It was 45 years ago this week that the queer community of New York City finally said
“Enough!” For some historical perspective, I’m again reposting the story that
the New York Daily News ran one week after the Stonewall Riots. Note how the
story drips with condescension and ridicule. We’ve come a long, long
way in 45 years and we’ve still got some distance to cover, but today we
should all offer up a shout and a snap to
the people who started us down this road.
HOMO NEST RAIDED – QUEEN BEES ARE STINGING MAD
-by Jerry Lisker, New York Daily News, July 6th 1969
She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her
mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was
angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble
was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A
queen of Christopher Street.
Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra
strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The
elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the
Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block
homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its
bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first
homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is
far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of
“We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or
spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.”
The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a
two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade,
was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted
nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink,
dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.
The thick glass shut out the outside world of the street. Inside, the
Stonewall bathed in wild, bright psychedelic lights, while the patrons
writhed to the sounds of a juke box on a square dance floor surrounded
by booths and tables. The bar did a good business and the waiters, or
waitresses, were always kept busy, as they snaked their way around the
dancing customers to the booths and tables. For nearly two years, peace
and tranquility reigned supreme for the Alice in Wonderland clientele.
The Raid Last Friday
Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the
First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years,
police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the
premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being
closed. It was the law.
All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls
instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an
embrace of fear.
Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the
homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher
Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the
Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement
from the gallery.
The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards
Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving
to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably
while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop.
She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the
officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid
her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to
see her this way, she wept.
The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without
warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb.
Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they
could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins,
compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were
flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the
valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.
Urged on by cries of “C’mon girls, lets go get ’em,” the defenders of
Stonewall launched an attack. The cops called for assistance. To the
rescue came the Tactical Patrol Force.
Flushed with the excitement of battle, a fellow called Gloria pranced
around like Wonder Woman, while several Florence Nightingales
administered first aid to the fallen warriors. There were some assorted
scratches and bruises, but nothing serious was suffered by the honeys
turned Madwoman of Chaillot.
Official reports listed four injured policemen with 13 arrests. The War
of the Roses lasted about 2 hours from about midnight to 2 a.m. There
was a return bout Wednesday night.
Two veterans recently recalled the battle and issued a warning to the
cops. “If they close up all the gay joints in this area, there is going
to be all out war.”
Bruce and Nan
Both said they were refugees from Indiana and had come to New York
where they could live together happily ever after. They were in their
early 20’s. They preferred to be called by their married names, Bruce
“I don’t like your paper,” Nan lisped matter-of-factly. “It’s anti-fag and pro-cop.”
“I’ll bet you didn’t see what they did to the Stonewall. Did the pigs
tell you that they smashed everything in sight? Did you ask them why
they stole money out of the cash register and then smashed it with a
sledge hammer? Did you ask them why it took them two years to discover
that the Stonewall didn’t have a liquor license.”
Bruce nodded in agreement and reached over for Nan’s trembling hands.
“Calm down, doll,” he said. “Your face is getting all flushed.”
Nan wiped her face with a tissue.
“This would have to happen right before the wedding. The reception was
going to be held at the Stonewall, too,” Nan said, tossing her
ashen-tinted hair over her shoulder.
“What wedding?,” the bystander asked.
Nan frowned with a how-could-anybody-be-so-stupid look. “Eric and
Jack’s wedding, of course. They’re finally tying the knot. I thought
they’d never get together.”
“We’ll have to find another place, that’s all there is to it,” Bruce
sighed. “But every time we start a place, the cops break it up sooner
“They let us operate just as long as the payoff is regular,” Nan said
bitterly. “I believe they closed up the Stonewall because there was some
trouble with the payoff to the cops. I think that’s the real reason.
It’s a shame. It was such a lovely place. We never bothered anybody. Why
couldn’t they leave us alone?”
Shirley Evans, a neighbor with two children, agrees that the Stonewall
was not a rowdy place and the persons who frequented the club were
never troublesome. She lives at 45 Christopher St.
“Up until the night of the police raid there was never any trouble
there,” she said. “The homosexuals minded their own business and never
bothered a soul. There were never any fights or hollering, or anything
like that. They just wanted to be left alone. I don’t know what they
did inside, but that’s their business. I was never in there myself. It
was just awful when the police came. It was like a swarm of hornets
attacking a bunch of butterflies.”
A reporter visited the now closed Stonewall and it indeed looked like a cyclone had struck the premises.
Police said there were over 200 people in the Stonewall when they
entered with a warrant. The crowd outside was estimated at 500 to
1,000. According to police, the Stonewall had been under observation
for some time. Being a private club, plain clothesmen were refused
entrance to the inside when they periodically tried to check the place.
“They had the tightest security in the Village,” a First Division
officer said, “We could never get near the place without a warrant.”
The men of the First Division were unable to find any humor in the situation, despite the comical overtones of the raid.
“They were throwing more than lace hankies,” one inspector said. “I was
almost decapitated by a slab of thick glass. It was thrown like a
discus and just missed my throat by inches. The beer can didn’t miss,
though, “it hit me right above the temple.”
Police also believe the club was operated by Mafia connected owners.
The police did confiscate the Stonewall’s cash register as proceeds
from an illegal operation. The receipts were counted and are on file at
the division headquarters. The warrant was served and the
establishment closed on the grounds it was an illegal membership club
with no license, and no license to serve liquor.
The police are sure of one thing. They haven’t heard the last from the Girls of Christopher Street.
They sure fucking haven’t. Now get your ass up and go to the parade.