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Remembering the boy bar

In the late 19th century the term “boy bar” referred to what we would now call a “gay bar”. This is not to be confused with the boy bar, which was a bar located at 15 1/2 St. Marks place from 1984-1993. It was well known for its regular drag nights and featured drag events such as Valley of the Dolls, Clash of the Titans, It’s a Mod Mod Mod World, and more. Many of these amazing nights were captured for posterity by boy bar house photographer Jillian Jonas, who donated her collection to our Historic Image Archive. Click here to see Part I of her collection, and here to see Part II.

Boy bar was described as “a sweatbox of a club” and a “playground” frequented by drag queens, new wavers, East Villagers of all stripes, and LGBTQ+ people from across the city and world. Jonas captured thousands of images of drag performers who mixed gender-bending and illusion with downtown in-your-face attitude.

Flotilla and performer (l. to r.), at ‘Miss $1.98 Pageant’, Boy Bar, 15 St. Marks Place, May 19, 1994

In addition to those photographed by Jonas, drag performers at boy bar included Connie Girl, Chicklet, Princess Diandra, Glamamour, Robi Martin, Miss Guy, Miss Shannon, Miss Codie Ravioli, Internationla Chrysis, Peau de Sois, Miss Mona Foot, Miss Nikki Nicole, Raven Oh, Lipsynka, and many more.

After boy bar closed, Coney Island High occupied the site until 1999. This punk venue hosted shows by Iggy Pop, the Ramones, the Beastie Boys, and more. Prior to boy bar, Paul McGregor’s Haircutters occupied the space. This business is said to have originated the “Shag” haircut, and McGrgeor to have been the inspiration for the Warren Beatty character in the film Shampoo.

That’s a lot of pop culture history all in one place. Sadly, in 2004 the building was altered beyond recognition and expanded into the bland residential building which stands there now.

Paul McGregor’s Haircutters, from the Village Preservation Historic Image Archive Carole Teller’s Changing New York Collection.

Click here to see more.

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