New York’s Gone But Not Forgotten Leather Scene and My New Erotic Gay Romance, “For The Love Of Samuel”
My latest work of erotic gay romance, “For The Lovel of Samuel” is a story of love lost snd love found, set in contemporary New York City and Fort Laudrrdale, where an aging gay man who loses his lover to despair is given a chance at eternal youth and the love of his life through the magical prowess of the dog tag of s long dead Civil War soldier, Samuel Evans.
My book opens in 2012 in Manhattan’s West Village where my protagonist Billy and his older lover and mentor Gus, once the dynamic duo of New York’s colorful leather scene, gone by the time my book begins, are now leading broken lives. Gus, once one of New York’s leading neurosurgeons, has bercome the cruel victim of a stroke, and Billy who ran the marketing deoartment for one of the City’s major health centers, is left to grab a lowly copywriter’s job at a two bit ad agency after his hospital goes bankrupt.
My book is as much a story of humanity’s never ending search for eternal youth and true love as it is a bittersweet salute to that leather scene l lived as much as my characters during its heyday of the eighties and nineties.
True, you can still find vestiges of the Sleaze Factor and echoes of the glory days of the seventies, eighties and nineties in Manhattan’s new Eagle, which opened shortly before I moved to Florida in 2002, or Fort Lauderdale’s Ramrod leather bar, rechristened the Gearshaft in my book, both of which play prominent roles in “For The Love Of Samuel.” But for real authentic sleaze you’d have to take a time machine back to New York City’s West Village Sleaze Alley threesome, the Spike, the Eagle and the Lure.
For anybody in the leather/levi scene of decades past and living in New York, visiting these bars on a Friday and Saturday night was a given. You wouldn’t just visit one of them even if essentially the same guys frequented all three. You’d have your early evening beer at the Rawhide in Chelsea (for those of us who came in from the ‘burbs parking in the West 20’s was saner). But by 11ish you were trotting your levied ass (or bare one if you were wearing chaps under your trench) down to West Street. The streets were dimly lit and kinda scary to be honest, but you didn’t care. You were butch (with no shirt under your leather jacket on a 10 degree NYC January night so your tits were all perky for your grand unveiling in the bar) and about to enter Manhattan’s Butch Zone. The “S” bars were all within reasonable walking distance of one another, so making the circuit was easy even with the wind blowing in your face.
And when you’re Saturday night horny, four or five blocks in sub-zero weather means nothing. Remember these were the days long before you were able to connect naked in your bedroom on the web.
While the other bars of the triumvirate were a bit kinder when it came to dress code, at the Lure it didn’t matter what you looked like; if you were wearing sneakers or, Jesus, after-shave or cologne, Mr. Bouncer would turn you away.
And once you entered these temples to sleaze, there was no place, I mean NO PLACE, to move except against another sweaty body in bars the size of the men’s section at any Macy’s. The smell of man-drenched arm pits and chests, beer-laden piss, even carcasses (The Lure, in the heart of the now chic Meat Market, was once a meat packing warehouse) was everywhere. While it was nice to socialize with some buddies, cruising was the main reason you were there in this world before 24/7 cybersex. And even if it was more illusion than reality, these holes had the dingy, dreggy look as if they had been there from the early days of NYC’s pre-gay liberation when being queer meant belonging to some truly secret society of men, not a sub-cultural demographic dissected by Congress and wooed by Corporate America.
On Summer Sunday late afternoons from 4 until about 8, the Sleaze torch was handed over to the Dugout at West and Christopher. There, sweaty men, half naked men flooded the corner, searching for the one last fling m two of the weekend before Monday morning reality came crashing down on all our respective little shitty worlds.
If they hadn’t become victims of the real estate boom that transformed this abandoned sector of New York into a new Soho, (though I understand it’s still called the Meat Packing District), NYC’s gay sleaze alley might still be with us. But alas, that was not to be. While City dwellers and tourists can still point to places like the Eagle or the Ramrod, it just ain’t the same without the West Village threesome, smelly corners of the world that every leather/levi bar today, whether it realizes it or not, is seeking to emulate, replicate, recreate.
In 2015 l, visited New York City for the first time in thirteen years, and one afternoon took the subway from my two hundred dollars a night hotel in the garment district down to Sheridan Square and the West Village, my old stomping grounds. Christopher Street, the catwalk of my youth, was now more trendy than sexy, and where my seedy hangouts, the original Eagle, the Spike and the Lure, once catered to the whims of the leather/levi crowd, high rise condos sliced into the sky. The crumpling West Street piers, the site of decadent night time liaisons, were now a sleek urban park, complete with a jogging trail and tourist ferries.
Ah, if only the sidewalks could talk
But as they say, you can’t go home again.
I’m just hoping some gay historian had the smarts to save the “Don’t Flush for Piss” sign in the Spike’s john that said it all before everything came tumbling down.
“For the Love Of Samuel” is now on sale as an ebook on Amazon.