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28 March 2017

Sally’s Hideaway and Sally’s II - nightclub

In the mid 1980s, after the coming of AIDS, the masculist gay sex bars in New York, the Anvil, The Mineshaft, the Toilet, went out of business, either voluntarily or under pressure from the city. The Anvil had in its early days featured Felipe Rose who dressed as a Native American (he was Lakota on his father’s side) and was later recruited for the Village People disco group. The Anvil also put on drag shows. It closed in November 1985, and Conrad, its manager, moved to Blues, a nightclub at 264 W 43rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues. Blues was popular with those working in the sex trade around Times Square. This did not work out, and late 1986 – the year that Harry Benjamin died – the nightclub was re-opened as Sally’s Hideaway, managed by two femme queens: Sally Maggio and Jesse Torres, the hostess manager.

Sally and Jesse had worked in the early 1970s at the trans/gay 220 Club, at 220 West Houston Street, where Lou Reed drank and was presumed to have named his album and track, Sally Can’t Dance, after the manager (although it was photographs of his trans lover, Rachel, which appeared on the inner sleeve). Sally and Jesse then worked at the Greenwich Pub, at 8th Avenue and 13th Street, which attracted gay trans and their admirers.

Sally’s Hideaway put on go-go boy contests, male stripping and drag shows – some by transsexuals. Trans entertainers such as Dorian Corey, Jayne County, Angie Xtravaganza performed.  The customers were a mix of pre-op transsexuals, drag queens, cross-dressers, transvestites, chasers, male strippers and all kinds of hustlers.

Monica Mugler outside Sally's II
There was a serious fire in 1992. Sally moved the club a few doors away to 252 West 43rd Street, which was attached to the Carter Hotel. It was now known as Sally’s II, or simply Sally’s. The bar was circular, two flights up from the street, and there was also a small lounge, up another flight of stairs at the side of the bar. Behind the bar there was a wall of doors permanently closed until one day Sally discovered the unused theatre of the Carter Hotel, only another set of doors away from the hotel lobby. Sally’s II expanded into this space and used the stage. Drag pageants and drag balls were held, usually hosted by or in homage to the ballroom legends of the day: Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija, Avis Pendavis. Paris Dupree’s “Paris is Burning” ball was held here in 1992, and the subsequent 1990 film included opening and ending sequences shot outside Sally’s, and strongly featured Dorian Corey and Angie Xtravaganza.

Grace
There was also the Amazing, Electrifying Grace, lip synch performer and comedienne, who had started in the Anvil, and when that closed she emceed and performed at Greenwich Pub for Sally Maggio, and then at Midtown 43 where she did a Sunday Night drag revue. Midtown 43 closed in 1989, by which time Grace was also working at Sally’s. After the fire and the move she was given a steady gig emceeing Sunday and sometimes Monday night. At Midtown 43 Grace had had a following among the butch queens of the ball house crowd, but these did not feel at home in Sally’s.

Trans musician Terre Thaemlitz dj’d there in the early 1990s, until fired for refusing to play the music that was in the charts. The Transy House people, Rusty Mae Moore, Chelsea Goodwin, Julia Murray, Sylvia Rivera, Kristiana Th’mas, went as a group and were regarded as a ‘house’ in the Paris is Burning sense. Self-described tranny-chaser Jonathan Ames was also found there, and the club is featured in his bildungsroman and the subsequent film, The Extra Man.

Sally Maggio died in October 1993. Jesse Torres continued the club, although Mayor Rudolph
Jesse
Giuliani
, real estate interests and the Walt Disney Corporation were changing the character of the Time Square area. Jesse died, unexpectedly, in September 1996 while attending the Miss Continental Pageant in Chicago. Giselle, a long-time Sally’s barmaid, took over, but business was waning. After a series of police busts, Sally’s closed in November 1997.
  • Lou Reed. Sally Can't Dance. RCA Records, 1974.
  • Jennie Livingstone (dir). Paris is Burning. With Dorian Corey, Paris Dupree, Pepper Labeija. US 71 mins 1990.
  • Jonathan Ames, The Extra Man. Scribner, 1999: 91-9, 107-110, 144-5, 157-9, 209-210.
  • Brian Lantelme. “Sally’s Hideaway”. LadyLike, 46, 2001: 17-21. Online
  • Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini (dirs) The Extra Man. Scr: Robert Pulcini & Jonathan Ames, based on the novel by Jonathan Ames, with Paul Dana as Louis Ives and Gisele Alicea as Miss Pepper. US 108 mins 2010.
  • Jeremy Reed. Waiting for the Man: The life and Career of Lou Reed. Overlook Books, 2015: 82.
www.sallys-hideaway.com  
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The one and only account of Sally's is at www.sallys-hideaway,com, The author is identified only by email address as Brian Lantelme, which explains why the Ladylike, 46, 2001 account is virtually the same.   However Lantelme does not mention Lou Reed, Jonathan Ames, Terre Thaemlitz  or Rusty Rae Moore.

There is no mention at all of Sally's in Julian Fleisher's The Drag Queens of New York, 1996.  There is no mention at all of Sally's in Laurence Senelick' The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre, 2000,

I would have liked more information about the Amazing, Electrifying Grace, and her transfer from the Anvil to Midtown 43 to Sally's.   Was her act the same, or did it change to reflect the audience?

The Anvil was, in effect, a gentleman's club: women, cis or trans were not usually admitted as customers, although it is said that  Lee Radziwill, sister to Jackie Onassis, frequented the place in male drag.



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