of the tax bill and made him an “offer he couldn’t refuse”.  He sold it to them, and they never paid the Feds, imagine that? The very next day they turned his dream into a “gay bar”. My Father couldn’t believe it, and to his dying day never understood why. He couldn’t figure out why the tough-guy gangsters would want to hang out in a gay bar. With a broken heart leading the way, he slowly deteriorated to an inglorious death in not too many years.

I was very young and never really understood or bothered to try to understand what had happened. I had no idea what a gay bar even meant, other than maybe some clean-cut guys with southern accents hanging out, drinking and dancing. It wasn’t until many years later that I stumbled onto the infamous pamphlet, “GET THE COPS AND THE MOB OUT OF THE GAY BARS” and figured out what was going on and why the mob had turned the SOUTHMOOR Cafe into a gay bar. It finally all made sense.

That was 1958 when I was barely out of Grammar School. Eleven years later, in 1969, the riot at the Stonewall Bar in Greenwich Village took place. By then I was married with two kids, two jobs, night school and barely able to stay awake long enough to finish my papers and get my degree. Stonewall came and went. Just another event in the series of events that made 1969 so unforgettably unforgettable. The anti-war marches, the women’s march, the pig’s head hanging at the front entrance to Hunter College were memorable. Stonewall was a blip in my world, but it was everything to a lot of other people. It took another year to coalesce, but once it did it didn’t stop. I wasn’t there that night, so I can’t recall from personal experience, but I was back there in my father’s bar, and I know first-hand what it’s like living with the oppression and fear that can be instilled. The same scenario that made my father “an offer he couldn’t refuse” led to the butch gal at the back of the Stonewall, refusing the offer she shouldn’t refuse, but did. It took a black girl with “stones”, to turn the Stonewall bar into the symbol for the Gay Liberation Movement.


As Americans become more aware of the history of slavery, it’s essential that we understand the root of the problem. Modern slavery did not start on a happy plantation that was “Gone With the Wind”, but by the French, Dutch and British East India Trading Companies; corporation which from their beginnings were not just concerned with protecting the assets of their investors while they were engaged in both trade and politics, but were bent on ruling the world. They were using slave labor, transporting enslaved people throughout the East, and expanded into the America’s as demand for slaves increased.

In the 18th Century a man’s worth was judged by how many people he could command. The land-owning aristocrat with servants and tenants is obviously a man of worth and commands many people. With the Division of Labor and the first factories, mass production created cheap commodities and the common laborer was able to become a consumer of these commodities. Therefore, the common laborer suddenly had “hundreds of factory workers at his command” by virtue of his having any commodity that took hundreds of people to produce it. Adam Smith in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS in 1776 said that the “ savage and barbarian” is “worse off than the poorest man in England”. The “savage and barbarian” had no commodities, hence no people at his command, therefore no worth.

Adam Smith goes on in this twisted logic to say that “the profits available from using Negro slaves on the sugar colonies were such as to justify their use.” Once the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow justified the use of slaves in the pursuit of profit, the game was over. Adam Smith is famous for encouraging regulation in order to protect the buying power of the poor downtrodden classes. The Negro was somehow not part of any class. Smith’s blindsided ignorance is astonishing. As the Protestant Ethic merged seamlessly with the Bible of Capitalism, the stage was set for Christianity to embrace an Ethic that dehumanized an entire race in pursuit of an Ethic that turned Ethics on its head.