the incredible year that THE STONEWALL CLUB, an unlicensed Gay dance bar, opened in 1966, AVON chose ME , WILLSON L. HENDERSON, as the boy with "the
most stylish American hairstyle" after they conducted a much-publicized
national campaign! The top model agency for youth, WILLIAM SCHULER AGENCY -- run by the 3 M's:
MONICA STEWART, MICKEY HIRSCH and MARSHA MARSHA -- which I was
exclusively contracted to for many years, and my personal acting career
manager, KUNO SPONHOLZ, all thought that my "hair was
too long" (code words then
for "looked Gay"). I didn't! KUNO,
bi the way, with a deep German accent, was a character actor in movies
and Gay himself! Whatever happened to that actress SUNNY he represented?
to everyone's surprise, especially
mine, I won that hair contest with My hairstyle! In other words,
All-American Boy". Butt... MARY,
I was rather secretly tres
Gay, Mon Cherries. High school with
down-low boyfriends especially MICHAEL IRA SWERDLOW in JERICHO in LONG ISLAND, commercial
modeling in MANHATTAN;
and going to Catholic church on
Sundays were just the "Daytime ME".
Nighttime -- with all of my Friends (strait, bi and Gay) and my Boyfriend(s) -- was the real ME, especially "livin' for the weekend". On Friday evenings, in particular, this (usually) blond, crystal blue-eyed, Bi-Gay boy, with a naturally smooth and sexy chest, perfect skin, great teeth, melting smile, seductive walk, 27" waist, pronounced derriere and Hollywood hair (regardless of color), motored out of LONG ISLAND and into "THE BIG APPLE". Even the name of the 25-cent toll tunnel was/is Gay: "QUEENS MIDTOWN". Alllllllright!
A few Gay comrades (very suburban high schoolish) drove with ME in my brand-new 1969 metallic blue CADILLAC convertible with white, leather, power, high-back with head rest seats; wide, whitewall tires; an attention-getter and, of course, the convertible top was "D-O-W-N". The main idea was to be seen and, trust me, we were! There is no better American car to catch boys with than a big CADDY ragtop -- with the top down! This classic and dreamboat car since the STONEWALL REBELLION became known as the "STONEWALL CAR" -- and I still have it for that very Gay and historic reason (and 'always will so long as we both shall live').
ZUCKIE (nee ZUCCI), co-owner with MARIO TOMASI and FAT TONY LAURIO, gladly greeted us -- especially ME -- at the solid, carved wood, castle-like door at THE STONEWALL. Originally, it was a British, pub-type inn and it still had (and has) that intriguing look. He really liked ME ("fresh chicken") and he unabashedly loved my 1969 CADILLAC convertible which he called "a dreamboat". EDDIE MURPHY, middle-aged Gay guardian of the gate was too frantic for me and, besides, he pursued the "trashy" and fringe boys. To ME, he always embarrassingly announced that "You little, under-aged, rich boys are gonna get this place busted one day". "Rich" meant that we arrived in a car not via subway or bus -- nor on foot. The other and nice front-door enrtryman was BLOND FRANKIE (not his real first name) STONE (coincidental).
We also went to other Gay clubs, such as, THRUSH, near the famous Flatiron Building just east of Broadway at 18 East 22nd Street, where I also was earlier the evening of Friday, June 27, 1969, before returning to THE STONEWALL INN in time for the invasion; DR. FEELGOOD'S on Waverly Place at MacDougal Street in the Gay-ly tricky HOTEL EARLE (and trust me, 'the doctor' did make you feel good); THE HAVEN across the street from The Stonewall at Sheridan Triangle on Grove Street (a little hectic): THE GRAPEVINE (drag queen fun in midtown Westside); NINTH CIRCLE (though it was on West 10 Street and very promiscuous -- too aggressive for me); KOOKY'S (gals from the Isle of Lesbos galore and whose SHELLEY WINTERS/BABY JANE HUDSON-combo owner gave "fruits" (sic) a hard time to get in but not ME because I was "so sweet" and, moreso, was always entering with her dreamgirl, SONIA JANE ATTKISS); and, after hours, THE GOLD BUG (2 late nite and 2 druggy), THE TWELFTH OF ALWAYS (2 ditto) and TELE-STAR (3 ditto), among many others. I recall rarely visiting WASHINGTON SQUARE -- the club, not the Greenwich Village park or famous arch -- on Broadway and Third Street in the East Village with SONIA and DEE DEE.CROCKETT. Then there was the late night THE CHECKERBOARD (always good for Gay games), run by a kinda crayzee heterosexual woman! However, THE STONEWAL CLUB was always our first stop with the convertible parked within view of the club on Christopher Street for the entire evening and into the night. STONEWALL was typically our loyal, return stop -- as it was on Friday night, June 27, 1969, after midnight. That night we never got to the 24/7 HOWARD JOHNSON'S RESTAURANT (luved the ice cream) at the corner of Avenue of the Americas and West 8th Street. Up the street on West 8th was the downstairs Gay nightclub BON SOIR. Meow, BARBRA (as in "Cry Me A River") STREISAND. Update: Decades later, BABS shall return to Brooklyn to perform two huge, instantly sold-out concerts -- including "SONGS OF THE STONEWALL" -- at an incredible arena on the Avenue of Flatbush in the heart of Brooklyn!.
Everyone at THE STONEWALL CLUB was so Gay-ly alive. It was fascinating, real, living Gay theatre. A documentary, ensemble play, docudrama, musical or film could have been staged there any weekend night of any week -- and without a script! Every time I went to THE STONEWALL, once inside, I instantly had the simultaneous triple feeling of happy, safe and fun (about to begin). Frequently, you heard FRANK SINATRA's Mafia-fave song "Somewhere In Your Heart" playing before the door even opened! At "THE WALL", we had our own cast of inimitable characters (and support players) with a Gay variety of attire. THE STONEWALL, like most Gay clubs, had its individual atmosphere and its own feeling. It was a full-people mixture of Gay, bisexual, straight and closet-case; white, beige, brown and black; Christian, Protestant, Jewish and atheist; male, female, D/Qs and D/Ks; teens, 20s, some 30s, few 40s plus; all classes (lower, all levels of middle and I suppose some undercover upper class) and pot luck stew of every role imaginable. Besides my blue CADILLAC convertible, I was also known to arrive in bad boy BRIAN MOLESE's canary yellow 1966 IMPERIAL Crown convertible or PATTI STONE's bright red 1967 CORVETTE Stingray convertible (that her father IRVING bought for her). From Memorial Day weekend forward, FIRE ISLAND was a frequent destination. I know that JOHN WATTS, LEIGH McMANUS, STANLEY DUNNE, PATTI, a black college girl named DYANE and I were there in June and July of 1969! We all have wonderful pix from F.I. In the "Hot Fun In The Summertime" (by SLY STONE), the I-won't-take-no for an answer BRIAN sometimes snatched me in LONG BEACH at my MOTHER's ocean-front, high-rise condominium home (his parents live on Guy Lombardo Boulevard -- kinda I-talian -- in FREEPORT, also in LONG ISLAND) and he'd speed-drive us out to the Gay resort of CHERRY GROVE. He thrived on isolating me from all of my friends. Nonetheless, whenever possible, ELECTRA O'MARA from the city and I from the suburbs would rendezvous out on "THE ISLAND", as it is Gay-ly and inanely called, actually referring to (Gay) FIRE ISLAND.
I made many friends at THE STONEWALL with all types of interesting people, including "fag hags" (though I usually brought my own from high school with me). In fact, it was a combination of suburban/urban friends that loosely created the IMPERIAL QUEENS OF NEW YORK (& LONG ISLAND) circa Halloween 1968 and officially on New Year's Day 1969. Its seven charter founders included Blond, Irish, Italian, Christian, Jewish, Hispanic and, of course, Black. It was a multi-faceted group integrated literally via THE STONEWALL.
I met several celebrities there, too, or should I say, they made sure to meet ME. There was a popular New York City local soul group, TOP SHELF, who matchmaker SONIA introduced to me (at his request) the hot lead singer, REGGIE McCOY, who was a 10%-er (bi), good-looking and very sexy (our special fire was star-crossed and burnin' like a "HEAT WAVE" yet very short-lived as we were both already 'married'); a start-up rags designer (I don't have a 'type' but he's not my 'type' yet his un-shy, polite, complimentary opening sentences such as "You are very cute! "Do you wanna dance?" caught my Gay ego attention) named RON C., who apparently became a men's clothing designer (with an Iranian-type last name ending in "ian" or "kin"... update: Chereskin) and was Gay-ly referred to as (I guess because of where he shopped) "MISS BLOOMINGDALE" (only one half-date or less with that too boring 4 me); an exciting -- and excitable -- entertainment field Mafia guy who had even been singing group JAY & THE AMERICANS' manager, BRIAN MOLESE (the first really wild guy that I went with but definitely not the last, oh, no), called "MR. IMPERIAL" as he owned a beautiful IMPERIAL convertible (I was the last to find out that he was mob-connected and all the "GALZ" gasped that I got him without even trying and that I could handle HIM -- last I heard, he and a new Gay lover were shot, but not to death, by an ex-cellmate of his known as MAD-DOG SULLIVAN); a very tall (as I recall), older (much 2 old 4 me), wealthy, Jewish, hot-shot entertainment lawyer (introduced to me by my best Gay friend STEVEN "KAYE" KONIGSBERG) with definite business ties to THE BEATLES and CILLA BLACK, et al. and rumored to have other 'ties'... NAT WEISS, who had a big, luxurious UPPER EAST SIDE apartment (East 77th?) who held lavish, all-boy, fascinating parties which included, among other name names, the entire singing group THE CYRKLE -- but, for MOI, he was another "right track, wrong train"; an Irish cop "KEVIN" from DA BRONX who to me was drop-dead gorgeous, "straight" (that's exactly my 'type'), flawless looks and nice appointments (dieingly dumped by me after I was bluely informed that he was married -- with a 3 a.m. call from his wife cryin' and beggin' and my MOTHER HELEN asking, "Why is a woman calling you at this hour?"; the very Gay half of HINES & HINES dance duo, MAURICE (his celebrity brother is the supposedly un-Gay GREGORY, who I'd get to know years later via the STONEWALL Veterans' Association); and my favorite STONEWALL celebrity, unquestionably the best-built with the biggest... (trust me, I know) and the best... (trust me, I know) EMILE A. GRIFFITH, JR., a middle-weight and welter-weight boxing "Champion-of-the-World", as we dated heavy post-STONEWALL and I attended with special attention his big MADISON SQUARE GARDEN boxing matches, restaurants, family events, car rides, clubs, bars, etc. and we are still in contact to this day! In fact, recent NEW YORK DAILY NEWS boxer ratings placed EMILE a notch above heavyweight boxing champion MUHAMMED ALI! The most famous celebrity to go to THE STONEWALL (who I personally never happened to have the thrill to witness) was confirmed by TERRI VAN DYKE, JEREMIAH NEWTON, RAMON BELLIDO, et al. She arrived very late at night and in disguise with a guy's poor-boy hat and Carnaby clothes and granny boi glasses: the inimitable JUDY GARLAND! Remember the #1 pop music hit and unique STONEWALL song: "JUDY IN DISGUISE (WITH GLASSES)"? Hello!
After JUDY GARLAND's funeral that Friday, June 27th, 1969, right here in MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, at FRANK E. CAMPBELL'S "CHAPEL", there was a tremendous outpouring of sympathy, a lot of strong and sad emotion, a sense of familial loss and a deep frustration in the warm air. A legend, a talent and, to us GAYS, a friend, sympathizer and inspiration was lost. Plus, school was out! ALL schools were "OUT"! People, especially Gays at this time in history with all of the civil rights movements, were feeling our oats. "Coming out" and "standing up" were growing. One #1 song was literally named "STAND!", by the mixed gender and multi-racial SLY & THE FAMILY STONE urging people to stand up!
Raid rumblings rumored that infamous hot, hot summer night when THE STONEWALL CLUB quietly spread word to a select some that "there might be a quick raid but no problems". The detectives, the vice squad, the liquor authority, the state fuzz, the local cops, ultimately the tactical patrol forces and whoever else the authorities had that night picked the wrong time (appx. 1:20 a.m. Gay time) and the wrong place (Gay club) and, for sure, in the wrong section (Gay GREENWICH VILLAGE) of the wrong city (Gay MANHATTAN of Gay N.Y.C.) for any further Gay oppression. A cop named "KEVIN" who had "nabbed" me before in and out of THE STONEWALL zoomed right to me inside the club and I knew that I would be held -- he told me! Yet, I felt comforted thinking that I'd be protected by him. My scuffle occurred outside the club, escorted by 2 cops, once I sensed an opportunity to break away from them and escape. After a little scuffle, I momentarily broke loose but with "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide" (a prior #1 song by MARTHA REEVES & THE VANDELLAS) was surrounded by 3 cops: an un-uniformed big brute who tackled and pulled me down, a neutral, dumbfounded, uniformed 'dick' and, of course, the sympathetic NYCPD cop. "Everybody knows" STORME DeLARVERIE was right there! He was watching my scene and yelled for the cops to "Leave that young boy alone!" STORME had to soon respond to his own self-defense scene with a plain-clothes cop. After this man told STORME to "....move, f*ggot", STORME punched the guy (turned out to be a cop) in the jaw! The cop lost! This was the turning point! With things quickly escalating, I finally revealed that the blue 1969 CADDY convertible was mine. My car (my baby) was therefore then illegally "impounded" by the NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEP'T. It was driven to the old 6th PRECINCT by guess who -- no, not ME. I was first taken to the emergency ward of ST. VINCENT'S HOSPITAL on Seventh Avenue and West 11th Street with an alleged shoulder injury, 'escorted' by, not one but, 2 cops!! Then to the old 6th PRECINCT police stationhouse on Charles Street near the Hudson River early the next morning, where I was rather intimidated and rudely insulted. That's the place where the desk sergeant sarcastically querried, referring to me, "Is IT a him or is IT a her"! Trust me, he should have known that I wasn't interested in anything that looked like him -- or "IT"! I was also finger-printed and mug-shotted. I was also "interrogated" there like I had orchestrated some big 'riot' (which it wasn't) at some freak sexual snakepit (none of that) or was involved in some conspiratorial "Revolution", a popular song by THE BEATLES in THE STONEWALL jukebox. Those are just some of the scarey impressions that I got from some of the NYCPD COPS. Ultimately, I was driven downtown with 2 other cops in a dark green 'bubbletop' police car to THE TOMBS (jail), where I was held until late that Saturday evening for night court. Guess which gal (mentioned above) -- and her parents MAX and HELENE -- I had meet me there?
"Rebellion, Riots and Ruins" (the name of a political book) are not, however, the main ingredients of what is uppermost on my mind and memories when I think of "THE STONEWALL". It was the place itself, the location, the music, the ambiance, the dances, the clothes, of course, the Gay-ety, and, mostly, the people. ROBERT J. ALBANO, SONIA J. ATTKISS, LEROI N. CARR, STANLEY M. DUNNE, CHRISTOPHER B. FALCO, DREW A. HOLBROOK, MARSHA P. JOHNSON, STEVEN M. KONIGSBERG, BRIAN M. MOLESE, ELECTRA J. O'MARA, TERRI J. VAN DYKE, DAVE F. WEST and EDDIE J. WRIGHT would be hurt if I did not miss them and mention them herein.
"Proudly Yours", forever,
WILLSON L. HENDERSON
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For more 411 on the Stonewall Era and the Stonewall Club and the
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