Saturday, 23 April 2011


Bugs visits the Stonewall on Christopher Street. The Stonewall was originally built in 1843 as stables and was never a hotel. When the stables were gutted by fire in the 1960s, it reopened on March 18, 1967, as the Stonewall. The exterior has hardly changed since 1969. Photo by Jamie O'Meara

(April 14)  If everybody who says they were at the Stonewall Riots of June 1969 were actually there, there would have been tens of thousands of gay protestors rioting in the streets. The other lie about Stonewall is that New York City police raided the joint just to harass the gay establishment. Truth is, the cops wanted to arrest Stonewall Inn manager Ed Murphy who was running a mafia blackmail operation out of the Stonewall.

But historians have mixed fact and myth since that historic clash between LGBT outsiders and the police during the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.

Just before I visited the Stonewall on the 40th anniversary of the riots, historian David Carter – whose 2004 book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution is the definitive account of the six-day riots and the basis for the the superb PBS doc Stonewall – told me that prior to the raid Interpol uncovered the theft of negotiated bonds which were turning up on the streets of Europe. The bonds were being stolen by gay Wall Street employees who were victims of a blackmail operation run by Stonewall Inn manager Ed Murphy.

Murphy, in spite of having been previously arrested for running an extensive national blackmail ring based on homosexual prostitution, had never been to jail because he had incriminating photographs of one of the prostitution ring's most prominent customers, then-FBI head honcho J. Edgar Hoover. “Hoover was a sonuvabitch,” Carter says.

But once the NYPD learned the theft of bonds was tied to blackmail at the Stonewall Inn, the order went out to shut down the club. Then came the infamous riots and a legend was born.

As NYC drag queen RuPaul  told me in a feature on Stonewall I wrote for Fugues magazine, “Stonewall is a subject very dear to me because it was those [drag] queens who had the guts to throw that first brick [at the police]. It's my goal to never let those brave drag queens be forgotten. That type of tenacity is what led this movement from the very beginning.”

Carter says, “Certainly the drag queens were among the first and most fierce resisters. But the people who resisted most were gay street youth, non-gender-conforming butch lesbians and effeminate young men.”

Nor does the real reason for the police raid diminish the symbolic importance of Stonewall.

“It's clear the people who resisted thought this was just another regular police raid,” Carter says. “Even though the police were just trying to shut down a mafia operation, they were brutal [to the bar patrons].”

So the following year, in June 1970, the first-ever Gay Pride parade was held in NYC to commemorate the riots. Today, there are hundreds of Gay Pride parades worldwide, most of them in June in honour of Stonewall.

“Stonewall is the single most important symbolic moment in gay history, perhaps even worldwide,” Carter says. “It caused a wave of gay civil rights activism to go global. It all had to happen, of course, otherwise Stonewall today would merely be a footnote.”

Stonewall Uprising airs on The American Experience on PBS on April 25

1 comment:

  1. sorry but you been had .. when you have a straight film maker tell our stories you will get a straight person insight.,. at the center of this doc are two straight me, One a cop ... who to his death refused to say cops were on the take ... and one straight reporter (Village Voice ) with a history of mental health issues who fabricates being inside .. since I was a close friend of Howard Smith for over 35 years and know he never told me this story ...nor anyone else I asked who worked with him at him. All of theses stories are put in the film to obscures what actually happened judy garland .. but a real rebellion against oppression.. not an uprising but a rebellion ...s in Can't Take It no more ..

    Jim Fouratt ... actual particpant in Stonewall Rebellion and co-founder of th Gay Liberation From ...GLF on the third night of the Stonewall Rebellion/