Feel the Pride: Downtown's LGBTQ Musts
The 1969 Stonewall riots, which saw queens pushed just too damned far by a police raid during a night at a Greenwich Village gay bar in late June, is considered the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
If only they could see all the rainbows coloring NYC today—we’re even talking “rainbow pride” themed sandwiches!—and shiny happy LGBTQ people holding hands on Stonewall’s 50th anniversary. June 2019 also happens to be Gotham’s turn to host World Pride, which includes a whopping 50-plus events, from exhibitions (don’t miss Camp: Notes on Fashion at The Metropolitan Museum of Art) to cosplaying to the massive day-long march and street festival on June 30th. Did we mention that Madonna will perform that night?
During World Pride month and even beyond, be sure to check out NYC’s official LGBT resource website and these six essential, unique, fun, and historically important downtown spots.
The 1969 exhibition curated by life partners Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman in their SoHo loft, proved fertile ground for a vast collection of 30,000-plus objects and the Leslie-Lohman Museum, which was expanded to 5,600 square feet in 2017, and entails one of the world’s only art museums of its kind. At least two exhibitions are generally on display at any time: currently, Art After Stonewall and Y’all Better Quiet Down through July 21.
In 2016, President Obama designated Christopher Street’s Stonewall Inn a US National Monument—the first related to LGBTQ rights. Beyond that honor, and inclusion on other historic landmark registries, this multi-level bar continues to be a fun place to get your party on every night with events, drag queens, guest performances, and dancing. Be sure to take a quick stroll through Christopher Park, just opposite, and don’t miss the photos with George Segal’s iconic “Gay Liberation” statues of same-sex couples.
“Julius 50” may not have the same ring, but this enduring Greenwich Village gay bar—NYC’s oldest, in fact, and also a prominently featured location in 2018’s Oscar-nominated Can You Ever Forgive Me?—is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and gay history books. In 1966, gay activist group Mattachine Society staged a “Sip-In” protest at Julius, bringing attention to the fact it was illegal at the time for businesses to refuse service to gay people.
In more recent years, Julius became a preferred haunt (and place to grab a genuinely tasty burger) for queer NYC filmmakers and artists including John Cameron Mitchell, who throws his free monthly Mattachine party here, and Ira Sachs, who shot a moving scene for 2014’s Love Is Strange between onscreen lovers John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. Sachs says of the landmark spot, “There are few buildings in New York where the history is as palpable inside as out. This city tends to erase the past, particularly in its interiors, but not at Julius. When you sit at that bar, you feel you’re part of one long, beautiful, pain and love-filled story of gay life in America.”
Willkommen, Bienvenue, welcome to Alan Cumming’s foray into nightlife, which is just as saucy, but thankfully, a whole lot less sinister than the fictitious Berlin club he won a Tony for emceeing in Broadway’s Cabaret revivals. Along with promoter and partner Daniel Nardicio, Cumming opened his East Village venue in late 2017, bringing a dose of live music, performance, and jazz to the famously artsy, underground neighborhood. The line-up is delightfully eclectic and edgy with weekly stand-up comedy (Wednesday’s Cabernet Cabaret), sexy “boylesque,” drag revues, and plenty of surprise guests.
We spoke to Nardicio about some of the highlights so far at the club. “It’s always tempting to mention the time Paul McCartney stopped by with Emma Stone and Billie Jean King, or Adele with Jennifer Lawrence,” he says. “But the magic of Club Cumming is when someone unknown goes up onstage and just floors you with their voice. One night Alan and I invited our cleaning lady and her entire family and got them a table up front. She’s a lovely woman and shyly asked if her 24-year-old daughter could go up and sing, then out of fucking nowhere, this woman slayed an Alicia Keyes song.”
“On a typical Monday, Vanessa Williams, Daphne Rubin Vega, or the entire company of fucking Cats might waltz in and perform….
Greenwich Village’s LGBT Center is destination-worthy for this nearly extinct animal: the queer indie bookstore. The Bureau started as a roving pop-up by founders Greg Newton and Donnie Jochum but settled into a second-floor space at The Center in 2015 (just around the corner you’ll find Keith Haring’s restored R-rated “Once Upon A Time” restroom mural installation, also destination-worthy in itself). Decorated with queer art, the Bureau’s walls house an eclectic, world-class selection of hard-to-find international small press, self-published, and big imprint books, art tomes, magazines, queer zines, graphic novels, children’s titles, and more. Be sure to check their website for a nonstop calendar of events and signings to boot!
Queer musician-artist St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, provides a sample-heavy soundscape for this SoHo immersive audio-visual installation from The Ally Coalition. Feel The Pride, running between June 15-30 at 568 Broadway and Prince Street, will use technology (specifically, Microsoft AI’s Sentiment Analysis tool) to respond to messages shared on Twitter around the query, “What does Pride mean to you?”
WORDS Lawrence Ferber
PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of Club Cumming