Posts Tagged ‘New York in 1966’

A historic “sip-in” at a West Village bar in 1966

June 1, 2015

The Stonewall Riot on June 28, 1969 is often cited as the beginning of the gay rights movement: As police arrested employees and patrons of Christopher Street’s Stonewall Inn for serving liquor without a license, crowds threw rocks at the cops, and the event set off days of protest.


But three years earlier there was another, little-known protest one block over on Tenth Street, a precursor to Stonewall that challenged a state law about serving alcohol to gays.

It happened at Julius, the circa-1826 tavern at 156 West 10th Street. The place has operated as a bar since 1867, and it’s been called the longest-running gay bar in New York, though it’s unclear when it went from being a favorite of Longshoremen to a place favored by gay men.


This description of Julius from a 1966 guidebook has it that it’s been attracting “improper bohemians” since the 1930s, though the bar website says the 1950s. The “Dirty Julius” nickname came during its days as a speakeasy.

Juliusbar2008wikiIn any event, the protest came about because the Mattchine Society, an early national gay rights organization, decided to challenge a New York state law that prohibited bars from serving disorderly patrons.

At the time, simply being gay was considered grounds for being disorderly. So on April 21, 1966, a small group of men took action.

“With reporters in tow, four activists declared they were gay and asked to be served at Julius’,” states Off the Grid, the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation’s blog.

JuliusNYTheadline“While Julius’ was a historically gay bar, they had recently been raided, which meant they were under observation.”

“Their denial of service helped launch a court case, which declared that the New York State Liquor Authority could not stop service to gay patrons.”

Julius is still in the West Village, of course; an old-school time machine of a tavern with beer barrel tables stamped “Jacob Ruppert” (ostensibly from Ruppert’s turn of the century Yorkville brewery) and an unpretentious 1950s feel.

[Top image: Julius’; third: Wikipedia; fourth: New York Times headline April 1966]

A 1960s “party of the century” at the Plaza Hotel

December 24, 2012

November 28, 1966 was a rainy Monday in Manhattan. That didn’t stop the city’s elite from donning black and white attire and eye masks and attending the exclusive Black and White Ball—a masquerade party thrown by writer Truman Capote for Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post.


“The guests, as spectacular a group as has ever been assembled for a private party in New York, were an international who’s who of notables,” wrote Charlotte Curtis for The New York Times.

Miaandfrankblackandwhiteball“There were 510 diplomats, politicians, scientists, painters, writers, composers, actors, producers, dress designers, social figures, tycoons, and what Mr. Capote called ‘international types, lots of beautiful women and ravishing little things.'”

The invite list reads like a time capsule of the mid-1960s: Lynda Bird Johnson, Candice Bergen (below), newlyweds Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow (left), Diana Vreeland, William F. Buckley, Andy Warhol, George Plimpton, and assorted Vanderbilts, Fords, and Kennedys.

Capote forked over $16,000 for the event. “The ballroom had been done up in red, with not a flower in sight—‘the people are the flowers,’ declared Capote,” states At the Plaza by Curtis Gathje.

CandicebergenblackandwhiteballWrites Deborah Davis in The Party of the Century: “Jean Harvey Vanderbilt compared the party to the court of Louis XV because ‘people promenaded around the perimeter of the room in their finery, looking at each other.’ One guest commented, ‘It’s weird, there are only black and white and red in this room, and yet everything’s so . . . so colorful.'”

TrumancapoteblackandwhiteballCBS News covered the party live from the coat room (so much for the idea that celebrity-driven media is a new thing).

At the end of the evening, Capote (with Katherine Graham, left), flying high thanks to the recent success of In Cold Blood, remarked, “It was just what it set out to be . . . I just wanted to give a party for my friends.”